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An Introduction to Commercial Landscape Design

If you own or develop commercial property, you will most likely need a professional landscape company and possibly a landscape architect to design as well as maintain the property’s landscaping. A landscape architect, landscape designer or landscape firm will be needed to help you plan your landscape’s design and a commercial landscaping firm will be needed to do ongoing maintenance to keep your landscape healthy and looking great to properly reflect your company’s professional image.

Professional landscape designers can assist you with selecting the landscape elements, offering advice on color, design and other aesthetic considerations and help deal with any permit or zoning issues you might face. The next step is to develop the layout as well as planting plans for your landscapes. Your landscaping plan may also include things like landscape lighting, outdoor furniture, fountains and various other materials like stone and gravel. Another important element to be considered and planned is the irrigation system for your landscape.

Once your landscape has been completely designed and put into place, it will also require maintenance on a regular basis. Most likely you will need to hire a commercial landscaping company to provide you with ongoing maintenance. When selecting a company, you will want want that doesn’t require a great deal of supervision and that is able to work within your time and budget requirements.

It will depend on your individual landscape design as to what specific types of maintenance will need to be performed on a regular basis. Lawn and grass maintenance includes mowing the lawns, trimming and edging, fertilizing or treating the lawn and any other types of activities that help promote the growth and health of your grass. Trimming bushes, hedges and ground cover may also needed to be done on a regular basis to help keep the plants in your landscapes healthy as well as to maintain their design. If you have any trees on the property they may need to be pruned, fertilized, aerated and watered. The trees may also need to be inspected for insect and disease infestation. Another task that may need to be done on a regular basis is herbicide or insecticide treatments.

Seasonal plantings can really provide your company’s commercial landscape design with a lot of aesthetic interest and added color as well as a professional image for business people and customers visiting your property. Commercial landscaping companies should have a lot of experience and knowledge with different types of colors, textures and plants to help you enhance your landscape design as well as do the work of planting them for you.

Another important aspect of maintaining the landscape on your property is preventative maintenance. This includes inspecting your trees for disease, wounds and decay as well as to make sure that branches are not growing into the building or overhead wires. Dead limbs should also be pruned away to promote the tree’s growth. You should also inspect your irrigation system on a regular basis. This is an important thing to do to prevent having damaged or broken lines resulting in flooding or extensive water damage to your commercial property.

At first it may seem that spending money and time on designing and maintaining your commercial landscape is time consuming and expensive, but an attractive and professionally designed commercial landscape can enhance your company’s professional image and also add value to your property.

Remodeler’s 7 Steps to Redoing Popcorn Ceilings

For remodelers, removing popcorn or acoustic ceiling can be one of the most daunting tasks in a room. Even the shows on HGTV and other networks seldom tackle this task. It rates somewhere south of wall paper removal in most people’s minds.

My wife and I purchased the house we live in now knowing that we would have to tackle this onerous project in all the rooms of our 2 story home.

So we did a little research, talked to some local professionals and got to work.

First off you should know what you’re dealing with. Acoustic or popcorn ceiling is sprayed on during the drywall process and consists of drywall compound and small bits of Styrofoam. If you are fortunate it has not been painted over. If it has the work will be more difficult. You can test a small section in a corner of the room using the techniques listed below, go to step #7 and find out how to test. Do only a square foot or less and remember even this small section will make a considerable mess.

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Be aware the process is messy, dusty, and time consuming. Yet for all that it is doable by a pair of 50 year olds. With the exception of our living room which is vaulted and has a height of over 17ft, we did all the ceilings in our home. For this we had a drywall professional bring in scaffolding and a helper and do the living room. In addition we used this same person for retexturing and the combination of DIY and professional help worked out great and was inexpensive.

Since we are dealing with the ceiling; it makes since to do it first in a room. Here are the steps and techniques we used to remove the old popcorn ceilings.

1. Remove all furniture, window coverings, rugs, etc.

2. Mask off windows and doors (with the exception of the door used to gain access to the room and any closet doors which you want to take off the hinges and take out of the room. (now’s the time for the clothes to go as well)

3. Take down or mask off ceiling fans, light fixtures and anything else that hangs from the ceiling

4. If you haven’t done it by now get everything removable off the walls, pictures, tapestries, EVERYTHING!

5. If you are not changing out the rug or redoing you’re floors you will need to cover them completely with a good heavy duty plastic tarp sealed tightly at the baseboards.

