SPECIAL SECTION HOME IMPROVEMENT
For a wood frame house , wooden , composite or PVC decks can match the trim of your existing home . Since wood can be painted , it offers the most color options ; however , it will also require frequent repainting . Both PVC and composite decks are available in a wide range of earth tones to match your home ’ s style .
Vince Lorenzi , owner of Lorenzi Home Design Center , explains that there are cost differences , but feels that PVC and composite decks require less maintenance in the long run .
He says wooden decks will run about $ 2 to $ 3 per square foot . These are attractive , but do require more maintenance and will have to be resealed every few years to give them maximum life . Both PVC and composite decks will run an average of $ 8 to $ 9 per square foot . They will require power-washing for cleaning , with frequency depending on location . If the deck is adjacent to trees and shrubbery , leaves and pollen will settle on the frame , so washing is required to keep it looking sharp .
If your home is made of stone , you may opt for a patio that is a continuation of the stone look , but this also works well with a wood frame or brick home . Patios work best in yards that are level , while a deck can be placed pretty much anywhere , including a hilly or uneven lawn .
According to Marci Buckiso of The Fireplace and Patioplace , a local expert in furnishing outdoor living spaces , homeowners are especially keen to add fire features to their outdoor area , functioning as a gathering point for both family and guests . Traditional wood-burning fireplaces not only add physical warmth and beauty , but emotional warmth as well . Contemporary homeowners are opting for very modern linear gas fireplaces , with smooth , clean lines to mirror the style of their home .
“ For those homeowners who don ’ t have the space for a traditional fireplace , firepits make a great feature , creating a beautiful flame that glows through crystal rock ,” says Buckiso . And they ’ re available in three different heights , with a lower coffee-table height , dining table and bar height . The homeowner also has the option of selecting a wood- or gas-burning firepit .
OUTDOOR KITCHEN SPLENDOR
When the summer heats up , the prospect of slow-cooking a roast or searing some ribs is just not as appealing when you know it ’ s going to heat up your house and drive up your air-conditioning bill . Take a tip from our pioneer ancestors who baked their bread and cooked their meats outdoors in the summer to maintain a cool house . This simple idea can really help keep your home cool during the dog days of summer , while saving you money on energy costs .
With an outdoor oven and grill , barbeques can be a spontaneous dinner idea , rather than a major event that must be planned days in advance . The grilling process gives steaks , chicken , fish and pork a wonderful smoked flavor , while reducing the overall fat content .
And it ’ s not just meats that can benefit from grilling . Bell peppers , onions , zucchini and tons of other vegetables take on a wonderful flavor when tossed lightly with olive oil , wrapped in foil and cooked on a grill .
With an outdoor kitchen , grilling is not just for summer either . With a covering for rainy days and outdoor heating available , it can be used virtually year-round . Although just a simple oven and grill can change the way you live , a sink with running water and an added fridge can really make cooking outdoors convenient .
For entertaining , the outdoor kitchen offers a way to spend time with your guests while preparing the meal . There ’ s also an entire line of in-ground sound equipment and specially made outdoor TVs . The televisions are completely waterproof and three times as bright as a normal TV , so they can be viewed even in strong direct sunlight .
Have you been wondering if there ’ s a way you can cut your energy bills while helping to contribute to a greener environment ? Though Pennsylvania may not immediately spring to mind as a sunny locale , solar power is readily available and already being used in hundreds of area homes successfully .
Think of it like this : If there were a river flowing by your house and you only had a five-gallon bucket to collect the water , you would only be able to use five gallons . But if you had 20 five-gallon buckets , you could have all the water you needed . Solar energy functions in a similar way . If you live in an area that does not get a lot of sun , by adding more solar panels you can collect more sun .
According to lead designer Ian Smith of Energy Independent Solutions , the Pittsburgh area is able to produce about 80 % of the solar power that Miami , Florida , does ! There are also attractive options for installing the panels , such as all-black panels and solar shingle products that blend the panels in with your roof . Solar awnings can be installed on a pergola or carport . And with flat roofs , the panels are generally not visible at all . There are also ground-mounted systems that are separate from your home .
Smith adds that the initial cost for an average-size home of 2,000 sq . ft . might range from about $ 15,000 to $ 25,000 , which is recouped over a few years . Some areas may also offer incentives or tax benefits for switching to solar .
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