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8 simple things you can do at home to improve indoor air quality

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A clean house always looks and feels good. But did you know a clean environment goes a long way toward keeping you and your family healthy?

For starters, dust holds dander and pollen, which explains why dust so easily triggers an allergy attack. But common household dust contains other bad stuff you just wouldn’t want to breathe in, such as 45 kinds of toxic chemicals used in consumer products, according to a study by George Washington University. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, hormone changes, developmental problems and more.

“This does sound quite alarming, but it underlines the importance of maintaining your home’s indoor air quality,” says Tom Tasker, Product Manager, Luxaire heating and cooling. “The good news is all it takes is a few simple things to minimize the dust, dirt and other air-choking particles in your home environment.”

So breathe easy at home with these tips from Luxaire, and almost instantly, you and your family can improve your home’s indoor air quality.

* Weekly vacuuming and mopping is one effective way to reduce the amount of nasal-irritating dust that settles on the floors throughout your home. In high-traffic areas, you may want to vacuum or mop more often. Don’t forget to push beds and other furniture out from the walls so you can collect those dust bunnies as well.

* While dust on hard furniture is easy to see and remove, remember that it also settles on furniture and upholstery. That’s why it’s important to get out the vacuum’s brush attachments every month or so and suction it out of the fabric.

* Turning on your HVAC fan before vacuuming can improve indoor air quality even more. Vacuuming is great at removing dirt and dust that’s directly under the cleaner, but the moving air also stirs up other dust and dirt particles that can later resettle on furniture and other just-cleaned surfaces. The airflow created by the HVAC fan can pull these particles out of your rooms and trap them in the filter.

* Checking your HVAC’s filter on a regular basis is always good practice. But the next time you shop for a replacement filter, be mindful of its MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). Filters with a higher rating can catch smaller dust particles and other contaminants, keeping them out of your breathing space.

* Make sure fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are properly vented to the outside, away from windows and any heating and air conditioning intakes. This keeps fumes and other unwanted particles from re-entering your home’s HVAC system.

* Minimize the amount of unwanted outdoor particles from coming in so you can keep your airways clear and, hopefully, cut back on vacuuming and dusting. Keep windows closed on windy days, and encourage family and guests to leave their shoes at the door. (For those who feel adverse to going barefoot, keep a bin of inexpensive slippers in many sizes at the ready.)

* Keep humidity at a healthy level. An overly humid home can create the perfect environment for mold and other allergens to thrive, which can make the indoor air extra irritating for allergy sufferers. Invest in a humidity meter and make sure the levels stay within a comfortable, healthy range of 30 to 50 percent humidity.

* Make sure dryer and bathroom fans are venting directly outside. When it’s time to replace these, opt for quiet, energy-efficient models, because they’ll keep things quiet while improving your air quality.

Making the indoor air quality in your home healthy and comfortable always starts with a high quality and well-maintained HVAC system, says Tasker. At the same time, following these tips to manage dust, fumes and other contaminants to your breathing space will let your HVAC system work much more efficiently and effectively. To learn more, visit Luxaire.com.

House & Gardens

5 tips to amp up the natural benefits of your yard

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From improving the air you breathe to boosting your home’s value, well-managed lawns and landscapes offer tremendous benefits for the community and environment. Photo courtesy of LoveYourLandscape.org/Designs By Sundown

It’s easy to appreciate the sights and smells afforded by lawns and landscapes, but when it comes to your yard there is much more to consider besides pleasing aesthetics and aromas. Many would even be surprised to learn that the benefits of a lush lawn and stunning landscape design extend well beyond a yard’s perimeter.

That’s right, well-managed landscapes offer tremendous benefits for the community and environment. Here are just a few:

* Scrubs the air: Beautiful greenery, including grass, catch dust, smoke particles and other pollutants to make the air you breathe fresher and cleaner.

* Protects waterways: Well-maintained yards and lawns help prevent soil erosion and unwanted runoff into nearby lakes, streams and rivers.

* Adds oxygen: A 50-by-50-foot lawn produces enough oxygen to supply a family of four.

* Boosts home values: The yard is the first thing a potential buyer sees, and it sets the first impression. If you plan to sell your home in the next few years, investing in your landscaping now can pay dividends later. A recent study by the National Association of REALTORS and National Association of Landscape Professionals found that investing in landscape maintenance recovers 100 percent of the cost at the time of sale!

* Makes you feel good: Having a nice yard with lush turf and well-tended landscapes delivers some mood-enhancing properties as well. Looking at plants and trees, even through a window, has been found to lower stress and blood pressure, while walking among plants and trees improves attention and memory.

Ideas to enhance your yard’s natural benefits

Now that you know the benefits of your lawn and landscapes, you may be inspired to try some of these simple improvements to make it look and feel even better. Some of these can even save you time and effort, so you have more hours to spend outdoors.

* Mow properly: Raising the deck height of your lawn mower is one simple thing you can do right now to improve your green space. When mowing, the blade should remove no more than a 1/3 inch from the blade of grass.

* Mow at the right time: Professionals recommend to not mow right after it rains. Mowing wet grass will cause clumping and ruts. This also leaves the lawn more susceptible to certain diseases.

* Let the clippings drop: “Grass cycling” your clippings allows nitrogen and other nutrients to return to the soil. Even better, it eliminates the step of hauling around heavy bags of yard waste.

* Invest in smarter watering tools: An irrigation system saves time on watering chores, but one that uses smart technology and weather-based data will apply water only when your lawn and garden need it.

* Consider natural landscaping: The next time you choose flowers, shrubs or trees, opt for species native to your region. These plants have adapted to the climate, so they’re more resilient to your region’s weather patterns, and require less watering than exotic species.