6. Get your tools together….

7. You have arrived at the point of no return. From here on out you must either finish it, have someone else do it or live with a screwed up ceiling!

All right. Go to the farthest corner from the door and position a ladder a couple of feet back from the corner. Walk up and check out that you can reach into the corner with the drywall knife up against the joint between the ceiling and the wall.

OK, now take your sprayer and wet down a section in the corner about 2 ft by 2ft, no bigger; smaller if you want the first time. Let the water soak the popcorn ceiling a ½ minute or so. Then from the farthest point from the corner towards the corner angle the drywall knife and scrape the popcorn ceiling off onto the floor. It will take you a while to learn the correct angle, pressure and technique, but take heart, you will get it.

My wife did the majority of ours, especially in small rooms like the bathrooms and closets. (Yes, that’s right; if you’re going to do it you have to do the closets too!)

Be careful of one thing, you do not want to take up the joint tape from the ceiling or gouge holes in the sheetrock. Any of this you do will have to be repaired and resanded, which is time consuming and more messy than what you’re already into.

So if you’ve got the first bit off you want to make sure you don’t leave any loose drywall on the ceiling. This will fall off when it’s re-textured or painted, ruining the look of all your hard work.

After you complete scraping the room you need to cleanup the mess and vacuum all the stuff up or fold up your tarp and take it out. Whatever works here for you. You’re still going to come back and sand the ceiling with a pole sander and 120 grit or higher sand paper, then wipe down the ceiling with a damp cloth. This should make it ready for patch, re-texture and paint.

In our master suite we did smooth wall which requires the most effort and skill. So we brought in a drywall guy to do the actual texture and we did all the grunt work of sanding and cleaning up. It worked out great. He told us how to prepare and sand, we followed his directions, had the room ready when he showed up and got off with very reasonable charges for his very professional looking work.

On the rest of the house we did something less difficult and less expensive and still had him texture all the ceilings. According to what part of the country you live in there are different styles and textures used and available. If you do as we did and have someone do the texturing he will be able to give you examples and more importantly samples of these texture styles.

After we chose the one we wanted it worked like this. We removed the old popcorn ceilings, but did almost no sanding. We just made sure there was no loose drywall compound left on the ceiling. This eliminated the need for the double cleanup required if you sand. With the room ready, the drywall guy came and did his thing. We let it dry overnight and painted the day after. Worked out great and again the price was very reasonable.

Now if you are skilled or willing to take on the texturing, you can eliminate any outside help at all, just be willing to live with whatever result you create on the finished product.

For us this was long term process, because we were completely redoing each room. In addition we were living in the house while remodeling and that’s always a trial. Never the less we were able to remove those nasty, dirty, dusty, popcorn ceilings and now have freshly painted, clean, up to date ceilings that make this remodeled home fresh and bright.

If we can do it, so can you. Good luck and good remodeling!

In a fickle real estate market, sometimes it makes sense to remodel the home we’ve got instead of moving elsewhere. Remodeling can be as extensive as adding a wing or second story addition, or as simple as turning an unused dining room into a home office.

Budgeting for a home remodeling is quite different than budgeting for, say a new car or a vacation. Hidden hazards, unexpected structural problems, screwy access, and even inflation can bring up the cost of remodeling higher than we budgeted for. If a home remodeling project is in your future, here are 10 ways we discovered to lower the cost of a remodel and keep that budget on track.

1. Shop around for the best terms. For most of us, a home remodel has to be financed. Instead of charging the remodeling on a credit card, talk to your banker about other options. A home equity line of credit is what worked for us; your banker might have other ideas.

2. Expect the unexpected. Hidden asbestos, old wiring, and rotten sub floors are just a few hidden problems that don’t surface until a remodel has begun. To prevent a hidden hazard from throwing your budget off track, scale back the remodeling project by 10% to allow for unexpected costs.

