Vertical Gardens and Your Health

Modern houses are smaller and designed to be more airtight to protect against increasing air pollutants, providing the perfect environment for health issues.

Outside often fares little better, thanks to subdivisions, smaller housing lots, subsequent diminishing garden space and the popularity of artificial lawns also impacting on the quality of our atmosphere.

The Air We Breathe

The resultant poorer air quality in buildings and its negative effects is known as ‘sick building syndrome’.  Think about the toxic gasses emitted around us daily from air-conditioners, unflued gas heaters and gas cooking appliances, not to mention paints, carpets, upholstery, insulation, photocopiers, cleaning agents and a number of other everyday products… and that’s just inside the building.  Constant exposure can cause serious health issues, especially for those who suffer from respiratory ailments, such as asthma.

Effective ‘Air Cleaning’ Plants

Studies by the University of Technology in Sydney NSW have found that in a room of approx. 10-12 sqm, just 3 large plants or 6 table sized plants can eliminate between 50-70% of these toxic gasses.  The plants they used were Dracaena Deremensis and Peace Lillies but they found that kentia palms, devils ivy and umbrella trees also worked, and they believe most other plants will do likewise.

plant for health benefitsNASA (USA) found that spider plants can remove more than 90% of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from our living and working spaces.  Their study found that plants not only convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, many also remove dangerous elements from the air such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.  Some of the plants they used for their 2-year study and which they found most effective included heartleaf and elephant ear philodendron, English ivy, spider plant, weeping fig, peace lilies, Chinese evergreen, snake plant and bamboo palm.

 

Urban ‘Heat Islands’

An urban heat island is an area that is noticeably warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to increased human activity, modification of land surfaces such as replacing grassed areas with pavers, and the increasing use of dark building colours, e.g. dark grey walls and roofs.  As an area grows in population, its average temperature also increases.  The urban heat island effect also contributes towards a decrease in air and water quality.

Concern has been raised that the urban heat island effect may possibly be contributing to our planet’s global warming.  Research in China found that the urban heat island effect contributes to climate warming by approx. 30%.

To combat urban heat islands, more and more cities are encouraging the use of green roofs (rooftop gardens) and the use of lighter coloured surface materials which reflect sunlight and absorb less heat.

In new suburbs of darker coloured houses built close together with minimal greenery you can imagine how easily urban heat islands can develop.  Atlantis Vertical Gardens make it possible to surround yourself with greenery even with lack of space because you can attach them to fence lines as well as house walls.

Green Insulation

Instead of a solitary plant standing in the corner, or on a table, imagine a wall of green flourishing inside your home.  Quite apart from the visually pleasing aspect and the fact that you’re helping to clean the air your family breathes, this green wall offers remarkable insulating qualities.  It will help keep that wall and part of the house cooler in summer, and warmer in winter. This will also produce savings on your power bills, depending on the size of your ‘green wall’.  You may need professional advice to choose the right plants depending on which room you plan to place your green wall because the amount of natural light and humidity it will receive will all factor into its effectiveness and will influence the types of plants you can grow successfully.

Green for Mental Health

living wallResearchers have now confirmed that the presence of plants has positive psychological benefits in the workplace and for students.  Their studies showed a reduction in stress levels and an increase in performance.  In parts of the world where SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a problem, researchers have found that a ‘living plant’ wall increases feelings of well-being and happiness.  Sufferers of SAD experience feelings of depression, tiredness and lack of energy every winter.   It is for good reason that people are advised to take a walk in nature when feeling stressed, so imagine if all you had to do was go home and enjoy your green wall to unwind and cheer up after a hard day.

Taking this a step further, The Department of Plant, Soil and General Agriculture at Southern Illinois University in the US, did a study to investigate the effects of indoor horticultural activity on the well-being of the elderly inhabitants at two long-term care facilities.  At the end of the study, they found that those in the horticultural activity group rated significantly higher on the wellbeing and happiness scale than the control group who did not participate in these activities. The elderly appreciate vertical gardens also because the gardens can be placed at heights which mean they don’t have to kneel or bend down.

The Food We Eat

We are all concerned with the number of chemicals sprayed on our foods and genetically modified foods, and while we may not be able to safeguard every single thing we put in our mouths, we can take some control when we grow our own.

vertical garden, grow wallMost people know vertical gardens are the perfect remedy for lack of external garden space, but how many have considered inside gardening?  Or plants other than ferns or succulents?  In fact, how many have considered vertical farming?

Whether you want to grow your own herbs alongside your favourite flowering plants, you can do this inside as well as outside, provided you choose the right location.  Overseas, homeowners are growing their own herbs and vegetables year-round on balconies and indoors with the aid of specialised lighting.  Imagine, that unused wall could now become a healthy, living pantry.

Some of the best plants to grow for this purpose include strawberries, lettuces, mint, chives, parsley, nasturtiums, sweet potato, Goji berries, small peppers and chillies, cherry tomatoes and baby varieties of carrots, beets, turnips and radishes.

An Atlantis Vertical Garden solves many different problems on many different levels.  For more information visit our sister site www.urbandirectwholesale.com.au.

How to Calculate Cost of Ownership of a Timber-Look Composite Deck

composite NewTechWood decking, outdoor roomToday’s trend is to create an outdoor space or ‘room’ that provides more quality living space for the family.  It allows you to enjoy the outdoors and it’s cheaper than building on an extra room.  Whether this is an extravagant outdoor space with kitchen and fans, or a simpler set up with just a BBQ, one of the major expenses in common with both is the flooring.

