construction law


Anybody who reads the papers will know of all of the contractor horror stories that are published every week – with homeowners losing thousands of pounds after placing their trust in the wrong construction team.

A lot of the time, such losses occur due to a lack of care before construction has even started. Many people don’t even bother to sign a contract with their contractor and subsequently, there is little they can do once things go wrong.

Taking the above into account, here is our guide to selecting the right type of procurement for your next home improvement project. It should be noted that this is only the tip of the iceberg and once you have selected one of the following three, you must then acquire a standard contract that can be used with your chosen method of procurement and complete it appropriately.

Traditional Procurement

As the name may indicate, the traditional method of procurement is the most common in the construction industry. In simple terms, it means that the design stage is completely separate from the construction – meaning that the project is basically split into two parts. The design of your project will have to be created before you can source the contractor.

There are several benefits to this method, most notably the certainty and the fact that it is the industry standard. In relation to the former, as you already have the design prepared, there are no excuses for the contractor not to provide you with an exact figure for the project. If they do not stick within this budget throughout the project, you are not liable for any additional costs. The popularity of the traditional procurement method means that practically every contractor out there will know how to work with it, and this will obviously promote efficiency.

Unfortunately, there is a drawback, with this focussed around time. As the project is split into two stages, design and construction, it will take slightly longer to complete than projects which are procured in different ways.

Design and Build Procurement

Again, the name gives everything away in relation to this procurement. Unlike the traditional method which was split into two stages, the main contractor is responsible for both designing and constructing the project. Unsurprisingly, this means that the project can run much more efficiently – as there is no overlap as is the case with traditional procurement. Furthermore, the design and build procurement method holds the similar advantage of certainty – as you and the contractor will agree on the cost of the project at the very beginning.

Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect method and there are suggestions that this type of procurement does not promote the best quality design. This is because a lot of contractors merely specialise in one field, meaning that they may not be quite as proficient at designing as they are in actually carrying out the practical elements of the project.

Management Procurement

The final type of procurement we’ll take a look at management and if you are merely having a small alteration to your home, this is probably not going to be considered. It involves a main contractor being appointed and being responsible for managing the whole process – meaning that they appoint sub-contractors to carry out specific sections of the project. However, you will be responsible for sourcing a design professional – with the main professional only accountable for the practical elements of the contract.

To put the above into an example, we’ll look at the situation in relation to a proposed extension to your home. You will firstly hire an architect or design team to design the extension, before then sourcing a main contractor to manage the whole construction process in relation to this design. They will then hire contractors for each separate process; so this could be a large firm such as Taylor Lane for the frame of the extension, or NRC Ltd for the roof covering.

Management procurement is another method that is regarded as being very efficient, as processes can overlap each other and the construction phase does not have to start once all of the designing has been performed. Furthermore, unlike the design and build system, the main contractor can bring in specialist teams which should help with the overall quality of the project.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of certainty with the management method, as each segment of work is let at a different time. Therefore, if you are working to a strict budget, this might not be the most advisable solution.


The Homeowner’s Bill of Rights

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (“HADD”)( is a consumer protection group for homeowners and homebuyers that advocates on behalf of homeowners against defective construction. In their effort to protect homeowners the organization developed a Homeowner’s Bill of Rights that details what consumers should be able to expect from a builder or contractor. HADD also proposes legislation, such as a New Home Disclosure Act, a Home Lemon Act. It also sets standards for litigation, such as preventing confidentiality agreements in settlements and prohibition of arbitration.

The Homeowner’s Bill of Rights sets forth the expectations each homeowner should be entitled to from a builder and the protections they deserve from the government as consumers of new homes. The full Homeowner’s Bill of Rights includes a statement of rights and advocates for protective legislation. The following is a summary of HADD’s Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. To read the full Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, link to

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings Homeowner’s Bill of Rights

“When consumers buy a new home or contract for additions and/or remodeling of an existing home:

They have the right to safe and sound, quality construction.

They have the right to expect that their new home and/or any home improvements are built in compliance with all existing local, state, and federal building codes and ordinances.

They have the right to expect that only quality, performance-proven building products are used in their homes and that all such products are installed in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications.

They have the right to expect that the architect’s and engineer’s designs are completely and accurately followed.

They have the right to expect that the home will not leak or breed toxic mold(s), is structurally sound, and that all mechanical systems and structural components will perform properly.

They have the right to receive, in a timely manner prior to signing a sales contract and/or closing documents, complete information regarding their purchase contracts, warranties, disclosures of agencies, and any and all relationships and/or partnerships their real estate broker and/or builder may have with all agencies involved with the home buying process. This includes, but is not limited to: home inspectors, lenders, title companies, builders’/subcontractors’ insurance carriers, products’ manufacturers, realtors, and home warranty companies.

They have the right to access records, public and private, regarding performance and complaints pertaining to their builder, subcontractors, home warranty companies, lenders, manufacturers, realtors, title companies, insurance carriers, and any other entity associated with the home building/home buying process.

They have the right to full disclosures in regard to new housing.

They have the right to a trial conducted by their peers, rather than to be forced into contractual binding arbitration.

They have the right to peace of mind concerning the safety of their family.”


If you believe your home suffers from a construction defect, contact an attorney with experience in construction-defect litigation. Not every defect will warrant the time and expense of pursuing a claim, and often the time limits (statute of limitations) will prevent a homeowner from pursuing a claim. To protect your rights, contact an attorney who can help you evaluate how your state’s laws apply to the particular circumstances of your situation.

Copyright ©1994-2005 FindLaw, a Thomson Business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.


Housing and Construction Defects – An Overview

A house is generally a homeowners’ single most valuable financial investment and one of the most important emotional investments. To them it is more than bricks and mortar; it is the place where they live, rest, and raise their families. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting homeowners realize their new homes suffer from some type of construction defect that will cost thousands of dollars to repair, depreciate the value of their home, or force them to leave their home.

Construction defects cover a broad spectrum from minor problems like popped nails and peeling paint to situations when a house must be bulldozed. Some cases involve leaky windows that have led to toxic-mold contamination. Other problems include faulty design, code violations, cracked foundations, substandard workmanship, and unsafe structures.

The number of construction-defect cases has surged in recent years because houses are being constructed in record numbers to meet the high demand for housing. Many general contractors are inexperienced and others mass produce thousands of houses. The home construction industry is intensely competitive. Many builders respond to the competition with low bids for contracts, then cut corners, and frequently employ unskilled or overworked subcontractors and poorly supervise subcontracted work. At a time when government regulation is more important than ever, government inspection departments do not have the funding to adequately inspect homes and often approve below-par construction. The combination of these factors results in homes that are built with serious defects.

Types of Construction Defects

Construction defects usually include any deficiency in the performing or furnishing of the design, planning, supervision, inspection, construction or observation of construction to any new home or building, where there is a failure to construct the building in a reasonably workmanlike manner and/or the structure fails to perform in the manner that is reasonably intended by the buyer. Some of the most common and high-cost construction defects include:

Structural integrity – concrete, masonry & division, carpentry, unstable foundations
Expansive soils
Water intrusion (often resulting in toxic mold)
Thermal and moisture protection
Doors, windows and glass

Generally, courts categorize construction defects in one of four categories: design deficiencies, material deficiencies, construction deficiencies, or subsurface deficiencies.

Design Deficiencies

Design professionals, such as architects or engineers, who design buildings and systems do not always work as specified, which can result in a defect. Typical design deficiencies relate to building outside of the specified code. Roofs are an example of a typical design defect that result in water penetration, intrusion, poor drainage, or inadequate structural support.

Material Deficiencies

The use of inferior building materials can cause significant problems, such as windows that leak or fail to perform and function adequately, even when properly installed. Window leaks can result from many things including, rough framing not being flush with outside at openings, improperly flashed windows, improperly applied building paper, window frame racked during storage/moving, lack of sheet metal drip edge above window header, etc. Common manufacturer problems with building materials can include deteriorating flashing, building paper, waterproofing membranes, asphalt roofing shingles, particle board, inferior drywall and other wall products used in wet and/or damp areas, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Construction Deficiencies

Poor quality workmanship can result in a long list of defects. A typical example is water infiltration through some portion of the building structure, which may create an environment for the growth of mold. Other problems include cracks in foundations or walls, dry rotting of wood, electrical and mechanical problems, plumbing leaks, or pest infestation.

Subsurface Deficiencies

Expansive soil conditions are typical in California and Colorado, as well as other parts of the country. Many houses are built on hills or other areas where it is difficult to provide a stable foundation. A lack of a solid foundation may result in cracked foundations or floor slabs and other damage to the building. If subsurface conditions are not properly compacted and prepared for adequate drainage, it is likely the property will experience problems such as improperly settling to the ground (subsidence), the structure moving or shifting, flooding and in many cases more severe problems such as landslides.

