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Garage door industry issues consumer alert

(BPT) - A nationwide garage door repair scam has prompted the garage door industry to issue a national consumer alert. The industry's warning includes four short videos that describe the scam.

'We believe that hundreds of garage door and opener customers are victimized by these scammers every single day in America,' said Bearge Miller, president of the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA).

He said consumers who have a broken garage door spring are particularly vulnerable. The scam artists typically perform unnecessary repairs and charge extremely high fees, racking up a bill for hundreds of dollars more than necessary.

Metro areas are targeted

'These scammers primarily operate in metropolitan areas,' added Randy Oliver, the president of the International Door Association (IDA). 'When they scam 100 people in a population of a million, hundreds of thousands of people are still unaware of their tactics.'

Oliver runs a garage door dealership in San Antonio, an area that has had its share of scammers. He said the scam is now operating in dozens of metro areas from coast to coast.

Four online videos

To warn the public, the garage door industry has produced a series of four short videos that provide advice for consumers, including how to detect a scammer and how to fix minor problems.

To see the videos, click on the 'Consumer Alert' tab at This is a non-commercial site that also includes a Dealer Locator to help homeowners find a qualified professional door dealer.

The videos were produced and approved by IDA, which represents garage door dealers, and DASMA, which represents the industry's manufacturers.

DIY done simple: 5 projects you can tackle in a...

(BPT) - This time of year was made for DIY projects. The weather is perfect, the projects have mounted, you've got the time and the motivation. Now if only you had the budget.

Not to worry, DIY doesn't have to be synonymous with expensive! There are plenty of impactful DIY projects that can be tackled quickly and affordably in just a single weekend. Below is a list of five projects that you can use to scratch that project itch without putting a noticeable dent in your wallet.

* Seal the gaps. Hidden gaps and cracks in your home could be allowing air to escape, making the temperature in the house more difficult to regulate and your energy bill more expensive than it needs to be. Seal these gaps with an innovative air-sealing insulating foam to help protect against air and moisture infiltration. It will create a tighter building envelope that helps to reduce your energy waste and your monthly bill.

* A fresh coat of paint. How many times have you walked by that wall, those cabinets or that wooden chair and thought, "I need to repaint that"? Well, now's the time. Painting small spaces and furniture yourself is a small, inexpensive project that can be finished in a single weekend. So start picking colors today. Once you're done, you can feel proud knowing that you put in the hard work to give your home a fresh look.

* Ward off vermin. You're not the only one who's happy to see that warmer weather has arrived. Vermin of the mammal, reptile or insect variety will also be more active during the warmer months and they may set their sights on your home. GREAT STUFF(TM) Pestblock Insulating Foam Sealant helps block vermin from entering your home through gaps, cracks and holes. Spray the foam to block these points of entry and the only guests you'll greet this season are those you actually invited.

* Update your window treatments. If 'treatment' is a generous word when describing the accent pieces around your windows, it's time for an upgrade. Whether curtains, blinds or drapes, window treatments can be as cost effective as you want them to be, so don't be afraid to be picky. And once you find treatments that appeal to you, use them to block the sun on the hottest days to reduce your energy expenses.

* Expand your DIY. Your DIY projects don't have to be confined to your home; they can also involve your boat, your RV or your other vehicles. GREAT STUFF(TM) Multipurpose Black Foam Sealant can be used to fill unwanted gaps and cracks in vehicles, allowing you to cruise into vacation with no worries.

You can scratch that DIY itch without a month-long commitment or completely draining your bank account. All you have to do is pick the projects that match your budget, your time frame and your goals, and get to work. And when they're done, you'll have the rest of the season to enjoy your new and improved home. To find more simple projects you can tackle with GREAT STUFF(TM) Insulating Foam Sealant, visit

How to blend contrasting materials for...

(BPT) - The melding of contrasting materials throughout the home is a sophisticated way to add visual interest and depth to your design. Bold finishes coupled with muted color tones create an eye-catching statement, while natural wood combined with cool metal boasts a stunning blend of nature and machinery. From partnering unconventional textures to pairing deep wood tones with warm gold finishes, mixing materials in a space poses a refreshing take on luxury design for each room of the home.

Textured charm

Incorporating different textures with furniture, textiles and accessories can add layers of visual and tactile appeal to a living space. Create an elegant, yet contemporary design by complementing white wooden floors with shag rugs and velvet accent pillows in neutral colors of blush and dusty blue on cream or light gray upholstery. The contrast of a coarse wool throw draped over a smooth leather chair quickly adds texture to a sitting room. For tabletop décor, brushed silver and wood statement pieces in tiered sizes radiate a deluxe aesthetic to draw the eye to a central gathering point.

Exposed materials

Exposed brick and wooden beams bring a modern, industrial vibe to any space, while doubling as focal points in a room. From urban-rustic to contemporary environments, the rugged masculinity of the exposed elements can be balanced by soft, feminine touches to suit a multitude of design preferences. Incorporate scalloped linens and delicate prints framed in brushed gold to instantly soften and brighten the room. Reinvigorate a traditional design statement by offsetting rich, jewel tones with a neutral or light color scheme and warm metals.

Naturally inspired

The infusion of metal and natural accents into one space brings a clean, spa-like aesthetic to the home's oasis - the bath. Live plants and bamboo décor bring an element of the natural environment into the space, enhancing the tranquil atmosphere. The teak wood accents with the chrome or nickel handles in the Litze Bath Collection by Brizo exemplify a beautiful marriage of manmade and earthy details, evoking a unique sophistication.

Sophisticated luxury

Deep wood tones combined with metallic and brass finishes bring refinement to any room, especially the kitchen. Darker grains, such as walnut and mahogany, emanate refined luxury, while cabinet hardware, backsplashes and modern barstools in bright metal finishes instantly capture the eye's attention. Adding hanging light fixtures in varying heights add depth and dimension. Complete the space with minimalist furniture, such as a sleek kitchen table and structural chairs stained in cocoa tones, to bring all pieces of the room together for a cohesive look that is both polished and inviting.

How to use color psychology to influence the...

(BPT) - Looking to make a few changes around the house? A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference on the look of your home and how you feel living in it. But unless you're a color expert, it's hard to know what colors are best among the endless array of options. A great place to start is by understanding the psychology behind various colors, so that you can achieve the look and create the effect you want in each room.

'Color is such an important factor in setting or improving our moods; it greatly influences human emotion and behavior,' says Dr. Sally Augustin, a color psychologist who applies science-based insights to how we experience colors. 'The brain interacts with color in a variety of ways, from calming to energizing. By applying color psychology to your paint selections, you can make each room evoke the emotions you desire.'

