Archive for the ‘Homeowner’s Guides’ Category

If you are a homeowner in need of a copy of the design of your septic system, there are two official options to go through in order to obtain one. Your local town office/city hall or the Division of Environmental Health should be able to help.

First, check with your town hall and request a copy of the permit application for installation of the septic system which will include a copy of the design, called an HHE-200 Form. If the town has no copy, contact the Division of Environmental Health in the state of Maine with your request.

Septic systems installed after July of 1974 should be in the system as per the Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules of 1974. For help finding your town’s official state of Maine website, check out the state’s government portal.

Additional Information on Septic Systems

Septic Systems: A Homeowner’s Guide

Source: Maine.gov


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Erosion happens and is a common issue that many homeowners face. Whether it’s the lawn or garden, a steep slope, gravel driveway or drainage ditch, erosion can cause serious problems that quickly put a dent in the household budget. There are a handful of easy DIY solutions that homeowners can do to prevent erosion from happening.

DIY Erosion Control Tip #1: Plant Native Trees and Shrubs along Steep Slopes

Trees and shrubs, once established, put out deep root systems to anchor themselves in the ground. These root systems help keep the soil above in place. When using this tactic to prevent erosion, we recommend planting native trees and shrubs because they are better suited to the growing conditions in your area and will be much easier to care for.

DIY Erosion Control Tip #2: Plant a Garden

Planting a garden is an easy way to prevent erosion. The garden can be large or small, sometimes consisting of only a few plants. We recommend going with native plants once again because they are easier to find, less expensive and easier to grow in your area.

In areas that erode due to excess water, plant vegetation with an absorbent root system. In areas where wind is a problem, go with vegetation that has a strong root system and plants that provide a windbreak. Below are links to reputable websites that list the best vegetation for erosion control – remember to choose varieties that are suited to or native to your area.

theodorepayne.org – Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, Inc.
dot.ca.gov – California Department of Transportation
northeastnursery.com – List of Erosion Control Plants for the Northeast
aces.edu – List of Erosion Control Plants for the Southeast
extension.umn.edu – List of Erosion Control Plants for the Midwest
ehow.com – List of Erosion Control Plants for the Northwest
nwf.org – List of Erosion Control Plants for Southwest

DIY Erosion Control Tip #3: Mulch

Putting down a layer of mulch is an inexpensive way to prevent erosion. Large quantities of mulch can be bought from landscaping companies and some general contracting companies and usually at a lower price found in stores. Some municipalities may charge a small fee for mulch or give a specified amount of it away for free per household.

Apply a layer of mulch about ½” thick in areas where erosion is a problem. You can even spread a layer of mulch between plants, trees and shrubs for even better erosion control. Applying too much mulch will make it more susceptible to being washed away during heavy rains. Besides helping to prevent erosion, mulch helps prevent weeds and keeps the ground below moist and warm.

DIY Erosion Control Tip #4: Install Erosion Control Fabric

Installing erosion control fabric is another way to prevent erosion. This type of fabric is slightly different from landscape fabric because its thicker and coarser. Erosion control fabric can be used on moderate to steep slopes, hillsides, gardens and in other areas where erosion is a problem. Here’s a free DIY guide to installing erosion control fabric.

If erosion is a serious problem, building a retaining wall at the base of a steep slope or installing drainage ditches along the roadway may be the best solution. Though these projects can be done by the adventurous homeowner with the right knowledge and physical ability, a qualified general contractor can be hired to get the job done.

Image: Volker Prasuhn/CC-BY-SA-3.0

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As temperatures drop here in the north and other parts of the country, many homeowners are looking for tips on how to reduce home heating costs. Though there are many ways to save money this heating season, we’ve put together a list of 4 ways to reduce heating costs for free.

Tips for Reducing Home Heating Costs

Tip #1: Reverse the Direction Ceiling Fans Blow

Most ceiling fans today come with a little switch that allows you to change the direction the blades of the fan move in. When temperatures outside drop, make the switch from counterclockwise to clockwise. According to thedailygreen.com, setting the fan in a clockwise motion helps to re-circulate warm air in the home which can save up to 10% on home heating costs.

Tip #2: Remove Air Conditioners from Windows instead of Covering Them

Instead of covering your window air conditioners and leaving them in place for the winter, remove them completely. This helps to stop drafts further helping to reduce home heating costs.

Tip #3: Lower Set Temperature on Water Heaters

Thedailygreen.com also suggests turning down the temperature on your home’s water heater to reduce water heating costs anywhere from 6 – 10%. On average, most water heaters are set to an even 140° F but 120° F is suitable for most.