Due to the expense and time for ongoing maintenance required for natural timber, interest has grown in composite decking options, such as NewTechWood.

NewTechWood is a timber-look composite manufactured from 60% recycled timber and 40% recycled plastic.  It’s not only environmentally friendly, but it requires little to no maintenance compared to natural timber and comes with a 25-year warranty.

Decks can be constructed from cheaper treated pine through to heavier, more expensive natural timbers, but the one thing they have in common is they all require a lifetime of ongoing maintenance. Yes, natural timber decking is lighter and more inexpensive but certain timbers may be infused with harsh chemicals to prevent mould, mildew and other problems common to timber. These chemicals often create a greenish tint to the boards that may take many summers to fade and can be poisonous to pets.

Upfront Savings Don’t Equal Cheaper Decks

However, when the budget is the number one priority, most homeowners turn to cheaper timber, like treated pine, because this wood is low cost – at least initially. The more upmarket timbers, such as Jarrah and spotted gum are not only pricier and still require ongoing maintenance, but they deplete our natural resources. Because they are natural wood, they will also eventually surface check (crack), warp, cup, or splinter, even with the best of care.

There are more reasons people are turning to wood-look composites, but as with timbers, even composites are not created ‘equal’.  Cheaper composites are cheaper for a reason and you get what you pay for. The cheaper composites not only look plastic and feel plastic, they don’t last.  Tip: Check the warranty.

Higher-quality wood composite, like the product offered by NewTechWood, is fabricated using high-density recycled plastics and wood fibres – materials that typically end up in our landfills – to create boards that look like real wood and feel like the real deal underfoot.

This quality-made composite timber decking is manufactured to be eco-friendly and create a durable, natural look with a lower total cost of ownership than natural timber decks. Yes, you read that right. And I know what you’re thinking. “But I’ve checked it out and timber is so much cheaper!”

Calculating the True Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

 When choosing construction materials for your new outdoor space, don’t simply consider the initial costs of materials and construction. You’re going to own that deck for a long time and you want it to last without a lot of time and money-consuming maintenance.

For example, natural timber will require the application of a wood sealant or oil regularly – every six to twelve months depending on climate, exposure to the elements, and the amount of use it gets. The weather, the sun, the family activities – all of these take their toll on your outdoor living space. This results in the necessity of ongoing routine maintenance and potential for expensive repairs. Re-stain it. Reseal it. Power wash it each spring to remove mildew and mould. Replace worn decking weakened over time.  Your “cheaper” natural timber deck needs constant upkeep.

You can pay someone to seal your deck each season and you’ll add to the TCO every time the maintenance crew shows up. Time to write another cheque.  Of course, you can do it yourself, but you’ll spend much of your free time (as well as money) applying the chemicals to the decking while trying to keep the kids and the family dog away.

So, when calculating the total cost of ownership, start with initial costs for materials, and add the labour cost of construction. Then add the cost of stains, sealants, and routine deck maintenance. Calculate the value of your time if you spend a Saturday sealing the deck instead of snoozing on the deck!

Calculate Lifetime Costs

composite decking, spend family time rather than time on maintenanceWhen calculating TCO, run your numbers out at least 10 to 20 years. How much will the TCO be for your deck then, when you add up annual maintenance costs, the hours of painting, staining, sealing, and scrubbing off mould, not to mention the rising cost of the products you need to use.  Don’t just consider the initial cost. Determine the total cost of ownership over the expected life of your deck.

In a nutshell, with natural timber over the next 20+ years, you will be spending a lot of time and money on ongoing maintenance… but with a composite, like NewTechWood, the only thing you’ll be spending time and money on is throwing another shrimp on the barbie and once in a while washing down your deck with a hose and a broom.

What sounds better to you? Find out more about NewTechWood and where to buy composite NewTechWood from trusted suppliers around Australia.

 

Lighten Up Your Deck This Winter

Thanks to outdoor heaters and firepits, you can now enjoy your outdoors even in the colder months.

The only question is how appealing is your outdoor patio in the darker, colder times of the year?  Furthermore, how safe is it?  Have you tried navigating steps in the dark while juggling trays of refreshments?  Or have you put your drink on the deck beside your feet only to have someone knock it over because they couldn’t see it?  And who wants to sit in gloom in the first place, heater or no heater?  The solution is to add a little landscape lighting.

landscape lighting t o enhance composite timber deckingLandscape lighting is used to enhance the aesthetics of gardens and landscapes as well as to provide security and safety for night time navigation.

With carefully placed lights you can also highlight interesting focal points in your garden that otherwise would not be seen in the dark.  This may be your favourite tree or garden bed or even a special garden sculpture.

When you’re entertaining, if you don’t have the traditional string party lights or fairy lights, you may be relying on floodlights or regular patio lighting, which is okay from a safety perspective, but not very cosy or visually appealing and does little to illuminate at ground level.

Deck Lighting Ideas

For outdoor lighting, you can choose between solar or electric powered pole lights, small pathway lanterns, fixed post lamps and wall lanterns, hurricane or camping lanterns, outdoor fireplaces, chimineas, candles, firepits or tiki torches.  And now, thanks to deck lights, you can enhance every area of your patio, steps and pathways, including those edges of your deck that traditionally remain in the dark and hidden when the sun goes down.

lighting set into decking boards

Subtle lighting supplied by deck lights also means you have illumination when and where you want it without the bug-attracting, eye-blinding light from traditional floodlights.

If you want to switch between brighter lighting or softer lighting, choose a system with an optional dimmer switch.