Legal Theories

The typical construction defect cases is based on the contracts between the homeowner and developer and the contracts between the contractor and subcontractors, including suppliers, architects and engineers, involved in building the home. The goal is to require the party who is responsible for the defect to remedy the situation. The complaint against the defendants typically alleges negligence, breach of contract or warranty, strict liability, and in some instances fraud or negligent misrepresentation may be alleged.


The law imposes the obligation upon the developer/general contractor/ subcontractor to exercise the reasonable degree of care, skill and knowledge that is ordinarily employed by such building professionals. The duty of care is extended to all who may “foreseeably be injured by the construction defect”, including subsequent purchasers. Developers and general contractors are responsible for the negligence of their subcontractor.

Breach of Contract

Homeowners can sue the builder/developer, under theories based upon privity of contract, for breach of any obligation set forth in the purchase and sale documentation, and/or the escrow instructions. Typically, this is something that goes beyond a failure of the builder to build the project in accordance with the plans and specifications.

When such claims are made, courts often invoke the doctrine of substantial performance, which typically requires the builder to pay the contract price with the deduction for the reduced market value of the home/unit caused by the failure of the builder to strictly comply with the plans and specifications.

Breach of Warranty

Similar to breach of contract theories, the purchase documentation between the developer and the homeowner often sets forth warranties regarding the condition of the property. If there is an issue as to breach of an express warranty, the principles of contract apply. Courts have held that builders and sellers of new construction should be held to what is implied, that the completed structure was designed and constructed in a reasonable workmanlike manner. A builder/vendor is subject to the theory that a home was built for sale to the public to be used for a specific purpose. Privity of contract is not always required under this particular theory of liability.

In some states, homebuyers may waive or builders may disclaim implied warranties. If disclaimers are involved, they are strictly construed against the seller/developer. Typically, waivers are difficult to enforce.

Strict Liability Claims

In most jurisdictions, the implied warranty of habitability imposes strict liability on the general contractor. The theory of strict liability against a general contractor evolved from products liability law. In a strict liability case the plaintiff does not have to prove the general contractor or developer was negligent in the construction of the home. They do have to prove the defendant was involved in the mass production of housing, a defect in the house exists, damages were proximately caused by the defect, and the defendant caused or created the defect.

Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation

Fraud is alleged on the grounds that the developer intentionally misrepresented the quality of construction in false statements or advertisements. It must be shown the developer had no intention of following the design plans and specifications as promised.

Negligent misrepresentation is based on proving the developer asserted something as factual, but had no reasonable basis for believing the information to be true.

Limits on Potential Claims

Most states impose time limits on construction defect claims by Statutes of repose and Statutes of limitations. Statutes of repose specify the time period within which a cause of action can arise at all. Under these statutes, the limitation period may expire before the plaintiff’s cause of action has arisen. Conversely, statutes of limitation foreclose suits after a fixed period of time following occurrence or discovery of an injury. These statues are complex and vary from state to state. It is critical that you seek the advice of an experienced attorney if you believe the damages to your home are the result of a construction defect before you lose your right to seek a remedy from the responsible parties.

In most states the time limits begin to run when the defect is discovered, or should have been discovered by a reasonable person. If the defect is patent, or apparent based on reasonable inspection, the action against a defendant must begin within the time period specified by state law. If the defect is latent, or not readily apparent by reasonable inspection, any action to recover damages generally must be within ten years after improvements are substantially completed.


Construction defect litigation is complex. It may involve several defendants, include insurance companies and involve many legal theories. Most states impose complex time limits on when a claim may be brought. If you believe your home suffers from a defect caused by the builder, or another party, protect your rights. Talk to an attorney with experience in this complex area of law.

Copyright ©1994-2005 FindLaw, a Thomson Business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.


Frequently Asked Questions about Housing and Construction Defects

Q: What is a construction defect?

A: A construction defect is a condition in your home that reduces the value of the home. Some defects are obvious such as water seepage, but many are less obvious and do not become apparent until years after the home was built.

Q: What causes a construction defect?

A: A construction defect can arise from a variety of factors, such as poor workmanship or the use of inferior materials. Many arise from a combination of factors, including:

Improper soil analysis and preparation
Site selection and planning
Civil and structural engineering
Negligent construction
Defective building materials
Q: What are some of the most common types of construction defects?

A: The most common types of defects involved in litigation include:

Water issues
Electrical systems
Landscaping and soil
Faulty drainage
Foundation, floor, wall and roof cracks
Dry rot
Structural failure
Heating and electrical
Q: How is a construction defect proved in court?

A: It depends on the defect. Some defects are obvious and are called “patent”. Other defects are hidden or do not become apparent until years after the home was built. These defects are called “latent”. A successful construction defect litigation claim relies on the testimony of experts who specialize in specific areas of construction. The experts investigate the defect, evaluate the cause and make recommendations for how to remedy the defects.

Q: What kind of damages can be recovered?

A: It depends on the facts and circumstances of your case, but in general the cost of repairs and the decline in the value of your home may be recovered. Additionally, other recoverable damages might include the loss of the use of property during the repair, the cost of temporary housing, court costs, and in some instances the attorney’s fees if provided for in the contract or by your state’s laws. Of course, any personal injuries resulting from the defect may be recovered. In some instances punitive damages may be assessed against the defendant if the court finds their behavior to be reckless and intentional.

Q: Who pays for the damages?

A: Typically the defendant’s insurance company that was in effect when the damage was first noticed will be responsible for paying the damages.

Q: Are there any time limits on filing a lawsuit for repairs?

A: Yes, but it varies by state. Many states have legislation that requires the homeowner or homeowners association to notify the developer or contractor of the defect and give them an opportunity to remedy the damage. Then they can file a lawsuit if the defect is not repaired. The statute of limitations (the time limit for filing a suit) also depends on whether the defect is latent (hidden and not obvious to a reasonable person) or patent (obvious). The shortest time limit is three years from the date the defect is discovered, or should have discovered the problem. Other statutes start from the date of completion of the home. It is important to take action immediately if your home has a construction defect.

Q: Who is responsible for construction defects?

A: There may be several responsible parties, but generally the responsibility will lay with the general contractors, developers, and the builders of residential structures even if the work was performed by subcontractors or if the defective materials used in construction were manufactured by others. Architects, designers and other involved parties may also be defendants in litigation.

Q: Should I make repairs while the lawsuit is pending and can I recover those costs in the lawsuit?

A: Usually the homeowner or homeowner’s association is required to protect property from sustaining additional damage. Such costs are recoverable in the lawsuit. Failure to perform routine maintenance and reasonable repairs can cause or contribute to additional damages, which could be offset from the owners claim and lead to the defense of “failure to mitigate damages”.

Q: Can I sell my home during a pending lawsuit?

A: Generally homeowners are allowed to sell their home during the lawsuit but most states have a disclosure law that requires a homeowner to disclose to a potential buyer that the home is involved in litigation.

Copyright ©1994-2005 FindLaw, a Thomson Business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.


lawn care


If you have a yard or garden, you know that grass clippings, leaves, dead plants, tree branches and shrub trimmings can add up fast–especially in late summer. An alternative to having it hauled away is to turn all the organic waste into compost.

At first glance, a compost pile may look like a big pile of dead leaves, old plants and grass clippings. Inside, though, there’s a bit of backyard science taking place. Microorganisms are eating away at that pile of yard waste and turning it into compost. Compost is really a nutrient-rich soil amendment, much like a fertilizer, that helps vegetables, flowers, lawns and potted plants grow healthier and stronger.

The process of composting is a natural occurrence that happens all around us–it ‘s nature’s way of recycling organic material. When a leaf or tree limb falls in the woods, it eventually decays and turns to compost and acts as a natural fertilizer that encourages new growth. This process can takes years.

When you compost at home, you speed up the process. With a little planning, you can produce usable compost in as little as three weeks. And, despite what people think, a properly maintained compost system doesn’t create any unpleasant odors.

The first thing to know about composting is what can and can’t be composted. The simple answer is–any plant material that was once alive can be composted:

fallen leaves
grass and lawn clippings
old fruits and vegetables
annual weeds before they seed
remains of garden plants
woodchips and sawdust
fruit and vegetable peels and scraps
tea bags
coffee grounds
Do not compost the following materials:

painted or chemically treated wood
diseased plants
annual weeds that have gone to seed
roots of perennial weeds
human and pet waste, including litter
meat scraps
fatty foods
milk products
While home composting is becoming more popular, a growing number of cities and municipalities are also realizing the benefits of composting. Many now operate large-scale composting facilities to help cut down on the growing amount of material going into landfills. The process is similar to a home composting system, but on a larger scale.

It takes about three to four months, a controlled combination of moisture, air, microorganisms and temperatures reaching up to 160 degrees F to turn yard waste into compost. Some of the finished compost is sold to landscaping companies, some is used in sanitary landfills and the rest is given away to gardeners.

On a smaller scale, starting your own home composting system is pretty easy. You can either buy a commercial composting bin or build one yourself. The choice really depends on how much material you have to recycle and how fast you want to make finished compost.

