5 over-the-top outdoor improvements for DIYers

Monday, May 25th, 2015

(BPT) – A beautiful backyard has become a suburban status symbol much like a brand-new car in the driveway. Upgrading your outdoor space is not only uplifting, it’s practical, too. A great backyard expands your living space, enhances your enjoyment of your home and can boost resale value.

Anyone can plant some flowers or put in a patio. To truly take your outdoor spaces to the next level, though, look to projects that offer a big “wow factor.” Many are well within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers. You can find detailed instructions online, and we carry all the tools you’ll need. Here are five projects to turn your backyard into an enticing oasis this spring and summer:

1. Create a fire pit area Continue Reading »

What size pressure washer spray nozzle is this anyway?

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

 

selecting pressure washer spray tips

Pressure washer spray tips

Choosing the correct spray nozzle (tip) for you pressure washer is crucial to its performance.  Having the wrong orifice size, spray angle, and flow rate nozzle will not only leave you frustrated, it can also cause damage.  The following is a quick reference guide to help you determine what spray nozzle you have.

Pressure washer spray nozzles can be identified by a five or six digit number code stamped into the side of the nozzle.  This number indicates spray angle and orifice size.  Here is how to decode the numbers.

Continue Reading »

Look Before You Pump: Ethanol 15 (E15) Gas Warning | STIHL USA

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Higher ethanol blends can damage your STIHL equipment

Look Before You Pump

STIHL equipment was designed to run on fuel containing no more than 10 percent ethanol. The same fuel you put in your car may not be the same fuel meant for your chain saw, trimmer, blower, or other STIHL outdoor power equipment.

Isn’t All Gasoline Safe to Use?

No. Today, there are more fuel choices for consumers than ever before. No longer can anyone go to a gas station and assume the fuel from the pump is safe and legal for all engines. Most fuel sold today at gas stations for automobiles and outdoor power equipment contains up to 10 percent ethanol (E10). However, in the past year, more gas stations are selling ethanol fuel blends greater than 10 percent – such as E15 and E85. STIHL outdoor power equipment is not designed for ethanol blends higher than 10% ethanol or E10.

Don’t Pump the Wrong Fuel

In the past, consumers were physically kept from selecting the wrong fuel – with diesel you have to use a different pump, for example. This isn’t the case now as blender pumps, which dispense various ethanol fuel blends, become more widely available. The EPA has stated E15 and higher is not legal for use in off-road engine products, and only legal for a subset of automobiles. Yet, the only warning against “mis-fueling” is a small 3×5 pump label. Double-check the pump to make sure you put the right fuel in the right engine.

Why Are There So Many Different Fuels?

In an effort to meet federal renewable fuel standards, higher ethanol blends are being brought to market. Ethanol is an oxygenated fuel. Engines designed for up to 10% ethanol may have problems with fuel higher than 10%, including engine failure. When a small number of retail gas stations in select U.S. states began offering E15 and higher ethanol blends for sale in 2012, we at STIHL grew concerned. We want to protect our customers and future customers from inadvertently damaging their equipment by using the wrong fuel.

Most people believe any fuel sold at a gas station or other retail fuel station is likely legal and safe for any engine product. This is not true, and STIHL owners need to become aware of the fuel for which their equipment was designed, built and warranted – and use only that fuel.

For more information, visit www.LookBeforeYouPump.

To help keep your STIHL running strong

Avoid gasoline higher than 10% ethanol – STIHL equipment is not designed to use higher ethanol blends.

Use a minimum of 89-octane gasoline.

Use fresh fuel – Buy enough fuel to only last a two-month period.

STIHL recommends STIHL MotoMix® Premixed Fuel – a pure and stable fuel mixture that can be stored for up to two years in its original container.

via Look Before You Pump: Ethanol 15 (E15) Gas Warning | STIHL USA.

Demolition Begins with a Rented Breaker

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Demolition Begins with a Rented Demo Hammer Breaker

Before you can construct something new, you often must demolish the old, especially when it comes to concrete. Rented demo hammer breakers allow you to break up old concrete and asphalt for removal. They can break apart concrete driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, footings, foundations, walls and other concrete or blacktopped surfaces. Renters of breakers include anyone from concrete contractors hired to redo a parking lot or roadway to a do-it-yourself (DIY) homeowner, who wants to remove an old sidewalk or driveway. If you have a concrete demolition project to do, a rented breaker might be right for you because it:

Reduces labor. Fortunately, the days of swinging a pickaxe to break up old concrete or asphalt are in the past. Renting a breaker allows you to accomplish the task quickly and with less effort.

