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Increase Your Home’s IQ Get smart lighting inside and out How smart showerheads can improve your morning routine Page 9

All Hands on Deck! Build the deck of your dreams — without breaking the bank Page 16

Sick of being stuck inside? Bring the party outdoors Page 19

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AgentName@Domain.com 123 456 7890 AgentName.HomeMag.me

courtesy of: Your Name

Dear Homeowner,

While June might be the beginning of summer vacation season, that doesn’t mean your house needs to take a vacation!

There are always improvements you can make to your home (and you can even increase its intelligence).

What do I mean by this? Well, as home technologies advance, more and more options are becoming available for “smart” devices that can simplify your life. In this issue, you’ll find information about two such improvements — smart lighting and smart showerheads — which surprisingly aren’t just for high-end homeowners. There are plenty of budget-friendly options to improve your space without breaking the bank. You’ll also find out how to keep your home safe if and when you do go out of town and how to bring some fun to your backyard with an outdoor soirée. (Check out some drink recipes on Page 19 to kick your party up a notch!) As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any referrals or real estate questions of your own. I would be happy to assist you or anyone you send my way.

Best wishes,

Your Name ABC Brokerage

123 456 7890 AgentName@Domain.com AgentName.HomeMag.me 51 Pine Street Atlantic Beach, FL 32233


Table of Contents

Prep Your Home for Summer Vacations

If you’ll be going out of town this summer, it’s important to make sure your home is safe and your most valuable possessions are protected!



Increase Your Home’s IQ Smart lighting is the way of the future — and it will simplify your life. Learn how smart showerheads can Improve your morning routine.


All Hands on Deck! With these budget-savvy tips, you can build the gorgeous deck you’ve always wanted.


Plan the Perfect Patio Soirée Move your party outdoors with these tips for a memorable experience.



Going Away? Prep Your Home for Summer Vacations Summertime is finally on the horizon. While grilling and hanging by the pool are likely on your to-do list, you might also be planning to spend some time away from home. The standard checklist of things to do before any vacation includes packing, confirming reservations, and lining up pet care, but there are also many things you can do to ensure your home is protected while you’re away. If your summer plans involve taking to the sea, air, or road, start planning now for home care during your absence.

S Security

smartphone app and can be set to record activity when triggered by motion. Notifications go directly to your phone so you know if a deer passes through, a delivery truck approaches, or people enter your property. Inside, smart lighting can add a layer of security by making it appear as if you’re home. With a phone app, you can set the lighting in your house to come on at varying times. Some devices also have strobe lighting and speakers so you can even make it appear as if there’s a party going on even when no one is home.

mind. For example, an RV parked close to the home could provide easy access to an upstairs window, deck or roof. Next, make sure all of your lighting is working. Replace bulbs if needed and double check the settings on your motion sensors. You might want to add additional motion lights to the dark recesses of your yard as a deterrent for potential thieves. For an extra set of eyes and additional layer of protection, install exterior smart lighting with cameras. These devices offer a real-time view with the aid of a

There are few things that can wreck a relaxing vacation like finding out someone has burglarized your home in your absence, so protect your home from criminal activity with smart devices and basic security measures. Start by casing your own home. Think like a burglar, and close off all potential points of entry. This includes putting ladders inside a locked garage rather than leaving them outside, where they can be used to access a second story. Look for other items that can be used with the same intention in



More Security Options

If possible, leave at least one car in the driveway while you’re gone. This simple act will make criminals wonder if someone is home and may be enough to deter them. If you do have home cameras, make sure one is aimed at the car in case of a break-in. A car alarm is a good idea, too.

Smart devices are an investment with an initial upfront cost. If you’re not in the market for that upgrade, have someone stay at the house instead. If you have pets and plants to care for, paying a house sitter counterbalances the cost of a kennel and replacing a dried up garden.

Of course, a whole-home system will provide complete security inside and out. This is the ultimate tool for peace of mind, but it does

come at a cost, so decide if it’s the right choice for your situation.


Automate Watering

If you’re only planning to be gone for a few days, there’s a low-tech watering hack that can help out. Simply freeze water bottles or milk jugs. Puncture them in a few places down the side with small pin holes and place them beneath your plants. As the ice melts, water will slowly trickle out into the soil.

or at a kennel. Once that’s figured out, think about other services you may need inside or out. If you have a house cleaning service, schedule it for right before or right after you leave. Also, make sure to hire out lawn mowing if you’ll be gone longer than a week or two. If you have a weekly meal kit delivery or other service, be sure to put it on hold. Also, ask a neighbor or friend to grab your mail and take your garbage and recycling to the curb.