3. Ask about DIY demolition. Whether it’s ripping up the carpet or tearing into the walls, ask your contractor about tackling this part of the project yourself. DIY demolition can knock down the cost of remodeling as much as 20% which can free up cash for other upgrades.

4. Keep the construction site clean. Construction work generates wood scraps, cardboard boxes, and other trash which must be removed from the site regularly. Rather than having the remodeling contractor hire a cleaning crew, tackle this job yourself to save money. The money saved here can help offset higher costs elsewhere.

5. Sell recyclables. Another way to squeeze the budget gap is to sell anything that’s recyclable instead of just hauling it down to the dump. Copper wire, used carpet pads, and aluminum siding are just a few examples of discarded products that could be sold for scrap. Also worth selling (such as on Craigslist) is your old carpet, old cabinets, leftover floor tile, old light fixtures and other used fixtures.

6. DIY painting and wallpaper. Many of us can manage painting a room, and perhaps even a bit of wallpapering too. If your remodeling budget has little wiggle room, hire out the work you can’t do and leave the easier tasks for yourself.

7. Ask for discounts when shopping. Stores that sell to the trades usually will extend the same discounts to homeowners who are remodeling on a large scale. Most paint & wallpaper shops will let you open a “cash account” for discounts of 10-20%. As far as other materials, ask your contractor if you can use his discount for lighting & plumbing fixtures, carpet, and flooring at wholesale prices.

8. Consider bartering. Some subcontractors will consider bartering their services especially if you have a veggie garden, an old car, or antique tools. If remodeling costs look like they could run over budget, ask if bartering is possible.

9. Used second hand material. Salvage yards and the Habitat for Humanity retail stores are great places to find budget friendly building materials. Buying used materials in one part of the house can free up cash for expensive upgrades elsewhere.10. Value Engineering. Even the best money managers find it tough to stay on budget during an extensive remodeling. If it looks like costs may run over, the best strategy is to concentrate the remaining funds into the things that matter for resale, and cut costs in the areas that just aren’t that important.

One of the things about being a best handyman, or someone who is able to fix things on their own, is the sense of satisfaction on doing a good job and the good impression that you can make with your family. One of the cardinal rules with repairing things yourself is to know your limits. If you feel that things are not going as planned, you should be man enough to call in the cavalry. You can hone your home improvement skills by following some of the tips included in this article.

–Try to watch some of those handyman shows on TV which are pretty good. You can record some of the better episodes and go through them at your leisure. You need to grasp the fundamentals before you tackle the interesting stuff.

–If required, hit the library and take out those “for dummies” books to build on your fundamentals and to pick up the jargon. Swallow the macho attitude and read some good books on home improvement. You can save money by borrowing them from the local library or from your friends.

–All that theoretical knowledge will be wasted if it is not accompanied by some practical know-how. Attend workshops that are conducted by stores like home depot, to build on your practical knowledge. Attending a workshop may identify you as a newbie but the advantages far outweighs that dent on your pride, so go for it.

–You need to build up an arsenal of the right tools before you tackle a job. To put your knowledge into use, you need the right instruments and a basic collection of tools is a must for even the simplest job. If the job requires specialized tools, you can rent them for the short term until you are ready to buy them for your own. You should always use the right tool for each activity.

–Helping your friends with their home projects is a nice way to learn some new stuff. You can help him by doing some basic stuff like holding out the tools for him if you are a newbie. But you can learn a lot by observing someone who is competent and by asking the right questions.

–You should approach a job, big or small, only after making a cursory examination of the nature and specifics of the job. A minute’s assessment can end up saving hours in the long run. Plan out your course of action. You need to have a good idea about the number of different steps that are required for a specific job and the tools that are required for each step. You can get stuck on a number of occasions and you can consult a reference book to help you out of such corners. If you are going to do something, do it once and more importantly, do it right.
–Sometimes you need to get back to doing things the good old fashioned way. You can use the experiences of your elders to help you out of tight situations. Sometimes the old fashioned methods have a way of working out when newer and savvier methods fail. And the argument – do the job right with the right tools at the right time – always wins out in the end.

You can find help out there in the local workshops and at the online how-to clinics. They will enable you to be a very handy man with a few simple tools and a good portion of patience.

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