Playtime doesn’t need to be unsafe to be fun. As summer approaches and the days grow longer, children will be outdoors more and playing. Melissa Kossler Dutton’s article, reprinted in The Cincinnati Enquirer on 04/28/12, takes a look at ways to be safe and have fun when constructing play areas for children. HomeServicesLink is here to help Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky homeowners locate quality, reliable and insured contractors to complete all their home improvement and repair projects.
Joshua Barry knows that wipeouts are inevitable when children are climbing and sliding on outdoor play sets. So he placed shredded rubber under and around the climbing toys his two children use in the backyard of their Aurora, Ohio, home.
“It gives me peace of mind knowing there’s a little bit of cushioning,” he said.
Safety experts say it’s important to address the area around a swing set or climbing equipment.
“Each year hundreds of thousands of children are treated in emergency rooms for playground injuries, and these are preventable,” said Dr. Brunilda Nazario, senior medical editor at WebMD, a health information website.
The key to avoiding injuries is adding surface materials that will cushion a fall, said Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to preventing childhood injuries.
Asphalt and concrete are too hard, as are grass and turf, Nazario said, since normal wear and tear destroys their quality and absorption properties.
Good options include rubber mulch, wood mulch, sand, fine gravel or safety-tested rubber mats, which are more forgiving than grass and dirt are when a child falls, Nazario said.
How deep you should lay the ground material depends on what you use and how high the play equipment is.
The U.S. Product Safety Commission recommends using at least 9 inches of mulch or shredded rubber for equipment up to 7 feet high. For sand or pea gravel, the commission recommends at least a 9-inch layer for equipment up to 5 feet.
Mulch – either wood or rubber – is a better choice than sand or gravel because it provides more shock absorption, said Rick Jess, vice president of merchandising for lawn and gardening at Lowe’s headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.
Wood mulch is less expensive than rubber, but it decomposes and fades and has to be supplemented each year, he said. Rubber mulch, which is increasingly popular, lasts much longer.
It also is more than double the price of traditional mulch, he said.
“It holds its color,” he said. “It doesn’t decompose.”
Although cheaper than mulch, sand and pea gravel have become less popular surfaces for backyard play sets because they don’t stay put as well, added Ace Hardware’s Lou Manfredini, in Chicago.
“With sand and pea gravel, it’s a mess issue. Sand moves around the yard quite a bit and can even get tracked into the house on kids’ shoes,” said the Ace Home Expert.
Sand also attracts neighborhood cats, more so than rubber.
“Rubber mulch has gotten quite popular over the last 10 years,” Manfredini said. “It tends to look good longer.”
Regardless of what surface parents choose, he suggests first installing a weed protection barrier – a durable fabric that prevent weeds from growing up through the ground cover. He recommends against using weed killers near play sets.
Parents also should carefully choose the location of the set, Nazario said.
She recommends shady areas where the ground is level and there are no low-hanging branches or wires.
Play set safety tips
Play set safety tips
Place the equipment at least 6 feet in all directions away from obstructions such as fences, buildings, trees, electric wires or laundry lines. Keep as far away as possible from streets and driveways. Consider erecting a fence between the equipment and traffic.
Maintain equipment properly, following manufacturer’s guidelines. Check often to make sure bolts are tightly anchored, and cut off or cap protruding bolt ends, which can cause cuts or catch on clothing. Caps or nuts should be flush with the surface, with no gaps or spaces that could create a hook.
Inspect wood equipment for splinters and cracks. It’s also a good idea to round off edges of wood with a sander. Sand it and apply a wood sealer according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Make sure hooks and chains on swings aren’t worn or too rusty.
Don’t allow a free-swinging rope on equipment or trees. Loose ropes can form a loop or noose and strangle a child. Ropes that are securely anchored to the ground are OK as long as they aren’t frayed.
Should you mulch? If so, what type of mulch should you use? When should you mulch? Does mulch really help or is just decorative? These are some of the questions asked and answered in the following article by Denny McKeown, a Cincinnati Enquirer Contributor (article featured 04/20/2012).
• Mulch does hold soil moisture in. That’s the last thing our landscape needs this spring. We need for all the excess moisture in our soil to leave and the soil to dry. This could take a couple of weeks of relatively dry weather.
• Mulch does help some to moderate winter cold and summer heat but really not enough to brag about.
The No. 1 reason any of us mulch our landscape is the appearance. A fresh application of mulch looks great, especially the real dark or black stuff.
One mistake many homeowners make is the assumption that “all mulch is the same; some just sell it for more money than others.”
Wrong. The quality of mulch varies tremendously from one source to another. This is especially true with what’s termed “shredded hardwood,” the top selling mulch.
The term “shredded hardwood” can include the shredding of the actual hardwood of trees, wooden pallets, old building lumber and anything else that contains cellulose.
It could also include bulking agents such as sawdust, ground up yard waste and crumb rubber. I like to refer to these additives as “hamburger helper.”
Most of these hardwoods have also been color enhanced using various dyes. Most plain or painted hardwood mulches lose that dark color within six months of application.
Mulches made of 100 percent real bark, whether chipped or shredded, are the best and the most costly. They hold their natural color for a year or more. Chipped bark comes in different size chunks. Pick what is most appealing to you.
Pine straw is making inroads in regional landscapes. It has been the No. mulch down South for years.
Pine straw is easy to apply, stays in place on slopes, and doesn’t clump like other shredded mulches. Place a thin layer of pine straw down first and then place your bark chips on top. The chips, which have a tendency to float away, will stay locked in place.