Most people talk about neutrals like black and white, according to a new color study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Sherwin-Williams through listening to social media conversation about colors mentioned with areas of the home. But when asked directly, the majority of participants say more vibrant colors should be used throughout the home, such as blue, red and green.

Based on this new research and Dr. Augustin's insights on color psychology, here are some ideas on choosing colors for painting projects:

In the mood for blue: If you're drawn in by beautiful blues, you're in good company. Sixty-two percent of Americans select blue as one of the colors they like the most. This strong preference for blue is consistent across genders, locations and age, making a blue like Adriatic Sea SW 6790 a good choice if you're considering more vibrant colors, or if you're painting a room in a home that you plan to sell soon.

'No matter where you go on the planet, people are most likely to say that their favorite color is blue. In our primordial past, blue was linked to good things in our lives. It is the color of the sky on a fair weather day and also a color of a watering hole seen from a distance,' Dr. Augustin says.

Black comes back: It may be surprising that black is the second most popular color (32 percent), and is especially liked among millennials, at 41 percent. Many have fallen in love with darker tones again, and dark black like Tricorn Black SW 6258 and even charcoal, navy and deep jewel tones are all gaining in popularity, adding urban sophistication to a wide range of spaces, from living rooms to kitchens.

What green really means: Generations see green hues differently. Millennials associate it with energy (33 percent compared to 24 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers). Boomers are more likely than millennials to associate green with calmness (26 percent vs. 20 percent). When it comes to the psychology of green, the color seems to enhance creative thinking, making a green such as Derbyshire SW 6741 a good option for a study or for a stimulating playroom.

Raving for red: According to Dr. Augustin, since red is also the color of many fine wines, painting a wall Rave Red SW 6608 in a dining room can appropriately call wine to mind. Red also offers people a burst of strength, making it an effective color choice for spaces like laundry rooms, where 'heavy lifting' is done. According to the survey, almost half of Americans (49 percent) said the most associated emotion with the color red is excitement.

Cheery vibes with yellow: Forty-two percent of Americans associate yellow with happiness. The color yellow is also psychologically linked to physical warmth. Other golden colors that are a bit darker, such as Cut the Mustard SW 6384, would work in a kitchen dining area, as warm colors stimulate appetite and can make a space seem cozy.

What's right about white: The top feeling most Americans associate with white is calmness (34 percent). In color psychology, white also signals cleanliness, so shades of white can be good choices for the bath, laundry or anywhere in your home that you want to add brightness.

For more tips and ideas on how to spruce up your home with paint color, visit


Add living space to your home with an easy...

(BPT) - Everyone looks forward to a shift into summer mode, with its sun-soaked days, flower-scented breezes and velvety nights under the stars.

Now's the time to take advantage of a golden opportunity right outside your door. Celebrate summer and all it offers by recreating your outdoor space. Whether it's a balcony, a patio or a deck, a few touches are all you need to turn it into a highly functional living space.

When done right, a patio makeover is like a boost to your home's square footage of living space without straining your wallet. Think of the patio as a summer room, and the possibilities really open up.

One approach to making your summer room perfect is to start by thinking of your needs and what you love to do. If you could add any room to your home, what would it be, and what would you use it for? Then, turn to a resource like Big Lots, which offers everything you need to build that summer room, while keeping you within budget.

Your summer living room

Transform any outdoor space into a relaxing oasis that's perfect for unwinding and summer daydreams. Your key piece is a comfortable outdoor couch you can really sink into.

It's always best to start with a neutral-colored cushion, then work the accessories and accent pieces, including side tables, brightly colored throw pillows and outdoor lanterns to make the space feel extra homey and just like an authentic living room. These decor pieces can be easily and affordably switched out year-over-year to make your outdoor space feel fresh and new.

With an easy assembly gazebo, you can also keep the space cool and comfortable in the heat of the day.

Finally, if your patio faces an open or public area, a row of evergreens planted in large colorful pots will transform it into an intimate space with a perfect touch of nature.

Your summer party room

With the right pieces, you can set the scene for any gathering of friends and family. Start with ample seating. Add to the traditional living room setup with an outdoor cushioned bench, and position some accent chairs and tables in a nook or two for conversation clusters. A patterned outdoor rug also helps to delineate spaces on a large patio or deck.

A fire pit always creates a natural centerpiece and gathering spot. Some designs take this up a notch and incorporate the soft glow of fire right into a tabletop, making it easy to talk long into the summer night. As a finishing touch, be sure to have a wireless speaker and playlist ready to set the mood with music.

Your summer kitchen

The downside of summer living is building up unwanted heat in the kitchen from cooking dinner. The best solution is to take it outside. Don't limit the grill to weekends and burgers and brats. Explore the many grilling recipes out there to expand your repertoire. While you're doing this, set up your patio as an outdoor cooking station that's ready to go whenever you're ready to start cooking.

Set up a sturdy table for prepping veggies and meats and a selection of lightweight, outdoor serving dishes. The variety of colors and designs are endless and add to the space aesthetic. (Just as you would indoors, make sure the surface is clean before you get started.) Use colorful crates to keep grilling tools, potholders and outdoor dishes and glassware organized and handy.

Finally, pick up some bright-colored pots that match your decor style and plant rosemary, parsley, basil and other herbs so they're within easy reach to add fresh flavors to your grilled fish and chicken, as well as those tasty summer veggies. These potted plants also make for beautiful, easy centerpieces.

Your summer dining room

Dining outside is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy food as well as the company of your family and friends. When you choose a patio table, choose one with ample seating, and keep things comfortable and colorful with waterproof cushions. Umbrellas can throw shade on a sun-drenched deck or patio, making daytime dining (or your morning coffee time) more pleasant and easy on the eyes. If you're looking for something different, a patio umbrella outfitted with lights on the underside will let you linger over dinner longer.

Creating beautiful outdoor spaces can be easy, but it also doesn't have to break the budget. Big Lots has a wide variety of affordable patio furniture and décor so you can create an outdoor scene with indoor style. Visit or a store near you for all your patio and outdoor accessory needs.


5 renovation resolutions for your home this year

(BPT) - Spring spruce-ups often focus on the outdoors, but when summer temperatures arrive, it's time to move your home improvement efforts indoors. Keep cool and reinvent your home's interior with stylish décor that adds the 'wow factor' summer deserves.

These five refreshing projects will help create a beautiful setting worthy of every season.

Address those kitchen cabinets. The cabinets are a major focal point in a kitchen, and even the smallest changes can have a major impact on its look and feel. Start with a subtle, functional update by replacing old hardware with modern metal accents. And, for a slightly bolder change, consider a fresh coat of paint to infuse a new design persona throughout the space.

