Summertime is the season to showcase your home. Porches and decks are stained to avoid splintering in blistering heat, old siding is replaced, and window boxes brim with peonies. These façade facelifts have special appeal to those buying or selling a home. According to the Husqvarna Global Gardening Report 2011, well-designed landscaping raised perceived residential property value by as much as 18 percent in the U.S. In fact, the study revealed that each dollar homeowners invested in curb appeal translated to an estimated 1.8-dollars return on their investment. That pricey paint can may just pay for itself.
Of course, you’ll want to prettify your dwelling regardless of whether you’re in the market to buy or sell. Your house is your sanctuary from the world. It needs to be inviting, comfortable and beautiful so that you can feel safe and sound. The science (and art) of “building biology” compares your home to a living organism. This organism is healthiest when it is clean and follows a few simple guidelines. Here are four ways to boost curb appeal with a green twist, starting the moment you pull in the drive.
Delightful (Permeable) Driveways
Blacktop or concrete driveways are durable, sure, but they are not the most attractive options — nor are they the greenest. Concrete requires a huge amount of energy to produce and it traps and stores the summer heat, essentially baking your residence with its heat-island effect. Add to this the fact that rains cannot permeate concrete to replenish groundwater, and concrete driveways become a lose-lose first impression to your home.
When replacing or creating a driveway or parking area, consider either permeable pavers or open-cell concrete blocks. These blocks are designed to support vehicles, but are sufficiently open to allow water to drain through them. The spaces are filled with gravel or sand. Grass or low ground cover can grow in the open spaces, which helps reduce heat buildup. These are only a few of your options for green patios, walkways and driveways.
Make a Mailbox
Mailboxes are often overlooked as a decorative feature. But we all got ’em and they do not need to be relegated to utility-only status. Crumbling, tilted mailboxes send an immediate sign that a home is either greatly loved or sadly neglected. While attractive units are out there, the best mailboxes I’ve seen are handmade. Try this one from PVC pipe for a funky, cool recycled look. Or, use whatever salvaged items you have at hand — chimney bricks, totem poles, even a wagon wheel or vintage sewing machine, to craft a truly one-of-a-kind mailbox. Learn more in Mailbox Mania. Your postal worker will not be the only one to notice.
Lovely Local Landscaping
The most beautiful of homes can come off as rather “blah” without the touch of life vegetation provides. Start by drawing a diagram of your lot. What already exists on your land? Draw in buildings, driveways, walkways, utility poles, trees and shrubs. Is the contour of the land going to be a factor in planning? Are there any shadows cast from trees or buildings on neighboring properties? Note all of these factors and any others which will affect your landscape plan. Get more tips in this home landscaping guide.
In addition to the type of soil you have (learn the best soil tests here), your region’s precipitation makes all the difference when choosing appropriate foliage. You wouldn’t plant water-loving roses in the desert, for example. Here’s the trick to worry-free landscaping: Always choose native plant species. Native plants are particularly adapted to your soil and average rainfall. Native landscaper John Vivian makes quite a case for replanting lawn as a native wildflower meadow: “A meadow exhibits a succession of colors, usually featuring a predominant flower shade each season: the pink of clovers in spring, the blue of chicory and asters in late summer, the yellow of goldenrod in the fall.” That surely beats out a pesticide-sprayed expanse of green.
Poison-Free Paints and Stains
The lovely muted colors of much Colonial furniture come from paint that was home-mixed using primitive dyes and fillers with the protein in skim milk or in curd as a binder. Today, you can buy dry milk paint ready to stir into water, or make your own from powdered skim milk and painters lime, plus any dry or water-soluble liquid pigment you fancy. Experiment to find the mix that works best starting with 50:50 (by weight) of dry milk and lime with enough water to make a thick latex-like paint.
Some oil-type (but non-petroleum) penetrating stains occur in nature. You can get a lovely yellow-brown stain from a light, colorless, aromatic oil produced in the tough, woody husks of the butternut tree: the elongated-oval outer shell of the nuts produced by the walnut relative that’s a common semi-weed tree in the East. Butternut-oil dye was used to color the uniforms of the army of the Confederates in the Civil War.
Have fun making your home even more beautiful!
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