How to take advantage of outdoor living space, tips on removing hardwood floor stains, electrical work safety guidelines, and more.

Decorating Tip: Create an outdoor living room

For leisurely entertaining this summer, take full advantage of the great outdoors and extend your living space by creating an outdoor room.

Why not have an outdoor living room with comfortable seating for all or your friends, or a space where you could fire up the grill and dine out under the stars? Adding a level, low maintenance surface, like a patio, will give you not only the pleasure of living in your outdoor space, but of loving it too.

A great way to create this space is by installing pavers, bricks or stone to create beautiful patios and paths. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, it can be as easy as installing a winding path to connect your home to your garden or creating a space for a cozy bench to watch the birds splashing in the bird bath.

Pavers come in many different shapes, sizes and colors, offering you ways to customize your ideas to match your house and landscaping. Once you have your patio or walkways installed, you can make your backyard inviting and appealing all summer long.

Here are a couple of fun, easy tips:

- Find sturdy, comfortable seating that will withstand the elements for years to come. Try wrought iron, wood or even resin (often made from post-consumer bottle waste such as milk containers) for low-maintenance options. These are readily available in your local garden or specialty stores.

- Seating is even more comfortable with the quick addition of colorful cushions and throw pillows. Swap these out for a change of scenery and store pillows in a clean, dry space (like a garage or storage bench) when not in use to extend their lives.

- Plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables in containers to add a pop of color to your outdoor living spaces. Keep these lush and lively all summer by planting seedlings in a good quality potting mix.

- Keep unwanted grass and weeds from popping up between the pavers by using weed control. Use it early in the season between the pavers to kill the weeds you see popping up.
- Use an edger to trim the grass around the walkways and the edge of your patio for a more finished appearance.

- String some twinkle lights for a festive party atmosphere and use inexpensive, solar powered yard lights to illuminate your outdoor spaces. These usually require little or no installation; just stake in the ground along paths or in pots for added interest.

-- ARA

Home-Selling Tip: Window treatments an easy upgrade

Don’t have money for a full home fix-up? Update your window treatments. Buyers want light and views, not dated drapes that darken. To diffuse light and add privacy, consider energy-efficient shades and blinds.

-- www.realtor.org

How To: Repair hardwood floor stains

If your hardwood floors have sustained water damage, you can attempt to repair the damage as follows:

1. Sand with a vibrating-type sander. Start with medium sand paper; then finish with fine sand paper.

2. Vacuum the dust, and then wipe the area with a dampened cloth. Use mineral spirits if you're using oil-based stain or water for latex stain.

3. Stain the sanded area to match the rest of the floor. Finding just the right color probably will require mixing different color stains.

4. Test the colors on a piece of sanded, unstained wood that is the same species as your floor. Check for a match while the stain is still wet - this will give the best idea of what the stain will look like when it has been covered with polyurethane.

5. When the stain is dry, coat the floor with polyurethane according to the manufacturer's instructions.

-- lowes.com

Did You Know …

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent of the house paint purchased each year — about 65 to 69 million gallons — is ultimately discarded.

Home Improvements: Planning DIY electrical work?

If you decide to undertake a home electrical project yourself, follow these tips:

- Never attempt a project that is beyond your skill level. Knowing when to call a professional may help prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities.

- Always turn off the power to the circuit that you plan to work on by switching off the circuit breaker in the main service panel. Test the wires with a voltage meter before you touch them to make sure that the power has been turned off.

- Use a GFCI with every power tool to protect against electrical shock hazards.

- Always have your work inspected upon completion to ensure that it has been done correctly.

-- Electrical Safety Foundation International

Garden Guide: Get rid of dandelions

Dandelions are tricky weeds. Here are some tips to rid them from your yard:

- Use a specialized, forklike tool to pull out the plant and taproot. You can find these for $10 to $20 at home and garden centers and hardware stores. Remember, just removing the flower is not enough.

- If you decide to use an herbicide, broadleaf herbicides with a combination of 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba are effective. Carefully follow all application instructions and precautions with these products.

- Develop a healthy lawn to prevent weeds. Aerate your lawn to reduce soil compaction, and test your soil to determine whether it’s at its correct pH.

-- www.consumerreports.org

Backyard Buddies: Are hawks hanging out?

The presence of hawks and owls may cause problems for people who operate bird-feeding stations and for those who allow their household pets to roam at night.

Federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing or possession of hawks and owls. The best solution to most raptor problems is prevention, so keep your pets indoors.

If you feed wild birds, expect a visit from a hungry hawk or owl from time to time. Raptors at a birdfeeder are a problem only when they perch nearby, all day.

Stop filling your feeders for a couple of days; the raptors will look for dinner elsewhere.

-- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

GateHouse News Service