Rubber mulch, edging, and tree rings are showing up at many retailers. Rubber is being marketed as eco friendly because it is made of recycled tires that used to crowd our landfills. Rubber mulch is promoted as non-toxic and latex free. It does not compact or blow away.
The jury however is still out. Research being conducted at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University has concluded something very different. Their findings to date conclude that rubber mulch is:
- not as effective as other organic mulches in controlling weeds.
- highly flammable and difficult to extinguish once it’s burning.
- not permanent; like other organic substances, it decomposes.
- not non-toxic; it contains a number of metal and organic contaminants with known environmental and/or human health effects.
- known to float away in heavy rain.
When you need lawn and landscaping clean-up, let HomeServicesLink know. We’ll connect you with the right contractor whether is landscape design, landscape clean-up, lawn care or basic mowing. Check us out for these and other home repair an improvement projects for your home.
The new Nest learning thermostat is taking home automation to the next level. By sensing your movements, it learns your habits and automatically adjusts the temperature thereby maximizing its efficiency.
With Apple and Android interface, the nest can also be controlled remotely with a smartphone or tablet.
According to the EPA, a properly programmed thermostat can save up to 20 percent of a home’s annual heating and cooling costs.
The suggested retail price is $249. Installation and programming costs will run about $119 according to Chris Gallagher, owner of EcoEnvironments, a local Nest Certified Professional.
Well before sweltering temperatures arrive, it is the time to make sure your cooling system or air conditioner is working properly. Here a few simple home air conditioning repair tips to ensure that your home remains cool over the summer season.
Just like other major components of your home, your cooling system and/or air conditioner should be well maintained. At the very least, yearly cleaning and maintenance is needed to ensure all systems are working properly. Many individuals take the, if it is not broken don’t fix it approach when it comes to their air conditioning units cooling the home, but this often leads to days of suffering from heat due to the air conditioner or home cooling system failing and technicians booked solid for days or weeks. Instead of risking the potential of an air conditioning issue, read on to discover what you can do to stay cool.
Cooling System Check Up
Twice a year or at the very least, yearly cleaning and maintenance is key to keeping your cooling components functional and free from problems. If you do not have a regular air conditioning repair company, it is recommended that you find one that you are comfortable with. Many companies have service maintenance contracts with special offers such as free cleaning, discounts on parts and repairs and more. The mistake many individuals make is waiting until there is a problem and unfortunately a problem always seems to occur during the hottest days of the season and you will have to wait or pay big bucks. Customers who have maintenance agreements are often given top priority when it comes to repairs or troubleshooting problems.
Energy Efficient Cooling
Replacing outdated energy wasting air conditioning systems with energy efficient components is one way to save money. Your air conditioning repair company can offer you advice, options, and pricing on installation and equipment. Many companies offer in-house or third party financing options so the expense is not such a burden.
Central Air Installation
Adding a new air conditioning system to replace window air conditioners will save money and energy over time. There are several types of air conditioning systems available; some use electricity while others rely on a combination of natural gas and electricity. A good local air conditioning repair company with a solid reputation will give you the best advice for your needs and the needs of your home based on its size. A local company within the community, understands the climate and conditions, and will know exactly what will work best for your home.
The same preventative measures that you take for appliances, furnaces, and other major components in your home should be taken for your air conditioning system. You do not want to wait until you have a problem, so nip it in the bud and have your air conditioning system evaluated before summer hits. Let HomeServicesLink help.
No this is not a new type of retirement plan. It is actually a pretty neat way to finance those home improvement projects you have been wanting to do now that you have decided to stay in your current home. In the past about the only options one had for financing major improvements or repairs were with a home equity line of credit or good old cash (or a credit card with a high limit). Now if you plan to refinance with the low interest rates you can utilize an FHA 203k. There are actually two versions: the full or standard 203k and the streamline 203k available depending on what you intend to do and how much you intend to spend. Let me start off by saying I am in no way an expert on these types of loans and you should consult a loan professional for the specific details.
These mortgage options can be used by buyers or home owners looking to refinance and upgrade. You can buy a fixer-upper and have a professional perform the work or if you want to add a bathroom, maybe a deck and renovate your kitchen complete with new appliances you can roll the cost into one mortgage. The two options have very specific limits. To start with, the standard 203k has a minimum repair budget of $5,000 and covers structural repair). The streamline 203k has a repair budget cap of $35,000 and does not include structural repairs. The streamline version also requires you to stay within the existing foot print of the house. No additions.
So do you end up with a second mortgage payment? Fortunately 203k loans help buyers roll the cost of this work directly into the mortgage, amortizing the cost of the work over the life of the mortgage. A $25,000 bill for the improvements or repairs is daunting. But what about $150 a month? With one of these loans the 203k can add about $6 per month to your house payment for every $1,000 in repairs or improvements you finance. Pretty cool especially for first time home buyers starting out or the young family needing more space or renovations to their home. You love the neighborhood but are outgrowing the space.
This is a wonderful product that not many people are aware of and equally not all loan officers are qualified and capable of executing. If you are looking to do some upgrade projects this year and this sounds like a good financing option, HomeServicesLink can direct you to some experienced 203k loan resources. We can also direct you to some reliable, insured contractors to execute the work by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-271-1888. We are here to help you make home ownership easier. Let us know if there are other topics you would like us to address.