Ikea was curious about what Americans want from their homes. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with expensive upgrades.
The Swedish retailer’s first annual “US Life at Home Report” uncovered that, above all else, 95% of Americans consider comfort a top home feature. We’re not talking about cushy furniture or other features that makes life at home physically more comfortable. It’s an emotional thing. Ikea found that American consumers want their homes to have a feel-good environment so they can let their hair down and connect with loved ones.
Here are more nuggets from the report:
We aren’t show-offs. In fact, we’re modest (!). Ikea says, “… home in the U.S. is not so much about status or wealth. Or keeping up with the Joneses.” Only a mere 1% wants their abodes to reflect their success.
We love living rooms. Maybe that’s why open kitchens are hot. Homeowners don’t want to be separated from their favorite room. Of those polled, 65% agree it’s the most popular spot in the house.
We feel cramped in the kitchen. We’re starved for kitchen storage. We also want more elbow room and counter space.
We use technology in the kitchen. But this has nothing to do with futuristic home gadgets. A total of 27% listen to music, use the computer, or watch TV while cooking or hanging out.
We stash stuff under our beds. The bedroom is another room that leaves us feeling squeezed for space. Fifty-four percent of Americans use the space under their beds for storage.
We want to save energy. If the opportunity popped up, 98% of us would buy an Energy Star-rated appliance. We’re also starting to shift away from inefficient incandescent light bulbs. Forty-three percent of us have transitioned to LED bulbs and have at least one in the house.
We’re getting greener. A whopping 71% of Americans recycle at home. Twenty-eight percent want to generate their own solar power.
The panel for this study consisted of 4,000 U.S. consumers:
A combination of male and female heads of household between the ages of 25-54
Household income of at least $35,000
Did Ikea get it right? Let us know in the comments below.
Guide to Buying and Installing a Sprinkler SystemBy: Dave Toht
Published: April 10, 2013
An irrigation system saves water, keeps your lawn looking great, and helps maintain your curb appeal. We’ve gathered the info to get you started.
An underground irrigation system delivers water to your landscaping at the right time, and in just the right amount, so you don’t water too much or too little. It’s relatively easy to install and makes a good DIY project.
You’ll also save money doing it yourself. A professionally installed system for a typical ¼-acre lot is $3,000 to $4,000. You can DIY it for under $1,500.
The heart of an underground system is pop-up sprinkler heads. When working, the heads raise up a few inches to spray water on your landscape. When not in use, they drop to ground level so you can mow or walk right over them.
Plus, today’s systems are pretty darn smart. Automated features decide when it’s been raining too much or too little, then adjust the amount of water your landscaping gets. That lowers the worry quotient for you, heads off costly over-watering, and makes the whole system almost maintenance-free.
Getting in the Zone
An irrigation system divides your property into zones. Each zone can be different in terms of the amount of water it gets, and at what time of day it’s watered. Examples of zones include:
Lawn zones have pop-up heads with just the right spray radius and range to cover a broad area of grass.
Landscaping zones have high-rise heads to water shrubs and ground cover.
Flower and vegetable zones may be equipped with bubblers and tiny spray heads that gently water plants without bruising edibles or knocking petals off blooms.
Everything functions on an automatic timer that controls water flow throughout the system. You can elect to include sensors that monitor rain and humidity — self-adjusting timers that prevent unnecessary watering.
Start with a Plan
Your irrigation journey starts with a plan that maps out:
Your yard, house location, and major landscaping features, such as trees.
Your irrigation zones.
The location of sprinkler heads and bubblers.
The location of underground water supply lines.
The location of a water-supply shutoff valve.
Any automatic sensors.
But planning is a challenge for first-timers. Manufacturers recognize this hurdle and go out of their way to provide planning help. After you give them some info on the size of your lot and your water supply system, they give you an irrigation plan tailored to your property.
You’d be crazy not to take advantage of their services. For one, they’re free. Second, they’re very thorough: downloadable guides and step-by-step videos take you through every part of creating a home irrigation system.
For example, Rainbird and Toro offer planning guides that show you how to make a scale drawing of your property, and how to easily gather information on your water pressure and water flow rate that’ll help determine the design of your system.
When you mail in the drawing and info, the manufacturer returns a custom plan with a materials list and detailed installation instructions, all designed specifically for your property. Replies take several weeks. For a small fee ($20-$30), you can have your plans arrive in a few days.
Orbit shows you how to use Google Maps to make a scaled plan of your lot without ever stepping outdoors. Plans are available instantly.
Get Ready to Dig
Your next job is trenching -- digging channels in your yard for the water supply lines and sprinkler heads. With plan in hand, mark out the locations of the irrigation lines using string lines, powdered chalk, or lawn marking paint — it comes in a spray can specially designed to be used upside down ($5).
At this point comes a heads-up about your local building codes. You’ll need to ask a couple of questions of your local building and planning commission:
Do I need a permit?
Is a licensed plumber required to connect my irrigation system to my home’s water system?