Helps homeowners. When equipped with the proper tools, a DIY homeowner can achieve professional results. If you need to demolish concrete or asphalt, you need to rent a breaker to do the work efficiently.

Benefits contractors. Renting a demo hammer breaker lets the contractor who needs the tool only occasionally use it without having to store it. It also permits contractors to continue work when their own breakers malfunction or are out on another job.

Have Questions? Give us a call  for information on available rental products and services to meet your breaker needs. (321) 723-6882

via Demolition Begins with a Rented Breaker.

Part 1: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Cold Protection of Landscape Plants

Sydney Park Brown, Dewayne L. Ingram, and Thomas H. Yeager

Winter temperatures in Florida are frequently low enough to cause cold injury to tropical, subtropical, and occasionally temperate plants not adapted to Florida climatic conditions. Freezing weather normally occurs in north and central Florida, while below freezing temperatures are rare for south Florida. Tropical plants and summer annuals do not adapt or harden to withstand temperatures below freezing, and many suffer “chilling injury” at temperatures below 50°F (10°C). Subtropical plants can harden or acclimate (become accustomed to a new climate) to withstand freezing temperatures, and properly conditioned temperate plants can withstand temperatures substantially below freezing. Recently planted, unestablished plants may be more susceptible to cold injury.

Types of Freezes – Radiational and Advective

Freezes can be characterized as radiational or advective.

Radiational Freezes

Radiational freezes or frosts occur on calm, clear nights when heat radiates from the surfaces of plants and other objects into the environment. These surfaces can become colder than the air above them due to this rapid loss of heat or long-wave radiation. When the air is moist, a radiant freeze results in deposits of ice or frost on surfaces. Dry radiational freezes leave no ice deposits but can cause freeze damage. Plant damage from a radiational freeze can be minimized by reducing radiant heat loss from plant and soil surfaces, as described below.

Advective Freezes

Advective freezes occur when cold air masses move rapidly from the north, causing a sudden drop in temperature. Windy conditions are normal during advective freezes. Although radiant heat loss also occurs during an advective freeze, the conditions are quite different from a radiational freeze. Plant protection during advective freezes is more difficult.

How Cold Affects Plants

The ability of plants to withstand a freeze depends on both temperature fluctuations and day lengths prior to the event. A gradual decrease in temperature over time increases the ability of plants to acclimate to cold temperatures. That is why a sudden decrease in late fall or early winter usually results in more damage than the same low temperature in January or February. Short durations of warmer temperatures in midwinter can de-acclimate some plants, resulting in early bud break, flowering, and susceptibility to freeze injury. However, preconditioning of tropical plants to withstand chilling temperatures has not been well documented.

Cold injury can affect the entire plant or just certain plant or parts such as fruits, flowers, buds, leaves, trunks, stems, or roots. Many plant parts can adapt to tolerate cold, but flowers, fruits, and roots have little ability to adapt. Cold injury to roots of plants in containers is common but usually is not evident until higher temperatures occur. Leaf and stem tissue will not survive ice formation inside the cells (resulting from a rapid freeze), but many plants can adapt to tolerate ice formation between cells.

One type of winter injury is plant desiccation or drying out. This is characterized by marginal or leaf tip burn in mild cases and totally brown leaves in severe cases. Desiccation occurs when dry winds and solar radiation result in the loss of more water from the leaves than can be absorbed and/or transported by a cold root system. Root systems in the landscape are seldom frozen in Florida, but potting substrate in small containers in north Florida can be frozen for several consecutive hours.

via ENH1/MG025: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants.

Part 2: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

What to Do Before a Freeze

Florida homeowners enjoy a vast array of plants and often desire a tropical appearance to their landscapes. Plants are often planted past their northern limit in Florida, although microclimates differ dramatically. Tropical and subtropical plants can be used effectively in the landscape, but they must be protected or replaced when necessary. Intermingle cold tender plants with hardy plants so that the whole landscape is not totally devastated by extremely cold weather. Homeowners can take steps to help acclimate plants to cold temperatures and to protect plants from temperature extremes. These steps range from selecting proper planting sites to altering cultural practices.