Freestanding compost piles are the simplest system. If you don’t have a lot of material and you’re not in a hurry, this is the one for you. Just start piling on the yard debris and food scraps and let nature do the rest. Be patient: this form of passive composting can take up to two years to make finished compost.

Enclosed one-bin systems make compost more quickly and require a little more maintenance. It’s a great way to get started with composting. You can buy several types of bins at nurseries, hardware stores, home improvement centers, garden catalogs or on the Internet:

A hoop-type composter is just a piece of plastic with lots of holes in it. Fill it with waste materials and mix, or turn, the contents every week or two with a pitchfork or shovel. You can have finished compost in 3 to 4 months.
A square plastic bin is a fancier unit with vents in the side for aeration and small openings for easy removal of the finished compost. These units cost anywhere from $150 to $200.
A compost tumbler is more user-friendly than a bin that sits on the ground. Fill it with waste materials and rather than turning it, just rotate the bin to mix and aerate. This system costs about $150 to $200 and creates compost in about 3 to 4 weeks.
If you don’t want to purchase a compost bin, you can make one out of wire, wood , concrete blocks or even a plastic garbage can with holes drilled into it.
Four wooden pallets can be used to contain a compost pile. To make turning the pile and removing the finished compost easier, hinge the front pallet so it swings open. A note: when using wood, avoid using treated lumber because it may contain toxic chemicals that could leach into the compost.
A wire bin is made by making a circle with garden stakes that measures 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Wrap wire fencing around the stakes, attaching it securely with cable ties.
A one-bin unit is great for making a single batch of compost every few months. If you have a lot of yard and garden waste and want to produce a steadier supply of compost throughout the growing season, a single bin probably won’t be enough. You may have to graduate to a multi-bin system to recycle the material that your yard produces.


Five easy annuals for every garden

If you only had time and space to grow five summer flowers, which ones would you choose? We asked ourselves that question last year. Flowers in dazzling colors topped our list-ones whose vivid hues would stop passersby in their tracks and invite lingering looks. We’d toss in a few varieties with eye-catching frills, spots, or stripes.

Our next criterion: They would be annual (or behave that way), going from seed, tuber, or seedling to flower to seed again in one glorious spring-to-fall season. They would be easy to plant and easy to grow. We wanted nothing that needed fussing over, nothing temperamental or wimpy. The flowers had to be good for bouquets or good companions for cutting flowers. We wanted ones that would bloom over a long season (as long as we were faithful about deadheading, of course).
We made a list and pared it down. We browsed through nurseries and catalogs, choosing plants that piqued our interest. Finally we planted many varieties of five flower groups in Sunset’s test garden in Menlo Park, California.
As they grew, we studied their backgrounds, noting that all of them hail from hot climates. Cosmos originated in tropical America. Dahlias come from Mexico and Central America, where they were first used as food (their tubers contain a nourishing starchy substance not unlike a potato), while improved varieties bloomed lustily at Montezuma’s gardens in Huaxtepec. The marigold family, despite French and African names, is entirely American, found from New Mexico and Arizona south to Argentina. Summer mums are native to Morocco and have naturalized in sand dunes along Southern California’s coast. Sunflowers grow wild from Minnesota to the Pacific Coast and south to Argentina. (Red sunflowers descend from Helianthus annuus lenticularis, a variety found in 1910 near Boulder, Colorado.) Together, these groups make up a colorful and sunny brotherhood.
By early summer, there was an abundance of blooms that we enjoyed as much in bouquets as in the garden. Our vases were always full. And those elec tric colors did more than caffeine to jump-start our days. We made note of the duds and the stars; our favorites are listed below. April is a splendid time to plant them all.
Annual Chrysanthemums
Unlike the muted, mostly warm-toned perennials that sustain the autumn border, annual chrysanthemums are generally earlier and brighter, and flower longer. You’re likely to encounter two kinds, both native to the Mediterranean region and both recently renamed by taxonomists (the new designation follows the old in these descriptions).

Tricolor daisy (Chrysanthemum carinatum, now Glebionis carinatum) is a 1- to 3-foot-tall annual whose flowers have bright bands of color around dark centers.

Court Jesters mix comes in orange, rose, salmon, scarlet, white, and yellow White Carinatum Dunnettii Choice mix has white, yellow, bronze, and crimson flowers. In ‘German Flag’, scarlet rays and a golden yellow band surround the central disk. Merry mix has multicolored bull’s-eye flowers on 2- to 3-foot-tall plants. Single Annual mixed comes in yellow, pink, purple, and rust.

It’s a shame crown daisy (Chrysanthemum coronarium, now Glebionis coronaria) had its botanical name changed, since the word chrysanthemum combines the Greek for gold (chrysos) and for flower (anthos)-a perfect description for this lovely annual, which usually has yellow petal-like rays and a yellow central disk. Flowers can be single or double.

‘Primrose Gem’ is a double yellow on a 3 1/2- to 4-foot stem.

Cosmos (C. bipinnatus) must be one of the easiest annuals ever. Sow its seeds once, and pink or white flowers come back year after year from their own seeds. Flowers (mostly singles) start blooming in early summer and continue for months until the first hard frost. The wonderful Sensation strain is the best known of the clan, but cosmos come in many other flower forms-some have rolled or filled petals-and in a range of solid colors and stripes.

‘Candy Stripe’ produces white flowers with crimson borders or stripes and grows to 3 to 31/2 feet tall. Three-foot-tall ‘Daydream’ has petals of rosy pink that fade to pale pink edges. Psyche mix bears semidouble blooms and grows to 3 feet tall. Seashell mix (to 31/2 ft. tall) has rolled petals in creamy white and shades of red, rose, and pale seashell pink. Sonata mix, a 2-foot dwarf, bears many 3-inch single blooms in white, pink, and mixes. ‘Versailles Tetra’ (to 3 ft. tall) has 4inch pink flowers and darker shading around a bright yellow eye.

Yellow cosmos (C. sulfureus) brings yellow and red flowers into the cosmos clan, but at a cost: Its seeds don’t germinate as easily as common cosmos, and its flowers tend to be smaller (2 in. in diameter) than other cosmos. Many gardeners find it easiest to grow from nursery seedlings.

Bright Lights mix has large (2 1/2-in.) flowers of yellow, gold, orange, or scarlet on 3- to 4-foot plants. ‘Lemon Twist’ bears clear lemon yellow flowers on stems to 2 1/2 feet tall. Ladybird mix grows to only 1 foot in height. Sunny Orange-Red and Sunny Gold top out at 15 inches.

During the 19th century in England, winning dahlias fetched hefty cash prizes in competitions, motivating breeders to produce a steady stream of larger, increasingly exotic varieties. In The English Flower Garden (1883), English landscape designer William Robinson called the large-flowered varieties “monstrosities,” prompting breeders to work on smaller single-flowering types to be used as bedding plants. Today, Westerners grow both. Named varieties, many of them magnificent in bouquets, number in the tens of thousands.

‘Anatole’ has white flowers streaked with crimson and grows to 3 1/2 feet tall. ‘Bashful’ (2 1/2 ft. tall) bears deep purple blooms with lavender tips and golden yellow centers. The flowers of 5-foot-tall ‘Chilson’s Pride’ are pure pink with white centers. ‘Pink Gingham’ (to 4 1/2 ft. tall) has petals of bright lavender-pink with white tips. ‘Siemen Doornbosch’ bears lilac blossoms with creamy pincushion centers on stems to 1 1/2 feet tall. On ‘Wheels’ (to 3 1/2 ft. tall), red petals and a yellow fringe surround the center disk.

The vast array of garden marigolds traces back to three ancestors: African marigolds, French marigolds, and signet marigolds, all of which originated in the Americas.

In the 16th century, the Spanish took seeds of Tagetes erecta to Africa, where it naturalized so quickly that botanists thought it must have been native there. When T. erecta finally reached England, the Brits named it African marigold. The name still sticks–especially in the craws of growers who would like to see it renamed American marigold. These 1- to 3-foot-tall plants do well in heat and produce huge flowers.

‘French Vanilla’ and ‘Snowball’ are creamy white 2-footers. Inca mix and ‘Perfection’, both with gold, orange, and yellow flowers, are excellent midsize varieties. ‘First Lady’ (to 20 in.) has yellow flowers. ‘Deep Orange Lady’ (to 20 in.) blooms in orange. Plants of Sugar and Spice mix bear 3 1/2-inch flowers of orange, yellow, and white on 20-inch-tall stems.

French marigold (T. patula) came to England via France, so it, too, wound up with a logical but inaccurate moniker. These marigolds are shorter and more refined, usually staying below 1 foot tall.

Disco mix has single 2 1/4-inch flowers of clear yellow, orange, or red on compact 10-inch plants. ‘Gypsy Sunshine’ (frilly butter yellow blooms) and ‘Honeycomb’ (frilly reddish petals edged with gold) are floriferous 6- to 10-inch-tall plants. ‘Jaguar’ bears single golden yellow flowers dabbed with maroon spots over neat, mounding 10-inch plants. ‘Mr. Majestic’ produces single bright yellow blooms with mahogany stripes on a 1- to 2-foot plant. The single flowers of ‘Striped Marvel’ (2 ft.) are striped red and gold like a pinwheel.