With these tips, you have plenty to get started on creating a beautiful lawn and landscape that looks and feels even better. If you’re seeking fresh ideas to amp up your landscaping or want to maximize its full environmental and enjoyment benefits, consider turning to the expertise of a lawn care or landscape professional. With help from a professional, you can have the outdoor oasis of your dreams. To find a professional in your area, visit LoveYourLandscape.org.

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House & Gardens

Your home haven: 5 common mistakes when planning a DIY deck

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Across America, decks have become a popular place for people to entertain guests or just relax. The greatest appeal? The elevated outdoor living areas offer a convenient option for enjoying the great outdoors in a comfortable, room-like space that’s somewhat removed from the elements.

Further, studies reveal adding a deck to your home pays for itself in terms of resale value. A 2016 report by the National Association of Realtors estimates new wooden decks recover 106 percent of their cost, with the average deck costing $9,450 and generating $10,000 in value. In fact, a deck was ranked third among home improvement projects recouping the most resale value.

“Backyard decks have replaced patios and front porches as the social centers of suburbia in the summer,” writes Steve Cook on Homes.com. “Decks are elevated to catch summer breezes and to facilitate conversations with neighbors. Large enough for a table and grill, most decks are more versatile than front porches and provide privacy from street traffic.”

While building a deck isn’t difficult, it’s helpful to understand some of the potential pitfalls before getting started. Here are some common mistakes made by inexperienced homeowners.

* Choosing the wrong side of your house. While your backyard is an obvious option, it’s not always the best choice for your lifestyle. Are you most apt to enjoy a full-on sunny spot, or a shady haven on a hot day? Will wind be an issue? Are you aiming for privacy, or a chance to socialize with neighbors? Which positioning provides the best views?

* Not researching your optimal layout. A nearly endless number of sizes and shapes are possible. Before choosing, think beyond just aesthetics and consider how you’ll actually use the space. Where will furniture be placed? What will the foot traffic patterns be? How will users access the deck from inside and outside your home? To what extent will new doorways and stairways be necessary?

* Not opting for real wood. While the grain of authentic wood is hands-down more visually stunning than composite, many homeowners don’t realize wood can also be more affordable and just as easy to maintain. The NAR study also found wooden decks recoup greater resale value than composite decks. A particularly beautiful and versatile choice for decks is Western Red Cedar, a stunning species that inherently resists rot, decay, shrinkage and insects. And if left unfinished, it weathers over time into an attractive silvery gray patina. Do-it-yourselfers report it handles like a dream because it’s naturally flat and able to absorb a wide range of finishes.

* Not considering air quality. Composite deck materials often emit greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process, whereas woods such as Western Red Cedar leave a smaller carbon footprint than any other building material. That means you can rest easy knowing you’re choosing the greenest option available.

* Not factoring in maintenance and upkeep. Regardless of materials, decks typically need periodic cleaning to protect them from the elements and keep them looking like new. Fortunately, a Western Red Cedar deck is relatively low maintenance. Maintain its beauty by cleaning it annually with a plain bristle brush, and should you choose to stain your deck, be sure to select a quality product.

For more information about creating your dream deck, visit RealCedar.com.

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House & Gardens

3 elements to create a dream bathroom

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A true spa-like bathroom environment can be created right at home, combining high-style bathroom fixtures with modular styling and discreet organizational features

Bathrooms reign supreme, overtaking kitchens as the most popular remodeling project, according to a new survey by the National Association of Home Builders. In the study, remodelers reported on the most common projects in 2017 and 81 percent performed bathroom remodeling.

Whether you’re hiring the project out or taking the DIY route, fashioning the bathroom of your dreams can enhance your home’s value and add enjoyment to your daily routine. A leading trend in bathroom design is to create a space that is not only functional but is a true sanctuary. To craft a spa-like bath setting that you’ll love for years to come, consider these elements.

1. Sinks and vanities

Clutter causes chaos that can add to daily stress. To establish a peaceful retreat without the disorder that commonly overtakes bathrooms, it’s important to keep organization in mind when selecting a sink and vanity combination. The key is to find a balance between style and functionality.

Consider the DXV Modulus collection, which creates simple yet dramatic spaces with a selection of trending materials and finishes for optimum style. Its modular concept, highlighted with minimalistic bathroom sinks and coordinating vanities, allows for maximum flexibility in installation and organization. It brings high design to any project, including master bathrooms and powder rooms, where space may be at a premium.

2. Freestanding tubs

When you select the right tub for your new bathroom, you’re giving yourself a way to unwind every day, as well as provide a stunning focal point to anchor the space. Deep soak freestanding tubs are a top trend for the ultimate in bathing relaxation. Immersing yourself in the warm water of a soaking tub can help ease muscle tension, making you feel like you’re at the spa while bathing in the comfort of your own home.

Soothing, romantic and indulgent, DXV soaking tubs create the perfect personal sanctuary. This must-have showstopper adds style, repose and a touch of luxury that elevates any bathroom setting.

3. Shower systems

Forget boring single showerheads. Today’s complete shower systems go beyond the basic clean to provide a comprehensive bathing experience. Design the space to fit your preferences with different sprays and various angles for massage, invigoration or total relaxation. You can adjust the flow and temperature to your liking. It’s customization on demand.

To further enhance the shower experience, add in spa-like elements, like your choice of adjustable lighting and music to match your mood. Go ahead and close your eyes, feel the water, and escape while getting lost in your favorite tunes.

With the right elements and well-thought-out design, you can craft your own personal oasis. Adding to your home’s value while relishing in its pleasure — now that’s a dream come true.

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