For example, Siros LED Deck lights not only offer easy installation with their Plug and Play system, but it comes with optional extras such as the LED Dimmer and Remote Control.

You can go bright when your guests are mingling and eating, then dim down for those more intimate occasions.

And with low voltage systems, such as the Siros LED deck light system, you can save on electricity as well as enjoying maximum protection against the risk of electric shock.

lights inset into side of composite decking seatIn addition to choosing locations for your landscape lighting to achieve the best effect visually as well as for safety or security purposes, other considerations include whether you want to connect to a solar system, mains power, use timers or motion sensors, or operate the system remotely via your phone.

 

 

Fortunately, there are many options for all tastes and budgets when it comes to landscape lighting and you are guaranteed to find something to suit your circumstances.

For the best advice on decking materials, landscape design tips and products to enhance your composite timber decking, contact the team at New Tech Wood.

Landscape Drainage Cells and Water Management Solutions

Thinking of adding a rooftop or vertical garden to complement your New Tech Wood deck or screens and need drainage cells or other landscape water management products?

AtlantisOur parent company Urban Direct Wholesale supplies the Atlantis brand of water management products. Atlantis is the leading international provider of water management and greening city solutions.  Their mission is to create sustainable urban designs turning major environmental problems into assets.

Many architects and engineers specify Atlantis drainage products for a variety of uses, such as road and sports field drainage, leachate collection and flood mitigation, car parks, subdivision development, stormwater harvesting, onsite detention tanks and infiltration tanks, to name some.  Many landscape architects also specify Atlantis vertical garden products and drainage systems for roof gardens and vertical garden applications for commercial and residential projects.

Atlantis flo-cell

Take the Atlantis Flo-Cell, for example, a permeable drainage product suited to any subsurface filtration application, ranging from planter boxes and roof gardens through to roads and railways.

It comes in three sizes: 20mm, 30mm and 52mm. With an efficient modular design, they can be joined together to form scalable areas from small backyards to large civil projects.

This product was initially developed to facilitate adding rooftop gardens and planter boxes to building construction without adding heavy aggregate as drainage, which placed severe limitations on the structural design of the building.  It was so successful that the drainage cell became a landscaping industry standard that is now used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Planter box filtration
  • Void fill
  • Roof garden filtration and water management
  • Retaining wall filtration
  • Porous pavement filtration – pedestrian and vehicular
  • General landscape filtration and water management
  • Groundwater problem management
  • Sports field filtration and water management
  • Railway filtration
  • Road filtration, seepage protection and water management
  • Civil works projects filtration and water management
  • Bio-filtration systems for pollution remediation

Are Flo-Cells Necessary?

Many professionals believe so.  Here are some of the benefits:

  • Rapid Drainage – it efficiently drains excess water while retaining optimum moisture levels, which is the perfect solution for planter boxes and roof garden applications.
  • Lightweight – Definitely don’t need cranes or specialised lifting equipment.
  • Strong Structural Design, engineered for use in drainage-critical applications.
  • Versatile – The Flo-Cells can be installed horizontally or vertically and are easily configured to meet project specifications.
  • Quick and easy Installation – much faster than traditional aggregate drainage systems
  • High Infiltration – 90% void ratio.
  • Biological and chemical resistance to contaminants.

Why Choose Atlantis?

It can get confusing when so many brands on the market make the same promises. Here are some reasons to choose Atlantis:

  • As the original inventors, Atlantis have been around the longest and have accumulated more knowledge, experience and expertise, as shown in the quality and versatility of their products.
  • Quality Control – Atlantis pre-test ALL batches – they don’t just do random testing – and tests are done according to ASTM D1621 Standard test method for compression properties of rigid cellular plastics. This guarantees their quality is both assured and predictable.
  • They can meet demands with dozens of stockists and offices worldwide and Australia wide.
  • They offer engineering support (before, during and after) – design life calculations, design support and installation support – all just a phone call away. This provides you with streamlined project flow from consultancy through to design and installation.

 

drainage cellsdrainage cells 2

 

How Can You Tell the Real Atlantis Product from an Imitation?

You can tell authentic Atlantis Flo-Cells by the patented diamond pattern – the only flo-cell that has it and which provides the extra strength.  You can also tell you have authentic Atlantis products by looking for the Atlantis trademark which is imprinted on every piece.

Atlantis brand drainage cell

To find out more about solutions for rooftop gardening challenges or incorporating New Tech Wood decking and screening into your urban oasis, contact the team at New Tech Wood today.

Hottest Outdoor Living Design Trends for 2018

Looking for the hottest outdoor living design trends this year?

In 2018, we are trending towards a natural, yet colourful look with earthy and neutral colour schemes and materials.  Truly liveable outdoor spaces will become ‘the norm’ in new homes. We will rejoice in contrasts and natural finishes and herald in the next ‘look’ which some are calling the ‘tribal trend’ and some are calling the ‘Australiana trend’.

Whatever you want to call it, if you are renovating your outdoor living space this year and trends matter to you, these ten tips will keep you up to date.

Top Outdoor Living Design Trends

Au Naturel outdoor living design trends, natural materials and textures with unpainted wood.

Think unpainted timber and stone.  Think brown and beige shades, terracotta, burned orange, russets and sienna, muddy blues and greens. We will see a move away from pastels and a return to bright bold colours. For those who really like the calming neutral effects of 2017’s colour trend, you can keep it, but modernise it with deep blues and greens mixed with your white, grey and beige tones.  Another popular trend is the use of different materials and textures but within the same colour family.  Decor-wise, 2018 is going tribal, so get out your Moroccan bowls and terracotta planters. Look for tribal décor, patterns and accessories.