Signet marigolds (T tenuifolia) produce many yellow flowers on 8to 16-inch plants with fine foliage.

‘Lemon Gem’ and ‘Golden Gem’ both have dainty single flowers on 8-inch plants. Starfire mix has miniature single flowers in shades of red to gold and reaches 12 to 14 inches in height.

In 1888, while living in southern France, Vincent van Gogh made a remarkable series of sunflower paintings. Done to decorate his house for a visit from fellow artist Paul Gauguin, the works show sunflowers with dark and light centers, long and short petals, and blooms of many sizes. These oils hint at the wonderful variety of these large, sunny

Sunflowers grow quickly and are easy to tend–that’s why they’re favorites with children. If you want to use them for cut flowers, as van Gogh did, choose varieties with long stems and smaller flowers. It helps if they’re pollenless, so they don’t shed on your furniture and carpet.

Pollenless ‘Dorado’ bears golden yellow flowers with dark centers on 5-foot stems. ‘Sunrich Lemon’ is pollenless and has 3-to 8-inch flowers with lemon yellow petals and black disks on 4- to 6-foot-tall plants. ‘Strawberry Blonde’ is pollenless and bears 5-inch straw-colored flowers overlaid with light red on 6-foot-tall stems. Multiflowering branching types such as creamy yellow ‘Valentine’ (5 to 6 ft. tall with 5- to 6-in, blooms) look better in the garden longer than single-stemmed sunflowers like ‘Sunrich Lemon’.

Plant Our Fiesta Flower Bed
This dazzling combination glows in the summer sun. Many of these flowers–especially the cosmos–attract butterflies and hummingbirds. In late summer and early fall, flocks of tiny finches and other seed-eating birds swoop in to graze among the spent blooms. Mass the taller-growing cosmos in the rear, with a clump of sunflowers behind (optional) and dahlias, marigolds, and midsize cosmos in the middle row. Plant lower-growing marigolds and yellow cosmos in front.

A. Ladybird mix dwarf cosmos; B. ‘Mr. Majestic’ marigold; C. ‘Tangerine Gem’ or Starfire mix marigold; D. ‘Bashful’ dahlia; E. Ladies mix marigold; F. Sonata mix cosmos; G. Sonata White cosmos; H. Seashell mix cosmos; I. Bright Lights mix cosmos; J. ‘Candy Stripe’ cosmos; K. Cosmos Sensation strain.

Planting and care Except where noted, these annuals prefer mostly sunny locations. Keep old flowers picked off to prolong bloom.

Annual mums. In hot climates, choose a spot that gets some afternoon shade. Sow seeds outdoors after weather warms for blooms in summer and fall. (If you live in a mild-winter climate, you can also sow in fall for spring and summer bloom.) You may also plant from nursery containers. Summer mums aren’t fussy about soil. Space plants about 8 inches apart. Water deeply and frequently where soils are porous, less in heavy soils. Feed mums two to three times during the growing season.
Cosmos. Sow seeds in open ground from spring to summer, or set out transplants from cell-packs, 4-inch pots, or 1-gallon cans. (Yellow cosmos are easiest to start from nursery-grown plants.) Cosmos will flower best in poor, sandy soil; heavily amended soils and lots of fertilizer result in fewer flowers. Space plants about 12 to 18 inches apart. They can tolerate some aridity, but for best bloom, water them regularly (once a week or so), especially in hot inland valleys.
Dahlias. Provide light afternoon shade in hottest areas. Plant tubers in spring after soil has warmed and danger of frost is past. Dig holes 1 foot deep in loose loam high in organic matter. Space largest kinds 4 to 5 feet apart and smallest ones only 1 to 2 feet apart. Drive a stake into the hole; place the tuber horizontally, 2 inches from the stake, with the eye pointing toward it. Cover tuber with 3 inches of soil and water thoroughly. As shoots grow, gradually fill the hole with soil. Start watering regularly after shoots are above the ground. Dahlias planted in soil enriched with compost rarely, if ever, need supplemental fertilizer.
Marigolds. Plant in full sun. Marigolds are easy to grow from seed and sprout in a few days in warm soil. Or set out plants from nursery flats, cell-packs, or 4-inch pots. Slugs and snails are especially fond of young marigold foliage; use traps or ring the planting with horticultural diatomaceous earth (available at nurseries).
Sunflowers. Sow seeds in spring. If you use young nursery plants, space them 8 to 12 inches apart in soil well amended with compost. After true leaves appear, water plants deeply once a week. Fertilize once when plants are actively growing, using a controlled-release fertilizer. Large-flowered kinds need rich soil and lots of water.
Flowers. Today the color range is even greater, with red, mahogany, and white forms in many sizes.

Landscape Design
“We are in the decade of the environment,” says Philip G. Gibson, Ph.D., an instructor at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Gibson, who has created more than 3,000 landscape plans, teaches courses as part of Gwinnett’s environmental horticulture program. “Horticulturists are environmentalists. People are drawn to our programs because they want to be in what is called the ‘green industry.”‘

Landscape designers design outdoor, and sometimes indoor, areas for both residential and commercial spaces. Designs always include horticulture (trees, flowers, and ornamental plants) but also may include fountains, walkways, fences, ponds, decks, and lighting.

“There are various types of designs,” says Tom Delaney, executive vice president of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA). They’ may be, used for anything from a small project “renovating a landscape with plants, to a medium project with payers and a wall, to a large project with fountains.”

What The Customer Wants
A landscape designer must first meet with a customer to find out what he or she wants. A preliminary sketch will help the designer stay on the right track.

Meeting the customer’s needs is one of the most critical components of designing a landscape. In fact, in design competitions sponsored by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), it is the most important criterion by which student designs are judged.

“It’s what the customer wants and how you translate it,” says Edward (Ted) Mitchell, owner of a landscaping and lawn maintenance business in New Jersey. “Some people have trouble envisioning things. You must interpret what they want. If you misinterpret something, then you don’t get the job.”

Looks Good–But Does It Work?
A landscape designer needs to know what looks good to the customer’s eye, but must also know what works well in a particular environment. Mitchell says you must be able to advise the customer on what works in that geographical area and what doesn’t work.

“There is a huge selection of plants. There are all different types of environments,” he says. “Some homeowners who don’t use a landscape designer may put trees in places where they actually become a nuisance, even though they may look beautiful at first,” says Delaney. “There are challenges in different areas of the country, depending on the weather.”

Maintenance And More
An important aspect of any landscape design is the amount of maintenance it will require once the design is installed. “A landscape designer will ask the customer how much maintenance they will want to do,” says Delaney. “Having good designs to meet the customer’s maintenance expectations is important.”

Mitchell notes that success with a landscape design also means avoiding problems before they start. “You’d better be able to identify funguses, molds, and insects,” he insists. “[This knowledge] is important to design. [Everything] is all so interrelated. The best landscaper knows what works in the area. It makes [for] a better designer.”

Presentation Is Everything
Once the design is complete, it must be presented to the customer. There are now software programs that will “age” the design so that the customer can see what the landscape will look like in several years when the plantings are more mature.

Once approved, the project enters the “build” phase. The designer will typically oversee the landscape installation to ensure it is built according to the approved design.

Get Involved Early
You can get involved in landscape design early by looking into organizations such as a local 4-H club or Future Farmers of America (FFA), which promote student interest in agricultural careers. Taking classes in agriculture is also helpful.

“Students [in high school] should check to see it their school has a horticultural program,” says Gibson. “Some high schools even have greenhouses.”

Math courses are also useful to the landscape designer. “You have to take a survey and break [the site] into scale,” says Mitchell. “You have to consider all elevations, like if you’re building steps to a pool apron that’s not there. You have to consider the pitches.”

Field Work A Plus
By getting out in the field and doing landscape “build” and maintenance, you may work your way into a landscape design career–if you have the creative ability.

“Students out of high school may begin with landscape installation and maintenance and then get to design as part of that business,” says Gibson.

“I’ve seen some of the best landscape design people come out of the field,” says Charles Bowers, of Garden Gate Landscaping, Inc., in Maryland. He has hired students following a two-year program. “They have an inherent talent, a design ability.”

Additional Education
In addition to learning by doing, there are programs at colleges, workshops, and certification programs that can help you enter the field.

“There is some sort of horticultural program with a design component at most two-year colleges,” says Bowers.

Mitchell agrees. “There are course opportunities at colleges and seminars,” he says. “There are all types of horticultural courses.”

Architect Vs. Designer
A landscape designer is not the same as a landscape architect. They vary in terms of educational requirements and salaries earned. For instance, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (in landscape architecture) and licensing are required in most states to become a landscape architect.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for landscape design in residential areas because landscape architects are more focused on commercial [properties] and homes above a half a million dollars,” says Gibson. “Normally designers and architects don’t bump up against each other much.”