Leaving your house for any amount of time means you’re not there to complete the daily tasks you may rarely otherwise think about. Whether you have an extensive irrigation system on a centralized control panel or a few soaker hoses attached to a timer, automating your watering system will ensure your flowers and vegetables survive the hot days in your absence. For hanging patio and indoor plants, set up drip systems to handle the task.


Schedule or Freeze Services

If you own pets, of course you’ll need a pet sitter, either in the home, at someone else’s home,



Provide a Key

or for the cat sitter who just needs to fill food and water bowls in the garage.

the hassle of coordinating keys beforehand.


An even better option is to install a keyless entry. These devices automatically unlock the door with the correct code, eliminating the need to worry about lost keys. Some devices can be controlled with a phone app if there is a problem. Be warned, however, that most systems will fail if the Wi-Fi is down, so you might want to have a backup plan in place. While you’re at it, install a garage door opener controlled with a keypad. These devices are great for when the kids get home from school or when you need to provide the pet sitter an entrance. Unlike the front door keyless entry, the garage door doesn’t have to allow visitors into the home. This is useful for deliveries

Whether you’ve decided to have someone stay at your house or just need someone to stop by occasionally, you’ll need to provide access to the home. Hiding a key under the mat is asking for trouble. In fact, handing out a key is often problematic. Instead, install a lockbox somewhere on the property. There are many options, ranging from a Realtor-style lockbox to a wall-mounted version. Most have either a spin-dial or digital code to enter in order to open the box and retrieve the key.

Go Smart with the Thermostat A smart thermostat is a wise investment even if you’re not going on vacation. Not only can they be programmed to keep the house cool or warm, but they can also be controlled when you’re away from home. So if you left the AC cranked up, you can turn it down remotely using an app on your phone. You can also create a schedule to keep the house comfortable for the pets and the housesitter. Or, you can monitor the temperature just enough to keep plants from wilting in the heat.

This is an easy and inexpensive solution if you have several people coming to the house for different reasons and saves you


Hold the Presses

can delay deliveries, have them shipped elsewhere, or provide a secure location as a drop box. If Amazon is delivering, you can even give them the code and have items dropped inside the garage for safe keeping.

you’re away. Similarly, if your vacation keeps you out of town for more than a few days, put in a request with the post office to hold your mail. Also keep an eye on any expected deliveries. Boxes on the porch invite theft but also announce your absence. You

If you still receive a printed newspaper or magazine subscription, put it on hold while



Routine Maintenance

Homeownership is all about keeping up with the place so

don’t let your vacation derail your maintenance schedule. Replace your furnace’s air filter, balance the water in the pool and hot tub, mow the lawn, and water plants.

Make sure you’re up to date in maintaining the water softener, HVAC system, water heater, boiler, irrigation systems, and furnace. Also test your smoke alarms.



Remember the Basics Some preparations can be made months ahead of time, such as added security and smart systems. As you’re walking out the door, though, there’s another list of basics to keep in mind.

Turn off all the lights and double check your timers. Make sure any smart apps are set and ready to work.


Adjust the thermostat and unplug all electronics.


Take the time to lock every door and window in the house. Remember the door from the attached garage into the home. For added security, place a wooden dowel inside runners for sliding glass doors and windows.

It’s also important to leave the house clean, since rodents and other pests can take up residence quickly in a vacant home. Empty all the garbage cans, wipe down counters, and clean the floors before departing. Also empty the refrigerator of food that will perish

before you return. Pack, repackage, or toss dry goods that will go stale before you get home. Run the garbage disposal when you’re done disposing of food, and leave the dishwasher contents clean.



Anyone helping to keep an eye on your home should know what to do if there is a situation to deal with. Leave your own contact information, as well as phone Taking a vacation is often the highlight of summer. Do yourself a favor by planning ahead so you can enjoy your time without incident while your home has a vacation from your care. Create Emergency Contact List

numbers for other caregivers for your kids (if they are staying home with relatives) and pets. Include info for the water, electrical, and cable company, too. Also, be sure to lay out the process to handle the security system if it is triggered.