Integrate and Blend

The addition of new external structures around the home will be applied more thoughtfully, designed to blend with the house, and not just added as afterthoughts or obvious add-ons to the property.  Homeowners will want their garages, carports, patios, fences, sheds, etc. to blend naturally as well as fashionably with their existing house and garden landscape, and also the streetscape, creating a more integrated look.

Outdoor Living Design Features

In 2018, outdoor kitchens with cooking facilities, sinks and fridges will continue to be popular, as well as outdoor showers and lounge areas complete with daybeds and TVs on the wall.  This is actually a smart way to extend the living area of a small home and will add value as well as space for growing families.

Maintenance-Free Timber Flooring

bare feet on timber decking, new tech wood

The trend towards using composite timber decking, like NewTechWood, will continue to grow in popularity.  Not only is it eco-friendly, NewTechWood has none of the issues associated with pure timber – no splinters, no nails, and totally maintenance free – you never have to sand or re-seal it.  Termites hate it and it’s resistant to mould, UV, fading, warping, and splitting, and it comes with a 25-year warranty. Best of all, NewTechWood looks natural, like real timber, right down to the tiny little timber-like ‘fibres’ that are a patented part of the design.  Dark timbers are in for 2018, so check out the Walnut range.

Other Natural Outdoor Flooring

Cobblestone pavers will lend that ‘natural’ look to your outdoor area with many new options now available in terms of colour, texture and shape.  Even plain concrete, natural or polished, will become more popular and used for flooring and even for outdoor poolside benches or tables.  (Note:  With concrete, you might want to keep this area well-shaded or you won’t be able to use it on hot days.)

Temperature Control

Not a new idea but a continuing trend is installing ceiling fans in your outdoor living areas.  Not all houses enjoy afternoon sea breezes due to their location, but a ceiling fan under the pergola or patio solves that problem.  In winter, for warmth, you will be using fire pits, or go one step further and install a proper fireplace – all trends we will see on the increase in 2018, enabling us to truly live outdoors and make full use of our amazing climate.

Light it Up

‘Strip lighting’ or ‘deck lights’ as you see beneath steps, will become more popular and used in more creative ways, such as on bench tops and to lighten built-in seating areas in dark corners of patios or any area you want to showcase or create mood lighting.

Water Wise Plants and Vertical Gardens

outdoor living design trends, vertical gardenIn Australia, with our hot climate and water conservation, the continuing trend towards succulents makes good sense.

You can still enjoy diversity and colour in your garden, as many succulent varieties flower at different times of the year and need very little water or maintenance.  With building blocks becoming smaller and many older blocks being subdivided, land space is minimal, and those who live in apartments or homes with small yards will continue to enjoy their gardens ‘vertically’ rather than horizontally.

Vertical gardens, like the Atlantis Vertical Garden kits, with or without built-in irrigation, are the perfect solution to hide ugly walls or to grow flowers or herbs in tiny spaces where a traditional garden is not possible.

 

Show Off Your Timber

Unless you have a very good reason for camouflaging your timber with thick coats of paint, either a clear varnish or a light stain will be favoured to let the natural beauty shine through.  While internally, wallpaper is making a comeback in 2018, externally, with tribal themes fashionable, consider bamboo, reed or brushwood screening and leafy plants for privacy screens or to hide ugly fencing or walls.

Wabi Sabi – Embracing Imperfection

If you haven’t heard of Wabi Sabi before, you may well do in 2018.  It is the Japanese Zen philosophy of accepting the transient nature of things and their imperfections or finding the beauty within the imperfect.  Think of handmade bowls with cracks, chips or glazing errors, irregular shaped items and pieces that are pre-loved and showing their age.  If it’s old, cracked, weathered, wrinkled or oxidized, so much the better.  Forget the large department stores for this one and start visiting your local flea markets.

On the other hand, trends come and go, and keeping up can be hard on the wallet.  Maybe the best trend is the one that expresses your individuality and suits your lifestyle and taste.  After all, you have to live with it!

Want to learn more about the hottest outdoor living design trends in 2018 or maintenance-free, eco-friendly timber products? Talk to the team at NewTechWood today.

Go Green, Stay Green – Eco-Friendly Renovation Tips

go green, eco friendly renovation tips. Child hugging a treeOnce the catchcry of nature loving ‘hippies’, GO GREEN has become a global movement and going green has become serious business.  In the building industry, regardless of whether it’s a brand new home or renovating an old weatherboard, today’s environmentally aware home-owner wants eco-friendly and value for money.

It’s all very well for building material suppliers to say, “Ah, but we source timber from dedicated timber plantations.”  Unfortunately, not every country does that, and some 46-58 thousand square miles of natural forest are lost each year – equivalent to 48 football fields every minute – according to worldwildlife.org.

The problem with trying to do the right thing is not everyone can afford it upfront and they don’t understand the false economy behind choosing the cheapest option first.  Items that are marked biodegradable or energy efficient, for example, are much more expensive than their less environmentally aware counterparts.  The same applies to the majority of ‘green’ products.  So how do you renovate ‘green’ while on a budget, and is the added upfront expense justifiable?

