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Transform your outside space into an oasis

With spring in bloom and summer right around the corner, now is the perfect time to get out of the house. TODAY contributor and do-it-yourself expert Lou Manfredini has great ways to upgrade your outdoor space so you can enjoy activities like barbecuing and gardening.

With spring in full bloom, are you noticing that your home could use a little upgrade? Would you like to create a wow feature, or just have a place to hang out and read the paper and sip on a mint julep? Well, I have some suggestions that can change the look and feel of your home. Some are reasonable, some require a little more investment, but every one of these upgrades will add lasting value to your home.

Flower boxes
Walk across the street and take a good look at your home from your neighbor’s point of view. We hardly ever look at our home from that vantage point as we are so busy coming and going. You can usually see what’s lacking — a new coat of paint, maybe some flower boxes or shutters. Flower boxes are a great way to add some color and life to your home. I have always been a big fan, and have made many of them for the front and rear of our home. Notice I said “many,” because no matter how well I prepared my wood flower boxes, they would rot away and I would have to rebuild them after only a few years. Now you have a maintenance-free choice: window boxes made of PVC. The plastic material looks like painted wood; it's durable, will not rot and can be painted. The boxes come in many styles and lengths. I have used them, and installation is a breeze and they look terrific. The prices range from $99 to well over $400 for units over 10 feet long. But they are the last window boxes you will ever buy. Two places to find them are at Flowerwindowboxes.com and Therightproducts.com.

Shutters While we are working on the windows, how about adding some shutters? Now, there are plastic shutters that you can buy and they are maintenance free, but I have to tell you, they do not look substantial to me and ... well, they look like cheap plastic. Southern Shutter has a terrific line of real cedar shutters made to order. These are handcrafted pieces of art that you can customize to have a family letter or a symbol carved out to truly make a statement about your home.

Awnings and pergolas
Now for the wow factor. You know when you see a pergola in a magazine and you think, “That’s so cool”? Well, now you can have one in your own yard. Shade Tree Systems is a company that has been making awnings and pergolas for many years. They offer many different styles of shaded pergolas that can be installed in the front or rear of your home. Their maintenance-free units look great and have an available shade awning that can be pulled over the frame to protect you from the high sun. The unit shown on the TODAY show ranges in price from $6,000-$7,000 and can be professionally installed or, if you are up to the challenge, you can do it yourself. For more information, go to Shadetreecanopies.com

Pavers
A brick patio, whether in the front of rear of your home, is a great place to gather. And in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to add lasting value to your home. There are roads in Italy that were built during the time of ancient Rome and are still being used today. One of the big benefits of pavers verses poured concrete for walkways or patios is their ability to be repaired easily. If an area shifts, a few pavers can be lifted and reset. But you must also be careful to choose the right kind of paver. Cambridge Paving Stones offers a line that uses an impregnated sealer and bonding agent called Amortec. This helps the pavers retain their color and consistency and overall protects your investment as well. There are many styles of pavers as well as patterns to suit your personal style. Installing can range from $10-$14 a square foot. You can learn more at Cambridgepavers.com

If you have more questions or comments, please visit Lou Manfredini at .

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