Set the perfect scene. Take advantage of the spring weather and longer days with perfect natural lighting. Hunter Douglas' PowerView Motorization is a sophisticated wireless operating system that allows homeowners to program their shades to automatically adjust throughout the day to make the most of natural light as it changes. Start by creating scenes - different combinations of shade positions in one room or throughout the house - to achieve perfect room lighting, window privacy and energy-efficiency. Then, schedule the scenes to activate at the times you choose, like opening to greet each morning's sunrise, closing mid-day to deflect the heat of the afternoon sun, and closing each night to protect your privacy. PowerView motorized shades also seamlessly integrates with other sophisticated whole-home automation systems to add another level of convenience to everyday living and greater connectivity to your smart home.

Add comfort and style to hardwood floors. Hardwood floors are a popular style for any home, and adding comfort to the chic-but sometimes unforgiving-look is easy with the right accessories. Place comfortable, eye-catching rugs in key areas throughout the home, including the foyer or beneath the kitchen and dining room tables. These subtle accents will create a striking contrast, soften acoustics and add stylish comfort for your feet.

Keep cool as the weather warms. Window treatments can serve as great accessory or accent, and the right window dressings will provide beauty and function in one. With Duette Architella honeycomb shades from Hunter Douglas, sophisticated fabric choices add a modern touch to any space, while its unique cell-within-a-cell design can significantly reduce the amount of solar heat transferred through windows to keep you cooler as the summer heat kicks in. This smart upgrade lends an elegant touch to kick off air conditioning season.

Build the bathroom of your dreams. The bathroom is supposed to be an oasis, and if it's lacking in spa-like comforts, now is the perfect time to whip it into shape. Enjoy a luxurious massage without stepping out of the house by swapping out outdated shower heads with high-pressured and multi-setting ones that transform water into soft mists, relaxing pulses, or powerful cascade indoors.

With these easy décor updates, making your home more comfortable and stylish is a bright idea sure to last all season and through the year. To learn more about PowerView Motorization and Duette Architella honeycomb shades, visit

Uniquely you hues: Decorating with your...

(BPT) - Whether you realize it or not, the colors you select for your home and your personal belongings tell a lot about your personality. In fact, according to a recent survey by PPG, 58 percent of 2,500 consumers surveyed agree that colors selected for their home, car and consumer products - such as appliances and electronics - reflect their personality and style all or most of the time. In addition, 70 percent of those surveyed agreed color selection is important when purchasing paint for their home. So, how do these color preferences come about?

PPG, a global leader in paint and color, knows that consumers' color preferences aren't random. One's desire for certain colors can be quite personal, as each color evokes different emotions based on our unique experiences, current events, memories and style preferences. By determining the paint color schemes that positively reflect your personality, you can identify your unique style and ultimately add a more personal touch to your home décor.

Pulling inspiration from your wardrobe is a great way to determine your color preferences. Evaluating what clothing items are your go-to staples will help inform you of the colors and styles you find most appealing. Do you live in dark denim? Paint a rich navy accent wall in your dining room. Do you love your little black dress? A front door painted PPG Paints Black Magic (PPG1001-7) makes a stunning first impression. Your favorite vacation spot can also serve as a muse in realizing your design sense. If thoughts of weekends at your family cabin bring warm memories, then deep, earthy tones will likely evoke nostalgia in reminiscing about your favorite spot.

To make paint color selection easier, the PPG Paints brand offers five-color collections that help consumers see various paint hues in context with the colors of other existing home elements, such as flooring, tile and furniture. Seeing these five-color pairings next to each other allows you to easily visualize how wall and trim colors will work with other colors in a space. Arranged by personality, style and the five senses, the collections can serve as a compass for determining which groups of colors best fit your design preferences, and ultimately, your personality.

* If you are a peaceful person that craves calmness, blues may be your go-to hue. The Blue Persuasion paint color collection by PPG Paints provides a selection of blue paint colors, including Stormy (PPG10-14), Aqua Smoke (PPG1034-5) and Gale Force (PPG10-08), all perfect for creating a tranquil atmosphere to make you feel at ease. By incorporating minimalist and modern décor elements, you can further create a sense of serenity and clarity within your space.

* Do you consider yourself charming and carefree? Then you may describe your home décor as pretty in pink. The brand's Pastel Wonders paint color collection involves a wonderful mix of pink, red and beige paint colors that create dreamy ambiances that exude elegance. Colors such as Peach Brick (PPG18-26) and Subdued (PPG1015-4) provide the perfect muted backdrop for a bathroom or entryway. Consider adding a farmhouse feel to the space with distressed wood elements to embrace country charm and create a modern rustic look.

* For spirited extroverts, plum, cherry and purple hues may adorn your space. The PPG Paints Precious Tones paint color collection provides majestic shades that radiate passion and sophistication, such as Amethyst Haze (PPG13-23) and Heart's Afire (PPG13-14). Show off your bold nature by adding a touch of glam with metallic elements to infuse drama into the space.

Using the five-color pairings alone or in conjunction with the PPG Paints The Voice Of Color game, you can discover exactly which color collection best suits your style. In examining the color schemes that are most attractive to you, the décor elements that make you feel at home, and the sentiments that you value most, among other qualifiers, you will determine which five-color collection best represents your décor preferences and ultimately which colors to incorporate into your home to best express your unique personality. Once your perfect colors are chosen, you can digitally (and easily) paint your space in a variety of colors using the PPG Paints online room painter tool. Upload your own photos, browse designer color collections, and explore popular colors by visiting to use the tool.

Big-impact ideas for small patio spaces

(BPT) - Do you have a small patio? Do you think you can't do much with the space due to its size? There's probably a lot more potential than you think.

From the influx of urban dwellers, empty-nesters in transition and even the tiny-home movement, the trend of downsizing continues across the United States. Contrary to popular belief, you can have an impressive patio even if you have a smaller abode.

Here are a few design ideas to help bring your limited patio area to life while maximizing the space:


Add visual interest under foot with a patterned rug. A rug properly placed under a table can break up a smaller floor, giving the illusion of more square footage. Colored rugs are readily available in a variety of designs. Pick your favorite striped, chevron or paisley variety and see what a difference it makes.

Water features

The natural elegance, gentle gurgle and sparkle of a flowing water feature can add a sense of peacefulness to any patio. For smaller spaces, easily turn a decorative waterproof container or planter into a beckoning water feature by simply adding water and a smartpond Low Water Shut-off Fountain Pump. This smart pump automatically shuts off if the water becomes too low, preventing pump burnout. It's also a great replacement pump option to revive a decorative premade fountain that has quit working. Learn more at

Think vertical

To get the most out of a limited space, think upward instead of outward. Hanging plants are a classic option, but vertical wall gardens are a top trend that's sure to be a conversation starter. You'll enjoy plenty of greenery but also open floor space for your furniture, water feature and entertaining to ensure a welcoming area for hosting summer parties.