The Benefits of Smart Lighting Indoors and Out In recent years, myriad smart devices have flooded the market, providing a slew of options for water conservation, convenience, and energy savings. Smart lighting is one such category of products that help automate your home, save you money, and ramp up security, among other advantages. TURN YOUR HOME INTO A SMART HOME


Know Your Connection Before we dig into the benefits of smart lighting options, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for. Some smart devices use built in Wi-Fi to connect with your home’s router. That allows them to throw a signal to provide activity notifications even when you’re not home. This type of system also lets you control the device using your phone app whether you’re home or away. Other devices use Bluetooth to connect directly with your phone. This only works when you (and

cameras, thermostats, and showers, you may want to choose devices that can be monitored using the same hub. In other words, look for compatibility with your existing system to keep communications streamlined. Connecting all of your systems to the same assistant also allows you to enjoy a greater range of voice commands without relying on your phone to control your lighting preferences.

your phone) are within a short distance of the unit, typically no more than 50 feet. If you want to control lighting with this setup from further away, it will require a Wi-Fi hub that can relay the message to your router, and your phone. It’s also important to consider how the type of smart lighting you choose fits into your overall smart home plan. For example, some devices pair with a household assistant such as Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. If you have smart



Light up Dark Corners Depending on how your home is situated, you may have blind spots that are exempt from standard front and back porch illumination. Placing smart lighting along the sides or lower level of the house can give you peace of mind. You can program devices to stay on at night or receive alerts when they sense motion. Some outdoor smart light models look like standard motion- activated flood lights, while others have a camera built in. Regardless, they all offer information sent directly to your phone so you’re aware of what’s going on in the dark corners of your property. This additional lighting is also helpful when it’s time to haul the garbage receptacles to the curb in the early morning or after dark, when the dog goes out at night, or if your parking area needs additional brightness. SeeWhat’s Happening Not only does a smart lighting device add convenience for the otherwise dark locations, but a camera feature also adds security. Smart lighting with a camera

home. You can also do a late-night check in from your phone to see how many lights the kids left on following the post- dinner kitchen raid, and turn them off from bed.

allows you to control when and how your camera and your lighting function. With online storage, you can keep video running all the time or store video when the camera senses motion. You can also decide how sensitive you want the camera’s motion sensor to be, targeting cars, animals, or human activity. Using the phone app, you can check the view through the camera anytime, especially when you receive an activity alert.

In addition, since most smart lighting offers motion detection, lights may only be on when there is movement inside or outside the house, resulting in a lot less energy consumption from lights on all day and night. Dimmers on a switch or bulb offer additional energy savings. Lower the lights at dinner time, during date night, or while the TV is on to add ambience and reduce energy usage, and control it all with your smart device.


Cost Savings

Inside or outside smart lighting can save you money on your power bill in the long run. The systems are more expensive initially, but since they rely on CFL or LED bulbs, they offer significantly improved efficiency over incandescent bulbs. This can provide 70-90% more energy savings than traditional bulbs. In addition, LED bulbs last thousands of hours longer, saving you the hassle and cost of changing them. Since smart lighting can be programmed and controlled remotely, you’ll also save money by turning out the lights when they’re not needed. For example, you can program lights to come on shortly before you wake in the morning but remain off during daylight hours when no one is




Create a Party

Benefits of Motion

Smart lighting does more than simply light

Switches and bulbs that detect motion flip lights on when they sense movement. These sensors have long been used in outdoor flood lights to deter criminals, alert when wildlife saunters across the property, or provide extra light when you arrive home after dark. Similarly, inside the house, lights will automatically alert you to sleepwalkers in the home, toddlers who shouldn’t be out of bed, and teens trying to sneak out. It’s a nice security feature for elderly adults with dementia, as well. Since different lights can be connected through a hub or app, some will even turn a light on in your room to alert you to activity in another part of the house. Motion- sensored lights also automatically flip on for midnight bathroom trips, so guests won’t need to fumble through the dark to find the switch.

a space. Some offer speakers that stream music. Others have a full

color range to warm the space with amild yellow glow or ramp up the party with a strobe light, all with a swipe of the phone or voice command to Alexa. Going back to security, you can alsomake it look like there’s a party at your house, even when no one is home. Strobe lights andmusic will likely deter potential thieves. Smart lights are also available as strip lighting that can bring an entirely new vibe to a space. Around windows, desks, or walls, strip smart lights offer a full range of colors, blinking speeds, and other features so you can control themood. Smart lighting also brings the party to the shower, where colorful water displays cascade from the showerhead via smart technology. If you’re not ready to invest in a smart showerhead (and there aremany reasons you should!), other smart lighting devices in the bathroom or above the shower can provide assorted lights, music, news, and even notifications of activity at the front door.