Tip #4: Turn Down the Thermostat

Simply lowering the thermostat a few degrees during the winter helps reduce home heating costs. Lower the temp by a few degrees before heading off to work or school in the morning . Doing this can save you 1 – 3% on your home heating costs.

There are many ways to reduce home heating costs. A good place to start is by stopping drafts. Next, prepare your home for winter by cleaning the furnace, changing its filters and lubing it. The best way to save on home heating costs is to prepare your home for winter.

Related Home Winterization Articles

Weather Stripping: A Homeowner’s Guide
Prepare for Winter: A Homeowner’s Guide
Winter Troubleshooting: A Homeowner’s Guide
Winter Home Improvement Project Ideas
Simple Ways to Stop Drafts in the Home

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

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When outside temperatures begin to dip, we tend to notice spots where cold air seeps into the home. Fall is a great time of year to put a stop to cold drafts before the snow piles up outside. Here in Maine and other areas in the north, we crank up the thermostat and fire up the wood stove when the air outside turns frigid. A single draft can thwart our efforts to keep the home warm and hike up the heating bill in the process.

How to Stop Window and Door Drafts

There are 3 ways to stop drafts from entering through windows and doors: weather stripping, indoor plastic shrink film and outdoor clear plastic sheeting. Apply weather stripping around the edges of windows and doors to keep cold air from seeping in and warm air from leaking out. Shrink film can be hung indoors and plastic sheeting out, to stop cold drafts from coming in. Weather stripping is a more permanent measure while clear plastic is usually taken down once outside temperatures warm.

3 Easy Ways to Stop Window Drafts in the Home: Browse and shop window weatherizing products. Includes how to videos for installing weatherstripping foam, shrink film and plastic sheeting.

How to Stop Chimney Drafts

When the fireplace, wood or pellet stove isn’t in use, cold drafts can find their way in through the chimney making a room unbearably cold. On the flip side, warm air can seep out through the opening of the chimney even through a closed damper. To put a stop to this, insert a fireplace plug. The plug acts as a shield and blocks unwanted air from coming in and going out through the chimney. To use the fireplace, wood or pellet stove, simply remove the plug and reinsert it when the fireplace is not in use.

How to Stop Dryer Duct Drafts

When it comes to stopping drafts in the home, the dryer duct is often overlooked. The dryer is connected to an exhaust duct which creates a prime opening for cold air to sneak into the home. In most homes, a flapper made out of metal is already attached to the dryer vent. The flapper shuts when the dryer is off in an effort to prevent drafts. Overtime, these become worn and more often, clogged with lint forcing them to remain open. An easy way to stop this from happening is to install a vent seal.

How to Stop Cold Drafts from Seeping Down the Attic Stairs

Attics are known for being hot and cold spots in the home depending on the time of year. Where the attic stairs lie, there is no insulation or ceiling to block cold drafts from coming into the home. Some homeowners install an attic door to stop drafts. When installing a door isn’t an option, install an attic hatch instead. Hatches come in varying sizes and act as a barrier between cold air and the attic stairs.

How to Stop Cold Drafts around Whole House Fans and Air Conditioning Vents

Cold drafts are attracted to areas where whole house fans and air conditioning vents meet the exterior of the home. In some ways, these are similar to dryer vents. Many are installed with a shutter in an effort to stop cold air from coming in. When this isn’t enough, install a shutter seal as a second line of defense. These are pretty simple to install, can be cut to size and easily removed if need be.

If cold drafts in the home are a result of poor insulation or other costly work, dailygreen.com suggests checking with your local state agency to see if any funding for your home weatherization project is available. I’ve done research on this type of funding in the past and encourage you to look into it. However, keep in mind that funds only last so long, so apply as soon as they become available.

Do you have any tips to stop drafts in the home?

Related Articles

Weather Stripping: A Homeowner’s Guide
Prepare for Winter: A Homeowner’s Guide
Winter Troubleshooting: A Homeowner’s Guide
Winter Home Improvement Project Ideas

Image: bcmom/Flickr

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Lawns flood for several reasons during the spring, whether it’s from heavy rains or snow melt. Once the water has receded and the lawn is dry enough to walk across without damaging it, it’s important to cleanup any sediment and debris flooding has left behind.

Will Flooding Kill My Lawn?