To get the most out of every inch of your petite patio, look for furniture and features that multitask to help save space while maximizing functionality. An easy solution is to opt for a table that opens to become a cooler for beverages or a bench to hold blankets and other patio extras. Just remember to keep scale in mind so you don't overwhelm your space with massive furniture.

Mixing materials

Matching is out for 2017, so forget about perfectly paired combos and explore a variety of decor. A great way to try this trend is to add visual interest by experimenting with different materials. Inject your own personality through various finishes. One example: consider setting black resin pots next to a handwoven wicker for an eclectic blend of textures.

Vibrant colors

Don't make the mistake of thinking a small space must have muted colors. Vibrant hues inject energy and style, often making a small patio feel larger than it is in real life. From ocean blues to ferocious fuchsia, an accent pillow here and a throw blanket there will transform your space dramatically.

From DIY water features to vertical gardens, a small patio doesn't have to be short on style or functionality. Let these top trends guide you to create a space you'll enjoy all year long.

Maximize your kitchen space with these...

(BPT) - Years ago, the kitchen served a very utilitarian function - a place to prepare food and clean the dishes. Today, it's truly the nerve center of the house where people eat meals, discuss the day's events, plan calendars, do homework, check e-mail and entertain guests.

With that increased demand on the kitchen, and the trend towards creating flexible living spaces, homeowners are seeking ways to maximize their overall layout and make their kitchens work harder.

Expanded work surfaces, smart appliances and carefully thought-through floor plans are just a few elements that have recently emerged in kitchen trends. But one of the most noticeable differences in today's kitchen is the demand for multiple sinks and various water sources.

According to Katherine Riley of Danze, a manufacturer of decorative plumbing products, many homeowners are using multiple sink areas to increase efficiency and literally spread out the work. However, they don't want to sacrifice the ability to showcase their personal tastes and eye for design.

"Homeowners and designers place a lot of emphasis on a sink's role when planning a kitchen remodel," says Riley. "While convenience and functionality have always been key factors, today's homeowners also want to enhance the room's ambiance and decor they've worked hard to achieve. In fact, the kitchen is one of the best rooms in the house to showcase a home's personality through design.'

If you're looking for ideas on how to make your kitchen more functional and stylish, consider integrating these options into your kitchen remodeling plan:

Main sink

An all-purpose station primarily used for clean-up duty, the main sink often features a deeper, single basin to handle dishes and oversized pots and pans. Riley suggests pairing these sinks with a pre-rinse faucet such as the Danze Parma Pre-Rinse or its new The Foodie faucet. These faucets improve functionality of the sink area by allowing users to literally "take the water to the work," but are noticeably fashionable.

In addition to the primary functional faucet, many kitchens feature a water filtration faucet or tap as part of their main sink configuration.

Second sink

Often located in a center island, this sink helps avoid congestion at the main sink and is a great way to increase a kitchen's workflow. Many refer to this sink as a prep sink, which quite literally is one of its primary uses. Homeowners commonly use this extra workspace for cutting vegetables, chilling wine or washing hands before a meal. Choosing a faucet style and finish that complements the room's decor can add an eye-catching decorative piece to an otherwise "ho-hum" island.

Bar sink

Sometimes referred to as a convenience sink or a beverage center, this area is traditionally used for entertaining purposes. It's occasionally located on the center island, but is often placed on a separate countertop in the kitchen or adjacent room (if space allows). Make sure to choose a faucet that matches the other kitchen faucets. Danze offers several types of bar faucets, including high-arc options, small-scale faucets and pull-down faucets. Choose a style that will make this space "entertaining."

Looking for another water source without a full sink? Try incorporating a pot filler faucet at your stovetop. These faucets provide a convenient, safe way to add more water to boiling pots or saute pans.

As you plan your kitchen remodel or look for ways to maximize your work areas, don't be shy about making your sinks, work surfaces and water sources work hard for you. However, since this space serves as the epicenter of most homes, be sure to also use the room as a way to express your unique style.

Visit for more kitchen (and bath) solutions from Danze.

3 ways to personalize your home's curb appeal...

(BPT) - At its core, the desire to create a home with curb appeal is a desire to make a home uniquely one's own. After all, no matter how beautiful they are, rows of homes that look the same inherently fail to capture attention. Using personal touches, people want friends and family to know which home is theirs.

Among the dozens of affordable ways you can personalize your home's curb appeal, the first tip from Better Homes and Gardens is to 'dress up the front door.' One way they note to do that is by installing a custom wood door.

'Wooden doors are most often used in custom or specialized design situations since they are easiest to manipulate,' explains the DIY Network. 'With the countless options ([wood species], side lights, transoms, decorative glass, etc.) you can custom design the specific look you want for your entryway.'

To achieve a one-of-a-kind look for your front door, consider these three ways to personalize your wood door.

1. Choose your favorite wood

From modern to traditional, doors are available in many different wood species to meet your personal taste. If you like the look of high-end furniture, cherry or walnut might be right for you, while exotic woods like sapele mahogany have distinctive patterns for an eye-catching door. Woods like knotty alder create a casual, rustic look, while Douglas fir provides a timeless appeal.

'We've built doors out of more than 100 different wood species - everything from ash to zebrawood - so you're sure to find a wood that's right for you,' says Brad Loveless, marketing and product development manager for Simpson Door Company. 'We will also make doors using multiple wood species, for a look none of your neighbors will have.'

2. Go big

If you're planning a new home, or a remodel of your existing home, replacing the front door with an extra-large door is an impressive way to fashion a grand entry. To make a big impression, wood doors can be custom ordered in virtually any large size. For example, a door that is 5 feet wide by 8 feet high is almost two times larger than the typical front door, and is sure to capture the attention of visitors to your home. Wood door manufacturers recommend that if you have a large door, consider making it 2 1/4' thick, which is a common thickness for a custom entry door.

'Another attractive quality of wood doors is that they can be custom made to fit any size opening or trimmed to a specific size doorway,' says the DIY Network. 'In this regard, wood is a material that is easy to work with and can be made to fit your exact needs.' Compared to other materials like fiberglass and steel, wood doors offer the flexibility to 'create virtually any shape, or make just about any door a Dutch door, move design components around and change the door thickness,' says Loveless.

3. Add a touch of class with glass

Wood door manufacturers offer a wide range of glass designs to complement your door. Depending on the look you prefer, these range from a full lite door, in which the glass extends from top to bottom, to quarter lite doors, in which the pane is limited to the top one-fourth of the door. Glass is tempered to resist breakage and to help keep intruders out. Additionally, you can choose from options with a wide range of transparency, to ensure the right balance of privacy and natural light for your situation. Some manufacturers, like Simpson, offer easy-to-use design tools for choosing door and glass designs. The company's online Glass Taste Test tool, for example, enables homeowners to see how different glass types will look in their door, and the degree of privacy the glass provides.