Programmable Security For many, the primary benefit of smart lighting is the programmable security. When you’re out of town, you can turn lights on and off as if you were in the house. Or you can simply set it and forget it, making your home appear as though you never left with the appropriate balance of lighting and timers controlling when specific lights turn on or off. The programmable aspect

allows you to vary lighting rather than locking into a

motion sensor bulB

schedule where lights turn on and off at the exact same time every day. Smart thieves will recognize automated timers if they case the house for a time. With cameras integrated into the lighting device, you can keep an eye on the activity too, providing peace of mind while you’re away.





Create an Ideal Sleep Environment With all the features available in smart lighting, you may be able to facilitate a better night’s sleep by controlling the color and brightness of the light in your room. Some smart lighting also has fade on and/or fade off features so you can slowly dim the light at bedtime and gradually increase light in the morning, even before sunrise. These devices are also great in children’s rooms, where you can slowly dim the lights for the baby or set a “light’s out” time for older kids.

Switches and Plugs

Caveats Like most technology, there are a few glitches when it comes to smart lighting. For example, the talk command isn’t always fluid, so there may be times you find yourself yelling at Siri (we’ve all been there). Also, most systems won’t work if the Wi-Fi is down, which can leave you in the dark if you’re trying to control the unit remotely. The good news is that lights still turn on and off the “old- fashioned” way with a flip of the switch. Overall, smart lighting innovation has come a long way, so as long as you research compatibility and Wi-Fi connection, your smart lighting will likely become an essential part of your smart home.

In addition to smart bulbs and flood lights, you can invest in smart light switches for more control. These offer aid for those with any type of mobility issues that hinder the ability to reach switches. They also allow you to control a range of features such as sensors, brightness, light color, and timing. Smart plugs are another option. By syncing with an app, you can flip plugs on and off to power up a table or floor lamp plugged into the unit. In addition to lighting, your smart plug can control power to a TV, coffee pot, computer, or internet router. Simply put, a smart plug turns anything plugged into it into a smart device.



11 Ways Smart Showerheads Can Improve Your Morning and Your Home Technological innovations continue to enhance the bathing experience with smart showerheads that turn your morning lather and rinse into a spa-like escape.


1.WaterSavings Newer smart showerheads replace earlier generations that simply restricted water pressure and left you powerless against a weak rinse. Since the smart thing to do is to conserve water and pay less on your water bill, smart showerheads help you achieve those goals without feeling the sacrifice. They work by forcing threads of air through the water spray. This creates a strong water-pressure effect, while achieving up to 30% water savings.

These design enhancements in efficiency mean you can stay in the shower a bit longer for the same cost as a longer cleansing, or take pleasure in a reduced water bill. 2. Eco-Feedback You don’t have to simply trust your showerhead is using less water, since some models provide real-time feedback about your 2 consumption. While you might not appreciate a constant reminder of how much water you’re using,

Smart showerheads are devices that work in one of two ways: to help you lower costs through water-saving features, or to perform a variety of functions while being controlled by a smartphone or central hub. Some do both. Every generation of smart showerheads seems to bring novelties to entice consumers. Myriad offerings do everything from changing the water color to streaming an office call. So how can these examples of modern technology improve your morning and your home? Let us count the ways.



5. Built-inHeat Sensor Smart parents know that a baby’s skin is ultra-sensitive to water temperatures. Instead of relying on the inner wrist testing method, a smart showerhead can tell you when the water is at the optimum temperature. This allows you to visually ascertain whether it’s too cold or hot, with LED lights color coded in response to water temperature. When it switches from cool-water blue to warm green or red hot, it’s time to get in. Flashing red, however, warns the water is too hot for safety — a nice feature particularly for kids and older folks. 6. Prep for Your Arrival Smart showerheads, like other smart devices, can be controlled using an app on your smartphone. Similarly, you can control the device with a home assistant such as Alexa or Google Nest. You can even pre-program your preferences. Think of it like the remote feature that starts and defrosts your car, combined with the system that auto adjusts the mirrors and seats in response

to who’s driving. For the shower, set your preferred temperature, radio or news station, and spray mode. Then, simply tell your shower you’re on the way and your water will be hot and ready when you arrive.

the up-to-date usage report allows you to monitor efficiency and consumption from each shower in the home. This is a great tool to help you meet your water conservation goals.



3. Self Propulsion

7. Complete Integration

All the monitors and digital readings on smart showerheads require energy. Many models now offer hydroelectricity built into the device. This means the showerhead uses the force of water to generate enough energy to power itself — no batteries required.