Green Renovation Tips

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sometimes, you have to compare the end result and environmental impact of throwing out and replacing a perfectly good appliance, or furniture, with something new and shiny.  This applies to everything, including floor and window coverings.  Save your money and the environment and only replace as needed.
  2. Need vs want. Don’t waste spare cash on trendy wants.  Keep to the needs on your list – plenty of time for luxury spending later when you can afford it. Investment in something that will save you money over the lifetime of the product makes better sense than buying something now because it’s in fashion for a season.
  3. Recycle.Reclaimed pavers, timbers, window and door frames are not just for the budget conscious.  It is good sense environmentally to use recycled materials from demolition companies, and likewise, you may be able to sell (or donate) your own unwanted materials.
  4. Need to buy new materials? Sometimes it is unavoidable, in which case insist your builder uses materials with low environmental impact – that is, it does not have a negative impact on resources that are not renewable or not easily renewable and does not negatively impact on the environment, wildlife or human health and wellbeing.
  5. Be superficial – facelift! Some items don’t need to be replaced and can be given a new lease of life with a simple coat of paint. Remodelling your kitchen?  You don’t HAVE to throw the entire thing out and start from scratch.  Consider just replacing cabinet doors and bench tops.  Ditto old houses – why destroy what can be given a new lease of life with more cost and environmentally effective means?
  6. Are there financial incentives? Depending on the State you live in, your State Government may offer financial incentives and rebates for switching to energy saving systems and appliances. Find out more about incentives for saving energy.
  7. Insulate. There is little sense in investing thousands in a ducted air conditioning system if your house leaks at window and door openings and your ceiling is not insulated.  A well-insulated home will retain warmth or coolness much more efficiently and cost-effectively than a non-insulated home – good for the planet AND for your wallet.
  8. Go Solar. Solar panels need little introduction.  If you can afford it, include solar panelling in your budget – you will get your money back and then some, especially if you are power-savvy and continue to pay attention to power saving rules.
  9. Let there be light! Before installing even more light fixtures and fittings, consider extra, well-placed window placements and skylights.  Compare flicking on a light switch versus opening a curtain.  Need we say more?
  10. Be Water Wise. In addition to buying white goods that are water efficient and energy efficient, consider rainwater tanks and a system for more efficient use of runoff from rain in winter, plus water efficient tapware.  Also, check your government water authority for your state’s rules on the use of ‘grey water’.

Recycled Composite Decking

At this time of year, a popular renovation is decking, and an excellent example of how spending extra now can save you later.  More environmentally-aware consumers combined with advances in technology have seen a rise in the introduction of recycled timber composite products.

Eco friendly decking from New Tech WoodCompanies like NewTechWood use recycling technology in the manufacture of their composite decking, cladding and screening products and every month their efforts alone are saving over five million kilos of plastic from being buried in landfills and saving forests into the bargain.

NewTechWood composite timber is manufactured with 60% carefully selected recycled timber and dense wood fibre, and 40% high-grade recycled plastics (HDPE) that allows for greater strength and durability.

And the ‘greening’ doesn’t stop there…NewTechWood composite has an advanced premium shield encasing ALL four sides around its inner core. The shield and core are extruded together under a very high-temperature mould simultaneously, so there are no adhesives or chemicals used that are harmful to the environment. This protective shield means there is no need for oil, paint or seal your NewTechWood deck – ever… thus still no need for hazardous chemicals – ever.  As the years go by, this is great news not only for the environment but also for your wallet.

NewTechWood composite does not release any harsh or toxic chemicals into the air and because it is termite resistant you never need to worry about expensive and toxic termite treatments either.

Yes, it costs more upfront than real timber from real forests – but the environment will thank you and you’ll definitely save over the lifetime of your deck! For more information browse the website or contact us.

Top Tips to Stay Safe This DIY Season

The footy season is over and there are no more excuses for delaying the completion of home maintenance and renovation projects.  Those who can’t do it themselves will hire a professional, and you can’t get much safer than that, but to the delight of many a local hardware store, this is the time of year when hordes of avid DIY fans also go shopping.

DIY home maintenanceAccording to Australian health and safety statistics, this is the time of year when the number of accidents around the home also increases – attributed to Do-it-Yourself enthusiasts.

Falling from ladders tops the list, followed closely by injuries from power tools and machinery, with a majority of accidents being attributed to men, particularly over 55 years of age.

Authorities warn that the more accident prone among us need to realise our limitations. If a task is not within our skill level or we don’t have the proper equipment or experience for the job, then leave it to the experts.

Top DIY Tips

For the keener (stubborn?) DIY-er who refuses to heed this advice, the following tips are for you:

  1. Ladder Do’s and Don’ts. ALWAYS place on a level and stable surface.  If you need to level one of the legs, don’t use a brick. Position timber blocks, recommended dimensions 400 x 200 x 50mm, beneath the leg.  Don’t try to extend your ladder by placing it on a higher surface, like beams balanced on sawhorses, or milk crates, for example. If you need to reach a higher place than your ladder can reach, hire an extension ladder.  Ensure you place the ladder against a secure surface and not somewhere it can slide or be knocked away.  You can also tie the ladder in place to prevent slipping or tipping. Never stand higher than the third rung from the top, and keep your centre of gravity between the side rails. Don’t over-reach or do exertive pulling or pushing that can throw you off balance. Likewise, don’t leave heavy tools perched precariously atop of ladders, waiting to fall on the head of unsuspecting passers-by below.
  1. Power Tools. Safety guards, clamps and locking clips are invented for a reason.  Use them.  There are horrendous stories of sheet metal and timber pieces becoming flying weapons, and people losing thumbs and fingers with electric saws because they tried to rush and thought they’d save seconds by ignoring the safety requirements.  Nail guns are probably best left to the professionals, but if you must use one, don’t rush.  Set the gun to the safe sequential-fire setting to avoid misfiring and shooting yourself or someone else by accident if you stumble.