Although homeowners can choose from several different materials for their front door, wood allows greater flexibility for customization and creates enduring value. 'It's easy to understand why many of us still like our doors to be made of wood - nothing else matches the material's warmth and satisfying heft,' says This Old House magazine.

Confused by TV technology? This buyer's guide...

(BPT) - The technology in our TV sets has changed a lot in the past decade. When it comes time to buy one, it's easy to lose track of which features matter for a good TV-watching experience.

You might find a TV at a tempting price, but you don't want to end up wasting money on a picture that blurs at the height of the action, looks distorted from side angles or doesn't support the latest technology.

At the same time, does the expensive model and its alphabet soup of features really give you a better picture for the price?

'With all the new TVs hitting the market in the next few months, it can be tough to know what to buy and what the numbers mean,' says Katie Linendoll, tech expert, TODAY Show contributor and Emmy Award winner.

Since your TV set is a major source of entertainment for you and your family, it's important to know what to look for before you start shopping. With Linendoll's guidance on the latest TV features and technology, you'll be sure to choose a TV set with the brightness, sharp images and vibrant colors you're looking for. Because the last thing you want is to get stuck with a TV you'll regret.

Screen type: OLED or LCD?

For starters, there are only two kinds of TV panel technologies available right now: OLED (pronounced 'oh-led') and LCD.

'OLED technology creates its own light, which means each pixel can be individually controlled and turned on or completely off,' says Linendoll. Plus, OLED delivers over one billion different shades of color - about 64 times the amount of a conventional TV.

Many experts who have performed detailed technical reviews have deemed OLED the best TV tech ever made. Combined with rave reviews and its super-slim design, this tech is worth paying a bit more in price.

Currently, OLED is available in various screen sizes from LG, who led the introduction of the category a few years ago, and Sony announced they will also release several OLED sets later this year.

Unlike OLED, LCD (liquid crystal display) requires a backlight to make the picture. Most of today's LCD sets use LED lighting. LCD can create a bright, colorful picture but black levels will not be as dark as OLED, and some details can be lost in the shadows.

'This category of TV can still deliver very impressive picture quality, and it's often very attractively priced,' says Linendoll.

While shopping for an LCD set, it's important to know major manufacturers have different names for their premium LCD models. You might hear of Q-LED (an LCD TV that uses quantum dot technology) - not to be confused with OLED - as well as Super UHD or XBR.

Brighter, more colorful picture

One big improvement in recent years has been the expansion of color capabilities in TVs. Nano cell and quantum dot technology, for example, are designed primarily to deliver a bigger spectrum of color than conventional LCD sets, creating more realistic-looking pictures.

How does it work? Nano cell, which is only found in LG's Super UHD TVs, uses extremely small particles (one nanometer in size), which provide more refined and accurate shades of color.

Viewing angles are important

Research shows that only about 10 percent of TV viewers sit directly in front of the TV, so viewing angle is extremely important. Moving even by as little as 10-15 degrees can make colors look washed out and black levels will start to degrade.

OLED TVs have the best performance at wide viewing angles; however, some LCDs, such as LG's Super UHD sets, use a special LCD type for a wider viewing angle.

Sharper resolution

The more pixels you have, the better the image quality. If you picked up on the buzz about 4K 'Ultra HD,' you know these TVs have more than 8 million pixels and display sharper, more lifelike images.

'Most new bigger-screen TVs you'd be considering, including OLED and LCD TVs, are 4K,' says Linendoll. A newer enhancement to 4K is called HDR or high dynamic range, giving you more shadow detail and natural bright highlights.

Be sure the set you're looking at has 4K resolution and supports HDR; otherwise you will be missing out on what's quickly becoming the gold standard in TV features.

Top 6 home decorating trends

(BPT) - If you're planning to tackle a home decorating project this year, here are the top trends you should consider:

1. Marble wallpaper: A lot of the 2017 trends are about going back to classic styles, and it doesn't get much more classic than marble. Few materials evoke high-end living as simply and effectively as marble, a global symbol of refined taste and sophistication. Marble was a big trend in 2016, and it looks like it's here to stay. With faux-effect materials and faux-marble wallpapers such as this beauty from Murals Your Way growing in popularity, you can count on the soft, subdued design to be a top pick for accent walls, powder rooms, kitchens and more. It's a seriously impressive way to dress up your walls!

2. Deep blues: Though black has long been a decorating darling, designers are now recruiting deep blues for their go-to power hue. It's a bit more approachable than pure black, and it has a lovely nautical vibe when used in conjunction with materials like rope, brass and wood. Navy velvet couches are a popular way to incorporate the color into your home. And if you want to keep your space light, wallpaper with blue accents is a great solution. Whether you go for indigo, cobalt, navy or some other blue hue, a dramatic, deep blue color will add interest to your space.

3. Acrylic everything: Acrylic was a trend that picked up steam in 2016 and will keep going strong this year. Because most acrylic is clear, it works with almost any type of design style or color scheme. Acrylic furniture pieces and accessories have been around for years, but they primarily came in very modern shapes that wouldn't work well in a more traditional home. All of that has changed, and now you can find the best of both worlds with this more modern material being used in furniture with traditional designs. Bring acrylic into your space by choosing a larger piece, such as this coffee table from Wisteria, or simply use smaller accessories, such as an acrylic floating frame. Whether it's a coffee table or floating frame, acrylic accents and accessories are this year's clear favorite for adding a gleaming finish to a space.

4. Farmhouse chic: Reclaimed wood, aged metals and distressed details are showing up everywhere in interior design and are not going anywhere in 2017. Farmhouse chic decor is a spin on the classic farmhouse style with an added soft elegance. Classic shapes, rustic simplicity and natural materials celebrate country-inspired charm, while soft and cozy neutrals evoke a luxurious and chic style.

5. Greenery: Named the 2017 Pantone color of the year, greenery is meant to represent refreshment, revitalization and our connection to nature. It seems to be an instant hit for those looking for a back-to-nature hue that brings zest while still managing to work with warm wood tones. Greenery is an attention-grabbing color, and it can be used to add pop and contrast to the overall interior. The earthy tone is a welcome complement to some of the more neutral hues that have gained prominence in the past year.

6. Forget hygge: This year is all about lagom: The year 2016 was about reaching the highest level of coziness and comfort, an outlook encapsulated by the Danish term hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Now there's an even more sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle we'll all be wanting in 2017: lagom. It's a simple Swedish philosophy on everyday life that means "just the right amount." The lagom home strikes the perfect balance between minimalism and cluttered, resulting in a clean, calm space that is also warm and inviting. This Swedish concept of 'not too much, not too little' may just dominate in 2017.


5 tips to create an affordable and rewarding...

