Painting Upholstery: Easier and More Effective Than You Think

  • painting upholsteryWe have to admit, the idea of transforming a piece of furniture that’s seen better days with just a little paint seems too good to be true. Believe it or not, painting upholstery actually works, provided you know the right technique. Here’s how you can achieve a soft finish and the best results.

Get Some Practice In

It might seem like a pain, but it really helps to try out painting upholstery on a “practice” piece of furniture before you try it out on a piece you’re set on keeping. Maybe a friend or family member has a chair, couch or loveseat they wouldn’t mind passing along. You can also scout yard sales and thrift stores for a great deal. If the piece is a similar color to the one you’re flipping for real, you’ll also have the added bonus of being able to swatch colors pretty accurately.

The Secret to a Soft Finish

You’re probably wondering if painting upholstery leaves it stiffer. In some cases, with certain materials, yes, you’ll definitely achieve a more leather-like finish that might even be prone to a little cracking. Our technique is designed to leave your furniture as soft as it was originally. And the secret? It’s just about the simplest ingredient you can think of: water. Yep, the key to treating paint so that it works more like a fabric dye is to dilute it with water.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Water
  • A spray bottle
  • Measuring cups
  • A stiff brush
  • 1 quart Latex paint in the color of your choice
  • Fabric/Textile Medium (plan on two to four bottles for a chair and more like four to eight for a sofa)
  • Large container for mixing (you may want to opt for a disposable bowl for easy cleanup)
  • Sand paper

Step 1: Mix Up Your Paint and Get Your Spray Bottle Ready

You’ll be working with this ratio:

1 part paint : 1 part fabric medium : 2 parts water

Use your measuring cups to get the ratio right and mix everything in your container or bowl. Then fill your spray bottle up with water—room temperature is fine, don’t worry about going ultra-cold or hot.

Step 2: Apply the Mixture

Before you apply the mixture, you need to make sure that the fabric is damp, but not soaking wet. Getting the fabric damp will keep your paint mixture from running all over the place and creating a mess.

Don’t spray the entire piece at once. Instead, you’ll work section by section. Spray a section, then use long strokes to paint the mixture on with your brush. You’ll be adding multiple coats to take care of any splotches or patterns peeking through, so you don’t need to worry about applying it too thick. Just one thin layer will do. Allow the first layer to dry completely.

Step 3: Sand Down Pills

Once the first layer of paint is completely dry, you’ll probably notice a little pilling. Use your sandpaper to gently remove it. Sanding also helps keep the fabric nice and soft, so it’s not a bad idea to go over the whole piece. You shouldn’t notice much, if any, paint loss.

Step 4: Apply Another Layer

Using the exact same method described above, apply another layer of paint, first taking care to dampen the fabric. Allow it to dry completely and repeat the sanding process. You may find that two coats is enough, but it does depend on the type and color of the upholstery. You can repeat the painting and sanding process until you’re satisfied with the results.

Call National Property Inspections Today for Your Home Inspection Needs

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How to Hang a Hammock

How to Hang a HammockWhile we can’t promise that hanging your hammock will be as relaxing as actually laying in it, we’re here to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here’s how to hang a hammock on your property for the ultimate spring resting spot.

Choose the Best Location for Your Hammock

Choosing the best location for your hammock is the most difficult part of the process. You’ll want to find two sturdy trees that are about the same distance apart as the length of your hammock when it’s fully stretched out. (It’s best to measure your distance before you get your heart set on a hammock that might not work.) If you happen to have the perfect place, lucky you! If your trees aren’t quite up to the task, you have a couple of options.

First, it’s important to note that having trees that are too far apart will give you better odds than trees that are too close together. That’s because trees that are too close together will cause the hammock to brush the ground when you lay in it. Trees that are a touch too far apart, however, can work as long as they’re not too far apart. While you can stretch a hammock to fit between trees, we don’t recommend using more than 18 inches of rope or chain on either end. Too much stretching can lead to ripping—or flipping.

Is Hanging Your Hammock Inside an Option?