Hammering, DIY home maintenance3. Hammering. Speaking of nails, you can avoid the risk of hammering your fingers by using a small blob of BluTack to hold small nails in place while you hammer them in. You can recycle the Blu-Tack, but not your fingers!

 

  1. Clothing. Don’t wear loose or floppy garments that can get caught in machinery. Footwear – if you value your toes, wear protective shoes – thongs don’t count. Tie your hair back if it is long and avoid wearing loose jewellery that can be caught in machinery or saws.
  1. Protective Gear – Do use earmuffs to protect your hearing when using noisy equipment.safety sign wear goggles Use eye goggles to protect your eyes from metal and sawdust when sawing and grinding. Use a face mask to avoid inhaling dangerous substances and dust particles, especially if you’re under your house or in the roof space where you can encounter toxic chemicals from pesticide use, asbestos, mould spores, rat droppings, etc.
  1. Essential Services. Don’t mess with electricity or plumbing – there is a reason why it is illegal to do your own and you must hire a licenced tradesman. Non-contact voltage testers are a must for checking if wires are live or not.
  1. Don’t play with Pressure Washers. These are not toys and can be very dangerous.  Many people with deep flesh wounds and scars where the water burst has literally painfully peeled back their flesh can attest to this!
  1. Know How to Lift Safely. Get help with heavy items.  And remember, lift with your knees, not your back.
  1. Beware the Critters! We’re talking wasps, spiders and snakes that can lurk in unexpected and rarely used spaces around your home, not to mention hazards such as chewed electrical cables exposing live wires, or termite damage that weakens structures – maybe the one you’re standing on!
  1. No Brainer. Keep all tools and equipment away from pets and children. This should be a no-brainer.

Popular DIY Task – Deck Maintenance

A popular DIY spring job is the annual deck maintenance.  If that is on your list of To-Do’s this spring, and if you have a timber deck already, chances are it is on your list and will be for the rest of your life.  If you’d rather it wasn’t, then check out a composite product like NewTechWood decking.  It is low maintenance – you never have to sand, seal, paint or varnish it – ever – unlike real timber which must be maintained regularly for its lifetime.

kids playing on composite deckAnd speaking of safety, NewTechWood composite decking comes with a valuable BAL29 Fire Rating and a Rll slip rating; AND you’ll never have to worry about splinters.  Also with its hidden fastener system, you will never have to worry about rusty or protruding nails, and with the option of the mini clip system, catching a stiletto heel in the decking gap is also a thing of the past.

Top this with a 25-year warranty and you can see why many DIY enthusiasts love NewTechWood, which is also fully capped providing full protection against UV damage, fading, water, staining, mould and termites.  You know what this means?  No more dangerous chemicals needed to treat your deck.  However, while NewTechWood offers the above tips on protecting your safety… the rest is up to you!

Tips to Rejuvenate Your House for Spring (and Years to Come!)

At this time of year, you may want to freshen up your home and get ready for some exciting summer entertaining.

However, renovations can be expensive and ‘cheap’ is not always ‘smart’. The dollars you save on cheaper options up front may well cost you dearly in a few years’ time when you find yourself up for the costs of repairs or replacements already, not to mention the amount of precious spare time you have to sacrifice in the process.

So, here are some quick tips to help make your money go further and your renovations last longer.

 

Boost Street Appeal

Be discerning – how does your house look from the street?  Stand on the footpath and view your house objectively.

spring house rejuvenation, before picture
Before Renovations

Some things you see daily become invisible but suddenly stand out when you view your house from another angle. Would your house look better rendered? What if you remove some bushes or replace that outdated verandah balustrade? How different might your house look then?

 

Spruce Up Your Trims

That peeling or cracked fascia might have become invisible to you, but any state of neglect will be obvious to others and reflect on the overall appearance of your home.

You probably don’t have to replace your fascia.  Sometimes, timber putty and a lick of paint can work wonders.  However, if you are tired of replacing worn, peeling or damaged fascias or house trims and you want a long-term solution that requires no maintenance, consider a composite product.

For example, NewTechWood has cladding and other decorative façade boards that are a recycled timber/plastic composite, completely protected from the elements and termites and never need any maintenance, sanding, sealing or painting – ever.

 

Paint Gutters

Is your guttering damaged, sagging, or is the paint peeling?  Damaged guttering not only looks awful and affects the appearance of your property, but it can also lead to roof leaks which creates a whole new set of time and money consuming problems for you.  When painting the trim of your house, don’t neglect your gutters!

 

Repair or Replace Fences

A dilapidated fence can make the entire property look rundown and neglected.  Repair or replace your old damaged front fence and if you don’t really need to have one, just remove it. Problem solved.  Replace the fence line with plants.  If you want low-maintenance, low-cost, go for Australian natives.

 

Maintain Pathways

If you have faded concrete pathways, a fresh coat of paint will give your whole garden a face lift.  Replace damaged pavers – which are also a trip hazard. Or replace them with a timber composite pathway that you won’t have to maintain.

 

Refresh Verandahs and Patios

If your verandah or patio is cement, its paint may be peeling and it may be suffering years of scuffing from toys and outdoor furniture.

As with the pathway, a fresh coat of paint will rejuvenate this area and brighten the ‘face’ of your home.  Alternatively, consider an outdoor floor rug for your outdoor dining area which will hide the scuff and scratch marks and prevent new ones.

If your verandah is timber, is it long overdue for resanding and oiling or resealing?  Are the nails popping out? A sad truth about timber is it does require ongoing and regular maintenance to keep it looking good and to keep it from warping, rotting, fading or being eaten by termites.

before and after composite pavingThere is a solution to this problem, and it’s called composite. Composite timbers, like NewTechWood, are popular due to being maintenance free and environmentally friendly because they’re made from recycled material.