Never Bored
Delaney believes there is always something new and exciting in landscape design. “Landscape lighting, how the property will look in the night, is something new,” he says. “As trends and demands change, you’ll never be bored.”

Gibson says that there are opportunities for landscape designers, such as running your own business or working for public institutions, such as highway departments. Designers can also do public gardening and professional personal gardening for wealthy individuals.

“A salary of around $35,000 could be brought in doing this,” says Gibson. “It is creative and something where you can see what you’ve done.”

Mitchell agrees. “The lawn maintenance is the bread and butter, but what I love to do is the design.”

Growing Strong
“People are demanding green space,” says Gibson. “They have a connection with the earth, and they want a peaceful feeling. Green space is becoming more valuable. Any career associated with the environment is going to flourish.”


Lawn Care
Before the invention of mowing machines in 1830, lawns were managed differently from today. Lawns belonging to wealthy people were sometimes maintained by the labour-intensive methods of scything and shearing. In most cases however, they were pasture land, maintained by grazing with sheep or other livestock. Areas of grass grazed regularly by rabbits, horses or sheep over a long period can form a very low, tight sward which is similar to a modern lawn. This was the original meaning of the word ‘lawn’, and the term can still be found in place-names. Some forest areas where extensive grazing is practiced still have these semi-natural lawns. For example, in the New Forest, England, such grazed areas still occur commonly and are still called lawns, for example Balmer Lawn.

Lawns became popular in Europe from the Middle Ages onward. The early lawns were not always distinguishable from pasture fields. It is thought that the associations with pasture and the biblical connotations of this word made them attractive culturally. By contrast, they are little known or used in this form in other traditions of gardening. In addition, the damp climate of maritime Western Europe made them easier to grow and manage than in other lands.

Lawns do not have to be, and have not always been of grass. Other possible plants for fine lawns in the right conditions, are camomile and thyme. Some lawns, if grown in difficult conditions for grasses, become dominated by whatever weeds can survive there; these include clovers in dry conditions, and moss in damp shady conditions.

Maintaining a rough lawn requires only occasional cutting with a suitable machine, or grazing by animals. Higher quality lawns however require a number of operations. These may include:

mowing, to cut the grass regularly to an even height
scarifying and raking, to remove dead grass and prevent tufting
rolling, to encourage tillering (branching of grass plants), and to level the ground
top dressing the lawn with sand, soil or other material
spiking, to relieve compaction of the soil
watering, to prevent from going dormant and turning brown
herbicide and pesticide application to manage weeds and pests
A number of criticisms of lawns are based on environmental grounds

Many lawns tend to be composed of a single species of plant, or of very few species, which reduces biodiversity, especially if the lawn covers a large area. In addition, they may be composed primarily of plants not local to the area which can further decrease local biodiversity.
Lawns are sometimes cared for by using pesticides and other chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment.
Maintaining a green lawn often requires large amounts of water. The use of such large amounts on plants that are often unsuited for their environment puts a strain on water supplies (especially during drought years), requiring larger more environmentally invasive water supply systems. Grass typically goes dormant by turning brown during hot, dry summer months, thereby reducing its demand for water. But this appearance may be unacceptable to the lawn owner.
In the US and some other areas, lawn heights are generally maintained by poorly tuned gasoline push or riding lawnmowers, which use an excessive amount of fuel and contribute to urban smog during the summer months.
Lawns use up vast areas of arable land often obtained through the expropriation of farmers from their land to make room for suburbs in North America.
However, using ecological techniques, the impact of lawns can sometimes be reduced. Such methods include the use of local grasses, using only organic fertilizers, and introducing a variety of plants to the lawn. In addition to the environmental criticisms, some gardeners question the aesthetic value of lawns. One positive benefit of a healthy lawn is that of a filter for contaminants and to prevent run-off and erosion of bare dirt.


Lawn Irrigation Systems
Due to competing needs for existing water resources, the amount of water available for irrigation is dwindling. Like it or not, we’re going to have to learn to irrigate more efficiently. This is why it is so important to schedule irrigation according to plant needs, not simply according to a clock. The latter is the case with all automatically scheduled irrigation that does not take the weather (sun, wind, temperature), evaporation and transpiration (ET) into consideration.

If you don’t know how well your irrigation system is operating, or how much water is being delivered by each sprinkler in a zone, you should perform an assessment and an audit to obtain this valuable information. You can then use this information to make changes to the irrigation system that will increase efficiency.

Assessing Your System
Before you can improve your system, you must determine its inefficiencies and then commit to making the changes needed to bring it up to par. Changes might involve respacing sprinklers, reducing pressure, changing nozzles, resizing pipes, repairing or modifying a pumping system, upgrading a controller, adding or recalibrating a weather station, adding flow and metering devices, or other changes that may be needed. Many irrigation systems operate at around 65- to 70-percent water-use efficiency. If you can increase the efficiency by as little as 10 percent, the resulting water savings will be substantial. Water savings at sites we have worked on ranged from 25 percent up to a 72-percent savings for a 24-acre site. The latter has resulted in a substantial saving on their water bill — to date, enough to pay for the audit five times over.

Additional savings can be realized in the form of less electricity for pumping, lower fertilizer needs, fewer system component repairs from reduced operating time and slower plant growth, resulting in less frequent maintenance services.

At one site, we introduced a flow sensor so we could track real flow numbers. This goes a long way in demonstrating the savings that you actually achieve. Another useful device is a dedicated, irrigation water meter. I find that when the actual amount of water used at a specific site (sports field, golf course, commercial site or even a large residential site) is known, the owners or managers are much more ready to adopt conservation practices to reduce the daily, weekly or monthly irrigation volume.

Some metering devices are capable of shutting down the main water supply in case a pipeline ruptures, which is another way to save water.

Auditing Your System
One of the main goals of a water audit is to achieve as balanced a system as possible based on economies of scale and return on investment. You would not spend $1,000 to get a $1.00 a year savings. However, you probably would spend $1,000 if that would net you a $500 reduction that year and every year after as long as you operated the irrigation system.

A balanced system applies water as evenly as possible throughout the irrigated zone. An unbalanced system may apply too much in one location, resulting in wet areas, while not applying enough in another location of the same zone, creating dry areas. The result is that you always overwater because you must run the system long enough to meet the requirements of the driest areas.

When considering an audit, it helps initially to actually watch the site’s system in operation. Doing so, you should be able to tell if overwatering is occurring and if you will be able to reduce the usage by a lot or just a little. You don’t want to spend your time — and your client doesn’t want to spend the money — where no substantial reductions will be achievable.

Obtain as much background information as you can. Weather data, historical water use, system layout, components, water source, water meters, controllers, etc. Prearrange with the client permission to operate each zone of the system for about 5 to 10 minutes.

==========================Gardening Tips
For every bed and every border, there must be a reason. Wendy Burroughs–self-taught gardener turned sought-after design pro–says you have to figure out that raison d’etre before you even shape the garden. “Is it an entry garden?” she asks. “Does it have to have a high-season splash of color? Are fall and winter interest important? Does it need to be low-maintenance?” More questions: “Do you want a specific kind of bed or border: English cottage garden? Mediterranean? Are deer a problem? Is water?” Only once you have asked yourself all these questions, and more (and, yes, answered them), can you begin to plan the shape of your gardens, Wendy says. And only after that can you start to figure out what plants you want and where you want them.

Wendy’s drive-side bed and border started out as shade gardens. Then a violent winter windstorm felled many of the 80-foot firs towering above her plantings. So the shade gardens had to become sun gardens. And the plants had to be removed and replaced. Is your planting area in shade or sun?–another question to ask yourself.

Wendy has another tip for you. You’ll like this one especially.

“It’s never a bad thing to make mistakes,” she says. “You learn by trial and error. I am completely self-taught by my mistakes. I don’t mind–I’m not a perfectionist. When something doesn’t work, I change it.”

If you need to move a plant, move it. “But after I move a plant three times, it goes into the compost pile.” Because sometimes a perfectly good plant turns out to have no earthly reason for being in your yard. “If it doesn’t look good, excuse it from the garden,” she says. “I used to have a big moral problem with that. Then I took out six crab apples.”

One more thing, Wendy says. Perennials aren’t the only answer. Make sure to integrate trees and shrubs into your herbaceous beds and borders.

Wendy started her drive-by border with a triangular anchor of trees–cherry, magnolia, and liquidambar. Then she introduced a slow-growing conifer–a golden Hinoki cypress–which gave a yearlong glow to her wonderful garden.

The addition of trees and shrubs does two things. One, it gives layers to your garden. The beds rise from ground-huggers to the coif-toppers, a must if your backdrop is–as it is for Wendy–filled with tall objects. But, two, the structural aspect of the woody plants gives you something pleasing to look at in the off-season–that oft-bandied term “winter interest.”

“In winter, when everything else is gone, those architectural plants are still holding it all together,” says Wendy. “I just love four-season borders.” If you plan well, she says, you will include some colorful berries; trees with striped, peeling, or glossy bark; yellow and blue evergreens; broadleaf evergreen shrubs; and deciduous woodies with interesting branching habits.