If your home is equipped with other smart devices such as a Ring camera, smart outlets, lighting, etc., your showerhead can be voice or app controlled along with the others. This feature allows you to place a call, reply to a delivery at the front door, turn on the oven, or feed the dog, all from the place where you do your best thinking — the shower. This integration adds convenience and luxury for you as a homeowner, but if you’re planning to sell, it’s a nice perk for potential buyers, too.



4. Auto Shut-off

How often do you start the shower, waiting for it to warm, and then leave it running while you attend to something else? Now, you can get a smart showerhead that monitors the temperature as cold water leaves the pipes. When it gets up to temp, it shuts off, holding the water in a ready position for as long as you need to get back to the task at hand. Some showerheads have this feature built in, while others can be controlled through settings on an app.



8. Chooseyour Mode Once you begin scouring through the options, you’ll realize just how spa-like your shower can become. The range of features can provide anything from an ultra-fine mist

where the joints come together. Then, connect your showerhead to your home assistant or smartphone. You’ll be set up and ready to enjoy within the hour.

few options to mention include variable water pressure and spray modes, rainshower sizing, your choice of finish to match other fixtures in the bathroom, and multiple showerheads on the same system. Take advantage of a smart design that works for you, such as a handheld shower nozzle or horizontal body jets — or both. You can even select one that has a built-in water softener and filter to eliminate smells, chemicals, or hard-water minerals.


11. TakeControl

to a pulsating massage. Or you can practice singing in the rain with a power or water-saving rain shower experience. If your shower is equipped with multiple showerheads, you can create your ideal experience by setting each one to different intensities.

Depending on the setup you choose, you may need a

bathroom controller to facilitate the conversation between you, your shower, and any other smart devices or hubs in the home. A controller looks like an oversized digital thermostat and mounts in the shower. With it, you can preset over a dozen shower settings, personalizing features like water power, temperature, timer, spray settings, and more. Whether you’re late to the smart technology game or you’ve already come to rely on its benefits in other rooms of your home, installing a smart showerhead is an easy and inexpensive way to add value to your morning and your home.


10. Easy Installation


9. Endless Options

Smart showerheads cater to even the most entry-level DIY homeowner with easy installation. Most are standardized to fit the existing shower arm you have in place, and some offer tool-free installation. If you do need to dig into the toolbox, a wrench is usually all you need. Teflon tape often comes with the showerhead, and you’ll simply wrap a bit around

While shopping, you may find one or many features to choose from. Whether the top of your must- have list includes water savings or the ability to crank the tunes and queue the disco lights, there’s a smart showerhead for that. A


All Hands on Deck! Build the Deck of Your Dreams Without Breaking the Bank


Designing yourDeck

building plans. Drum up your perfect design with the experts, and get building in no time!

Do-it-yourself decks have been popping up across the country as people spend more time at home, tackling to-do lists and


back-burner house projects in their spare time. If your neighbors did a bang-up job on their new deck and you’re feeling a little envious, you don’t have to be! With these budget-savvy tips, you can build the gorgeous deck you’ve always wanted, while saving money and cultivating your creativity and building chops. Upgrading your home with a deck is a great way to make your home more marketable, while adding a functional outdoor space to your home. Whether you’re entertaining neighbors or spending quality family time, a deck makes the perfect gathering spot to bring loved ones together.

Whether you’re looking to build a simple floating deck in your backyard or planning to build a wraparound or multi-tiered deck for summer soirées, the sky’s the limit when it comes to designing the deck of your dreams.

Buildingona Budget One of the best parts about building your own deck is that you can save money and affordably spruce up your home. The only person building the deck is you — and maybe a few friends and family members who want to join the DIY party — so you won’t have to worry about contractor fees, contractor insurance, and paying for estimates. You can find numerous deck plans and resources for free online, so do some research and find what speaks to you! When it comes to your DIY deck project cost, building materials are a major determining factor, as well as square footage and design. A

Myriad deck styles abound, from attached decks that expand your living space to detached “floating” decks that can serve as a backyard oasis among the trees in your yard. Whatever suits your property and home aesthetic, the perfect deck design is out there. For help designing your dream deck, you should consult your local hardware store for expert advice. Many hardware stores offer free deck design tools that can bring your dream deck to life with professional 3D renderings, cost estimates, materials lists, and


square foot, redwood also requires regular maintenance, so factor that in when choosing your deck materials. Composites Made from wood fibers and recycled plastics, composite decking boards are an increasingly popular decking material. At $7 to $10 per square foot, they are spendier than cedar and pressure- treated wood, but they make up for their higher price point in being low maintenance, pest resistant, resistant to rotting and warping, and all-around indestructible. Capped composites are treated with PVC to resist mold and pests and are generally more expensive. Composites come in numerous varieties that look and feel like real wood, so they do need to be cleaned with a deck wash every few years to avoid mold buildup. Some premium composites come with a 25-year warranty.