Definitely. It’s just that instead of measuring the distance between two trees, you’ll measure the distance between two walls. Be prepared to drill holes into your walls, as this will give you the safest and most durable results.

Secure Your Hammock with the Right Suspension Materials

Once you’ve got the location figured out, you’ll need to find the right materials for suspending your hammock. Fortunately, you can buy kits for both indoor and outdoor hammock-hanging that contain everything you need, save for a few household tools.

For outdoors, we recommend using tree-fastening straps. This way, you can avoid drilling into your trees and potentially causing significant damage. For each tree, you’ll wrap the strap, pass it through the metal loop and then use an S-hook to attach either end of the hammock to the rings.

For indoors, your best bet is to purchase a complete kit made especially for hanging hammocks inside. This way, you can be sure that you won’t cause costly damage to your walls.

How High to Hang Your Hammock

What type of hammock do you have? This will determine how high you hang it.

Traditional Hammocks

Traditional hammocks hang loosely between two points, the center “drooping” down toward the ground. When you lay in them, you’ll feel “cocooned” since either side will collapse in around your shape. It’s best to hang traditional hammocks about six to eight feet off the ground to accommodate the center.

Hammocks with Spreader Bars

Hammocks with spreader bars on either end may be hung lower than traditional hammocks because they don’t have a center that hangs loosely. These hammocks should be hung taunt, or parallel, about four to five feet off the ground.

Now that you know the basics, you can hang your hammock quick and get straight to relaxing.

Call NPI Today to Schedule a Comprehensive Home Inspection

National Property Inspections provides a comprehensive report on all the major components of a home, including the foundation and roof, plus electric, plumbing and HVAC systems. Call us today to schedule an appointment for an inspection.

How to Clean a Leather Couch in 4 Steps

how to clean leather couchWhen it comes to upholstery, leather is one of the most durable options out there. And while it doesn’t require a lot of routine maintenance, it does still need a little extra TLC from time to time. Learn how to clean your leather couch like a pro with these four simple steps.

Gather Your Materials

We could teach you how to clean a leather couch with those specially-made wet cloths. In that case, it would take little more than wiping your furniture down and letting it dry. But all-in-one products don’t always get the job done. And at any rate, if you still decide to go the wipe route, you can get even better results by prepping your couch first. You’ll need:
A vacuum, preferably with a brush attachment

  • A clean microfiber cloth
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • A bowl or bucket
  • Clean rags

Step 1: Remove dust and any other debris.

You never know what kind of hard-to-see debris might be hanging out on your couch. Before you take any liquid cleaning products to your leather couch, it’s important to make sure it’s completely free of any dust and dirt. Use your vacuum brush attachment to thoroughly sweep your sofa, and be sure to get down between the cushions.

Step 2: Wipe your leather couch down.

Once you’ve given your couch a thorough once-over with the vacuum, grab your microfiber cloth and wipe it down again. You should be seeing a clearer picture of which areas of your couch need special attention due to wear and tear.

Step 3: Mix up an all-natural cleaning solution.

We all know that vinegar is an excellent all-natural cleansing agent. Turns out it’s even great for leather! Mix equal parts vinegar and water in your bowl or bucket to make your cleaner.

Step 4: Wipe down your leather couch.

Lightly saturate a cloth so that’s it’s damp, but not dripping with the vinegar cleaning solution. Then concentrate on the areas that need the most attention first. Lightly wipe the couch, rinsing the cloth often so that you don’t move around any dirt that comes up. Immediately follow by wiping the area with a dry cloth. It’s important to never over-saturate or leave excess moisture on leather for long, as this could cause permanent damage.

For Stains That Won’t Come Up

It’s always better to attack a stain as soon as it happens so that you don’t give it time to set. But if you see a mysterious spot long after the fact, it’s worth it to try and remove it. These methods just might work for tougher stains:

For Ink Stains

If you have a white or beige leather sofa, it’s probably seen its share of ink stains. To remove them, try dipping a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol till it’s damp (the same rule applies here—don’t over-saturate). Then lightly swab the ink stain till it comes up, following immediately with a dry cloth.

