Phil Lifshin's Newsletter
Your way-too-eager, probably over-the-top early spring checklist
Let's face it – it's been a long winter, but brighter and warmer days are upon us. If you're the type of person who likes to be prepared, it isn't too early to gear up for lawn and garden season. Here are some tips to help you hit the ground running this spring:
- Test the content of your soil with a kit. Soil test kits are designed to determine levels of PH, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and other micro/macronutrients in your soil. An accurate test will tell you how to amend your soil for optimum growing.
- Disinfect any tools that will touch vegetation to prevent the spread of bacteria, fungi, and soil pathogens. Soak lawnmower blades, shovels, trowels, rakes, and pruners for 30 minutes in a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water.
- Tune up your lawnmower. If you didn't already do it in the fall, drain your lawnmower of old fuel. Add fresh fuel, replace the spark plugs, clean/replace the air filter, change the oil, and sharpen the blades.
- Don't ignore the supporting cast. Service your leaf blower and trimmer according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Stock up on trimmer line.
- Hand tools need love too. Sharpen the edges on your pruners, clippers, and digging tools. Lubricate any hand tools that have moving metal parts, then lightly coat the metal with mineral oil to prevent rust. Sand any rough patches on wooden handles. Use linseed oil to seal the wood and prevent shrinking.
- Check fittings and filters on irrigation systems. Check the rubber washers on your hoses, sprinklers, and nozzles for cracking and replace if necessary.
- Clean pots and planters to remove mold, fungi, and tiny pests. Use a brush and mild soap to clean, then rinse and let dry.
- Inspect lawn furniture. Check wood parts for splintering, pests, rot, and other damage. Sand and repaint/restain these parts if necessary. Inspect cushions and covers and wash if possible.
- Maintain fencing, gates, and other wood features. Replace warped or rotting pieces and repaint/restain where needed.
Some of these tasks may seem over the top, but knocking them out now while the weather is still less-than-ideal will give you more time to relax during the warmer days ahead.
Saving on kitchen cabinets
When it comes to home renovations, a kitchen remodel is on the higher end of the price spectrum. One of the biggest line items in any kitchen remodel is cabinetry, which can account for up to 40% of your total budget. If you're willing to think outside the box a little, you can save yourself some money and still make a solid long-term cabinet choice.
As always: do your research
Take time to learn about the materials that separate budget cabinets from premium options.
Particleboard is the cheapest option, but it's not incredibly durable and degrades easily if it comes in contact with water.
Medium-density fiberboard has a slightly higher price tag but boasts superior quality without breaking the bank. MDF is very water-resistant and actually resists warping and expansion better than expensive hardwoods.
Solid wood cabinets are beautiful and durable when cared for properly, but they're expensive, heavy, and just as susceptible to damage from moisture and fluctuations in temperature as some cheaper options.
Consider pre-built boxes with premium doors
If you want the high-end look without the price tag, a creative option is to use premade boxes from IKEA, Lowes, or Home Depot, but order custom doors. You'll get the outward look of custom cabinets at a fraction of the cost. This is an especially smart option if the sides of your cabinets are mostly concealed by walls.
Get unfinished cabinets
You'll save money by purchasing unfinished cabinets, but you'll still have to paint or stain them. Stain is something you can do on your own, but achieving a clean paint job is tricky and may require the help of a professional. You'll have to compare costs to decide if it's worth it.
Use open shelving
If you want a new look for your kitchen but the numbers still aren't lining up, consider open shelving. When executed well, open shelves can look great, and you'll save thousands not buying cabinet uppers. Your kitchen will feel brighter and more open, but just keep in mind this option may not appeal to every potential buyer when it comes time to sell.