Tag Archive for: Home Improvement

Adding a deck to your home

Adding a deck to your home not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also provides an inviting space for outdoor activities and gatherings. In Maine, with its harsh climate and stunning natural beauty, building a deck requires thoughtful planning and consideration. In this article, we will discuss the factors to consider when adding a new deck, the costs associated with such a project, the options for DIY or hiring a contractor, and how to build a deck that withstands Maine’s weather conditions.

Factors to consider when adding a new deck:

  • Purpose: Determine the primary purpose of your deck, whether it’s for entertaining, relaxation, or enjoying the outdoors. This will help you decide on the size, layout, and design of the deck.
  • Location: Choose a location that balances sun exposure, shade, and privacy while considering the prevailing winds, views, and proximity to your home’s entrance.
  • Materials: Select decking materials based on durability, maintenance requirements, and compatibility with Maine’s climate. Pressure-treated wood, composite materials, and tropical hardwoods are popular choices.
  • Building codes and permits: Familiarize yourself with local building codes and obtain any necessary permits before starting the project. Codes may dictate the size, height, and railing requirements for your deck.
  • Budget: Establish a budget to guide your decisions on materials, design, and whether to hire a contractor or tackle the project yourself.

The cost of building a deck varies depending on factors such as materials, design, and labor. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $15 and $35 per square foot for a basic pressure-treated wood deck. Composite and hardwood materials generally cost more but require less maintenance over time. The overall cost will also depend on the complexity of the design and any additional features such as built-in seating, railings, or lighting.

DIY vs. hiring a contractor: If you have carpentry skills and experience with home improvement projects, building a deck yourself can save on labor costs. However, constructing a deck requires precision and adherence to building codes, which may prove challenging for some homeowners. Hiring a contractor ensures professional results and compliance with local regulations. Before selecting a contractor, obtain multiple quotes, check references, and verify licenses and insurance coverage.

Keep these considerations in mind when building a deck to last in Maine’s harsh climate:

  • Choose the right materials: Opt for materials that resist moisture, decay, and insect damage, such as pressure-treated wood, composite decking, or tropical hardwoods like ipe or mahogany.
  • Proper drainage and ventilation: Ensure adequate spacing between deck boards and a slight slope away from your home to promote water drainage. Adequate ventilation beneath the deck is essential to prevent moisture buildup and potential damage.
  • Protective finishes: Apply a high-quality water-repellent finish or stain to wooden decks to protect against moisture, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and resealing, will prolong the life of your deck.
  • Snow and ice management: Maine’s snowy winters can be hard on decks. Promptly remove snow and ice to prevent moisture damage, and avoid using metal shovels or ice-melting products containing salt, which can harm the deck’s surface.

Additional considerations:

  • Safety features: Install railings, especially for elevated decks, to ensure safety. Choose materials and designs that complement your deck and meet local building codes.
  • Accessibility: Consider adding ramps or wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or strollers, ensuring that your deck is accessible to everyone.
  • Lighting: Incorporate outdoor lighting into your deck design for safety and ambiance. Solar-powered or low-voltage LED lights are energy-efficient options.

Adding a deck to your Maine home can enhance its value and provide a beautiful outdoor living space for relaxation and entertainment. By carefully considering factors such as purpose, location, materials, and budget, you can plan a deck that suits your needs and complements your home’s style. When choosing between DIY and hiring a contractor, weigh your experience, available time, and desire for professional results.

Building a deck that lasts in Maine’s harsh climate requires selecting the right materials, ensuring proper drainage and ventilation, applying protective finishes, and managing snow and ice. Don’t forget to pay attention to safety features, accessibility, and lighting to create a welcoming and functional outdoor space.

Investing time and effort in planning, constructing, and maintaining a deck will reward you with a beautiful, durable addition to your home, allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty of Maine’s outdoors for years to come.

Embrace energy efficiency with heat pumps

Maine residents are increasingly choosing heat pumps to improve their home’s energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. In this article, we’ll discuss what heat pumps are, their benefits, and the costs associated with upgrading a house with a new heat pump.

What is a heat pump, and how does it differ from traditional systems? Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by transferring heat between the indoors and outdoors. Unlike traditional systems that generate heat or cool air directly, heat pumps move heat, making them more energy-efficient. They extract heat from the outdoor air during winter and expel indoor heat outdoors during summer.

