Three Great Landscaping Ideas for Spring 2023

Spring is almost upon us in the U.S. and people all over are beginning to conjure some great landscaping ideas for their homes this year. Whether you are just tired of your existing landscape or are looking to add some spice to what you already have, there are many great ideas out there. Here are three of my favorite landscaping ideas to consider as we roll into the spring.

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Using Black Mulch to Define Existing Landscape

While some landscaping ideas are more complex than others, mulching existing landscape can be quite simple and will add that extra flare to help make your home stand out. There are many types of mulch you can use, but a favorite is black hardwood mulch. The reason this is so sought after is because it’s dark color contrasts that of bright flowers and bushes and hardwood mulch will last many seasons. 

Of course, over the span of a few years, your mulch will fade to a gray color, but there are cheap and easy ways to fix this! There are multiple natural, charcoal-based products that you can apply to renew that deep dark color that defines your property.

Where Do You Buy Black Mulch?

The idea of adding black mulch to your landscape is intriguing, but obviously you have some questions (if you have never done this before, of course). You can purchase black mulch at any of the large hardware stores (Lowes / Home Depot), Tractor Supply, or any landscaping store nearby. Lowes and Home Depot usually sell it by the bag – commonly you will find a 2 cubic foot bag for around $4. In the early spring you may come across the Lowe’s black mulch 5 for $10 deal which is about half off of the normal price.

You can also purchase black mulch in bulk from landscaping companies. In this instance, you bring your own truck or trailer and they scoop the mulch into it for you. Prices vary but can be around $30 – $45 per cubic yard. Either way you look at it, you should be able to find some black mulch deals in the late winter or early spring.

How Much Black Mulch Do You Need?

As stated above, you can typically purchase black mulch either by the bag or in bulk. A bag of mulch can be anywhere between 1.5 to 3 cubic feet. When you purchase in bulk it comes by the cubic yard. To equate the two, there are 27 cubic feet in 1 cubic yard. There are calculators on the internet you can use to figure out how much you need, but in short, 1 cubic yard will cover 324 square feet at a depth of 1 inch, or 162 square feet at a depth of 2 inches. You’ll find that if you can buy in bulk, it will generally save you some money. Mulch doesn’t always go as far as you’d like it to!

End of Driveway Landscape Ideas

The end of the driveway is something that goes largely un-noticed by homeowners. Many people just don’t think about landscaping the end of the driveway because they very rarely look at their house from the outside in. That is a reason in itself to pay extra attention to this area of your yard because everyone else sees it daily!

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Flower Beds at the End of the Driveway

Many people add flower beds to each side of the end of their driveway to liven up the area with color. Whether it’s a raised bed or level with the ground around it, this is a versatile way to add some expression to an otherwise drab part of your landscaping. If you don’t want to spend too much time maintaining this area, plant perennials in a lightly mulched bed. If you want to customize it for the seasons, go with annuals – pansies and petunias are good for spring into summer, and mums are a great idea for fall time with their deep fall like colors.

Landscape Timbers or Stone

Do you already have flower beds at the end of your driveway and want to take it to the next level? Add some landscape timbers or stone around the beds. You can use landscape timbers to build a raised bed, or simply line the existing bed at ground level with the timbers or stone. Another idea is to build a small stone or brick wall behind the flower beds perpendicular to your driveway. This will help the flower beds to stand out – you can even add some accent lighting!

Upgrade Your Mailbox

If the last two ideas are not enough for you, maybe you should think about upgrading your mailbox? Swapping out that plain boring mailbox for something more extravagant is a great way to spruce up the end of your driveway. On the easier end of this upgrade, you can purchase a fancy plastic mailbox from a hardware store or buy a custom wrought iron one from an outdoor store. If you want to go all out, build, or contract someone to build for you, a full brick mailbox. You can customize it to match you home if you really want to!

Build a Backyard Fire Pit Landscaping Ideas

A DIY firepit may be just want you were looking for to brighten up your landscape this spring. The great part about a firepit is it is a functional part of your landscape – if planned correctly it can compliment your existing landscape as well as facilitate some great evenings by the fire with family and friends.

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Types of Firepits

There are many types of fire pits you can choose from, ranging from a basic metal firebox all the way up to a custom stone fire pit with benches built in. Low end, compact and movable fire pits can be a great addition to a small backyard or patio because they can be cleaned up and stored elsewhere. If you want some style to your fire pit, take a look at chiminea fire pit, they are especially helpful in that they direct the smoke upward and away from where you sit, all while giving off tons of heat in the cool spring evenings.