NewTechWood is valued because of its patented Ultrashield technology, giving it 360 degrees protection from UV, fading, warping, splitting, rotting and termites.  Its 25-year warranty is just the cherry on the cake.

As with all composites compared to natural, it may cost slightly more up front, but in comparison with natural timber, you’ll never have to work on it or spend more money on its upkeep, and with its choice of modern colours, you’ll find something that matches your house perfectly.

 

Fix Faded Paint

Regardless of whether your house is brick, fibro or clad, if the paint is old, faded and peeling, your house is going to look rundown and decrepit. Painting is something that does need re-doing eventually.

Termite-ridden and weather-worn, warped cladding will also need replacing.  Unless you have an unpainted brick home, this ongoing cost and maintenance is unavoidable. You can, however, consider having feature walls of cladding that do not require painting and that adds a modern touch to your home.  Again, if you really want to just put something up and forget about it and avoid painting and maintenance issues, consider a composite product, like NewTechWood.

 

Hide the Ugly Stuff

Whether it be ground-level air-conditioning units, pool equipment or just an ugly part of the yard where nothing but weeds will grow, you can use decorative screening to shield it from view.

There are many modern timber and metal laser cut and embossed screens you can choose from that are suitable for decorative use on house walls and fences as well as stand-alone in your garden. NewTechWood also offers a composite screen board that can be used to screen off your patio or parts of your garden that you want to shield or hide away and is also used for stylish front fencing.

 

Get Creative in the Garden

Last, but not least, the garden itself.  Mowing lawns can become tedious and time-consuming.  You don’t have to have a lawn.  You can replace your garden with a native theme involving mulch and pebbled surfaces, or more decking to provide extra entertainment areas or special focal points in your garden.

Visit a nursery and ask about plants and trees that require little water and maintenance.  Unless you are after an old-fashioned English country garden effect, you don’t need to invest a lot of time and money on garden plants in order to enjoy flourishing greenery.

On the other hand, if you do like lawn, accept that you will have to water, fertilize and mow it regularly because nothing screams UGLY louder than long unkempt, weed-ridden, dying grass!

house and garden after renovations
After Renovations

Save Time and Money

Remember, if you want to save time and money for the long term, and not just one or two seasons, what you save today on cheap options may be a false economy.

Do it right.  Do it once.  Then you can spend many, many summers relaxing and enjoying your house instead of working on it, plus we’re sure you’ll find better ways to spend your hard-earned money than on property upkeep.

 

Solutions For Rooftop Gardening Challenges

The move to ‘green’ the planet via rooftop gardening, to convert ugly concrete jungles into sustainable, usable green living areas, is increasing. Roof top gardens offer significant health, environmental and societal benefits.  So why isn’t everybody doing it immediately? Well, it’s not without its challenges.

Major Challenges

Two major challenges facing rooftop garden design is managing the weight restrictions and drainage issues.  Solving these problems is Atlantis who have developed drainage cells of high strength, that are lightweight, easy to install, and compared to traditional methods, also low in cost.

These drainage cells were specifically developed to facilitate adding roof top gardens and planter boxes to building construction without having to add heavy aggregate for drainage. These cells drain excess water while retaining an optimum moisture level, which is ideal for promoting plant growth in planter boxes and roof garden applications.

An added bonus for the environmentally conscious is that Atlantis drainage cells are manufactured from quality recycled materials.  They offer long term durability and are resistant to chemicals.  Used in conjunction with Atlantis geotextile, it functions as a protective membrane for waterproofing and providing ventilation for concrete slabs which alleviates heat induced stress and cracking.  It’s ideal for creating landscape mounts, structural fill for planter boxes, podiums and roof top gardens.

Problems solved!  The next question is: Is it worth the bother? Here are a few reasons why rooftop gardens are worth the effort.

Enhancing Air Quality

Rooftop gardens enhance air quality.  Rooftop gardens take carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air while releasing oxygen.  They absorb and transform sunlight and regulate ambient temperatures.

Rooftop gardens also lower both the surface and surrounding air temperatures through a process called evapotranspiration.  This process reduces ‘heat islands’ in city communities responsible for increasing power demands and which also contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gases. In fact, rooftop gardens are proven to absorb heat and insulate buildings better than traditional roofing.

Reduce Energy Costs

Rooftop gardens are proven to assist in the reduction of energy costs because less power is needed for temperature control. Air conditioners don’t have to work harder or longer and there are fewer spikes in energy demands which also means reduced energy bills for consumers. (The National Research Council of Canada did a study and found exposed roofs can heat up to as much as 70 degrees Celsius on warm days whereas the same roof type, protected by a roof garden, remains around 25 degrees Celsius.)

Harvest Rainwater

Rooftop gardens also create large catchment areas for capture and harvest of rainwater. Rooftop trees and vegetation reduce stormwater runoff and protect against erosion. Canadian researchers found that roof gardens reduced the amount of runoff by as much as 75%, and delayed the run-off time by 45 minutes.  In addition, run-off from bare roofs contain many pollutants, but this is also reduced as it is filtered through roof top garden soil.

Rooftop gardening also offers the opportunity to utilise these otherwise wasted building spaces to provide an affordable method to feed local populations. In Northern America, some restaurants are growing their ingredients on their own roof space.  One company has established rooftop greenhouse farms and sells their produce in local city markets – a brilliant idea offering fresh produce without the need for expensive freight and providing employment for locals.