How deep should the trenches be? (Most building codes require you to dig down 18 inches to protect the water lines from freezing — in colder climates the required depth is more.)
Unless you relish the idea of hand-digging several hundred feet of trench, rent a gas-powered trenching tool for $100–$160 per day. This walk-behind tool makes short work of deep, narrow trenches.
Very important! To prevent injury, be sure to have all utilities marked before you begin digging. Call your local utilities or dial 811.
Installing the System
With excavation complete, you’re ready to buy all the stuff you need. You’ll build your system from plastic pipe, either rigid or flexible PVC. Both are good choices and use the same methods of assembly.
Rigid PVC pipe is inexpensive — ¾-inch diameter pipe is about 25 cents per lineal foot.
Flex PVC costs more at about $1 per lineal foot of ¾-inch-diameter pipe, but it installs faster, there are fewer connections, and it’s more forgiving of trenches that aren’t perfectly straight.
There are lots of other components, including sprinkler heads and bubblers, and each type has different ranges and arcs — the size and shape of their spray. That’s another reason to check out the manufacturer’s guides — they’ll give you a complete materials list.
Unless you’re an accomplished DIY electrician and plumber, you’ll probably need a bit more professional help:
An electrician to extend a circuit to the automatic timer; figure 2-3 hours at $90-$110 per hour.
A plumber to tap into your household water system. Budget another $200-$300.
Ready to Call In the Pros?
If the DIY approach is more than you want to tackle, or your lot is larger than a third of an acre (14,500 sq. ft.), consider hiring a pro. Expect to pay $3,000-$4,000 to have an underground irrigation system installed on a ¼-acre lot.
Aside from saving you a lot of work, a pro is going to get the job done quickly and with minimal disruption. He’ll also come with knowledge of what design best suits local conditions.
Good Tips for Watering Your Landscape
Check out these low-cost, low-maintenance DIY watering systems.
Planning a trip this summer? Here’s how to water while you’re on vacation.
Dry spells are hard on your plants. Make sure you know how to water your plants during a drought.
Even the best vegetable gardeners can forget basics and make rookie mistakes. Here are 7 no-nos to avoid.
Even if your vegetable garden is the envy of neighbors, it’s still easy to make rookie mistakes that waste precious resources and growing time.
Avis Richards, whose Ground Up Campaign teaches New York City school kids how to grow their own food, reveals the rookie mistakes that all gardeners should avoid.
1. Unwise watering. Too much, too little, too hard, too soft — they’re all watering mistakes that'll wreck your garden. Before adding water, poke a finger a couple of inches into the soil. If it’s moist, save the water; if it’s dry, train a gentle spray at the base of plants. Better yet, wind a drip hose ($13 for 50 feet) through your garden; that way, you’ll deliver moisture to the roots without wasting water on leaves and to evaporation.
2. Forgetting to test. Even veteran gardeners forget to test their soil every year to make sure it has the pH and nutrients plants need. For about $10, you can send a sample to your state extension service and receive a complete analysis. Or, buy a DIY test kit at your local garden center. When you know what your soil is made of, either select plants that thrive in that type of earth, or amend soil to match your garden’s needs.
3. Planting garden divas. Of course you love summer tomatoes, but they can be tricky to grow during summers that are too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. So newbies should try growing a couple of tomato plants just for fun, then load gardens with foolproof veggies and herbs, such as beans, peppers, oregano, and parsley. If you must grow a tomato, plant cherry tomatoes that can survive anything summer can throw at them and even yield fruit into fall. 4. Raising too much. One cherry tomato plant can yield 80 fruit, and a single zucchini plant can keep your neighbors in zucchini bread through winter. So don’t plant more than you can eat, put up, or share with friends. The National Gardening Association says an edible garden of about 200 sq. ft. should keep a family of four in veggies all summer. If you do grow more than you need, donate it to a local food bank or plan a swap with fellow gardeners.
5. Growing everything from seed. Some crops, such as salad greens, radishes, carrots, peas, beans, and squash, are easy to grow from seeds that germinate in a couple of weeks. Experience will tell you that eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes are better grown from seedlings, which someone else has nurtured for months. Pick plants that are short and compact; avoid leggy plants with blooms that are liable to die on the vine as the plant acclimates itself to your garden. 6. Assuming you know. Gardeners often read seed packages and figure they know everything about growing vegetables. Wrong! The more you know about your hardiness zone, soil, weather, insects, and vegetable varieties, the better your garden will grow. So curl up with a good gardening book, and surf the web for garden bloggers that share your passion. Better yet, join a gardening club where you can share tips and seeds. 7. Relying on pesticides. Don’t bring out the big guns, which can contaminate the watershed, until you’ve tried less-toxic ways to get rid of garden pests. Ladybugs and praying mantis, which you can buy at garden supply stores, will eat garden intruders, such as aphids and beetles. Non-toxic insecticidal soaps will take care of soft-bodied insects (don’t use if ladybugs are around).
Have you made any rookie mistakes? Got a tip for your fellow newbie gardeners? Let’s hear it!