Spring flooding will not necessarily kill or even heavily damage a lawn. According to the University of Minnesota’s Extension office, a lawn can withstand being submerged underwater for a few days in early spring, especially when flood water is cold.

During this time the lawn has yet to grow because the ground is still thawing. Moving flood waters leaves less of an impact on a flooded lawn than stagnant water.

When to Cleanup after Flooding

It’s important to wait until the lawn has dried before cleaning up after a flood. If the ground is still squishy after being walked on, give it a few more days to dry and then test it again. Clean up should be done on a dry lawn to prevent damaging it.

Cleaning Sediment and Debris

It’s common for sediment and other debris such as trash, rocks, and branches to be left behind after a flood. Begin by removing all debris first. Debris that is left behind not only smothers areas of the grass but is also a safety hazard. Now is also a good time to rake and remove leaves and thatch.

Next, if sediment, typically silt, has been left behind, remove that as well. A layer of sediment on the lawn can easily block new shoots of grass from growing and kill off sections of the lawn if the layer of sediment is thick enough.

Rake and hose away the sediment. The thicker the sediment, the harder it is to get rid of. In some cases where a thick layer of sediment has been left behind, the lawn may be lost and need to be reseeded.

Image: Jamie McEwan, on Flickr/Creative Commons License

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It’s spring and if you live in Maine or the northern U.S., we’ve had quite an awkward, yet typical first few weeks of spring. Now that the winds are dying down and the ground is dry, it’s time to head outdoors for some much-needed spring cleaning.

Household Exterior Spring Cleaning To-Do List

When heading outdoors for spring cleaning, it’s important to do the exterior of the house. Leaves, twigs, and other debris have a way of building up after a long winter and need to be removed.

  • Gutters: Remove all debris. Run a hose from the top of the spout down to check for clogs
  • Wash exterior windows: This makes a huge difference in sunlight entering the house
  • Fix loose shingles/siding: Do a walk around and look for any loose shingles and siding that needs repair or replacement
  • Clean Porches/Decks: Remove debris and sweep. To remove fungus or staining use hot soapy water and a hose or power washer

Landscaping Spring Cleaning To-Do List

Spring cleaning the yard is a must for most areas of the north. Heavy snow, sleet, wind and rain deposits anything from branches and leaves to trash and other debris on the lawn and in the garden. Wait for the ground to sufficiently dry before heading outdoors and cleaning up the yard.

  • Lawn: Remove all fallen branches and other debris. Rake up leaves and thatch. Don’t leave piles of raked leaves on the lawn for long because they will kill the grass underneath
  • Gardens: Remove all debris and dead plant matter
  • Trees/Shrubs: Remove any protective coverings and prune
  • Walkways: Remove debris and sweep and hose down walkways to clean

Is there anything I’ve forgotten to add to the list? Do you have any tips for making outdoor spring cleaning a cinch?

Image: Chase N., on Flickr/Creative Commons License

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Growing a vegetable garden is a rewarding experience. Not only does growing your own vegetables save you money, it gives you the piece of mind of knowing where your vegetables came from and which pesticides, if any, have been used. Below is a guide to help gardeners in the north as well as other points in the U.S. grow vegetables in a short growing season.


How to Prepare Soil for a Vegetable Garden

For those wondering how to prepare soil for a vegetable garden, this type of preparation can be done in as little as 3 steps including amending the soil and tilling and leveling it.

Soil Amendments: Tests and Types

Sometimes garden soil or soil for new lawns is lacking in nutrients and needs an amendment. Without vital nutrients and healthy soil, plants and grasses can’t grow to their fullest potential. In order to determine if a soil amendment is needed and what needs to be added to the soil, a soil test needs to be taken.

How to Keep Soil Temperatures Up in the North

Gardening is a great American past time whether for fun or out of necessity. For those living in the northern U.S., the growing season is short and soil temperatures must be warm enough before any plants go into the ground. In Maine and other parts of the region, a surprise spring snowstorm, frost, or low temperatures are known to happen.

Types of Garden Mulch

When it comes to garden mulches there are 2 main types to choose from: organic and inorganic. Both types are readily available in most areas and provide gardeners with a number of options. Discover the benefits of using mulch in the garden and learn the difference between those that are organic and inorganic.


Tips for Sustainable Vegetable Gardening in Maine and the North

Whether you live in Maine or in the northern U.S., your growing season is limited but that doesn’t mean you can’t give sustainable vegetable gardening a try. Here are some tips for growing a sustainable vegetable garden.