“I haven’t completely eliminated all-perennial gardens,” Wendy says. “I have some clients who still want them.”

Why Wendy Likes To Think Big
Seasoned gardeners know to do things in a big way. Paths shouldn’t be a stingy 2 or 3 feet wide; that’s a dog path. Paths should be 5 or even 6 feet wide. Two people should be able to walk side by side without tripping over each other. Benches, if they are to accommodate anyone but love-struck teens, should be 5 or 6 feet wide. For two more level-headed people to sit agreeably, 4 feet is too close for comfort. Elbows collide; drinks get spilled.

And then there are flower borders. “I used to think of borders as 4 feet deep,” Wendy says. “Now I make mine 10 to 12 feet deep.” That’s how you get all those ornamental trees and flowering shrubs in there. And, says Wendy, “It really knocks your socks off.”

A Few Parting Words From Wendy

Put some edibles in your landscape. “The kids graze all summer long, and we have apples all winter.”
Plant lots and lots of euphorbias. “I just love every one of them. They’re especially good in flower arrangements.”
And don’t spend too much on your garden too soon. “I first bought inexpensive trees like you can get from any drugstore. They were like pencils. When a local nursery moved, I pulled trees out of their Dumpster. I learned on cheap plants and moved up from there.”
And Now a Few Words About Edging

Wendy first edged her oval island bed with rocks she collected on the property. Funny thing though–weeds don’t know they aren’t supposed to grow in and among stones. In fact, weed seeds like to lodge there. Worse, it is hard to weed out rogues around and under rocks. So what started out as a weed-suppressant idea became a weed-germination nightmare. Solution: Wendy pulled back the stones, had a concrete barrier laid, and set the stones back in the concrete:

If you have flowerbeds next to your lawn, edging (such as flat stone or bricks) can provide double duty. This soil-level barrier not only keeps your lawn and your perennials from encroaching on each other’s turf, but also acts as a mowing path. Run the wheels of one side of your mower right on top of the stone or brick. The grass will be cut at a uniform height, and there will be no telltale line of towering stragglers along the edging. Nope, no hand shears or weed trimmers needed.

From the Beginning: Think About Your Soil Before You Plant

Back in 1988, Wendy’s five-acre property was “choked with woods,” she says. “I grew up in the woods, but this was 8 feet of debris, tree trunks piled high. There was no light–not even blackberries could grow there.” When she had the trees thinned, “it was the biggest land-clear the guy had done on the island.” The marketable logs were taken out, and the rest of the stumps, logs, and forest debris was burned. “My husband could see the fire from his office in Seattle. It burned for a week.” Then came the storm of ’93, and shade turned to sun. “I was so naive: I bought packets of seed and scattered them in the turnaround without amending the soil or anything.” Pffft: zilch. So she amended the soil with peat from an island bog. “They brought it in by the truckload. It was goopy, oily, thick pudding,” she recalls. “And hard to work with. But it worked like steroids on my plants. Now I always spend as much in soil amendments as I do in plant material.”

Garden Plans
Most yards start out as a standard rectangle. It is up to you to break out of the box. But unlike Wendy’s garden, yours probably needs to have some lawn. Kids, croquet, whatever. Here are four starting points (page 171) to get you thinking about what kind of shape or shapes you might want to impose on your landscape. Rather than just line the edge of the property with a hedge, think of the boundary as opportunity for border gardens. And maybe that’s all the gardening you want to do. For now. But gardening has a way of becoming an itch you just can’t help but scratch, and somewhere along the line you may decide more is better. The shape you stamp on your backyard is one of the greatest injections of personality you can make on your garden. Just remember: These shapes should have a reason too. Think: How do I use my yard?

Garden Plans
The Garden Retreat This plan features a wide flower border on the left and an entertaining area (or a spot for seclusion) way out back.
The Cottage Garden An ambling, free-form lawn seeps like a slow river through undulating flowerbeds. Ah, to be in England.
The Formal Garden Circular turf areas give strong geometry in a dramatic space. Ample areas are provided for ornamental plantings.
Room for Kids Here children can get up a full head of steam and still avoid trampling on the flowerbeds. So they can play while you plant.
Organic Lawn Care
Elise Craig lives in a garden apartment in Portland, Oregon, where children roll in the grass and run barefoot across lawns in the summer light. A year ago, she realized that whenever the landlord spread lawn-care chemicals on the grass, her six-year-old son, Michael, lost bowel and bladder control for weeks afterward.

“Michael’s symptoms came back every time they treated the lawn,” says Craig. “They told us it was safe after a day, so I kept him off the grass for a week or two. Michael still got sick. We were ultimately successful in organizing our community to go organic, but we are about to move, and I may face this battle in our new home with new neighbors.”

In Portland, where Craig organized teams of weed-pulling parents at her son’s school (with help from a principal who’s an organic farmer), the city has put up billboards that say, “Is Your Lawn Chemical-Free? Maybe It Should Be.”

Each year, Americans apply more than 80 million pounds of chemical products–including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides–to their lawns and gardens.

Homeowners often don’t realize the myriad health hazards associated with lawn-care pesticides sold under such innocuous names as Weed & Feed and Bug-B-Gon. These products contain pesticides such as 2,4-D (linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and MCPP (associated with soft-tissue cancers).

People think the government would warn them if these widely sold chemicals were known to damage their nervous systems, harm fetuses or give them cancer. None of these long-term adverse health effects are required by law to be listed on product labels.

“Forty years ago, in the enormously praised and fiercely criticized book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson demonstrated the dangers of pesticides,” says H. Patricia Hynes, director of the Urban Environmental Health Initiative at Boston University and author of The Recurring Silent Spring. “Lawn chemical usage has nearly doubled since 1964.”

Pesticides used solely on lawns are not required to undergo the same rigorous testing for long-term health effects as those used on food. No federal studies have assessed the safety of lawn-care chemicals in combination, as most are sold. Because of industry lobbying, the identities of “inert ingredients” are protected as trade secrets under federal law. Pesticides may contain up to 99 percent inert ingredients, some of which are suspected carcinogens, while others are linked to nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage and birth defects.

“More than 90 percent of pesticides and inert ingredients are never tested for their effects on developing nervous systems,” says John Wargo, director of the Yale Center for Children’s Environmental Health and author of Risks from Lawn-Care Pesticides, a report from Environment and Human Health. “Children are more affected by exposure to such chemicals because they are smaller and their organs are not mature.”

Wargo adds, “Streams and groundwater in the Midwest are contaminated with atrazine, a widely used herbicide linked to sexual mutations in fish and amphibians. Is this the price we pay for green lawns?”

The Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect the public from environmental and health threats posed by atrazine, which is banned by the European Union. “Atrazine poses a serious cancer risk for millions of Americans,” says Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides. “Companies, federal and state regulators downplay the hazards of commonly used pesticides.”

Steps To Pesticide Freedom
Try “natural” alternatives. Chrysanthemum-derived pesticides, diatomaceous earth and boric acid are sold in garden centers. SharpShooter (citric acid) is an effective insecticide. Or make your own solution of three to six tablespoons of dishwashing soap (without degreaser) per gallon of water.

Squirt weeds. Instead of RoundUp, use BurnOut (lemon juice and vinegar) to kill weeds along walkways. And what’s so terrible about clover anyway?

Get rid of grubs. Beneficial nematodes and milky spore kill them.

Choose native plants. Replace grass with ground covers or wildflowers.

Know your insects. Some bugs are beneficial. Ladybugs eat aphids; lacewings eat caterpillars; and praying mantises eat all insects (even each other).

Go organic. Agricultural extensions often analyze soil for a small fee. Organic care nourishes the soil for a lawn that’s naturally luxuriant, disease-resistant and pest-free. CONTACT: Beyond Pesticides, (202)543-5450, www.beyondpesticides .org; Environment and Human Health, (203)248-6582, BurnOut and SharpShooter are available through St. Gabriel Laboratories, (800) 801-0061.

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Austin Solar Panels-How Much Will It Cost?

Article by Mark D. Meurs

The information here can help you to estimate an approximate size and cost of a photovoltaic (PV) solar system for a home located around Austin, Texas. The information can be used in other location with some adjustments.

Ultimately you will probably have a professional estimate if you will be having your system installed. This is also a good starting point for any do it yourselfer.

Most utility companies use the kilo watt hour (kWh) as the unit of billing for electricity. An appliance rated at 1000 watts (1 kilo watt) will consume 1 kWh when operated for one hour.

There are a number of things that influence what size PV system you will require and therefore the cost of the system. Location, electric consumption, shading, and the direction of the panels will all need to be considered when you size your system.

You will need to estimate your daily average kWh usage. One of the best ways to do this is to examine your electric bills and find the average daily kWh usage. This should be based on at least one year (preferably more) of usage. Generally you are billed in monthly billing cycles. Calculate the average daily kWh consumption for 12 or more cycles. Do this by dividing the total usage for the cycle by the number of days in the cycle. Then average the results from each of the 12 cycles. The average daily usage in the US is approximately 30 kWh/day.