Benefits of installing heat pumps in Maine:

  • Cost savings: Heat pumps use less energy than traditional systems, reducing electricity and energy costs.
  • Energy efficiency: Heat pumps reduce your home’s carbon footprint and often qualify for federal tax credits and local utility rebates.
  • Versatility: Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, eliminating the need for separate systems.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using heat pumps over electric, wood heat, or traditional air conditioning:


  • Lower operating costs
  • Improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Less maintenance compared to wood-burning systems
  • Enhanced indoor air quality
  • Quiet operation


  • Higher upfront costs
  • Limited effectiveness in extreme cold temperatures
  • May require additional insulation or air sealing upgrades

The cost of upgrading with a new heat pump varies depending on the size, type, and installation factors, typically ranging between $4,000 and $7,000 for a ductless mini-split system, including installation. Obtain multiple quotes from local contractors and consider system size, efficiency ratings, and warranties when making a decision.

Heat pumps offer numerous benefits, including cost savings, energy efficiency, and versatility. While there are some drawbacks, such as higher upfront costs and potential limitations in extreme cold, proper planning and installation can help homeowners maximize the advantages of heat pump systems. With the growing focus on sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint, heat pumps represent a smart, environmentally friendly choice for Maine residents.

When choosing a new heat pump for your home, consider factors such as home size, insulation levels, and local climate when choosing a heat pump. A professional contractor can help you select the appropriate system and ensure optimal performance.

Statewide programs like Efficiency Maine offer rebates for qualifying heat pump systems, while federal tax credits and local utility incentives may also be available. Research and take advantage of these programs to offset the upfront costs.

Hire a reputable contractor with experience in heat pump installations, and ask for references and reviews from past clients. A well-installed heat pump system maximizes energy savings and ensures the longevity of your investment.

In conclusion, heat pumps present a compelling option for Maine homeowners looking to improve their home’s energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. By understanding the benefits and limitations of heat pumps, selecting the right system, and taking advantage of financial incentives, you can make a smart, environmentally friendly choice for year-round home comfort.

Seven mistakes to avoid when decluttering your home

by Christina Giaquinto

The spring cleaning season is always such a great time to refresh your home and everyday lifestyle. Are you already planning to deep clean your carpets and rugs, clean all of your home’s windows, and wipe down all counters and cabinets? These are all fantastic steps to take, but have you thought about taking the time to declutter each room? You may not know it, but if you have a cluttered home, you are unknowingly hurting your mental wellbeing.

It’s true — clutter takes up physical space, uses your mental energy, and can amplify stress and anxiety. In my experience as the Professional Organizer and Brand Ambassador of Modular Closets (a DIY customizable closet system that organizes any space in your home), I have found that decluttering and organizing your home is one surefire way to live healthier and happier. That said, if you want to declutter your home this spring cleaning season, avoid these blunders:

Mistake #1: Thinking You Need to Throw Everything Away

Oftentimes, when one thinks of decluttering, they falsely assume that any and all clutter should just be thrown away. Their reasoning is that if articles of clothing and other clutter have been strewn around the home for a long time, the items are obviously not important and it would be easiest to just toss them out. However, don’t make this mistake, as it can lead to unnecessary waste in landfills. You may also have friends and family who would love the items you no longer want, or you can donate them to charitable causes that need them.

Mistake #2: Keeping an Item You Don’t Need

On that same note, don’t make the mistake of holding onto an article of clothing or other product because you think you might use it in the future. If the item has been sitting in the back of your closet or laying forgotten underneath your bed for months (or years!), then I recommend donating it, giving it away to a friend, or trying to sell it. You get the benefit of less clutter, and the item will go to someone who truly wants to use it. It’s a win-win for you both! Don’t let objects take over you — remember that you always control the items.

Mistake #3: Starting the Decluttering Process Without Planning Piles

I get it — when you finally decide to declutter and organize your home, it can be tempting to just go all-in and start tossing all the items strewn about into one box to sort through later. However, you will streamline the whole process if you plan out your plies first — you can designate a pile of items you will keep, a pile to donate, a pile to sell, and a pile to throw away. Then, you can sort all of the items as you go — then you can easily box up the piles to donate to Goodwill or another organization, place all the items in the “Throw Away” pile into a trash bag, etc.