Enhancing Community Life

In other parts of the world, people living in apartment buildings have converted their wasted roof and landing spaces into communal garden areas where they can plant and share herbs and vegetables among residents.  The health and cost savings for these families can be enormous.

Another benefit to rooftop ‘farming’ is the plants do not suffer from pest attacks like their ground-dwelling counterparts.  Snails and slugs are too lazy to slime their way up skyscrapers!

And then there is the obvious benefit of adding aesthetically pleasing improvements to otherwise ugly concrete cityscapes.  This also provides therapeutic benefits for those who live and work in high-rise buildings and offers space for relaxation or recreation that otherwise would not exist.

Finally, there are the savings from less wear and tear of roof structures during summer and winter months with contraction and expansion.  Roofs covered by vegetation enjoy longer lifespans because contraction and expansion are reduced.

Getting Started

Initially, when considering a rooftop garden, you will need to contact your local Council for their laws and guidelines.  Then you will need to determine what type of rooftop garden you want that meet the regulations.  The easiest gardens involve container plants. These can include vegetables suitable for growing in pots and planter boxes.  Just remember your rooftop garden will get very hot in summer, so choose plants that are more able to handle the added heat.  Also, choose plants with non-invasive root systems or limited root systems that don’t need a lot of soil.

Obviously, you will also need to ensure your roof structure is suitable for a rooftop garden so you should consult a professional, an engineer or architect to determine this.

For some inspiring rooftop garden ideas, talk to the team at NewTechWood. Whether you want stylish, eco-friendly screening or decking, we’ve got the products to help make your rooftop garden an oasis.

 

10 Creative Uses For Screening in Your Garden

There are myriad uses for screening that will provide privacy and points of interest around your garden and add value to your home.

Screening can be both decorative and practical and can be something as simple as well-placed plants through to carved and engraved metal or timber decorative screens.

Whether you want privacy, to hide something ugly, or simply to renovate, here are 10 creative ways you can use screens for privacy or decorative purposes.

screening with NewTechWood timber

Fencing. Fencing comes in a variety of styles, from dainty white pickets through to tall concrete barricades. With slat fencing, you can place your screening panels vertically or horizontally for a modern, stylish look, and still be protected from passing eyes while enjoying air flow.

Creative Gates. Who said gates couldn’t be fun and still be secure? Try using a decorative metal screen, which will serve the same purpose but provide an unusual and attractive point of interest.  With so many styles to choose from you can match any garden theme.

screening in the gardenGarden Art. Decorative screens can also be purely ornamental and support special garden themes. Think of the visual impact the new decorative screens make when used as art on fencing or exterior walls.  Think of tropical plants and bamboo reed screens with water features for that touch of Bali. Think of white trellis screening, the perfect touch for a lovely English garden with archways and climbing scented roses.  Or maybe you like something more avant-garde.

 

Two-Storey Privacy. With second storeys becoming more popular, there is that uncomfortable awareness that neighbours can see everything you do from their elevated position. A decorative, cleverly placed screen can provide an attractive and effective shield against this unwanted attention. You will need to place the screen closer to your outdoor sitting area than the fence line.  The closer it is to you, the less they will be able to see you.  Try matching your roof and wall screening for a modern look.

screening at the top of a fence to increase height

Increase Fence Height. Need to raise the height of your fence? Consider decorative screens, or lattice, which you can leave bare or cover with vines, which will also add attractive greenery as well as extra height for privacy.

Hide Ugly Fencing. Don’t know what to do with your ugly old grey super six fence?  You can paint it, but you can also cover it with reed or bamboo screening and create an exotic forest or tropical ambience in your outdoor area.  Likewise, many an ugly fence panel has been covered with a decorative screen which comes in a variety of colours and patterns to suit all landscapes.

Vertical Garden Screening. You can use a vertical garden, like Atlantis Gro-Wall, to screen off ugly fences and walls, and this is also useful if you have limited space to have a garden.

overhead screen using NewTechWoodOverhead Shelter. Sometimes, you don’t want a completely covered patio. Sometimes you want to let some sunshine through but maintain some protection. At the cheaper end of the scale is traditional shade cloth, but for a more stylish solution, try screening boards. If you don’t like the idea of regular maintenance, try a composite product, like NewTechWood composite screen. Being fully capped to protect the core, these boards will last the test of time and are UV, moisture, white ant, rotting, warping, mould resistant and zero maintenance – they never need oiling, sealing or painting.

External Pergola Privacy. Provide privacy for your external Bali hut or pergola. You can install clear al fresco plastic blinds which will keep out the wind and rain but won’t protect from prying eyes.  Other options include reed or bamboo blinds, or if you’d prefer something permanent, try timber, reed or bamboo “walls”, or lattice screening. You can also use cladding. NewTechWood composite cladding is maintenance free and has the stylish look of natural timber. Decorative metal screens will also provide stylish privacy while still allowing airflow.Facade screening

Façade. Want a decorative screen that allows for privacy, air flow, and doesn’t require plant life for good looks? There is a growing trend to use Atlantis heavy duty plastic Façade.   Façade can be used to grow creepers and vines vertically up walls and fences, but some people like to use it just as it is for a modern, edgy look which goes well with an industrial-look architectural style. Façade gives you the option.

Don’t forget to check with your local council or body corporate, as applicable, before undertaking any expensive, major works as many have rules regarding fence heights and similar modifications that may affect your plans.

Want more screening ideas? Contact us for great ways to incorporate NewTechWood no maintenance composite screening into your garden or home improvement project.