For Food and Beverage Stains

We’re generalizing a little here—this solution is really for any unidentifiable blemish. Mix together equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar until the ingredients form a paste. Carefully apply the paste to the stain and let it set for 10 minutes before wiping it away with a damp cloth and following with a dry one.

For Grease Spots

Grease spots are the trickiest offenders of all because using water on them could help the grease soak into your leather upholstery. It’s crucial to identify them correctly. When in doubt, try sprinkling baking soda on the spot to help absorb any oils. You’ll need to leave the baking soda on the stain for a few hours up to overnight and then gently brush it away.

Call National Property Inspections to Feel Confident in Your Investment

A home inspection helps you invest with success in any residential or commercial property. Call us today to schedule your inspection and receive a comprehensive report, complete with high-quality digital photos.

Speed Cleaning Tips for Your Busiest Days

speed cleaning tips

Who has time to clean every day? Not us! Shave hours off your chore list with these room-by-room speed cleaning pointers.

Conquer it All

When it comes to the best way to clean, the professionals have basically reached a consensus on these best practices:

Always start at one end of the house. Start at one end of the house and work your way toward the other. This helps you simplify the process and focus on one task at a time.

Create a place for everything. Cleaning becomes a whole lot easier when you have a designated place for everything. If you haven’t gotten organized just yet, you’ll likely want to resolve your clutter problems before mastering speed cleaning. Think of it as a step-by-step process!

Once you have a place for every item, it’s a good idea to carry a laundry basket with you room to room. Place all items that need returned to a different room in the basket so that you can put everything in its rightful spot in one sweep once you’re finished.

Plan on saving floors and glass for last. It’s easier to mop, sweep and vacuum all at once at the end of your cleaning session. Likewise, you’re less likely to miss a window or mirror if you treat wiping down glass as a stand-alone, house-wide project.

Bedrooms

  • Place any items that don’t belong in your handy laundry basket. Be sure you’re clearing off the dresser and nightstands.
  • Wipe all surfaces down with a rag to remove dust. Dry duster cloths are convenient, inexpensive and effective at removing debris quickly.
  • Pick up any clothes, shoes or other items that are on the floor and put them in their place or in your laundry basket.

Ongoing: Make your bed every morning. No excuses!

Bathrooms

  • Start your speed cleaning by squirting toilet bowl cleaner around the rim. There’s no need to scrub yet—it needs time to sit.
  • Use disinfectant wipes or a rag and the cleaner of your choice to wipe down the sinks, fixtures, tub and shower.
  • Use a toilet brush to scrub the toilet bowl clean. Don’t forget to flush right away.
  • Wipe the toilet down with a disinfectant wipe or cleaner. Be sure to get the base and surrounding floor.

Ongoing: Keep daily shower cleaner in the shower stall or on the tub ledge and spray down tiles after each use.

Kitchen

  • Unload the dishwasher.• Gather dirty dishes and place them in the sink. Wash them by hand if needed or load them in the dishwasher.
  • Place any items that don’t belong in the laundry basket.
  • Wipe down all counters and the stovetop with a rag and cleaner of your choice.
  • Dry hand-washed dishes and put them away.

Living Room

  • You know the drill! Pick up anything that doesn’t belong and place it in the basket. Pay attention to the floor and any surfaces, like coffee tables.
  • Use a duster cloth to wipe down all surfaces.

(These tips also apply to offices, playrooms, dining areas and dens.)

Wrap up your speed cleaning spree by mopping, sweeping, vacuuming and tackling all glass surfaces. You’ll also put everything that’s in your laundry basket back in its place, room by room.

Call National Property Inspections to Schedule Your Inspection Today

While the speed cleaning is up to you, National Property Inspections can help you maintain your home by assessing all its major components. From the roof to the foundation and every system in between, our expert inspectors have the knowledge and expertise to help you identify potential safety issues and repairs. Call us today to be in the know when it comes to your biggest investment.

Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Any Yard

low maintenance landscaping

If you’ve been devoting a sizeable chunk of your spring and summer free time to yard work (and you’re just not enjoying it), it may be time to reevaluate your approach. When it comes to a more low-maintenance method of landscaping, we’ve got you covered with these simple changes that will still add major curb appeal. And you don’t even have to have a green thumb!

Automatic Irrigation

Nothing quite beats the convenience of a great sprinkler system, especially if you live in a dry climate. The only real drawback is price. You can install a sprinkler system yourself for right around $1,000 to $1,500, or you can hire a professional, with costs ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Whichever route you decide to take, it’s worth it to consult with a professional about the scope of your system and the location of your sprinkler heads.

Clover

At one time, clover was included in most lawn seed mix for its many low-maintenance virtues. Not only does it provide ground-cover, it also tolerates dryness and droughts, is insect-resistant and does not need to be mowed as often as grass. Aesthetic tastes have since changed, and uniform blades have become the norm. But why not go “vintage” and add some clover in the mix? If you’re looking to save time on yardwork, you won’t regret it! However, if you belong to a homeowner’s association, you’ll want to check that you’re permitted to plant clover.

Perennials That Can Withstand Anything

This one is a no-brainer: your yard is only as high-maintenance as the plants it holds. There are countless options available that require very little weeding, pruning or watering, but that still add vibrant color and texture to any landscaping concept. Flowering shrubs and perennials will grow back on their own year after year—without you having to lift a finger.

Some particularly low-maintenance options include: rosemary, lavender, yarrow, violets, thyme, chamomile, daylilies, roses and dwarf varieties of trees and shrubs.

A Streamlined Technique

First, to make watering, trimming and fertilizing faster, it’s best to group plants that require similar care together. This will also make it easier to remember those requirements. Further compartmentalize your flower beds and gardens with decorative borders, like stones, bricks or wood. This creates a separation from the rest of the grass and cuts down on weed growth. You can also use mulch around plants to help keep weeds and moisture and nutrients in the soil.

A Beautiful Rock Garden

When done right, rock gardens make a big impact with relatively little time commitment once you’ve completed the planting and installation process. That’s right, rock gardens do involve some greenery, but much like the rocks themselves, they’re about as low-maintenance as you can get. The best plants for rock gardens are drought-resistant ones that need little to no trimming. Flowering shrubs, like thrift, alyssum and snow-in-summer make great additions, as do close-to-the-ground plants, like hens-and-chicks and sedum.

If you’re ready to give the rock garden concept a try, we recommend starting small. Once you get the hang of designing a garden space that incorporates rocks of varying shapes and sizes, you can add to it or create more.

A Smaller Lawn

What’s one surefire way to reduce yardwork? “Shrink” your yard. This goes hand-in-hand with the rock garden concept. The more rock, brick, stone, mulch and decorative elements in your yard, the less grass you’ll have and the less time you’ll spend mowing. “Shrinking” your yard can be a large, time-consuming undertaking, but your hard work will potentially pay off for years to come. If you’re serious about low-maintenance lawn care, it’s a must.

Call National Property Inspections Today for Home-Buying Advice

For answers to your most important home maintenance questions, call National Property Inspections. Our expert inspectors have the knowledge and experience to help you understand the lifespan and condition of your home’s major systems.

Your Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Stuff That Slipped Your Mind

Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Issues

Warm weather will be here before you know it (if it hasn’t arrived already), and that means backyard cookouts, sprinkler splashing and lots of hanging out on your deck. Is your deck up to the challenge, or could it use some TLC? We’ll show you everything you need to know to identify problems with your deck railing height and other structures before your first barbeque.

Start from the Ground Up

It helps to be methodical when you’re giving your deck its pre-season onceover, and we like to start from the ground up. Why? Because as far as wooden decks go (which are the vast majority), problems tend to start where wood comes in contact with soil. This doesn’t mean check the bottom and you’re done—other areas of your deck can exhibit safety issues as well, but problems that start at the ground are especially important because they can affect the whole structure.

