Posted in guides, outdoor innovation

Buying Guide For Driveway Types

Your driveway is probably not at the top of your to-do list, but maybe that’s just because you haven’t been that explorative with it. Just like most aspects of homeownership, there’s more than one way to pave your pathway. Different types of driveway surfaces can boost your curb appeal and give your home the fresh, updated look it craves.

How do you know what’s right for you home? We’ll cover 7 surface styles with average cost, pros and cons to guide you in the right direction.

Concrete

Concrete is the ‘old reliable’ for most suburban homes. And we can see why: concrete is the longest lasting surface (25-50 years depending on how well built it was and how well it has been maintained), and requires little regular maintenance – just a bit of TLC!

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Keep in mind, your typical shade of concrete stains easily. You can opt for a colored finish (see examples of ‘silver’ concrete below) to deter this, but it is usually much more costly. If you reside in a region that experiences ice and snow, you will need to be mindful of which deicer blends you use, as many calcium chloride and calcium magnesium types are corrosive to concrete.

But don’t let this sway you, Snow Joe has an environmentally friendly deicer that guarantees it won’t break down your concrete surfaces. Shop for it here.

Cost: $4 to $10 per square foot. These costs can nearly double, however, if you decide to go with a colored or stamped finish.

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The best fit: Concrete works best if you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, and don’t mind breaking out the pressure washer (shop the best pressure washers for concrete here) and being considerate with ice melt.

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Low-maintenance

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to gravel and asphalt
  • Easily stained (see pressure washers here)
  • Requires deicing with non-corrosive blends (check out our top blend here)
  • Can be dull in appearance

Maintenance: To best ensure long life, it does pay to keep the driveway clean and sealed. A good scrubbing with a hose and stiff brush attachment on your pressure washer will handle regular cleaning, while concrete sealer will add a layer of protection. Sealer should be applied at least once a year, usually in the fall, as an added layer of protection against road salt and harsh winter weather.

Asphalt

Asphalt driveways are a mixture of sand, rock, and asphalt cement. These driveways come in basic black, but they can be stamped with designs for a more high-end appeal. Asphalt is popular surface choice because it is cheap and otherwise performs similar to concrete (lasting 12-35 years depending upon the installation, climate, usage and maintenance). If you are leaning towards this material, know that you will need to perform some annual maintenance, as asphalt is prone to cracking due to its flexible nature.

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Cost: $2 to $5 per square foot. This double the cost of gravel, but half what concrete typically runs.

The best fit: Given the lower install expense, asphalt works best if you have a large driveway to cover.

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Pros:

  • Durable
  • Cost-effective
  • Conceals stains

Cons:

  • Requires immediate action for repair when holes or cracks occur
  • Must be sealed every 2-5 years

Maintenance: Sealer should be applied every 2-5 years. Any cracks or holes will need to be filled rather quickly to prevent further cracking and fractures from spreading.

Gravel

These kinds of driveways are comprised of loose gravel, typically poured into a barrier to keep the material contained. Gravel can be an aesthetically appealing choice if you have a long, winding driveway with bountiful landscaping. But, because the gravel is unattached, things get shaken up easily.

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Plan on replacing the gravel at least every few years and raking it frequently.

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Cost: $0.75 to $3 per square foot

The best fit: Rural areas or properties with oversized lawns

Pros:

  • The most most-effective surface type
  • Reduction of ice build-up in winter months
  • No repair since there is no surface to break

Cons:

  • Snow removal becomes very difficult
  • Portrays a dirty appearance rather quickly
  • Gravel will need to be replaced every few years (may not be worth it in the long run compared to more expensive applications)

Maintenance: the amount of maintenance largely depends upon how well your base will shed water, as things can get muddy pretty quickly. The gravel will eventually settle or become displaced and need to be replaced every few years. It can be difficult to remove leaves and snow without dispersing the stone onto surrounding lawn.

Brick

Brick driveways have a traditional feel and are installed similar to how brick homes are made.  You can choose from standard, clay-colored brick for an old-world feel, or fit right in with modern times by opting for other colors and shapes.

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The result adds instant charm to your home (and lasts at least 25 years). Brick is one of the more expensive surfaces, but it is also easy to install yourself if you’re the handy type.

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Cost: $10 to $30 per square foot, though fancier designs and bricks can drive that cost higher; As low as $5 if you choose to install on your own.