You can choose to replace any amount of your current usage up to 100%. Actually, you can have a system that produces more than 100% if you want to sell power back to the grid or anticipate increased need in the future. In this example we will calculate for replacing 50% of the average US home or 17 kWh per day.

PV systems are measured in generating capacity in watts or kilowatts and not by square feet. A 1 kW system will produce 1 kW of DC electricity with one hour of direct sunlight (if all parameters are ideal). The DC electric must be converted to AC electricity to be used in your home. This process results in a total power loss of 7-10 percent. Therefore a 1 kW system will actually produce around 900 watt hours (0.9 kWh)per hour of sunlight, of AC electricity.

The next piece of information need is the average daily hours of direct sunlight in your area. Austin, Texas receive an average of 5.4 hours of direct sun daily. Therefore you can expect a 1 kW PV system to produce 4.86 kWh daily (5.4 X 0.9 =4.86). In our example we want to generate 15 kWh per day. We divide 15 by 4.86 and get 3.09. Therefore we will need approximately a 3 kW PV system to generate 15 kWh per day.

The cost of an installed PV system in the United Sates averages ,000 per kW of array. We multiply our desired size (3.5) by 10,000 to arrive at ,000 as the cost of our system, installed. Fortunately, this cost will be lowered quite a lot by Federal tax credits and local rebates.

At you will find reports detailing how to get tax credits and rebates as well as other FAQ’s. In addition there is a solar calculator to do all these calculations.

About the Author

Mark Meurs is the administrator of Austin Solar Solutions they provide answers to FAQ’s, Federal tax credit reports, a solar calculator and more.


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Why Does My Air Conditioner Keep Freezing Up?

low-on-freonIt’s summertime and the last thing you’d expect to see is your air conditioning unit frozen solid. If you find that your air conditioner keeps icing up during the hot months and cool nights, it could be due to multiple reasons but 8 times out of 10 it’s because your low on freon. When you’re low on freon that means you have a leak. If you have what’s called a micron leak, it could take several years for you to notice because it’s so small. Another reason could be if you’ve recently had rehab construction going on and another trade may have damaged the copper line-set or part of the refrigeration system. An experienced Naples AC repair contractor can help you or may be able to narrow it down yourself.

Here is a list you can use to narrow down the freezing problem with your air conditioner:

Check to see if your fan is working properly. If the fan in the AC unit isn’t churning out air like it’s supposed to, the cool air is confined within the unit, causing it to freeze over. If you notice that the fan isn’t moving air, then you can have an HVAC tech come by to check it out and repair it.
If you have your air conditioner on all night during cool evenings, not only are you raising up your energy bill, but it’s freezing up your unit. A broken thermostat can also cause your AC to run all night if you are wondering why it is doing so.
Check the refrigerant levels in your air conditioning unit. Believe it or not, when it doesn’t have enough coolant, it will cause the cold coil to become too cold, causing the unit to freeze. Fill it up, and if it runs out too quickly, it could be due to a leak. You will need an HVAC technician to come by and fix this problem.
Replace dirty filters. Not doing so will block the cool air flow from being released from your unit, causing your coil to get too cold, causing the water to freeze before it is able to drain. You should also check the units registers to ensure that they are clear for air to flow through. Avoid closing cold air outlets in your home because this can cause the unit to freeze and raise up your power bill.
If you notice that the coil is frozen, you should immediately shut off your air conditioner to avoid the entire unit freezing up. Not doing so can also cause damage to your compressor, which is an expensive part to replace. Once the coil thaws out, if you notice that your unit is making ice, there could be a drainage problem. The water should drain from the unit, but since it isn’t ice is formed when you run the AC.

Your final step now that your air conditioning is turned off is to turn the indoor fan to the “On” position to circulate the indoor air and thaw out your frozen evaporator coil. At this point it’s probably time to call an air conditioning repair service in your area. If you live in Naples you can always find more information here.


San Antonio Air Conditioning Repair
Are you looking for the best air conditioning repair services in San Antonio? Well, you can’t go wrong with our San Antonio air conditioning repair company because we provide ideal services that fit your needs. Whether it’s a simple AC repair in San Antonio, maintenance, or troubleshooting our service technicians can do it all. Good service is never compromised with when you call our San Antonio air conditioner repair service because we offer you quality service around the clock. You can’t anticipate your air conditioner will malfunction, so why wait for ages when you can get your air conditioning repaired in hours, not days.

Air Conditioner Repair Service In San Antonio
San Antonio Air Conditioning Repair BodyThe great thing about our air conditioning repair service in San Antonio is the value of service. We believe in customer satisfaction above all, especially when it comes to your business or home air conditioning needs. When you contact our San Antonio air conditioning service, you can guarantee you’ll get expert AC repairs and service to get your air conditioner back up and running, cooling your home to a comfortable temperature. Our San Antonio air conditioning repair technicians focus on your satisfaction and provides you with the needed technological advancements to fix your air conditioning system and keep you in the game. Even if your AC unit breaks down at night, we are on the job to give you the services you deserve.

Central Air Conditioning System Replacement Installation
If your air conditioner needs replacement, then do your research and you will find our San Antonio air conditioning system installations are the best quality and that our cost to install a new air conditioner can’t be beat. You’ll also see why our central air conditioning system installations in San Antonio look the best and operate properly because our experts in the field install every air conditioner exactly as is should be according to manufacturers specifications. Our San Antonio HVAC contractors are fully licensed, bonded and insured so you’ll have no worries when it comes to the quality and reliability of our air conditioning replacement in San Antonio.

San Antonio Heating And Air Conditioning Contractors
Did you know that we are factory trained and certified heating and air conditioning repair in San Antonio? Is your air conditioner coil freezing up, not cooling the air or make weird noises? Our San Antonio air conditioner repair company can repair all makes and models of heating and cooling systems for both residential and commercial HVAC systems and provide San Antonio 24 hour emergency air conditioning repair service. If you want a service that cares a lot about your home comfort, then give our San Antonio AC repair service a call and we’ll be right there to meet your every need. If you live farther up north toward Fort Myers check out Bonita Springs AC Repair for a wider range HVAC service areas.


San Antonio Air Conditioner Installations
Is your air conditioner or compressor shot and you need a new air conditioning system installed in San Antonio? Whether it’s a residential AC replacement or a commercial air conditioning system installation, our San Antonio air conditioning installation contractors can assist you. We have helped thousands of customers all around the San Antonio area with their air conditioner problems. Our air conditioner installation company offers everything from heating and cooling maintenance to air conditioner replacements. Give us a call now to get a free estimate on a new air conditioning system installation or replacement.

San Antonio Air Conditioning Replacement
Air Conditioning Installation In San Antonio, FLAfter calling a San Antonio air conditioning repair service and the technician finds that your air conditioner isn’t fixable, we will apply your service call fee towards your new air conditioning installation. Once you give us the OK, we remove your old air conditioner and install the new AC unit on the same day.

Some of the air conditioning models that we have worked on and installed in San Antonio include but are not limited to is Trane, Rheem, Goodman, Carrier, York and Lennox. If you’re looking for a second opinion on an outdoor air conditioner installation, contact our San Antonio air conditioning replacement and installation contractors today for a free estimate.

Install A New Air Conditioning System And Save
Sometimes, an air conditioning system is beyond repair usually due to a bad compressor because that’s the most expensive component to replace. In this case, you will need to replace both your outdoor AC unit and your indoor cooling coil for the following 2 reasons:

1. When a compressor fails it will usually burn out. Meaning that there is sludge and other contaminants inside your air conditioning system. If you don’t replace your whole AC system, those contaminants will corrupt your new outdoor AC unit.

2. R-22 freon has been phased out and replaced by the new environmentally friendly refrigerant called R-410a. Your old indoor AC coil is not compatible with the new R-410a refrigerant and needs to be replaced.

If you are unsure of whether your AC system needs repairing or replacement, just give us a call. We will come to check out your system and let you know if you need a new unit or not. If you do need a air conditioning replacement installation, we can help you determine the size and model for your home or business.

The Cost To Install A New AC Unit
Air Conditioner Replacement and InstallationWhen all else fails, and you need your air conditioner replaced by a San Antonio HVAC contractor, give us a call to find out the cost to install a new air conditioner. We will come to your property and get some key information such as the square footage of the space that needs to be conditioned, ceiling height, condition of windows and how well your home is insulated. Generally speaking, the cost to install a new air conditioner starts out at around $1,995 for a 3 Ton AC unit and goes up from there depending on the size of AC unit you require.

Contact us anytime to receive more details about our air conditioning installation and replacement services


San Antonio HVAC Contractors
Does your home or office require HVAC repair? Our San Antonio HVAC contractors can assist you with major and minor repair needs for your HVAC system. We specialize in heating and air conditioners, so no matter what the problem is, we can fix it. You’ll also be happy to know that our San Antonio HVAC repair service is affordable. Offering high quality services and reasonable rates is what we do best, and that’s why we have so many satisfied customers. Also, whenever you are in need of San Antonio HVAC repair service, just give us a call. Our phone lines are always open and our San Antonio HVAC contractors are always answering repair calls thanks to our 24 hour emergency HVAC repair services in San Antonio.