1. Deck Footings

This is where your deck makes contact with the ground, so pay close attention to your footings. If your footings were poured correctly, the wooden deck posts should land on a pad of concrete that’s completely clear of any soil. If the deck builders really knew their stuff, you’ll also see a piece of metal with some bolts wrapped around the bottom of the post (this is called a post anchor, which attaches the post securely without it actually touching the concrete).

If you see your posts going directly into dirt, that’s a bad sign. Clear it away and check for any indications of rot—you can use a screwdriver to do this. Just press the tip of your screwdriver into the wood, and if it gives any more than ¼ inch, you’re probably dealing with some rotten wood that needs replacement.

If you notice your deck shifting or “heaving,” your concrete footings may not be deep enough. Footings need to be dug deep enough to reach 6 inches below the frost line, which can vary based on where you live – northern states may need 48 inch-deep footings, while warmer southern states can get away with shallower footings. Check with your local inspection office to determine the depth your footings should be.

2. Support Posts

These are the 4x4s or 6x6s that hold up the main structure of your deck, and can be composed of a number of types of wood, from pressure-treated lumber to cedar. Cedar is more prevalent because of its aesthetic value, but it’s also more prone to rot than treated lumber. Use the same screwdriver trick to check for wood decay at every height of these posts, and also pay close attention to signs of insect damage, which will usually appear as small holes or crumbly areas. If you spot insect damage, it’s best to call in a professional to discuss your options.

3. Stairs

Just like with your support posts, your stairs should come to rest at ground level on a concrete pad. If they don’t, check for signs of rot or insect damage with the screwdriver trick. Stairs should also have a consistent rise and run (meaning each stair has the same height and depth), to avoid accelerated trips down the stairs. According to code, each stair can be no more than 7-¾ inches high, and needs to have a depth of at least 10 inches so the majority of your foot can rest comfortably on the stair.

When it comes to stairs, you should also check for protruding nails and loose boards that could cause trips or other injuries. Sometimes the fix is as easy as hammering a nail back down, but be prepared to replace a board or two if necessary.

4. Deck Joist Frame

The joist frame on your deck can have some unique problems besides the usual rot and insect damage, and one of the most common we see are joists that are spaced too far apart. Joists spaced 16 inches on center (from the center of one joist to the center of the next) is normal. If they’re further apart this can lead to sagging deck boards, as most decking material isn’t strong enough to support spans greater than 16 inches. Some composite decking materials even require joists spaced 12 inches apart, so if you’re not sure how your deck compares, check with a professional to be sure.

While you’re investigating the joist frame, take a careful look at the ledger board, which is the board that connects the joist frame to your house. The ledger board should be secured firmly to the house by ½ inch lag bolts spaced equally between each joist. If you only see screws holding the ledger board in place, that’s a problem. A bigger problem is when the joist frame isn’t secured to the house at all, which is more common than you’d expect.

Since it can be easy for water to drip behind an improperly installed ledger board, you should check for signs of rot and water damage, too. If you see that the ledger board is damaged in any way, that’s a signal that some serious work needs to be done.

5. Deck Boards

On the floor of your deck, you’ll want to keep an eye out for loose nails or screws, splinters and other dangers for people walking barefoot on the deck. Check all the deck board splices for signs of decay, and make sure all splices are positioned on joists by placing a little pressure on them. If they don’t move, that’s great. If they squish, that might indicate some rot in the top of the joist. If they flex like a diving board, they’re not positioned on a joist and the boards should be replaced.

6. Deck Handrails

Your code-approved deck railing height can vary depending on where you live, but in most areas it’s 36 inches when measured from the deck surface to the top of the handrail. Commercial buildings that have decks or balconies have to follow the International Building Code (IBC), which requires deck rails to be 42 inches high.

Height isn’t the only consideration when you’re assessing the safety of your deck. For example, balusters should be placed no more than 4 inches apart (the width of an infant’s head) just to make sure no one ever gets stuck. Code can be less than 4 inches depending on your jurisdiction, so check with your local inspector to be sure.