popular budget-friendly decking material. The material is also chemically treated to resist rot, mold and insects; however, less- toxic preservatives are now used in its treatment. Pressure-treated wood is often made with lower- grade woods that will crack and warp over time, which will require ongoing maintenance. What saves you in the beginning may not be worth it if you want something that is easier and less costly to maintain down the road. Cedar Lightweight, strong, and readily available, cedar is renowned for its quality, beauty, and its trademark pleasant, woodsy aroma. Ringing in at $3.75 to $5 per square foot, cedar is a surprisingly affordable, high-quality deck material. Cedar is loaded with tannins and oils that resist pests and rot naturally, but you will want to stain and seal your cedar to protect the wood from cracks and splinters, and to preserve its color — without protection, it can turn gray.

simple DIY deck design using the most affordable lumber will likely cost $8 to $10 per square foot of deck area, while more elaborate designs will be costlier the more features you add. However, the economy of a fact that you’re DIY-ing your deck is paramount to your project cost, as hiring a builder would double or triple the cost of your project. Depending on your design and budget goals, the economy of doing it yourself can buy you a bigger design and/or higher-end materials.



There are pros and cons to all kinds of decking materials, from cost-effective wood composites to sturdy, durable hardwoods. Some cheaper materials will save you in the beginning but can be costly in the long run if they’re made from inferior materials that require maintenance and money down the road. No matter what you choose, you’ll want to get the full picture of what to expect before loading up on lumber. Pressure-treated wood The poster child of low-budget deck materials, pressure-treated wood usually runs between $1.50 and $2.50 per square foot. Pressure-treated wood is what you see on about 75 percent of decks across the country — certainly a


A departure from wood-based decking, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is new to the market and has quickly become a popular choice for DIY- deckers everywhere. PVC contains zero wood content and is virtually maintenance free. At about $7.50 per square foot for hollow core and $9.50 for solid core, PVC is a little spendier upfront, but it will pay for itself in the long run — some premium solid-core varieties even come with a 25-year warranty.


Similar to cedar, redwood is lightweight, strong, and easy to work with and makes a classic, classy choice for your DIY-deck dream come true. Redwood is a more expensive choice and is only available on the West Coast, so only consider it if it is within your reach, budget- and proximity- wise. Coming in at $6 to $8 per



finance plan for your deck so you can stick to your budget. If you don’t have money saved for your DIY renovation, you may want to consider a personal loan with a fixed rate and flexible repayment. Choose a lender who has your best interests in mind and who will help you find the right loan for your needs so you can plan your finances ahead of time. While considering a loan, you may also want to factor in a contingency fund in order to cover unexpected costs that arise throughout your project. When adhering to a budget, you can never have too much financial advice, so consult a professional before embarking on your building project. The benefits of DIY-ing your own deck are multifold; not only will it save you money, but you’ll increase your home’s market value. If you haven’t yet hopped on the deck- building bandwagon, follow these tips and build a top-shelf deck without breaking the bank — it’s the perfect way to ring in summer and celebrate the great outdoors in the comfort of your own backyard.

a great alternative to high-end tropical hardwood decking in terms of sustainability, strength and slip resistance. Unlike tropical hardwood decking, black locust meets numerous criteria for sustainable wood harvesting and is naturally rot resistant, meaning it does not require chemical treatments. A low-maintenance, eco-friendly choice, black locust only requires an annual washing with a little bleach and water or a power washer. Deck Maintenance Any kind of wood decking requires an annual refinishing to maintain its luster, so you will need to factor this into your budget if wood is your material of choice. Plan on shelling out about $13 per 100 square feet for deck cleaner and $15 per 100 square feet for sealer. Keep in mind that wood of all kinds requires regular maintenance, especially in rougher climates, so you will want to keep on top of things to avoid further maintenance costs down the road.