(BPT) - When it comes to home improvement, DIY is more popular than ever. There's just something satisfying about improving your home with your own two hands and being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, day after day. However, home improvement projects can be expensive, and many people shy away from tackling home improvements they know they would enjoy because of their skill level or the fear of high costs.

This doesn't have to be the case. While some projects - like a complete bathroom remodel - are going to be expensive, other DIY projects can be tackled in an economical and enjoyable way. These projects may include repainting a room, installing a new ceiling fan or replacing old, damaged baseboards. The limit is your imagination, so look around your house to see what home improvements could enhance your home and then apply these tips for an affordable and rewarding experience.

* Find your motivation. The most rewarding DIY projects are those that satisfy a real need in your home and those you'll use or see every day. Whether it's to spruce up a room's appearance, enhance its usability, repair existing damage or another project that may increase your home's resale value, select one that will be meaningful. Find out where your motivations lie and choose a project that satisfies the goal. You'll put more effort into the project and be happier with the result.

* Know your limits. The "do" in "do it yourself" varies tremendously based on who you are and the skills you possess. If you're a licensed contractor, your ability to "do" is probably quite high. But for most people, focus on projects you know you can handle. If you're unsure, surf the web for a how-to video on your chosen project and watch it closely to see if it matches your capabilities. Tackling a project you can handle on your own will protect you from calling in a contractor last minute and incurring unexpected expenses.

* Turn loose coins into value. You have more money lying around your home to support your DIY project than you may think - and it's nestled in that jar of coins you keep on the dresser, under the couch cushions or hiding on the closet floor. The average home has an estimated $42.92 in unused loose change, according to data from Coinstar. That's money that could easily be turned into a couple cans of paint or tools for your next project. So collect your coins and bring them to your nearest Coinstar kiosk to put your newfound money toward that DIY project.

* Make it a family affair. Turn your DIY project into lasting memories by including your children in the work. Assign them tasks you know they can accomplish. Ask younger kids to sort supplies or carry lightweight materials, while older children can be tasked with painting large spaces or performing simple hammering tasks. Work closely with your kids and celebrate their victories at the project's end. You'll find that your little helpers may even be eager to sign up for your next DIY undertaking.

* Take pics to record your accomplishment. Your DIY project will spawn many memories, so take pictures to capture them all. Before-and-after pictures can be a fun way to see how your project improved your home, and while you're at it, why not brag a little by posting photos of your accomplishments online. And don't forget to take pictures throughout the process as well. Your entire family will enjoy looking back at the progression years down the road.

To learn more about how Coinstar can help you find the cash you need for your next DIY project, visit


4 design upgrades for a spring refresh

(BPT) - With warm weather knocking at the door, it's time to rejuvenate your space and rid the home of winter clutter. While it may be the perfect time of year for a refresh, it can be challenging to find exciting new ways to decorate. With top design trends in mind, here are four simple solutions to spring into a new look this season.

Mixed materials

To entertain the eye, coordinate mixed materials and beautiful textures in unexpected ways. From a warm Champagne Bronze finish juxtaposed against matte white tiles, to espresso-stained wood contrasted with clean marble, this trend is all about bringing the unexpected together to create a unified design aesthetic. Quick refreshes to any room can include accessories such as modern paintings or wall planters and potted succulents. These quick additions serve as simple ways to complement what is already in the room, eliminating the need for a full redesign.

Global inspiration

As an increasingly connected society, incorporating design inspiration from around the globe has become an ever-present trend that is sure to make an impact. Influenced by the most cosmopolitan cities around the world, the Pivotal single handle bath faucet serves as a beautiful centerpiece for the vanity. With clean lines and contemporary form, this collection is perfectly suited for all generations and all style preferences - from millennial to baby boomer. While simple in design, Pivotal makes a bold, modern statement with its sleek handles and angular spout. To further amplify the contemporary aesthetic, focus on simplicity by installing mirrored cabinets to store toiletries. For a more traditional look, pair a stainless faucet finish with warm cabinetry such as toasted almond oak.

Wallpaper wonder

For people who choose to rent instead of purchase, creating the warm, comfortable environment we all know and love can be a challenge. Removable wallpaper is a great way to implement a design refresh and make a temporary space feel like home. The beauty lies within the name - it's removable! Intricate designs and lively patterns are now easily accessible; perfect for an accent wall that needs a pop of color. If you yearn for a new design, simply remove the existing paper and replace with a new pattern.

Bejeweled beauty

This spring, channel your inner artist and incorporate a sense of vibrancy into living spaces. Jeweled tones are experiencing a resurgence this year, proving there is no better way to energize a space than with a brilliant emerald green or a lively turquoise accent. If the idea of painting a room is too daunting, opt for smaller updates that bring a punch of color. Thrift stores are great places to find unique accessories or that perfect piece of furniture, such as an ottoman or tufted bench that can be re-covered with a rich magenta or sapphire blue fabric. These easy art projects serve as a great afternoon project that can refresh a neutral space.

Spring home improvements you can do in 24 hours...

(BPT) - For most of us, the idea of spring cleaning probably sounds refreshing after a winter of bundling up against the cold. Now that spring has arrived, it's finally time to get started! Sprucing up your home doesn't have to take lots of time, and is a great way to leave you feeling reinvigorated after a long winter.

To help you spring into warm weather home improvement, here are 24 simple projects that take 24 hours or less to accomplish:

  1. Put a fresh coat of paint on the front door. Standard paints can take a long time to dry, especially if you live in a humid climate. SnapDry(R) from Sherwin-Williams(R) dries in as little as one hour, and you'll be able to close the door without it sticking. The paint can be used inside or outside the home and it resists dirt, fingerprints, UV rays and weathering.
  2. Update kitchen cabinets. Recently, homeowners are changing the facades of their kitchen cabinets and painting them instead of staining them-a trend that has grown tremendously. Add new knobs to complete the look for an easy, inexpensive way to give your cabinets a facelift.
  3. Swap pillows and throws. You can't change your couch every time the season changes, but switching out pillows and throws is a great way to give seasonal flare to your living room decor.
  4. Create a statement wall. Installing graphic wallpaper or wood planking on one wall, or simply painting one wall or the ceiling a contrasting color, can add drama to any room in the house.
  5. Spruce up the deck for summer enjoyment. A refinished deck looks great, and doesn't have to be a lot of work. SuperDeck(R) from Sherwin-Williams goes on fast and easy, and protects the integrity of your wood deck. It can even reduce the surface temperature of the wood, making the deck barefoot-friendly on a hot summer day.
  6. Add wow factor to your entryway. Large planters with hardy, bright blooms add curb appeal when positioned on either side of the front door.
  7. Update your lighting. Modern light fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms shed a whole new light and look on the room. Consider installing a dimmer so you can create the right mood, any time of the day. While you're upgrading lighting, be sure to replace old-style incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient ones that will last longer and cost less to operate.
  8. Create a gallery wall. Hang multiple family photos and/or chic prints in varying frame styles and sizes on one wall of the living room.
  9. Rearrange your furniture. Talk about a no-cost way to get a totally different look. Experiment with different furniture configurations, and don't be afraid to move pieces from room to room.
  10. Create a recharging drawer in your kitchen. Clean out that junk drawer, add dividers and a power strip and you have the perfect place for recharging your family's electronic devices.
  11. Install a ceiling fan. Nothing says spring and summer like a ceiling fan wafting gentle breeze through a room. Choose the style and size that's right for your space. Bonus: ceiling fans can help reduce energy bills by cheaply supplementing air-conditioning and heating.
  12. Organize your mudroom. Whether it's a formal mudroom or a corner of the entryway, every house has a spot where shoes, backpacks and other personal items collect. Organize that area with hooks for hanging and cubbies or shoe racks for storage.
  13. Add a display shelf above a doorway. A wooden shelf above a doorway is a great place to feature collectibles.
  14. Add vintage class to a powder room. Replace the ordinary doorknob on your powder room door with a vintage or replica glass knob.
  15. Install decorative house numbers. You can purchase decorative tile or glass numerals from a variety of sources.
  16. Stencil some fun. Add animal or character stencils to the walls of a child's room, staircase or kitchen, or patio table for a quick, artsy take.
  17. Add a ceiling medallion. Draw attention to a light fixture by installing a decorative ceiling medallion that has a slightly different color than the ceiling.
  18. Replace a kitchen faucet. A new kitchen faucet can be practical and decorative, but can also control water flow, saving money.
  19. Pressure wash siding and walkways. Power washing exterior home areas makes siding and walkways look fresh.
  20. Hang a new mirror in the bathroom. A decorative framed mirror in place of a standard bathroom mirror adds interest, elegance and even light to the space.
  21. Put a decorative decal in the laundry room. Create some fun in the laundry area by adding a decal with a humorous saying, such as 'Life is too short to fold fitted sheets!'
  22. Upgrade bathroom towel storage. Replace those builder-issue towel bars and rings with decorative options that add pizzazz.
  23. Make your own art with a shower curtain. Love large-scale artwork but have a smaller scale budget? Use wood to frame a decorative shower curtain and turn it into wall art.
  24. Wash windows! What's the one spring DIY task that will make all the others in your home look even better? Wash windows to allow spring and summer sunlight into your home.

Trying just a few of these easy home-improvement tasks is a fast way to perk up your home for spring and summer.


5 fast shortcuts to make your home sparkle this...

(BPT) - We all know that one person who just adores cleaning. But for the rest of us, it's a necessary evil that gets old very quickly!

Before you tackle that long list of spring cleaning tasks, try some of these cleaning hacks designed to make these chores faster and easier. When cleaning is fun and even effortless, you'll feel more energized and gain the momentum you need to knock out your list of chores. Afterward, your house will sparkle from top to bottom, which is its own reward!

1. Find smarter tools

Throw out the messy bucket and mop and reach for a smarter floor solution that's efficient and fun to use. For example, the O-Cedar EasyWring Spin Mop & Bucket System has a built-in wringer that offers superior moisture control of the mop, which makes it safe and easy to use on all hard floor surfaces - even hardwood! The hands-free wringer requires a simple press of the foot pedal to easily spin out the water and help finish the job with less mess and faster drying times.

2. Try natural solutions

Commercial cleaning solutions can add extra costs to your deep cleaning session, not to mention the harsh chemicals can leave behind unpleasant odors. Why not experiment with everyday pantry items? These often cost less and are just as effective in their cleaning power.

A simple solution of warm water and vinegar removes built-up grime from your floors, while leaving a clean, rinse-free finish. Just add a half cup of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of warm water and start mopping.

If you dislike the smell of vinegar, add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil - the fresh scent will be like a small reward!

3. Shortcut to shining windows

If you want streak-free mirrors and clean windows without the hassle, Cas Aarssen, author of 'Real Life Organizing: Cleaning and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day' and the YouTube channel ClutterBug, has this expert tip: Add a teaspoon of cornstarch to your favorite glass cleaner and shake until dissolved. Cornstarch improves the cleaning power of the solution and makes streaks a thing of the past, so you'll get the job done more quickly.

4. Use a cleaning method that also protects

Aarssen has an easy tip that will not only shine up your kitchen appliances, it will repel fingerprints and food splatters often left behind. Just spritz on a little wood furniture polish and rub in with a soft cloth until the surface shines like new.

5. Clean up top

Dust can collect on those high, hard-to-reach places, such as decorative molding and ceiling fans, making cleaning day more difficult. To clean your ceiling fan without showering dust bunnies everywhere, an old pillowcase is your best tool. Spritz the inside of the pillowcase with a vinegar and water solution and slip it over the blades of the fan, pulling it back to trap the dust.

For those tough to reach moldings and corners, use a sturdy rubber band to wrap a microfiber cloth around the end a broom, and give those hard-to-reach areas a clean sweep!

4 hot, high-tech bathroom upgrades

(BPT) - Americans love luxury and technology, so it's no surprise that the two are meeting and thriving in one of our favorite places - the bathroom. Just as technology is transforming every other area of the house, inside and out, it's recreating our concept of what constitutes a luxurious bathroom.

The 2016 Houzz Bathroom Trends study found many homeowners renovating their bathrooms are incorporating technology into their plans. From smart mirrors and medicine cabinets to showerheads with Bluetooth connectivity and self-cleaning toilets, technology's time has arrived in the American bathroom.

If you'll be designing or renovating a bathroom this year, here are four must-have technology items to incorporate into your plans:

The medicine cabinet of tomorrow

Hidden speakers, high-efficiency task lighting with capacitive-touch dimming, integrated USB charging ports - clearly, this is not your parent's medicine cabinet! The modern medicine cabinet does far more than serve as a repository for aspirin and toothpaste.

Acknowledging that today's homeowners multitask constantly, even in front of the bathroom mirror, Robern's AiO collection of medicine cabinets also includes magnetic storage strips, accessory trays, adjustable shelving, a magnification mirror and integrated electrical outlets. The embedded, invisible speakers turn the entire mirror into an audio system that's compatible with most USB-enabled music-playing devices.

Fancy, user-friendly faucets

Remember the days when touchless faucets were the wave of the future? Modern bathroom faucets go far beyond the mere ability to turn them on or off without touching them. Faucets now marry high-tech functionality with leading-edge design to create a visual focal point for your bathroom vanity.