The best fit: Upscale neighborhoods and historical areas

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Beautiful appeal
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • Costly

Maintenance: The key to a good brick driveway is a well-prepared base. Post-installation, you may need to use a pressure washer to remove any stains, but other than seasonal cleaning, brick driveways do not require much work. Of course if a brick happens to become fractured, it would be wise to replace. After some time, the joints between the bricks may need a little repair you can perform on your own with a sand-topping mortar mix.

Cobblestone

Cobblestone (AKA Belgian block) is a perfect choice for those wanting the most durable driveway out there (lasting as long as 100 years!). Cobblestone pavers are made of granite, which is stain resistant, weather resistant and does not crack or split.

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What’s even better is that a little wear and tear just adds to the charm and makes this surface more interesting.

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If you’re in love with the look, but can’t afford the price tag, consider using cobblestone pavers as a decorative border or inlay.

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Cost: $15 to $30 per square foot

The best fit: Upscale neighborhoods and historical areas, especially if you have a short driveway

Pros:

  • Most durable material
  • Beautiful appeal
  • Virtually zero maintenance

Cons:

  • Costly

Maintenance: Cobblestone pavers generally don’t require any maintenance. At most, you will need to wash them once a year and do some weeding of any intruders that grow through.

Glass

Contrary to your immediate perception, glass driveways aren’t really sheets of glass. They are more like a mosaic of thick tumbled glass that is sealed with resin. Color options are endless, as you can have different hues blended for a custom look. Those who are environmentally conscious will be drawn to this surface, since most manufactures use recycles glass to save it from ending up in the landfill.

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installed right, the driveway won’t require much maintenance thanks to the lasting power of resin.

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Cost: $8.50 to $18 per square foot

The best fit: Small to average-size driveways

Pros:

  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Customizable color
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • Specific look may not appeal to other buyers if the property goes up for sale

Maintenance: If installed correctly, glass driveways won’t require much maintenance; resin is long lasting.

Green

Green driveways are another environmentally friendly option. They come in two formats: one is an entire grass surface supported by a plastic base that makes the grass safe for driving on, the other is a grid that is poured from concrete and allows the grass to grow in between.

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Both options look great but have one big downside: Unlike other driveways, you’ll have the added worry of keeping the grass alive. This means added costs and maintenance.

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Cost: $4.50 to $8 per square foot

The best fit: Areas where grass grows easily (desert landscapes and hot climates may make it harder to maintain)

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Modern appeal

Cons:

  • Requires regular attention to keep the grass live

Maintenance: While green driveways are a back-to-nature approach, they do get costly when you consider the time and maintenance it will require to keep the grass alive.

Posted in guides, tips + tricks

10 Lawn + Garden Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

Soon, spring will be in full swing, and you’ll be looking forward to a host of outdoor projects. It seems that every season, new gadgets make an appearance—and some of us, can get a little addicted to the wow factor highly specialized tools promise.

But before you get carried away, make sure you have the basics. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many options tools are available in. To make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of the must-have tools all homeowners should own. When buying any tool, think of your specific needs – not only around the lawn and garden, but pertaining to your body as well. Remember that the longer you use a tool, the heavier it will feel. Choose a tool that suits the application you need it for, and won’t wear you out.

Lawn Mower

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This one is virtually a no-brainer. Do you have a small lot, or an expansive property? Is the terrain hilly or mostly even? Will you have to maneuver around flowerbeds, pathways or children’s play sets? The size and topography of your lawn is the main factor to consider when beginning your search for a compatible mower. Check out our lawn mower buying guide for more information on finding your mower match!

Trimmer/Weed Whacker

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Trimmers and weed whackers are great machines for a fast, easy and effective way to keep your lawn looking its best. They maneuver into those hard to reach areas lawn mowers can’t get at, making quick work of overgrown grass and heavy weeds.

Wheelbarrow/Utility Cart

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Make light work of hauling heavy loads around the yard and garden. Wheelbarrows and utility carts are essential for transporting heavy supplies, plants, equipment and tools. Pneumatic spoke tires are great for balancing large loads, and traverse irregular terrain with ease. Put the power of a landscaper’s crew in your cart to lift more, carry more and get loads more work done with less strain and less effort.

Rake Assortment

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Rakes come in many different sizes and styles such as leaf, bow, thatch, garden and flat. They apply the concept of the human hand and extend finger dexterity to a bigger scale. Look for rakes with stainless steel blades to ensure your tool will last season after season.

Shovel Assortment

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The shovel is one of the most essential tools any homeowner can appreciate. Typically available with either a square or round point blade, a trusty shovel will help you landscape and garden from digging to tilling to planting.

Leaf Blower

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Clean up quickly after yard work is complete. Some versatile models can even sweep, shred and mulch leaves, allowing you to recycle waste into usable compost.