Another non-wood-based decking material, aluminum is strong, weather-proof, and resistant to rust, rot and pests. At $6 to $8 per square foot, refinished aluminum planks are coated with a maintenance-free, slip-resistant coating. Though the deck boards

are lightweight, they require special saw blades to be cut, as well as special securing fasteners, so make sure to factor this into your budget if you don’t already own the proper materials. Sustainable Decking A more eco-friendly approach to deck DIY, sustainable composites are an excellent choice for the


environmentally conscious builder. Numerous varieties are available, from bamboo boards made with 60 percent reclaimed bamboo fibers and 40 percent recycled HDPE plastics, to boards made with 95 percent recycled wood combined with recycled plastic film. Some even contain rice husks combined with mineral salts, while others are built from 100 percent recycled carpet fibers or recycled wood combined with post-consumer plastic. Price per square foot can vary depending on the product, so you will want to do your research and plan accordingly. Black Locust Lumber Another eco-conscious decking option, black locust lumber is

Financing your Deck

While you may just want to haul off to the hardware store and get building, you will first want to develop a


Pass the Sangria; it’s Patio Party Time! Tips for hosting the ultimate outdoor summer soirée

Spiked Strawberry Lemonade

Ingredients 24 ounces frozen strawberries 2 liters lemonade 2 liters lemon-lime soda 1 1/4 cups plain vodka 1/2 cup limoncello 1 cup frozen strawberries for punch bowl Lemon and strawberry slices for garnish Instructions In a high-powered blender, blend the strawberries and lemonade until smooth (blend in batches if needed). Strainmixture through a mesh strainer, then pour into a large punch bowl. Add the soda or seltzer water, vodka, and limoncello and stir to combine. Chill for 2 to 3 hours. To serve, add frozen strawberries to the punch bowl and garnish the rim of the bowl with lemon rounds and strawberry slices if desired. Ladle punch into glass mugs and top with ice. Non-alcoholic version: Omit vodka and limoncello and replace with additional lemonade.


Furniture Your party is only as good as how comfortable your guests are, so make sure you’re set up with ample seating. While people like to stand and mingle at parties, you will want to have enough seating so your guests can get comfy. If it is within your budget, spring for a set of high-quality, all-weather furniture that will last. While those ubiquitous plastic patio chairs are tempting, other options exist that may be more comfortable and higher in quality.

Summer is here, and the season is the reason to celebrate! There’s no better way to ring in the best time of the year than a patio party, whether you’re gathering with family or having your new neighbors over for dinner.

To properly bask in the glow of June, you’ll want the perfect setup for your guests, from comfortable patio furniture to mind-blowing barbecue and a playlist bursting with summer jams. With these helpful tips, you can get slinging hors d’oeuvres and shaking up the best cocktails on the block for a summer smash so great, you won’t be surprised if a few extra guests show up.

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Consider cushioned rattan and wicker chairs or a cozy outdoor sofa to really enjoy your outdoor soirée in comfort and style. You can find all kinds of outdoor sofas and sectionals online, from the more affordable to

Ingredients 1 750-ml bottle silver tequila 1 to 2 cups triple sec or Cointreau 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, plus extra for rimming glasses 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, for rimming glasses 1 gallon of ice cubes or crushed ice 12–24 ime wedges, for serving Instructions Before your guests arrive, combine the tequila, 1 cup triple sec or Cointreau, and the lime juice. Mix thoroughly and addmore orange liqueur to taste, then chill. Chill several 5-ounce martini glasses or 8-ounce mason jars for serving. To serve, pour a few tablespoons of lime juice onto a small plate and add several tablespoons of coarse salt to another small plate. As you serve each guest their margarita, dip the rim of a glass onto the plate with the lime juice, then into the salt. For each drink, measure 1/4 cup of the margarita mixture into a cocktail shaker and add ice cubes (most shakers can hold 2–3 servings at a time). Shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into salt-rimmed glasses and serve.

the higher end. If you do opt for cushioned furniture, make sure it has weather-resistant treatment. Do some research online and consult your local home goods or hardware store for expert advice on choosing furniture that’s perfect for your patio and your budget.

of your umbrella canopy by 10. For example, if your umbrella is 9 feet, a 90-pound stand is recommended. To accommodate larger parties with shade, you may want to consider other patio shade options, from elegant canopies to portable, breezy gazebos. You can find relatively affordable, portable gazebos that feature mosquito- proof mesh panels and sturdy weather-proof canopies, which is a plus if inclement weather hits. Lighting What is a party without twinkling lights? Luckily, there are all kinds of attractive outdoor lighting options on the market. Elegant paper lanterns can take a party from so-so to stunning and are available in many different colors and sizes. Cover hanging bulb lights with elegant white paper lanterns to create a modern, majestic effect, or for a whimsical look, hang strings of mini multi-colored paper lanterns in a zig-zag pattern across your patio.