A variety of manufacturers offer a staggering array of features, including:

* Built-in face recognition that automatically adjusts water temperature and pressure to the settings of the recognized user.

* Internet connectivity and a display screen so you can see emails, your calendar and the weather report while you're brushing your teeth.

* Patterned or shaped spray produced by special mechanisms within the faucet that create swirls in the water discharge or shape it into a thin sheet of water.

* The ability to track water consumption while adjusting the temperature and flow to maximize efficiency.

Smarter toilets

Seventy percent of the homeowners surveyed by Houzz said they had upgraded their toilets as part of their bathroom renovations. Today's toilets are far more than just a place to take care of business. From super high-efficiency models that flush with amazingly small amounts of water to self-cleaning bowls and motion-activated lids and seats, the toilet has gone high-tech.

You can find features that range from practical to decadent, including:

* Heated seats and bidet functions

* Dryers and deodorizers

* Built-in music players

* Illumination for nighttime bathroom visits

* Remote controls for opening and closing the lid and seat

* Hands-free flushing

* Automatic self-cleaning

Modern mirrors

From built-in TVs to task lighting and integrated USB ports, mirrors, like other bathroom fixtures, are now incorporating a variety of high-tech features.

Robern's AiO wall mirror collection offers numerous features, including the ability to wirelessly turn the entire mirror into a speaker. The mirror can communicate with any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone to stream your favorite music or news program into the bathroom.

Whether you're renovating an old bathroom you just can't stand anymore or building a new home with the bathroom of your dreams, high-tech features can add enjoyment and usability to one of the most popular rooms in the house.

Beauty and utility: Designing a functional,...

(BPT) - Spring is a time of renewal and home improvement. More and more, homeowners are looking for maximum practicality and durability from everything in their home. They won't, however, sacrifice style and aesthetic to achieve it. Fortunately, home products continue to advance, be it waterproof technologies or scuff-proof surface finishes, all while maintaining the on-trend style and beautiful details design-savvy homeowners seek.

Form and function of flooring

The most impactful way to refresh the home is starting from the ground up with flooring. Many homeowners are drawn to the beauty of wood floors, but worry about spills or kids and pets tracking messes through the house. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators offer an array of waterproof and water resistant flooring styles. Lumber Liquidators' new Dream Home Ultra X2O laminate comes in a variety of styles and a wide color spectrum, and X2O has twice the water resistance of standard laminate flooring.

Scuff and scratch resistant baseboards

Adding baseboards and moldings to walls creates a rich and custom look. However, these finishes are often the first to show the wear and tear of high traffic areas. Baseboards treated with a high gloss, washable and stain-resistant paint are better able to withstand abuse, and they come clean with just a little soap in water.

Busy and beautiful kitchen countertops

Countertops are another design centerpiece of the home, and beautiful products abound. Quartz brings the look of stone and the variation of granite, with less maintenance. Butcher block counters are on-trend, add warmth and dimension, and are easy to repair. A good varnish helps maintain the wood and prevent staining.

Wallpaper makes a comeback

Wallpaper has seen a resurgence in design circles, with detailed patterns and bold prints that can bring whimsy to spaces. Many homeowners experiment with a bold pattern in a smaller space, like a powder room, but worry about the suitability of wallpaper for rooms where moisture is common. More brands carry water-resistant wall covering materials. Vinyl wallpaper works best in bathrooms and kitchens that are prone to stains and water.

When homeowners see a look they love on Pinterest or in a design magazine, there's likely a product or material to help them achieve it while protecting their investment.

Retaining walls create attractive outdoor...

(BPT) - Humpty Dumpty had the right idea when he sat on a wall.

Segmental retaining wall (SRW) units are a popular solution for beautiful and durable outdoor seating - from freestanding walls that double as seating and two-tiered couches to large applications such as cost-effective amphitheater and stadium seating.

Landscape professionals and do-it-yourselfers can build seating options from these multi-purpose units that are a trusted solution for soil retention, erosion control and to mitigate grade changes in the landscape.

Residential seating

'Retaining walls are both durable, beautiful and versatile tools of the trade,' says Scott Arnold, manager of Villa Landscapes in St. Paul, Minnesota. 'Our landscape designers use retaining wall systems to create hardscapes such as fire features, raised patios, planters and other outdoor living amenities in addition to retaining walls, tiered seat walls and freestanding walls.'

The solid, pinned units provide extreme versatility and ease of installation. 'VERSA-LOK is an ideal building block for tiered wall seating and even amphitheater seating because of its outstanding ability to create curves, corners, columns and tiers with the single Standard unit and no special pieces,' Arnold says.

A couch kit is one popular use of the VERSA-LOK retaining wall units, said Arnold. The curved couch with a tiered back provides seating for up to four people, and stepped ends make an attractive accent. It can be installed in a paver patio or as a stand-alone seating in the garden.

A versatile tool

Seat walls can be worked into many landscaping designs. Freestanding seat walls can frame a square or circular patio to create an outdoor room, doubling the function and value of the retaining wall.

"Some of our most popular installations feature fireplaces on a patio or a fire ring surrounded by a seat wall," says Kelly O'Donahue, a landscape designer with Villa. "Seat walls or a hardscape couch around a fire feature are useful and beautiful additions to any outdoor living space that you can enjoy all season."

SRWs can be used to replace an aging deck by creating a raised patio to grade, says Arnold. A freestanding seat wall can be built within the raised patio to serve as seating, to define the outdoor room and provide a measure of fall protection.

Commercial seating

Event spaces such as stadiums, courtyards, outdoor classrooms and amphitheaters have benefitted from economical outdoor seating solutions using SRWS. Staff at the International institute of St. Louis wanted to create an event space in an area that had a crumbling cinderblock wall separating the courtyard from the parking lot. Landscape architect Brad Furfaro worked with the site architect to come up with a tiered wall seating solution.

'We met the challenge of creating a beautiful outdoor space that looked nice and function as seating, but also was a structure to hold the parking lot hillside back,' says Furfaro, who owns Furfaro Design-Build Landscapes in St. Louis. 'For a measure of design continuity, we were also able to use caps that match the SRW units on an existing cinderblock wall that did not have to be removed.'

The new amphitheater-style space seats about 80 people for outdoor training and events. 'One challenge was a grade change from the base of the wall to the top and also a horizontal grade change from one end to the other,' Furfaro says. 'The slope and seating starts out 4 feet on the east end and graduates to more than 6 feet on the west end. I had not used VERSA-LOK in this way before, but I knew that it's a block that I can do anything with.'

It's a good idea to sit on a wall when so many outdoor living features can be created with SRWs. From curved couches and freestanding seatwalls to amphitheaters and stadium seating, retaining wall units not only function as they were intended but also offer new solutions for outdoor living projects.

Articles last updated at Jun 25, 2017 11:38:42am.
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