Lessen your load
If toiling over housework is not your idea of fun, you’re in good company. It turns out that most people search for short cuts, whether it’s indoors or out.
“Life at 9,200 feet is tough on wood products,” says Pat Rupert, owner of Pat Rupert Construction in Winter Park. “Using recycled composite decking, stucco, metal soffits and fascia, metal clad windows, and real rock exterior wainscoting makes sense.”
These materials are more durable than natural wood and require less work to maintain. For instance, real wood decks need to be sanded and stained every year to continue looking good. Not so with composite decking; often a combination of recycled plastic and wood, it doesn’t require staining or sanding to keep it looking brand new.
Using natural stone rather than synthetic on the exterior also can save on future maintenance, because snow and rain can take its toll on synthetic rock.
“From a durability standpoint, (natural stone) is the best stuff in the world,” says Seth Sadler, owner of EnviroSense Design Build, Inc., in Fraser.
Incorporating more sustainable features like this during the building phase can reduce maintenance costs down the line; this is known as “front-end loading” the house cost.
Simplifying the roof design is also key in the mountains.
“Ice movement created the Rocky Mountains and sunk the Titanic, so imagine the serious damage it can do to a roof,” Rupert says. Minimizing roof penetrations and valleys can prevent problems even during the heaviest snow years. Rupert is adding glass-paneled rail sections to his own deck, to continue the maintenance-free design of the home. With one or more of these panels removed, simply pushing snow off into the abyss will replace shoveling.
It’s an urban myth that pops up every year: a no-maintenance landscape is possible.
“(Sure), just rip up everything in your yard, and plunk down concrete or gravel,” jokes Chad Driggers, a seasoned Grand Junction landscaper. “But most people live in Colorado to enjoy nature, not to suffocate it.”
Since growing organisms comprise landscaping, the minimum level of care involves trimming and weeding every other week. The only way to achieve “maintenance-free” landscaping ” at least from a homeowner’s perspective ” is to hire a gardener. If you’re not willing to do that, stick with forgiving fauna. Xeric plants include Apache Plume, Winter Fat, Desert 4 O’clock, Purple Three Awn, Silver Sage, Penstemon and more. But beware:
“The low-maintenance myth buster is cacti,” says Driggers. “They don’t need constant watering, but it’s nearly impossible to pull out the weeds that blow into the middle of them, rendering them high maintenance.”
Since most mountain homes are surrounded by “natural” landscape, those awful dandelions still bloom every year, and flowerbeds don’t automatically group together nicely. But Kramer says there are methods to reduce maintenance and keep yards looking pristine.
For instance, digging up scattered perennials and replanting them within a large mulched planting bed reduces grassy areas and cleans up the overall appearance. Neils Lunceford landscapers often incorporate a dry streambed to break up the look of the mulch beds, and installing weed fabric underneath helps minimize weeds.
“Whatever you do, don’t plant it and forget it,” advises Kim Kramer, a landscape designer with Neils Lunceford in Silverthorne. “Minimal work can result in longevity of the landscape.”
This work includes installing an irrigation system, preparing the soil for healthy growth, and fertilizing and replacing mulch.
Low-maintenance ideas can be brought indoors, too. Depending on how much you hate to dust, you may want to consider various furniture choices, from their surface area down to the upholstery.
Simple fixes can save hours of time, such as storing your fine china in an enclosed cabinet to prevent dust from settling on the dishes. You can also opt for central vacuuming in your new home. By incorporating vacuum tubes within the walls during construction and then strategically placing the hookups throughout the house (which look much like an electrical outlet) vacuuming becomes a matter of picking the right attachment for the job at hand and plugging it in. New technology, such as the Hide-A-Hose Retractable Central Vacuum System, allows each inlet to cover 2,300 square feet of space per 50-foot hose.
If condensation rings on tabletops drive you crazy, consider copper, or be sure you select a wood with a finish that repels water. Then look into upholstery options.
“Most people select stain-resistant upholstery if they have kids,” says Adrianna Fann, an interior designer with Mountain Timber Furnishings in Fraser. “Seeing is believing ” we poured black oil over our beige curtains, and it miraculously wiped off.” Polyester leads the fabric revolution; its micro fibers are very interwoven, creating a formidable barrier.
Leather continues to be another popular choice, especially with an aniline or semi-aniline finish (as opposed to a nubuck style, like suede). It repels water, and it is easier to wipe pet dander and dust off than other fabrics.
To really make a difference in any home, consider a Hepa air purifier. “It removes allergens and dust, so there’s less assault on the senses and the furniture,” says Steve Northway, owner of Northway Construction in Carbondale.
Though more pricey than a typical filter, it collects dust, mold spores, mites, pet dander and other allergens, actually removing the particles rather than displacing them onto your furniture and floors.