Weekly home help with items on staining your deck, using room dividers, October pending home sales numbers and more.

Before the weather gets too cold, you'll want to make sure you take care of a few things to protect your deck or patio from Old Man Winter's wrath. You can do a number of things to make sure your outdoor space stays in good shape for next year.


Follow this checklist as you prepare for winter:




Clean your patio furniture before putting it away for the season. If you don't have a place to store furniture inside, cover it with a tarp to protect it from the elements.

Bring flowerpots and other containers used to hold plants inside, as ice or cold temperatures could cause them to crack.

Whether you have a cement patio or a wood deck, clear it of leaves and other organic material because it could cause mold, rot, stains or mildew if it is left there all winter.

The period before winter provides a great time to clean and stain your deck. Staining your deck helps protect it from the elements and the process works best when the temperature is around 50 degrees.

Winter is a great time to work on some do-it-yourself projects for your patio in the spring. Here are a few suggestions:




Build planters for flowers or herbs so you can place them on your patio this spring.

Stain wood furniture or other wood items that you display on your patio. If you have leftover stain that you used on your deck, this is a great way to get more use out of it.

If you're going for a more colorful look, stains are also available in a wide range of colors.

Make rolling plant caddies to keep your plants from sitting directly on your deck, which can cause stains and decay.

-- ARA


Decorating Tip: Use room dividers


Room dividers, or privacy screens, can offer a lot of both fashion and function. Choose from Old World antique, Asian-inspired rice paper or modern-day designs. Use dividers to define areas in mutli-purpose rooms, provide private changing areas in kids’ rooms or to hide storage or entertainment systems in the living room.


-- HomeDecorators.com


Home-Selling Tip: Don’t ignore the garage


When staging your home for an open house, the garage is valuable square footage that needs to be properly displayed, not neglected. First, clean dirt, leaves, debris, dead insects and oil stains. Then, get rid of clutter and don’t use the garage for storage. Finally, organize tools, holiday decorations, garden tools and patio furniture so everything is neat and in its proper place.


-- EnergizedSeller.com


How To: Stain a deck


Remove all dirt and debris. If old deck coating is peeling, you should remove it using stain stripper. Before staining, apply wood deck cleaner liberally and allow to stand for five to 10 minutes. (You may have to scrub hard-to-remove stains.)


Rinse with a hose and lightly sand the surface after it has dried (recommended 24 hours after rinsing), removing dust before applying stain.


If using a solid color, apply two coats of stain. If using a clear or semi-transparent stain, one coat will suffice. Always "back brush" for optimum penetration and uniformity. Avoid staining in direct sunlight or on hot surfaces. Be sure to stain the edges and sides of the wood for optimum protection.


-- ARA


Did You Know …


The National Association of Realtors reported a slight dip in pending home sales for October and is predicting an “uneven recovery entering 2011.” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, “Existing home sales have shown some improvement, but the foreclosure moratorium is likely to cause some disruption.”


Home Improvements: Decorating with pets in mind


You can adapt style to meet the needs of pets, instead of the other way around. If your dog sleeps in a crate, conceal it by building a bench or shelves over it. Cover furniture with stylish, pet-resistant slipcovers, and select an area rug made of durable materials that stand up to sharp nails.


-- HGTV.com


Money-saving tip: Find the best car rental prices


Giving up your car, especially if you live in a city with tight spaces, can save you money on parking, insurance, maintenance and more. When you do need a car, renting can be as little as $15 a day, if you do a proper search.


To ensure the best price, avoid car rentals at airports because many charge an extra fee. Try using a name-your-own-price travel website instead of websites that simply compare prices. Finally, check to see if your credit card offers any insurance coverage if you use it to pay for the rental. 


-- SavingAdvice.com


Backyard Buddies: Antibiotic-resistant genes found in soil


The medical world is grappling with antibiotic-resistant genes, which are becoming more prevalent among humans. But where did such genes come from in the first place?


Until recently, a good educated guess was from your backyard’s soil, which has fungi and microbes that naturally produce antibiotic compounds. It would make sense that they also have the power to fight off pesticides and chemicals, and that the strain found in humans grew from there. 


But researchers from Yale University have cleared soil as the culprit of the antibiotic-resistant genes that are causing medical problems. After comparing soil samples, they found that the resistant genes in soil are different than the resistant genes found in humans.


-- ScienceNews.org


GateHouse News Service