Spruce up home and yard for spring

Spring signals a fresh start for homeowners to tackle home repairs and rejuvenation projects they may have put off over the winter.
Consumer Reports recently provided advice on how to spruce up your home and yard this spring and work vital home safety checks into the regular spring-cleaning routine.
“Let’s face it: Many spring-cleaning and repair projects can be financially daunting. It’s also easy to get sucked in to so-so products with a come-on price,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor at CR. “In our testing, we look at more than just price, since value also includes which products perform well and help you get the job done faster and more effectively with less hassle.”
Recommended home & yard spruce-up products
— Cordless drills and tool kits. Almost any cordless drill can handle light fix-it jobs like hanging pictures, but consumers will need more power for decking and tougher do-it-yourself projects. CR’s top picks include nickel-cadmium-powered drills that perform more like pricier lithium-ion models. Combine a drill, reciprocating saw and circular saw, and it makes a cordless-tool kit. The Porter-Cable PCL418C-2, $300, drove screws and sawed 2x12s almost as well as a $500 kit.
— Sewing machines. When facing spring fabric fix-its like sprucing up window treatments or patching clothing a mechanical model will do, but don’t be intimidated by electronic sewing machine models. CR tested models with user-friendly software that automated tedious tasks, such as the Brother Innov-is 40, $400.
— Interior paints. Low-luster paints, also known as eggshell or satin, are ideal for most rooms. CR recommends Behr Premium Plus Ultra Stain Enamel, $33, sold at Home Depot. The paint had impressive one-coating hiding and stain resistance, and did not need a primer. Pass on Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Satin, $47, which was only so-so at hiding and stain resistance.
— Compact fluorescent bulbs. Many homeowners don’t consider changing light bulbs a spring spruce-up, but the money saved by switching to CFLs — about $56 over the life of each bulb — can add up. Try replacing a 60-watt incandescent with a 13-to-15-watt CFL, such as the Eco Smart 423-599EDXO-14, $6 for 4 bulbs, sold at Home Depot, and lighten up your electricity bill.
— Gas grills. Kick off the warm weather with a new grill. Stainless-steel or coated cast-iron grates provided better searing in CR’s tests and should last longer.
Recommended home safety products
— Carbon-monoxide alarms. During spring safety checks, take the opportunity to install an alarm, such as the recommended Interconnected First Alert One Link C0511B, $83, on every level of the home but not near a cooking appliance, furnace or water heater, which can trigger false alarms. CR recommends replacing units every five years.
— Smoke alarms. Photoelectric alarms, such as the BRK 7010B, $25, are the best choice outside a kitchen or bathroom because they are less prone to nuisance alarms from burning food or shower steam. Use dual-sensor alarms everywhere else for best protection, such as the Kidde P12000, $30.
— Lead-detection kits. For homeowners looking to do a deep clean sweep of their home, the Homax LeadCheck 5250, $8, was relatively easy to use, gave quick results and can be used on dark colors except red or pink. All kits take some practice to properly expose old layers of paint where lead lurks.
— Radon kits. These kits test for the naturally occurring invisible radioactive gas radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. In need of fast results? Only the RTCA 4 Pass Charcoal Canister, $28, was accurate enough for CR to recommend. But always confirm results with a long term kit, such as the Accustar Alpha Track, AT 100, $28, which was more accurate.

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