Traditional Wood Fire Pit Ideas

Built in fire pits may be an option for you if you have a large back yard and plan on using it often. Although this option can be expensive, you can really customize it to compliment the rest of your home. When planning a built in fire pit, give extra thought into where it will be built as it will be a permanent fixture of your home.

Propane Fire Pit Ideas

Gas fire pits give you the best of both worlds – they are extremely convenient and you can find them in all different sizes and styles. Just as with the traditional fire pits, you can buy low end inexpensive ones or upgrade to larger ones that are more functional. Another great thing about gas fire pits is you can convert an old brick fire pit or oven to gas with a gas fire pit conversion kit. This can make your temporary fire pit more permanent. If you are concerned about how much heat it puts out. If this is you, be sure to take a look at the BTU rating before purchasing it.

With the Spring approaching quickly, these great landscaping ideas can help you  perk up your landscape and bring some joy to you and your family. As the weather warms, enjoying the outside of your home is just as important as the inside. Again, these are just a few ideas for landscaping – if you have any other ideas you’d like to add, let us know. We love to hear from readers!

4 Easy home storage solutions

I feel like no matter how much space I have in my home, I never have enough for storage. You know, a place for the stuff you don’t use as often as the stuff you do. I have a lot of this stuff and it’s a struggle to store it neatly. If you’re looking for some ideas, read on for some great home storage solutions!

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When we moved into our house a few years ago I was excited that we had a two-car garage. My wife like the idea of parking her car in the garage, but little did she know I had other plans.

In my defense, I do actively use the garage to facilitate home remodeling projects. I store materials and tools in there as well as work in the garage when it’s raining outside. But that’s only a small portion of the garage. The rest of it? Well, I’m using it for storage.

Garage Organization Ideas

There are apparently, ways to store stuff and use your garage for its intended purpose. In order to pull this off, I suggest you build a shelving system in your garage. If you’re technically inclined, you can design your own shelves, or you can do a quick internet search and find some pretty neat ideas that have already been proven effective.

I did a bit of both – got some ideas from the internet and applied them loosely to my custom shelving. A dozen 8-foot 2x4s, 2 sheets of ½” plywood, and a box of screws later, I had some empty shelves that needed filling up – and that I did. It’s amazing how much junk you can get on some garage shelves.

If you’re winging it like me, take your time and make sure you are not wasting any space. You wouldn’t want to end up with 6 inches of usable space between your top shelf and the ceiling some someone I know…

Attic Storage Ideas

Most homes in my area come with an unfinished attic – pop your head up there and it looks pretty unusable. In the summer it’s 1000 degrees F and there is only a few spots that you can actually stand up without impaling your head on a roofing nail.

Nevertheless, you can still use this space to store some of your stuff that is not sensitive to temperature. Anything that I deem acceptable for the attic I like to put in a Rubbermaid box – it makes it clean and easy to lift.

Another thing that I like to do is lift a few sheets of plywood up into the space to span the ceiling rafters. This will make it easier to move around up there and also spread load any weight from the items you’re storing. Keep in mind if you plan on storing anything of substantial weight, or you get a crazy idea to make a man cave up there, consult a licensed engineer to be sure what your thinking of doing is within building code guidelines.

Add something extra

A backyard shed is a great home storage solution. Furthermore, it’s a great place for your lawn maintenance equipment. Just like any upgrade to your home, there are many options to fit your needs. You can buy anything in between a small plastic all-weather shed to a two-story shed with a hay loft – I’ve seen both of these at some well-known home improvement stores. The latter of the two looked big enough to live in!

Although pre-fabricated sheds are fine, you also have the option of stick building one. What you do is really dependent on your skill level, requirements budget. But just like the shelves I built in my garage, its amazing how much stuff you can get in a small backyard shed!

I like this storage option because I can keep flammable liquids like gasoline and oil away from my house. I also keep my lawn equipment in the shed, giving me more room for other stuff in my garage!

You might not like it, but it works!

My last suggestion for easy methods of storing things at home is to get rid of some of your stuff. If you don’t use it, haven’t used it in a while, or don’t plan on using it, think about giving it away, selling it, or trashing it. I know you don’t need me to tell you this, but declutter the house – you’ll feel much better afterward. Think of all of the extra storage space you’ll have!

Do you have experience with some of these home storage solution ideas? Tell us how it went!

How to Install a Toilet

Have you ever been to someone’s house and thought, wow, who designed that toilet? If not, you can skip this one – or you can hear me out really quick. I’m going to explain how to install a toilet.