Planting Site Selection

Temperatures can fluctuate within a landscape due to microclimates created by tree canopy, proximity to structures, and other factors. Identify microclimates in your landscape when choosing the planting site for cold-sensitive plants. For example, tender plants should not be planted in low areas where cold air settles. Poorly drained areas result in weak, shallow roots that are susceptible to cold injury.

Shade

Tree canopy creates a microclimate that typically reduces cold injury caused by radiational freezes. Plants in shaded locations usually go dormant earlier in the fall and remain dormant later in the spring. Tree canopies trap radiant heat loss from the ground to the atmosphere, and thereby elevate air temperature beneath them. Shading from early morning sun may decrease bark splitting of some woody plants. Plants that thrive in light shade usually display less winter desiccation than plants in full sun. But plants requiring sunlight that are grown in shade will be unhealthy, sparsely foliated, and less tolerant of cold temperatures.

Windbreaks

Microclimates can also be created with fences, buildings, and temporary coverings. Adjacent plantings can protect plants from cold winds, while windbreaks are especially helpful in reducing the effects of short-lived advective freezes and their accompanying winds. Injury due to radiational freezes is influenced little by windbreaks. The height, density, and location of a windbreak will affect the degree of wind speed reduction at a given site.

Proper Plant Nutrition

Plants in good nutritional health will tolerate cold temperatures better and recover from injury faster than plants grown with suboptimal or imbalanced nutrition. However, late fall fertilization can result in growth flushes that are more vulneralbe to cold injury. Addtionally, fertilizers should be applied at the correct rates and times and only when needed. Because they have the potential to pollute water, some municipalities have adopted ordinances that regulate the formulations, sale, and application of lawn and/or landscape fertilizers. Check with your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office for recommendations and rules (see http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/).

Water Relations

Watering landscape plants before a freeze can help protect plants. A well-watered soil will absorb more solar radiation than dry soil, re-radiate heat during the night, and slightly elevate minimum night temperatures in plant canopies. However, prolonged saturated soil conditions damage the root systems of most plants.

Pruning and Pest Management

Avoid late summer or early fall pruning. This can result in growth flushes more prone to cold injury.

Healthy plants are more resistant to cold than plants weakened by disease, insect damage, or nematode damage. Routinely inspect for pests. Contact your county’s Extension Office for information on pest identification and recommended management (see http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/).

via ENH1/MG025: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants.

Part 3: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Methods of Protection

Plants in containers can be moved into protective structures where heat can be provided if necessary. Containers that must be left outdoors should be protected by mulches and pushed together before a freeze to reduce heat loss from container sidewalls. Plants may be damaged if crowded together for extended periods.

Heat radiating from soil surfaces warms the air above the soil or is carried away by air currents. Radiant heat from the soil protects low-growing plants on calm cold nights, while tall, open plants receive little benefit. Radiant heat loss is reduced by mulches placed around plants to protect the roots. For perennials, the root system is all that needs to be protected, because some perennials die back naturally in winter while others survive freezes and quickly regenerate new foliage from the roots.

Grafted or budded plants, like some gardenias and many fruit trees, can be protected by insulating the trunks with commercial tree wraps or one- to two-foot mounds of soil. This protects the trunk so that even if the branches freeze, the tree will be able to re-sprout from above the graft. Remove the wrap or mounded soil each spring.

Covers are better at protecting plants from frost than from extreme cold. Covers must extend to the ground to trap radiant heat and may need to be anchored with rocks, bricks, soil, etc., if is windy. Ideally, the covering should not rest on the foliage, as it may be injured by the contact. Some examples of coverings are commercial frost protection fabrics like “frost cloth,” bedsheets, quilts, or black plastic. Gallon milk or water jugs can be used to protect small plants. Simply cut the flat bottom off and place them over the plants. Valuable plant specimens can be protected with temporary greenhouses constructed of wood framing and plastic sheets. The addition of a light bulb or a string of Christmas lights under a cover is a simple method of providing heat to plants in the landscape. Remove plastic covers during a sunny day or provide ventilation of trapped heat.