Mistake #4: Decluttering With Everything Still in the Space

Many people make the mistake of decluttering their drawers, closets, and entire rooms with all of the items still in the space. Don’t commit this blunder, as you can really optimize the decluttering process by first emptying out the closet / room / space before sorting the items. You will be much more cognizant of the items you decide to place back in the space and consider more if you really want to hold onto certain items you haven’t used in a long time. Also, you won’t overlook items that may be hidden under others.

Mistake #5: Keeping Clutter for a Garage Sale That Isn’t on the Calendar

Garage sales are a fun and effective way to rid your home of items you no longer need, make a little profit, and give someone else the chance to enjoy your old items at a very low price — as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! However, if you want to hold a garage sale to sell your old items, it is absolutely key to schedule the day and time you plan to hold it. Otherwise, you may end up having to keep pushing the garage sale out as other obligations come up, all the while still holding onto a bunch of items cluttering up your space.

Mistake #6: Decluttering Without a Goal and Intention for Your Space

Having a goal you want to achieve for your space will further optimize the decluttering process. Do you finally want to sort through that jumbled junk drawer in your kitchen? Are you ready to organize all of the clothes in your master bedroom’s closet? Do you have a ton of makeup and other beauty products you really want to declutter and organize? Set your goal and declutter accordingly. This will prevent you from being distracted by any clutter in other spaces — as you achieve one goal, you can then set another goal for another space. One step at a time!

Mistake #7: Decluttering Without a Snack On Hand

Trust me, decluttering and organizing any space can be tiring! This is especially true if you are moving heavy boxes and equipment around. So keep your energy and momentum up by having a tasty snack nearby at all times. This can also make the process more fun and enjoyable!

To Wrap It All Up

Are you ready to declutter and organize your home this spring cleaning season? Good for you! You can make the decluttering process much more efficient by avoiding some common mistakes others make, like thinking you need to throw everything away, decluttering while everything is still in the space, and keeping clutter for a garage sale that isn’t yet on the calendar. Also, do not be so hard on yourself, because this process is a lot! The fact that you are working on your space to make it better is truly such an accomplishment. Good luck!

Christina Giaquinto is the Professional Organizer and Brand Ambassador of Modular Closets (DIY customizable closet units that organize any space in your home).

Easy home lawn care for Mainers: Tips and tricks for a beautiful lawn

Hey there fellow Mainers! Keeping a beautiful lawn in our great state can be a bit of a challenge, given our cold winters and unpredictable weather. But fear not, we’re here to help you make lawn care a breeze. In this article, we’ll discuss easy home lawn care tips, including how to repair damage from snow plows, fix bare patches, and revive grass killed by cold.

First things first, it’s essential to choose the right type of grass for our Maine climate. Cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue, are better suited for our cold winters and can handle temperature fluctuations. These varieties will give you a lush, green lawn once the snow melts.

Snow plows can sometimes wreak havoc on your lawn, leaving deep ruts and torn-up grass in their wake. To fix this, start by removing any dead grass and debris, then fill in the ruts with a mixture of topsoil and compost. Level the soil with a rake, and reseed the area with a grass mix suited for Maine. Water the area regularly, and you should see new growth in a few weeks.

Bare patches can be an eyesore, but they’re relatively easy to fix. Begin by raking the area to remove any dead grass and loosen the soil. Mix some compost or peat moss into the soil to improve drainage, then spread grass seed over the area. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and water regularly until new growth appears.

Cold temperatures can cause grass to turn brown and appear dead, but don’t give up on it just yet! Rake away any dead grass, and give the area a good watering. As temperatures warm, the grass should start to green up again. If it doesn’t, reseed the area following the steps outlined above.

To keep your lawn looking its best, follow a regular maintenance schedule. Mow regularly, but avoid cutting the grass too short, as this can cause stress and encourage weeds. Aerate your lawn in the spring and fall to improve air circulation and nutrient uptake, and fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer formulated for cool-season grasses.

To minimize your environmental impact, consider using organic fertilizers and pest control methods. Collect and use rainwater for irrigation, and leave grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and return nutrients to the soil. Planting native plants and flowers around your lawn can also help support local wildlife and pollinators.

Taking care of your lawn in Maine doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following these easy home lawn care tips, you’ll be on your way to having a beautiful, healthy lawn that’s the envy of the neighborhood. So grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get to work!