Not all toilets are created equal. They are almost like cars – some cars from the 1960s are awesome, some are not. If your toilet is that old, take inventory on the joy it brings you. Is it wide enough for you to comfortably sit on? Is it tall enough for you? Do you fall on it every time you go to sit down in the middle of the night? Do you come in contact with parts of the bowl you’d rather not come in contact with?

You don’t have to live like this – they sell NEW ones at the store. There are tall ones, short ones, wide ones, elongated ones, ones that use less water per flush, ones that use more water per flush, and some even have two flush settings, labeled 1, and get this, 2!

I know this all sounds crazy. You can not only buy a toilet, but I’m willing to bet that you can install a toilet as well.

There are a few things you need to buy and check before doing so – so let me give you the run down.

Purchasing a New Toilet to Install

This is usually straight forward, but there are some exceptions. Most houses have a standard 12in rough in waste pipe. The waste pipe in the ground is 12” from the wall. The standard toilet is set up to fit this perfectly.

There is also such thing as a 10” rough in – if your waste pipe is 10” from the wall, you need to buy a toilet that is designed for this.

There are also other custom and specialty installs that I want nothing to do with. Sorry.

Toilet Install Accessories

Wax ring – The wax ring is what seals the bottom of the toilet to the floor, around the waste pipe. When the toilet flushes, the wax ring is there to ensure air doesn’t get in and poo doesn’t get out. This will need to be replaced as it is for one time use only.

Toilet-to-floor bolt kit – This kit comes with the studs and nuts that will secure your toilet to the flange (floor). Most kits also come with the white cap that goes on top of the stud, purely for aesthetic purposes

Braided water line – be sure to check that your new toilet comes with a braided water line. This line connects the toilet to the water supply on the wall. If your new install does not come with one, you can pick them up separately at a hardware store.

Alternatives to wax ring – there are some products on the market that are alternatives to the messy wax ring. DANCO makes the Perfect Seal Toilet Wax Ring and I can highly recommend taking a look at it. This product takes the uncertainty out of the toilet install. It takes place of the traditional wax ring and its benefits include less mess and the ability to reposition the toilet if you do not match the holes up correctly the first time.

Flange repair kit – DANCO also makes a flange repair kit. Sometimes the flange under your old toilet is broken (usually because someone tightened the last toilet bowl down too hard, or its just old and brittle). This is an easy to use product that will ensure your toilet is secure to the floor. No one likes a wobbly toilet bowl!

Turn off the water supply before installing

I’ve seen houses that do not have shutoffs for the toilet bowls – you just need to turn off the water supply to the house.

I have also run into situations where the shutoff valves behind the toilet breaks. In this case, turn off the main water supply and either ignore the broken valve, or replace it. I’ve done both.

Drain the old toilet

With the water turned off, flush the toilet. Use a shop vac to suck the remaining toilet water out. Remove the water lines and disassemble the tank from the seat. This requires 1 adjustable wrench.

Remove the bolts that hold the seat to the flange

The flange is what’s underneath the toilet, around the waste pipe hole. You’ll probably need to scrape up all of the old wax – this can be rather gross. If the flange is cracked, go get a flange repair kit from the store. It fits on top of the old flange and allows you to secure your new toilet to it safely.

Install new brass T-bolts in the flange

Put them in the way the old ones came out. This is what will secure your toilet to the floor.

Install the wax ring

Some people say to adhere it to the bottom of the new toilet first. I usually just place it around the waste pipe – I’ve never had an issue.

Center the toilet by aligning the flange bolts with the holes

Carefully lower the toilet onto the flange and wax ring. I think some people say to adhere the wax ring to the toilet first so you don’t miss the hole. If the wax ring isn’t centered around toilet hole, it’ll leak all over the floor. Just be careful and pay attention. Lower the toilet and put some pressure on it. I usually sit on it so it compresses the wax ring and settles. Remember – that’s what we do on toilets. Sit.

Install the flange bolts

Don’t over tighten – you’ll crack the toilet or break the flange. Just take your time and you’ll be fine. You’re a plumber now!

Finish Installing your Toilet

I’m going to combine some stuff in step 10 so there’s only 10 steps. Install the tank (same way old one came off) and the new shiny, never been sat on toilet seat. The toilet should have come with some caps to put over the flange bolts so it looks nice – put those on. Hook up your water line and turn the water back on!

You now have a new car! I mean toilet!  Repeat steps 1 through 10 every time you have an unwanted toilet.

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