Turn off in-ground irrigation systems before freezing temperatures occur. Nurseries and strawberry farmers protect crops during a freeze by sprinkling the plants with water. Sprinkling for cold protection helps keep leaf surface temperatures near 32°F (0°C), because sprinkling utilizes latent heat released when water changes from a liquid to a solid state (ice). Sprinkling must begin as freezing temperatures are reached and continue until thawing is completed. Home irrigation systems are not designed to supply water in quantities ample enough to maintain a film of liquid water on plant surfaces, thus more harm than good usually results. Water soaks the soil resulting in damaged root systems plants break due to ice build up, and water is wasted. Furthermore, water restrictions do not allow this use in much of the state, and fines can be levied.

What to Do After the Freeze

Water Needs

Plant water needs should be checked after a freeze. Plants may have lost substantial moisture during a windy advective freeze. Plants will transpire (lose water vapor) on a sunny day after a freeze, but sometimes their roots are too cold to function normally. Water in the soil of containerized plants can actually freeze and be unavailable to roots. Apply water to allow thawing, rehydration of plants, and dilution of fertilizer salts that might otherwise burn plant roots.

Pruning

Cold injured wood can be identified by lightly scraping the bark with your fingernail and examining the color of the cambium layer (food conducting tissue) just underneath. Green tissue indicates the plant is still alive at that point; black or brown coloration indicates dead or injured tissue.Prune these branches behind the point of discoloration. Branch tips may be damaged while older wood is free of injury. If in doubt, delay pruning until new growth appears to ensure that live wood is not removed. Dead, unsightly leaves may be removed as soon as they turn brown after a freeze. Cold injury may appear as a lack of spring bud break on a portion or all of the plant, or as an overall weak appearance. After a particularly harsh cold event, some plants may be very slow to recover, so some patience is required.

More Information

For additional information on cold protection and coping with cold injury to plants, visit the UF/IFAS EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

via ENH1/MG025: Cold Protection of Landscape Plants.

How-To Buy, Cut, Split, Stack, & Store Firewood Guide | STIHL USA

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

How to Select, Split, Stack and Store Firewood wood-burning fireplace and stove owners, splitting and stacking wood is an important skill to know. Whether it’s your first time stacking a woodpile or you just want a refresher course on proper splitting technique, we’ve got a number of helpful tips on the best way to stock winter wood.Are You Cutting Wood From a Fallen Tree?If you’re starting your wood pile right from the source – a fallen tree – there are a few things to keep in mind when doing the initial cutting. First, the timing: cut your firewood at least six months ahead of when you plan on burning it. The ideal time to cut firewood is in the late winter and early spring months. This allows for the maximum drying time. Next, cut the ends of the logs as flat and square as possible so that they can stand sturdily for splitting. For this, we recommend the STIHL Pro Splitting Axe or STIHL Pro Splitting Maul. If the wood has branches, cut toward the opposite direction they are pointing. Remember, the shorter the log, the easier it will split. Look for hairline cracks on the log and direct the swing of your axe to strike these cracks. This will reduce the splitting effort. Try to avoid cutting through knots – knots and branches change the direction of the wood grain in the log and make splitting more difficult. Try to align the strike of the axe so it does not split through the knot.Wood Burning Safety Burning firewood creates many byproducts, including smoke, water vapor, various gases, hydrocarbons and tar. Over time, these materials can accumulate in your fireplace and increase your risk of danger, including chimney fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Always keep your fireplace chimney well ventilated and have it cleaned. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association recommend annual maintenance and inspection of your home’s heating systems, fireplaces included.Wood SelectingWood SplittingWood StackingWood Storing

via How-To Buy, Cut, Split, Stack, & Store Firewood Guide | STIHL USA.

Yard Work Accidents are Common This Time of Year – Here are 7 Tips to Stay Safe

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Yard Work Accidents are Common This Time of Year – Here are 7 Tips to Stay Safe

(ARA) – This time of year, you can’t help but notice the chainsaws buzzing and the hum of wood chippers reducing twigs, branches and what were once towering trees into mulch. Not to mention, the noise coming from edgers, rototillers and other machines working hard to get the yard ready for winter. As long as the weather is nice, do-it-yourselfers will be out in force cleaning up yards across the country.