National Property Inspections Helps You Keep Your Home Safe

At National Property Inspections we care about your family’s safety, which is why we offer comprehensive inspection services to assess the condition of all parts of your home. Call us today and book an appointment.

May 2018: The Outdoors

Ask The Inspector

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Plan Your Dream Cookout

Could your grill setup use a refresh? If you’ve been checking out your neighbor’s slick outdoor kitchen, we’ll show you the key things to keep in mind when planning your own. Learn More

The Best Birdfeeders for Every Backyard

When it comes to birdfeeders, there are a surprising number of options for attracting (and repelling) the right flock. Here, we break it down for you so you can choose the best type for inviting a variety of colorful birds to your backyard. Learn More

Expert Advice

Your Deck Railing Height and Other Safety Stuff That Slipped Your Mind

Is your deck up to the challenge of all those backyard barbeques that are just around the corner? We’ll show you everything you need to know to get your deck up to safety standards just in time for Memorial Day. Learn More

Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Any Yard

If you’re sick of devoting most of your free time to yardwork, it may be time to reevaluate your approach. Here are a few low-maintenance landscaping ideas that will help you have a beautiful yard with half the upkeep. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are constantly coming across interesting finds in the field. Sometimes they help us identify potential safety hazards, and sometimes they illustrate a maintenance DIY that didn’t quite go as planned. This month’s Snapshot from the Field is the latter.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The skylight on this 20-year-old metal roof was leaking like crazy. That’s because the homeowner attempted to seal it with the yellow spray foam insulation you see around the perimeter in order to keep bats out of the house. This caused significant damage to the flashing around the skylight and entire roof panels to pop up as a result!

This homeowner had the right idea when it comes to dealing with bats—every gap does need to be sealed up in order to prevent their entry into a home. But spray polyurethane foam is not recommended for use on roofing materials, nor is it recommended for use in such large quantities. The homeowner would have been better off ordering an inspection of the roof to discover any holes and then using a sealant recommended for use on roofing materials. Check and double-check your labels, and when in doubt, call a professional for advice.

Maintenance Matters

Speed Cleaning Tips for Your Busiest Days

Who has time to clean every day? Not us! Shave hours off your chore list with these room-by-room speed cleaning pointers. Learn More

How to Clean a Leather Couch in 4 Steps

When it comes to upholstery, leather is one of the most durable options out there. And while it doesn’t require a lot of routine maintenance, it does still need a little extra TLC from time to time. Find out how to clean your leather couch like a pro with these four simple steps. Learn More

How to Hang a Hammock

While we can’t promise that hanging your hammock will be as relaxing as actually laying in it, we’re here to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here’s how to hang a hammock on your property for the ultimate spring resting spot. Learn More

Painting Upholstery: Easier and More Effective Than You Think

We have to admit, the idea of transforming a piece of furniture with paint seems too good to be true. Believe it or not, painting upholstery actually works! Learn how to achieve a soft, crack-free finish and the best results with the right technique. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: What is the minimum height required for a deck railing on a residential deck, according to the most widely accepted code?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

The Best Bird Feeders for Every Backyard

Best Bird Feeders for Every Backyard

If you’re just starting out with backyard bird watching, you’d think it would be easy. Get a feeder and some seed and they’ll come flocking, hopping and twittering your way in no time. It’s not so simple, though—depending on where you are and what kinds of birds you’re trying to attract (or repel), you have a lot of options to sift through to find the best bird feeder. We’ll explain just what combinations of feeder and seed you’ll need to attract a variety of colorful birds to your home.

Find Out Which Birds are Common to Your Region

When you don’t know much about the birds of your region, you turn to the experts—in this case that’s the Audobon Society with their Guide to North American Birds. Audobon gives you quick access to every bird that’s common to your area, along with their preferred diet and feeding behaviors so you can tell which type of feeder they’ll be attracted to. They even have recordings of the various calls and songs of every bird, which is pretty cool, too.

