Go for nice, but practical stuff

There are few things as annoying as trying to reach for a chair and the host jumps up to stop you from sitting on the scrap. This is usually the case with those plastic garden chairs that some black people simply refuse to dispose of.

Garden furniture has to be of good quality, complement a house and be sturdy enough for guests and owners to relax in without fear of falling down.

Cynthia Meiring, property developer for Firzt Properties, says gardens can make or break the image of a house.

"No matter how good your taste is inside, if it doesn't begin on the outside, your decor is incomplete," Meiring says.

"I've seen it many times in the eyes of prospective buyers. They look at the house, look at the garden and you immediately know from the look in their eyes if they are interested or not," she says.

The first thing to do is to make a distinction between buying furniture for the patio and the garden itself. Garden furniture must be durable for all-weather conditions whereas patio furniture requires a little more care.

"Never leave outdoor furniture in direct sunlight all the time," says Alice Thanjekwayo of Homebuilders.

"I also advise customers to choose outdoor furniture that is movable, in case they experience sudden weather changes."

Tips on buying garden furniture:

l Decide if you want seating for quiet reflection, for entertainment purposes or for both. If you want to relax on quiet lazy afternoons, consider a table big enough for books, drinks, snacks and such, but not so big it leaves you feeling lonely.

Thanjekwayo says: "Nice bulky cushions are not only cheerful, but they are also handy when you doze off."

l Consider the number of people you usually entertain and the type of entertaining you enjoy. Also, where you will store the furniture if you have to protect it from bad weather. You need a convertible container for throws, cushions, ash trays etc.

l Take into account your current lifestyle as well as the activities you enjoy in your yard. Jot down your functional needs and keep this handy while shopping.

l Test the furniture by sitting on chairs and moving tables around to see how sturdy they are. Wooden furniture should feel smooth to the touch. Lots of filler in the joints means it will deteriorate quicker. Plastic, aluminium and rattan are light and easy to lift, but heavy wood and wrought iron are best for windy spots.

l Wood will need re-staining, oiling or moving indoors in winter, while aluminium and plastic can be left outside all year round. If buying wrought iron, go for a rust-resistant finish. Bear in mind rattan can be damaged by direct sunlight.

Additional info - idealhomemagazine.co.uk

How to maintain your pool

Sanitise your pool with a stabilised chlorine product to provide protection against bacteria. These products generally come in stick or tablet form and are fed into the distribution container near the pump and filter system.

Use an algae preventative or inhibitor to help keep algae from ever getting started. This liquid product is simply poured into the water near the skimmer intake so that the pump system can distribute it to all the areas of the pool.

Shock your pool on a regular basis - about every two weeks - to get rid of water-soluble bather waste.

Get hold of a pool professional or supply dealership that has a water-test facility that offers computer analysis of samples you bring in. Many of the larger and better companies offer this service free of charge if you have bought your pool from them.

Tips and warnings

Look for pool companies that offer weekly maintenance services if you are not committed to taking care of the pool yourself. The weekly service and the great pool conditions can often be less expensive than the extra chemicals and the work involved in dealing with a pool that is poorly maintained.

Troubleshooting your pool

Listen for excessive pump noise because this could be a warning of possible problems in that area. Today's newer pumps are sealed units that do not require any maintenance, but rubber or composition pump seals can go bad and result in bearing failure or electrical shorts.

Replace any pump that is more than seven or eight years old and that is in need of repair. The newer models are more efficient at moving larger volumes of water with less energy, saving you money. You will need a smaller, less-expensive pump, have lower monthly utility bills and better circulation also means better filtration and fewer chemical requirements.

Always keep a close eye on your pool's pressure gauge. An inoperative pressure gauge means you can't tell when water pressure begins to build from the normal levels indicated by a clean, efficient filter, and the higher pressure of a filter in need of cleaning. High pressure means unnecessary strain on the pool pump and a less efficient filtering system.

It is important to know what kind of filter you have and to keep it clean.

- ehow.com