Self-Sufficient Gardening: Choose the Best Vegetables

Are you interested in growing a self-sufficient vegetable garden? As a self-sufficient gardener, you’ll be planning, planting, and preserving vegetables for yourself and your family to enjoy all-year round.

Early Vegetable Varieties to Grow in the North

Attention Maine citizens and fellow gardeners of the north, are you looking for a list of early vegetable varieties to fit into your short growing season? Below is a list of common vegetables, those fitting into the “early variety” category, to fit into your sustainable living lifestyle or backyard gardens.

To Seed or Transplant Vegetables in the North

When it comes time to plant the garden, especially for those with short growing seasons in the north, it’s best to transplant certain vegetable varieties rather than seed them directly into the ground. Some vegetables do well when transplanted while others grow poorly or not at all when their roots have been disturbed.

Guide to Planting Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a warm-season vegetable that can be grown just about anywhere. On average it takes about 7 – 12 days to germinate and from 80 to 100 days to mature depending on the variety grown. Planting and growing acorn squash is relatively simple with the right growing conditions. Using the proper instructions for soil preparation, planting, sunlight, fertilizing and watering helps guide gardeners through the growing season.

How to Grow Watermelon in the North

Many people are not aware that watermelon is 92% water and related to other members of the Cucurbitaceae family including pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers. Watermelon, a warm-season fruit is grown in over 200 varieties in the U.S. and Mexico and can be grown in cool-season climates such as the north. To successfully grow watermelon in the north, gardeners should choose early watermelon varieties, start seeds indoors, and keep outside soil temperatures warm with black plastic or floating row covers.

How to Grow Cucumbers on a Trellis

One way to save space in the garden is to grow cucumbers on a trellis. Who says this member of the melon family and one of my personal favorites has to grow on the ground? Growing cucumbers vertically saves garden space because, as you probably already know, cucumbers love to stretch their vines and take over the entire garden.

Guide to Growing Pickling Cucumbers

A pickling cucumber is tender and crisp and grown to just the right size for making pickles. The major difference between a pickling cucumber and a slicing cucumber is the thick skin and blocky shape that fits snugly into a pickle jar. To grow pickling cucumbers prepare mounds or grow along fences and trellises. Provide the right amount of water and fertilizer and harvest at the right size.

Difference Between Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

It’s beneficial to know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes because it makes selecting which varieties to grow easier. Determinate and indeterminate tomatoes have their own growing characteristics, needs, and benefits. Terminates come in many varieties and are identified by seed catalogues and plant nurseries using abbreviations.

Types of Tomatoes Best for Sauce

The types of tomatoes best for sauce are meaty, have few seeds, and come with a low juice content. Tomatoes that are easy to peel and core are among the favorites used by chefs and home cooks. Out of the hundreds of varieties of tomatoes available, 5 stand out as the best types of tomatoes for sauce.


How to Grow Your Vegetables with Limited Time

Growing your own vegetables with limited time can be done using the following tips and techniques. Begin by planning ahead, choosing compact varieties, and using mulches and sprinklers to cut down on time spent weeding and watering. For those with severely limited time, container gardening is the optimal solution.

Guide to Using Garden Sage for Seasoning

Learning how to use garden sage for seasoning leads to a new world of culinary delights. The following tips and suggestions, used by chefs and home cooks, are meant to guide cooks from beginners to pros through seasoning food with garden sage. Included in this guide are tips on identifying garden sage, methods of selection, storage and preparation, tips on using the herb and access to hundreds of free recipes using garden sage as seasoning.

How to Control Japanese Beetles Organically

For those that live in the Northeastern United States, Japanese beetles can pose a serious threat to flower and vegetable gardens. An infestation of these garden pests leaves damage that some plants cannot recover from. So, what’s an organic gardener to do? The solution is to stave off a Japanese beetle infestation before one occurs by identifying the pest, taking preventative action, and learning which steps to take if an infestation does occur.

A Guide to New Lawns

DIY guides to seed a new lawn and watch it grow from start to finish. Learn how to prepare the site, seed, fertilize, and prevent crabgrass and when to water and mow. Lots of easy to follow diy tips.

Helpful Links

Top Gardening Websites and Online Tools

As a gardener with quite a bit of experience, I’ve collected and bookmarked a number of links to gardening websites and articles that I’ve found to be very helpful. Though I’ve racked up a lot of gardening knowledge, I’m always on the quest to learn more.

List of Cooperative Extension Offices by State

Chart of USDA Zones

Vegetables to Plant per Person Chart

Seed Calculator

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