Hori Hori Knife

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This Japanese inspired tool has long been considered the Swiss army knife of gardening. Hori Hori knives can be used to weed, cut through roots, transplant and divide perennials and even for fishing and hunting applications. The possibilities are endless.

Hedge Clipper

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Restore some lawn order to your shrubs, hedges and bushes and keep them from becoming unruly.

Pole Saw

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Prune those tougher trees and branches that manual pruners and shears can’t handle.

Handheld Digging Tools

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This includes trowels, cultivators, weed extractors and other small tools that assist in maintaining your garden by loosening, lifting, turning soil and removing unwelcome weeds.

Are there any tools we missed?  What are your outdoor tool essentials?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Posted in guides, tips + tricks, weekend projects

The Only Spring Cleaning Tool You’ll Ever Need

As spring approaches and winter recedes, it’s time to inspect the exterior of your home and access any improvements you’ll need to make for warmer weather. Patios may show staining, mildew and grime could be creeping up your siding, and windows will need a wash. So while you’re decluttering and dusting your home’s interior, it’s the perfect time to add a few outdoor chores to the checklist!

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Outdoor Spring Cleaning List:

  • Wash outside windows
  • Clean outdoor light fixtures
  • Power wash deck
  • Power wash garage doors
  • Power wash siding
  • Clean grill
  • Clean outdoor furniture
  • Wash door frames
  • Clean gutters
  • Clean out trash cans
  • Wash vehicles

If you don’t have one already, a pressure washer is a great investment, as it handles a variety of cleaning tasks with power and ease.

Removing Stains

Driveways, walkways and patios get stained from mud, paint, oil and other solutions – it’s inevitable, mostly because these surfaces see lots of traffic. Many homeowners assume that because concrete is a durable material, that it is impenetrable.

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While it does have a great deal of physical resistance, it is weak when it comes to spills. You could spend lots of time bent over, scrubbing with dish detergent, bleach or vinegar. But those fixes aren’t guaranteed to do the trick. Or, you could blast away stains with a pressure washer. It will save your back, get the job done, and it’s pretty fun!

Reviving Surfaces

When it comes to bringing your home back to life after a long winter, nothing beats a good scrub, wash and rinse. But your conventional garden hose doesn’t always cut it. A pressure washer is the quickest way to restore wood, concrete, vinyl and aluminum.

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These high-power sprayers are designed to expertly remove stains, dirt, mildew, moss and peeling paint. You name it, you aim it and grime is gone. After you’ve given your deck or patio a nice face lift, you may even find that you don’t have to re-stain, resurface or repaint it.

Pressure Washing Tips + Tricks

If it’s your first time power washing, here are a few guidelines to get you started in model selection and technique.

PSI: Pressure washers are rated by strength, which is measured in Pounds per Square Inch, or PSI for short. A typical garden hose is rated at about 60 PSI. Household use pressure washers range somewhere between 1,500 – 2,000 PSI – anything higher, and you risk accidentally damaging exteriors.

Tips: Wide-spraying fan tips are best for mild, close-range chores such as patio furniture, wooden decking, concrete and driveways. For a more precise spray, a jet stream is better for cleaning out-of-reach areas like siding and gutters.

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Detergent: Many units have a detergent tank, so you can add cleaning agents for dirty jobs.

Protection: The force of pressure washers is impressive but also dangerous. Take caution by wearing google to protect your eyes from debris. Don’t aim directly at windows, electrical outlets, gravel or other people.

Polstein’s Picks

1. Sun Joe 1160 PSI Cordless Pressure Washer: Yeah you read that right, cordless. The Sun Joe SPX6000C. gives you the room to roam, courtesy of the powerful onboard, rechargeable 40-Volt EcoSharp lithium ion battery, to take your cleaning tasks on the road – or anywhere power is at a premium. Perfect for the cabin, deck, boat, RV or a host of chores around the house, the innovative, top-loading detachable bucket design fills quickly with fresh water, or can be connected for continuous use with a garden hose.

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2. Sun Joe 2030 PSI Electric Pressure Washer: Packed with 1800 watts of pure power, the SPX4001 boasts a 14.5-amp motor generates up to 2030 PSI to demolish every last bit of dirt, grease, gunk and grime. Five Quick-Connect tips allow you to go from intense jet to gentle spray to suit the cleaning task, and the onboard 54.1 fl oz detergent tank lets you dial-in just the right amount of detergent to give your cleaning blast a boost! And don’t forget about the hose reel, which make clean up simple.