If you’re planning to join the ranks, be sure to take the time to study up on safety precautions before operating equipment like chainsaws, chippers and edgers. They can be dangerous if you don’t take the proper safety measures.

Since January 2000, there have been dozens of claims involving people who were injured while using rented yard equipment, according to ARA Insurance Services, an insurance company owned by the American Rental Association. Here’s the breakdown:

Wood chipper accidents — 11 claims

Chain saw accidents — 12 claims

Log splitter accidents — 11

Accidents involving rototillers — 6 claims

Stump grinder accidents — 6 claims

Don’t become the next statistic. Make sure you know how to operate the equipment before getting started.

A good place to turn for safety advice when it comes to using these machines is the very place you get the equipment — your local equipment rental store. When you arrive, tell the person behind the counter what you want to accomplish and they will help you find the equipment you need to get the job done. Rental store employees are also regularly trained on using the equipment and can provide you with plenty of tips for proper and safe use.

“Employees at equipment rental stores are an excellent source for information when it comes to figuring out how to operate equipment correctly,” said Chris Wehrman, CEO of the American Rental Association, the trade association for the rental industry. “Safety is a top priority among our member businesses, and store owners go to great lengths to ensure that employees are regularly trained on proper use of equipment and machinery.”

If, for example, you’re planning to cut down a pine tree with a trunk that’s three feet in diameter, they will help you find the proper saw and show you the right way to handle it. You’ll likely be urged to first clear away dirt, debris, small limbs and rocks from the area you’re planning to cut. Then before turning on the saw, to check controls, chain tension and all bolts and handles to ensure they are functioning properly. You’ll also be instructed to wear protective equipment when operating the saw, which includes hand, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing and head protection.

Chippers can also be dangerous when they aren’t handled in the correct way. A machine that is powerful enough to chew up tree limbs and then spit them out as little chips can easily do the same to a hand or arm, according to ARA Insurance Services.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration put together these seven tips to keep in mind while operating a chipper:

Never reach into a chipper while it is operating.

Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around a chipper.

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions.

Use earplugs, safety glasses, hard hats and gloves.

Protect yourself from contacting operating chipper components by guarding the infeed and discharge ports, and preventing the opening of the access covers or doors until the drum or disc completely stops.

Maintain at least two tree or log lengths between chipper operations and other workers.

If your chipper is jammed, make sure the engine is turned off when you try and remove the shrub or branch.

via Yard Work Accidents are Common This Time of Year – Here are 7 Tips to Stay Safe.

Using a Pressure Washer Safely

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Using a Rented Pressure Washer Safely

Before using a pressure washer, you should become familiar with how it operates. The following tips should help you use your rented pressure washer safely and effectively. Your local, ARA-affiliated rental store can give you complete operating instructions.

Safety tips:

Read all manufacturer warnings and instructions prior to using the rented pressure washer.

To prevent injuries, do not point the rented pressure washer at yourself or anyone else when using it.

Do not put your fingers and hands near the rented pressure washer’s nozzle while using the equipment.

Engage the rented pressure washer’s safety lock when not in use.

Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses and boots.

Usage tips:

Always place rented pressure washer on a level surface.

Use nozzles designed for your rented pressure washer and for your application.

Make sure to connect hoses firmly and securely.

Turn on water flow before using the rented pressure washer.

Test the rented pressure washer on an inconspicuous area before beginning the main cleaning task.

First try cleaning using only water with the rented pressure washer.

If needed, use a cleaning solution approved for use in the rented pressure washer and appropriate for item you will clean. Work from the bottom up when spraying cleaning solutions on vertical surfaces. Make sure you give cleaning solutions a few minutes to work before you wash them away, but do not let them dry on item’s surface. When rinsing detergent from vertical surfaces, spray from the top down.

Hold rented pressure washer’s nozzle a few feet way from item you will wash.

Do not use hot water on wood surfaces and always spray them at an angle.

Do not use rented pressure washer at high pressure on windows or glass doors to prevent breaking them.

Periodically check rented pressure washer for a pinched hose or clogged nozzle. To clean clogged nozzle, turn off the pressure washer, release pressure from the hose, remove nozzle and use a wire to clear clog before replacing the nozzle.

When done working, relieve pressure from rented pressure washer’s hose before disconnecting.

via Using a Rented Pressure Washer Safely.