San Antonio HVAC Repair Service
Other than San Antonio HVAC repairs, we also offer other heating and air conditioning services, such as HVAC maintenance and HVAC replacement installations and whatever else you need our San Antonio HVAC contractors to do. Did you know that our HVAC contractors in San Antonio are all licensed, bonded and insured? Our technicians are all EPA certified to perform AC repairs in San Antonio and have many years of experience to get the job done on time and on budget. Also, we specialize in practically every type of residential and commercial HVAC system out there. Staying abreast of new technologies and continuous training with educational seminars is what keeps our company ten steps ahead of the rest. Whatever you need done for your HVAC unit, just give us a call.

San Antonio HVAC

HVAC Installation And Replacement Contractors
Need a new HVAC system? Let our HVAC contractors help you pick the right heating and air conditioning system for your home or business. You can save big money by installing a high efficiency heating and cooling system that is energy efficient, saves you money on your energy bills and is environmentally friendly because it uses less energy. Our HVAC contractors in San Antonio can assist you to find equipment that uses 30% to 40% less energy than older HVAC systems and over time will pay for your HVAC installation off with the savings on your utility bills. Why not put more money in your wallet and minimize carbon footprints you place in the environment?

HVAC Maintenance And Cleaning
Whenever you need to have HVAC repair in San Antonio, you know who you can call on. What puts us above our competitors is our great quality workmanship, unbeatable prices and courtesy. Our San Antonio HVAC contractors takes great pride in its customer service — you can’t be a great HVAC service company that has poor quality customer service because that’s only getting half the job done. When speaking with us, you’ll always be respected and all of your questions will be answered. Give us a call today to see for yourself!

Air Conditioning Maintenance San Antonio
When your air conditioner breaks down, most of the time it’s due to having little or no maintenance on your air conditioning system. Little things like regularly changing your air filter in your furnace can add years of trouble free operation and avoid costly repairs. Most people forget about the importance of maintaining and cleaning your heating and air conditioning system until it’s too late and something breaks down. If you’re looking for a San Antonio air conditioning repair company to do maintenance we would be thrilled if you gave us a call. We provide some the most comprehensive air conditioner cleaning and maintenance services in San Antonio and can give you a free estimate over the phone.

San Antonio AC Cleaning Service
San Antonio Air Conditioning Maintenance and CleaningOne of the most critical aspects of a properly functioning air conditioning system is keeping your outdoor AC coil clean. A dirty air conditioner coil wreaks havoc on a cooling system and must be cleaned annually to assure trouble-free operation all year long. Cleaning your outdoor AC unit basically pays for the cost of our air conditioning maintenance service. When we clean the leaves and other debris that tend to restrict airflow and make your AC unit work harder it runs more smoothly and uses less energy to run.

If you’re looking for a San Antonio air conditioning maintenance and cleaning service for your home and have questions about our heating and cooling services feel free to give us a call.

Heating And Air Conditioning Done Right!
Anything you need for your new or old air conditioner in San Antonio can be handled by our contractors. The rates that we offer for our AC cleanings, repairs and air conditioner installations in San Antonio are unbeatable and they are coupled with top quality workmanship. Did you know we also provide furnace heating repair in San Antonio? You can give us a call whenever you need as we provide 24 hour emergency repair service for all makes and models of heating and cooling systems.


San Antonio Heating Repair Service
When it comes to keeping your home warm and toasty for the cool months of the year, you have to count on a professional San Antonio heating repair company such as us. Our San Antonio heating repair professionals have many years of experience in the field and they’re all licensed, bonded and insured. We provide San Antonio 24 hour emergency heating repair for all makes and models for furnaces, electric heaters and heat pumps such as Goodman, Lennox, Bryant, Carrier, Rheem and Trane to name just a few. We can also repair your heating system the same day. So if you’re looking for a reliable San Antonio air conditioning repair service or heating repair contractor just give us a call and we can have one of our service pros to your home within a few hours.

San Antonio Furnace Repair And Heat Pump Repair
Furnace Heating Repair San AntonioIf you’re heat is broken and you’re looking for a San Antonio furnace repair service to fix your heat, you’ve come to the right place. Did you know that most homes and businesses in San Antonio and almost all of South Florida use heat pumps and electric furnace heating systems to heat their residential or commercial properties?

You never know when your furnace will break and leave you in the cold so that’s why we offer 24 hour emergency furnace repair in San Antonio and have service technicians standing by to help you. Our service vehicles are fully stocked and can have your furnace or heat pump fixed and warming your home to a comfy temperature usually that very same day.

When you notice that your furnace or heater needs repair it is usually for 3 reasons:

1. You’re low on refrigerant which is causing your heat pump to not work at it’s full capacity. You’ll notice that your air is not heating to your desired temperature.

2. One or more of your electric heating elements in your furnace has gone bad and needs to be replaced. In electric heating furnaces there is more than one heating element, there is a series of them. So if one or two of them fail, you’ll start to notice the difference in temperature.

3. Your indoor blower motor on your furnace or air handler has gone bad and the air is no longer circulating. This is usually caused by a dirty air filter or it’s a very old furnace and the blower motor has reached it’s service life. When this happens your blower motor needs to be replaced. It’s also recommended to change your blower wheel as well. Over the years your blower wheel (or squirrel cage as it’s sometimes called) will bit from moisture and start to rust. When this happens the blades are no longer smooth and do not circulate air as efficiently as they did causing stress on the new motor.

Hot Water Heater Repair, Service And Replacement Installations
With the long list of satisfied customers that we have, you’ll see why we’re the #1 San Antonio HVAC contractor in this town. We specialize in hot water heater repair, service and replacement installations to all of San Antonio. Can you imagine being without hot water? Neither can we. If you’re water heater isn’t working there’s a good chance it’s just a bad part and it can be replaced. If it’s leaking water, there should be a round valve connected to the copper tubing that feeds the water heater fresh water. Turn that valve clockwise to turn of the water supply and it usually will stop the water from leaking. If you have an emergency like that and need a hot water repair service in San Antonio feel free to give us call, we’d be happy to help you.



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Click on your size below or click CUSTOM Filters for size not listed:
1 inch
10x20x1, 11 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1, 12x12x1, 12x18x1, 12x20x1, 12x24x1, 14x20x1, 14x24x1, 14x25x1, 14x30x1, 15x20x1, 16x16x1, 16x20x1, 16x24x1, 16x25x1, 18x18x1, 18x20x1, 18x24x1, 18x25x1, 20x20x1, 20x24x1, 20x25x1, 20x30x1, 24x24x1, 24x30x1, 25x25x1

2 inch
10x20x2, 12x20x2, 12x24x2, 14x20x2, 14x24x2, 14x25x2, 15x20x2, 16x16x2, 16x20x2, 16x24x2, 16x25x2, 18x18x2, 18x20x2, 18x24x2, 18x25x2, 20x20x2, 20x24x2, 20x25x2, 20x30x2, 24x24x2, 24x30x2, 25x25x2

4 inch*
12x24x4, 16x20x4, 16x24x4, 18x24x4, 20x20x4, 20x24x4, 20x25x4, 24x24x4

5 inch Honeywell Replacement Media*
16x25x5, 20x20x5, 20x25x5

* Make sure you select the correct size. Some 4″ and 5″ filters are close but not the same. Look at our exact dimensions on our product details page. The size written on the side is usually the size of the opening, not the size of the filter. Measure to be sure!

Nordic Pure Effectiveness

Nordic Pure Convenience Factor

All of our air conditioner and furnace filters feature Ultra High-Efficiency reduction by employing a pleated filter with electrostatic charged synthetic media. The highly efficient electrostatic air filter media attracts dust and pollen like a magnet.

Nordic Pure AC filter and furnace filters capture 97.8% of the microscopic airborne dust, pollen, allergens, mold spores, pet dander, bacteria and particulates carrying bacteria and viruses in the air.

Premium performance construction with a high-dust holding capacity. Nordic Pure air conditioning filters and furnace filters exceed MERV 12 rating. (MERV 7 available upon request.)

Recommended replacement of furnace filters (including your vent register filters) is every 30 to 90 days for 1 inch filters and every 3 to 6 months for 4 inch and 5 inch.

1. Factory-Direct = Lower prices & Higher Quality

2. Convenience

FREE Delivery – No need to leave your home or office
FREE Email “Change your filter” reminder service to help protect your HVAC system
Fast delivery on Stock and Custom Filters
3. Made-to-fit Custom Filters
Select from a wide range of standard sizes including: 1″, 2″, 4″, and 5″ filters
Hard-to-find and custom / odd sized air filters in a variety of sizes
Low prices and fast delivery on all Nordic Pure standard and custom sizes
4. Manufacturer Direct since 1960!

5. Made in the USA