Types of Bird Feeders

Every type of bird feeder does the same job a little differently. They come in many varieties that are designed to house different types of seed or nectar and appeal to the feeding habits of different birds. Here’s a breakdown of each:

Tube Feeder

Composed of a hollow plastic cylinder with a number of ports that allow birds easy access to the seed stored inside, tube feeders also feature perches so birds can sit comfortably while they eat. Some tube feeders also have trays underneath to catch falling seed, as some bird species have a tendency to pick through seed to find the choice bits they’re looking for (we’re looking at you, blue jays).

Pros:

  • Keeps seed dry and clean
  • Versatile design attracts many different kinds of birds
  • Works with many types of seed

Cons:

  • Larger birds bully smaller ones away
  • Fairly easy for squirrels to access

Attracts: Sparrows, Chickadees, Finches, Grackles, Blue Jays, Vultures (just kidding)

Tray Feeder

Also known as a platform feeder, tray feeders are completely exposed to the elements, which makes them simultaneously one of the best for attracting birds and worst in terms of upkeep. Rain-soaked seed can begin to sprout or harbor mold, and tray feeders accumulate bird droppings like no other. You can avoid some of these downsides by getting a tray feeder that’s designed with a mesh bottom to promote drainage, and only filling it with enough seed to last birds a couple of days.

Pros:

  • One of the best feeders for attracting birds
  • Makes it easy for birds to find the seed they like

Cons:

  • Exposure to moisture promotes mold growth
  • Lots of bird droppings
  • Open design creates potential for seed waste

Attracts: Sparrows, Juncos, Towhees, Bluebirds, Cardinals

Ground Feeder

This shares the open design of a tray feeder, but instead of being attached to a post or rail or suspended by a chain, it’s elevated only slightly above the ground on four legs. This makes ground feeders perfect for birds who prefer to collect seed off the ground, but also leaves it open to other animals like squirrels, raccoons and even deer. Make sure to only offer enough seed for birds to eat for a day to help avoid attracting unwanted attention from other animals.

Pros:

  • The only design that caters to ground-foraging birds
  • Accessible for a wide variety of birds

Cons:

  • More accessible to pests and critters
  • Same problems as tray feeders with keeping seed clean and dry

Attracts: Blackbirds, Juncos, Quail, Doves, Sparrows, Roadrunners

Hopper or “House” Feeder

This might be what you picture when someone says “bird feeder.” Hopper feeders are covered by a roof that keeps the seed from getting wet, and this feature works fairly well, but the downside is that these feeders are harder to clean out when they do get wet or dirty. They can be mounted on poles or suspended, but it’s important to include a squirrel baffle in your setup to keep them out.

Pros:

  • Roofed design keeps seed dry and clean
  • Attractive to a wide variety of birds

Cons:

  • Hard to keep clean
  • Squirrel magnets

Attracts: Nuthatches, Doves, Jays, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Buntings

Suet Feeder

Suet is a high-fat, high-protein food for insect-eating birds that comes in the form of a cake. Suet feeders feature a cage-like design with bare or plastic-coated wire mesh that holds the suet cake in place for birds to peck. They can be suspended or attached to trees. Suet can also be placed in mesh onion bags, although this does carry the risk of a bird’s talons becoming trapped in the fabric. For your backyard birds’ safety, we recommend using cage-style suet feeders.

Pros:

  • Only design that attracts insect-feeding birds
  • Easy set up
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Doesn’t attract seed-eating birds

Attracts: Woodpeckers, Titmice, Starlings, Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees

Nyjer or “Thistle” Feeder

These look like tube feeders but are made of a very fine wire mesh because they’re designed for holding thistle seeds, which would simply fall out of any other feeder. These tiny black seeds are high in protein, fat and fiber, so they’re an exceptional source of energy for a host of small birds. They are also heat-treated to prevent germination, so they won’t sprout if they fall on the ground.

