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Low maintenance living

The right building materials, shrubbery free up your time

June 23, 2011
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal staff writer and Family Features , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Home maintenance can sometimes feel like a full-time job. It seems there's always something that needs to be repaired, updated, mowed, weeded or replaced, leaving little time for relaxing and spending time with the family.

Many homeowners are simplifying their home upkeep responsibilities by switching to low-maintenance materials that let them have high-quality homes without all the hassle.

Home Exteriors: The latest American Institute of Architects Home Design Trend Survey showed 68 percent of residential architects surveyed are seeing a strong interest in low-maintenance housing materials, such as fiber cement and stone for home exteriors.

Article Photos

Some of the low-maintenance shrubbery that fills Mark and Shari Meister’s yard in Chocolay Township. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)

"(Fiber cement siding) is meant to be a substitute for wood siding," said Ken Czapski, an architect with Marquette's U.P. Engineers and Architects Inc. "It is a step up in my opinion from vinyl siding. It has more of the physical appearance of real wood and you can get it in a variety of sizes."

Known for its durability, James Hardie siding has recently entered a new era of low maintenance with ColorPlus Technology. A factory-applied finish that is available in 20 colors, this advancement eliminates the need to repaint siding every 3 to 5 years. All of the siding, fascia and trim offer up to 30 percent better fade resistance than paint, and the finish is warranted for 15 years. Learn more at

While there are a number of man-made stone substitutes that work well, Czapski said people should always consider the simple solution, as well.

"Your natural masonry products are very low-maintenance," he said, adding that there are many varieties and colors available.

Landscaping: Yard work can take over the weekends all year. One of Landscape Management's trends is devoting more land to shrubs and perennials and less to grass. Not only does this add curb appeal and eco-friendliness, it cuts down on maintenance and the time required to keep the outdoor area well maintained. If plants are well-adapted to the local climate, you won't have to do much for them and will likely not need to replace them.

Mark Meister of Meister's Landscape in Marquette said there are a number of viable options in the Upper Peninsula. As for perennials, he suggested day-lilies and cone flowers in drier areas and peonies in damper places.

"There's a few different types that thrive locally," he said. "You'll still have some maintenance, regardless, with any that you use."

For bushes and shrubs, he likes lilacs, junipers and a number of different rose varieties.

"There's a real broad spectrum of plants that do well in the area," Meister said. "A lot of it is personal preference and what you're trying to achieve, height- and size-wise."

You can also look into xeriscaping - gardening techniques that reduce the need for supplemental watering - and into creating rain gardens to take advantage of those areas that receive too much water.

Indoor Chores: Technological advances have made it easier to streamline household chores and save time. From robot vacuum cleaners and self-cleaning windows, to high efficiency washers and self-cleaning ovens, there are plenty of ways to cut down on chore time. And not all cleaning advances are gadget related. Look for multipurpose cleaners that can tackle more than one room and stain-resistant materials that reduce the need to clean at all. There are also a growing number of affordable house cleaning services that can take on some of the more time-consuming chores so you can focus on other things that matter.

A little research and investment now can save you time and money down the road, letting you live a low-maintenance life.



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