Made in the Shade


To shade your guests from the summer sun, you will want to invest in some patio umbrellas or coverings. Outdoor umbrellas can range anywhere from $40 to $900, so you can easily find something that suits your budget. Some umbrellas feature solar- powered lights, which can add even more festivity to your party. If your umbrella doesn’t already come with one, you will need to find a sturdy umbrella stand or base, which can run from $30 to a few hundred dollars for specialty stands. Make sure you choose a stand that can adequately support the size of your umbrella. To determine the weight of the stand you’ll need, multiply the diameter


Ingredients 2 medium apples, cored, skin on, chopped into small pieces 2 medium oranges, rind on, sliced into small pieces


condiments, buffet style — sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, hot sauce, salsa fresca and lime — and let your guests build their own fajitas!

For a clean, classic look, opt for strings of white lights, which are available in all kinds of bulb styles, from Edison bulbs to traditional mini incandescent bulbs. Your lighting choice depends on the ambience you want to create, so do some searching for the perfect lights to amp up your aesthetic and illuminate your style.

3/4 cup brown sugar, plus more to taste 3 cups orange juice 1 1/2 cups brandy, plus more to taste

4 bottles dry red wine 4 cups ice, for chilling



Instructions In a large mixing bowl, muddle the apple and orange slices together with the brown sugar using a large wooden spoon. Add the orange juice and brandy andmuddle for 1 minute, then stir in the red wine. Add ice and stir to chill. Ladle the sangria into pitchers, addingmore ice as needed. Serve in glasses of choice and top with ice.


Fajita night would be remiss without a big batch of margaritas, and summer isn’t summer without a pitcher (or two) of sweet sangria. Or for a classic tipple, go for a good old punch bowl, spiked with your alcohol of choice. For a family- friendly fête, opt for virgin cocktails, non-alcoholic fruit punch or a big batch of fruit-infused lemonade.

Food Perhaps the most important element of a summer soirée, delicious food and drink is arguably the best way to bring people together. Whether you’re grilling up kebabs for a crowd or staging a buffet-style potluck, you’ll want to make sure to thoroughly plan your menu. Grill up some juicy burgers for build-your-own burger night, or go for a theme and throw a taco night, complete with margaritas, cerveza, and fiesta-themed decor. Fajitas are a fun option for the grill —marinate and fire up your meats, grill bell peppers, onions and veggies of choice, and keep flour tortillas warm and ready. Set up


Check out the recipes in the sidebar for some inspiration!

Ingredients 4 cups ice 4 cups strong ginger beer 3 cups vodka



1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice 1 cupmint leaves, plus more for garnish (optional) 2 limes, sliced, plus more for garnish Instructions In a large punch bowl, combine the ice, ginger beer, vodka, lime juice, lime slices, andmint. Ladle punch into glasses or copper mugs and top with ice and a fewmint leaves. Hot tip: For a smoky, South-of-the- Border alternative, replace vodka with mezcal and add jalapeño slices to the mix for a Mezcal Mule!

Drop the beat with the freshest summer jams on your block, whether you’re showing off your vintage record player or spinning from your favorite streaming app. While vinyl is cool, nothing beats streaming in terms of convenience and a seamless influx of tunes. Make a few party-jam playlists to have at your disposal, and switch as needed to suit the mood. Just make sure their run times are as long as you expect your party to be.

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Games There’s no better way to bring strangers together than with party games! Keep it classic with charades or pictionary, or opt for a myriad of hilarious group card games like Cards Against Humanity (adults only!). If you have the yard space, set up outdoor Twister, badminton, or a cornhole tournament and keep your guests laughing long after the party’s over. Games are also a great way to keep the party going indoors in case a downpour erupts.


Pineapple Party Punch

Ingredients 4 cups pineapple juice, chilled 1/2 cup white rum 1 750-ml dry sparkling wine, chilled 2 cups frozen pineapple Instructions In a large pitcher, combine pineapple juice, rum and sparkling wine. Add frozen pineapple and serve immediately. Alternately, you can serve the drink in a large punch bowl and provide a ladle for guests to serve themselves. Non-alcoholic version: Substitute the rum and sparkling wine with lemon-lime soda.


TheGreat Indoors

An indoor backup plan is essential for your outdoor bash, no matter how good the weather is supposed to be. Be prepared to have guests inside — provide plenty of toilet paper and paper towels in the restroom and make sure you have ample indoor seating. If grilling, make sure you’re prepared to cook your items inside in case the rain squelches your barbecue.


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