Pros:

  • Preferred seed of many smaller birds
  • Squirrels don’t like it—they won’t even touch it

Cons:

  • Larger birds have a hard time with this feeder
  • A more expensive seed choice

Attracts: Finches, Sparrows, Buntings, Redpolls, Siskins

Nectar Feeder

The most specialized feeder on our list, nectar feeders are designed to hold the sugary liquid loved by hummingbirds and orioles. Hummingbirds drink nectar to fuel their incredibly high metabolism, but since it’s relatively poor in nutrients they also supplement their diet with various insects. Other types of birds won’t be attracted to this feeder, but catching sight of a hummingbird is more than enough reason to have one of these in your backyard.

Pros:

  • Attracts hummingbirds and other nectar-loving birds
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Nectar spoils fast, especially on warmer days

Attracts: Hummingbirds, Orioles, Warblers, Mockingbirds, Mimic Thrushes

For everything you ever wanted to know about your home, turn to National Property Inspections. We help you protect your investment with comprehensive assessments of each of your home’s systems.

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Plan Your Dream Cookout

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

With barbecue season a few short months away, it’s time to start thinking about upgrading your grill setup. If you’ve been coveting your neighbor’s slick new outdoor kitchen, we’ll tell you how to plan your own in time for summer!

Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen

Before you ever break ground, you need to decide what kind of outdoor kitchen you want. There are a lot of variables at play here, from the features you can’t live without to creating a style that suits your home, personality and budget. Are you more of a no-frills backyard griller, a rustic gourmet or a contemporary entertainer? All these styles and more are possible, but as we’ll find out they all have some basics in common.

Outdoor Kitchen Basics

No matter what kind of grill space you’re looking for, these are the kinds of things you need to keep in mind to get the best results:

  • Placement: Your outdoor kitchen should be a natural extension of your indoor one. Start by figuring out how they’ll work together and what the typical traffic pattern between them will be. Ideally you’ll want your outdoor kitchen to be placed pretty close to your inside kitchen, which among other things will eliminate any long trips across the lawn with heavy pitchers of lemonade. You’ll also appreciate putting your outdoor kitchen close to the house if you’re running a gas line or other utilities out to your grill and other appliances. It’s best to keep the grill at least 10 feet away from your home and out from underneath any eaves to avoid getting smoked out.
  • Durability: Since your outdoor kitchen will be braving the elements 24/7, you’ll want to build it out of durable materials that can stand up to some abuse. We’re talking stainless steel, brick or stucco. Adobe is great for a southwest feel, and stone is also a versatile choice—just make sure to add a clear sealant coat to keep it looking its best. Also make sure that any hardware you choose is corrosion-resistant and recommended for outdoor use.
  • Safety: Just like your inside kitchen, you’ll want to make sure that you’re making proper use of every safety device you can. Build in space so you can keep a fire extinguisher handy, and if you’re building in electrical outlets for additional appliances like refrigerators and extra burners, make sure they’re GFCIs.
  • Guest Seating: To keep your guests from milling around in the cooking area, you’ll need a designated place for them to hang out while you exercise your duties as grillmaster. This can be a separate table, a fire pit, or a bar that’s built into your outdoor kitchen island. Whatever seating arrangement you choose, all the elements should be near enough to one other that they feel like a cohesive gathering place.
  • Room to Grow: You can start small, but make sure to leave room to expand your cooking and recreation area, too. Nothing’s worse than having a great idea for an add-on but finding that it literally won’t fit because of how you first designed the space.

Other Amenities to Consider

Once you have the basics down, you can start in on the fun part—experimenting! You’re definitely not limited to a grill—in fact there’s no end to what you can cook outdoors with the right equipment. We’ve seen great outdoor kitchens come together around a brick or clay pizza oven, induction cooktops and more. For added versatility you can consider putting in sinks, wine chillers, meat smokers, deep fryers and keg taps. You’ll also want to figure out how you want to light the whole area, from ambient lighting for your guests to ample work light for you to cook by.

National Property Inspections Helps You Make the Most of Your Home

NPI is your source for all things home improvement, and we can make sure your home’s features and systems are all in top condition. Before you buy or sell your home, call us and book an appointment.