Shop

spx4001-1_1-13-2017-20-06-373. Sun Joe 1885 PSI Electric Pressure Washer: Packed with 13 Amps of pure cleaning power, SPX2500 delivers a might blast – up to 1885 pounds of pressure per square inch and 1.59 gallons per minute – to demolish every last bit of dirt and get really clean, really fast. Simply twist the adjustable nozzle to go from intense jet to gentle spray and watch Sun Joe make light work of mildew, grease, oil, tar, mud, rust and more!

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Sun Joe has many more pressure washers to suit individual cleaning needs, plus a whole array of specialty attachments that make particular tasks much more easier.

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Posted in guides

What You Need To Know About Steel Before Buying Hand Tools

It’s no secret that to perform at your greatest potential, you need to work with the best. If you’re in the market for reliable new hand tools,  then this guide is for you!

Typical consumers are largely unaware of the differences between steel grades, and what to consider when deciding which tool is right for a specific skill set. There are numerous types of steel that encompass varied properties. These properties can be physical, chemical and environmental. All steel is produced from iron and carbon. It’s the amount of carbon, and the additional alloys which determine the classification of each grade.

We’ve categorized the three most common groups of steel based on chemical composition:

  1. Carbon
  2. Alloy
  3. Stainless

Carbon Steel

Carbon Steel can be dispersed into three main categories: low carbon steel, medium carbon steel and high carbon steel.

Low Carbon Steel (0.04-0.30%) is the largest group of carbon steel and possesses an alloying element made up of a relatively low amount of carbon. The most popular type of steel, low carbon steel is used in manufacturing a variety of goods because it is less expensive than other types of steel.

Applications: girders, car body panels, nuts and bolts, food cans, car body panels.

Medium Carbon Steel (0.31-0.60%) is stronger than low carbon steel, more difficult to form, weld and cut.

Applications: Nails and screws, metal chains, wire ropes, screw driver blades, engine parts, bicycle wheel rims.

High Carbon Steel (0.61-1.50%) is commonly known as “carbon tool steel” and  is very difficult to cut, bend and weld. Once heat treated it becomes extremely hard and brittle.

Applications:  Chisels, hammers, drills, files, lathe tools, taps, dies.

Alloy Steel

Alloy steel is a steel that has had small amounts of alloying elements (aside from carbon) such as manganese, silicon, nickel, titanium, copper, chromium and aluminum added to its compound. This produces specific properties that are not found in normal carbon steel. Alloy steels are workhorses of industry because of their economical cost, wide availability, ease of processing, and good mechanical properties.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a steel alloy with increased corrosion resistance compared to carbon and alloy steel. Common alloying ingredients include chromium, nickel, or molybdenum. Common applications include food handling and processing, medical instruments, hardware, appliances, and structural/architectural uses.

Choosing Steel Tools

Nisaku manufactures professional quality hand tools for lawn, garden and outdoor applications with unmatched design and function.

Each piece is forged by master blade craftsmen with the highest grade Japanese stainless steel for durability, precision and control that withstands intense use and harsh conditions.

Prepare for indoor and outdoor jobs, big and small, with specialty tools that outlast and outclass ordinary lawn, garden and survival equipment.

Field Knives

Designed for rugged outdoor adventures, Nisaku genuine Japanese field knives are forged from high-grade stainless steel with precise multipurpose cutting edges and ergonomic handles for firm gripping and comfort.

Don’t face Mother Nature alone – prepare for your next fishing, hunting, boating or wilderness excursion with a faithful survival blade engineered to take serious punishment in any environment.

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DIY Hand Tools

Tools with stainless-steel working ends deliver the best durability and performance while resisting rust.

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Nisaku Japanese stainless steel precision hand tools are an ideal choice for demanding homeowners and satisfy a multitude of DIY project needs that require intensive scraping and stripping.  From caulk to paint removal, Nisaku putty knives, spatulas and curl scrapers feature easy-to-grip ergonomic handles for comfortable use during the toughest tasks. Specialty blades provide strength and flexibility to coast through hardened, thick and stubborn material with controlled use and precision to ensure perfection upon project completion.

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Paint Tools

Finely crafted from heavy-duty Japanese stainless steel, Nisaku paint tools resist rusting, pitting and corrosion for exceptional performance during vigorous home improvement jobs.

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Designed with a variety of specialty blades, Nisaku joint knives, putty knives, scrapers and multipurpose tools seamlessly spread compound, smooth surfaces evenly, patch holes, scrape away stubborn material and assist with various drywall and plaster applications for a perfectly finished look on a variety of surfaces.

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