August is National Curb Appeal Month: Tips to give your home a facelift

— Want to get your home noticed? There are many ways to add value and design appeal to your house’s exterior, and doing so is important, say experts.

“If you’re selling your home, updates add value and curb appeal. And if you’re staying long-term, these improvements will boost the functionality and form of your home for your own enjoyment,” says JJ Rogers, sales operations manager with Fypon, a manufacturer of decorative millwork elements.

Rogers and the experts at Fypon are offering some tips on projects to consider in time for August, which is National Curb Appeal Month.

Think 24-Hours

If you think your home’s curb appeal matters only during daylight, think again. After-hours curb appeal can be just as important.

“A well-lit home has a warm, welcoming glow and adds to the security of the home,” says Rogers,

Here are some ways to light up the night with evening curb appeal:

• Place solar-powered lights on walkways and key landscape areas to create safe pathways and highlight the home. Flank the entry door with lights for guests’ convenience, and to better see who is visiting after dark.

• Replace burnt-out bulbs and do a good cleaning of light fixtures.

• Install motion sensor lighting to make it easy for visitors to safely enter your driveway, while helping to deter burglary attempts and to know when roaming animals are in the yard.

Daylight Curb Appeal

• Replace rotting wooden trim, shutter, louvers and balustrade systems with easy-care polyurethane products that require minimal upkeep while resisting insects, decay and moisture.

• Accent the tops of windows by adding a crosshead and keystone.

• Never underestimate the power of flowers. Adding window boxes, as well as planters on the porch, steps or throughout the yard, instantly increases curb appeal.

• Add a low-maintenance timber or smooth polyurethane trellis system over a garage entry to add dimension and appeal to the door you drive through daily.

• Install a Door Surround Kit around a home’s entryway. Each kit comes with a set of pilasters to flank a standard single door and a decorative crosshead to “sit” on top of it. Fypon offers these kits in Colonial, Craftsman and Empire styles, plus a different variation in Stone.

• Add pops of complementary color using a top- down approach. Start with the roof, then work your way down to siding, trim, doors and landscaping. For a free “FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior” ebook, visit

Makeover Your Door

Your home’s entryway should be welcoming, beautiful and energy-efficient. For a chance to make this important home upgrade for free, homeowners can enter a 2015 Door Do-Over Sweepstakes sponsored by Therma-Tru, for a chance to win a Classic-Craft or Pulse fiberglass entry door system valued at $5,000. Enter online throughout August at

Keeping home exteriors clean, clutter-free and colorful can go a long way toward boosting curb appeal. Take time to focus on the beauty of your home’s exterior with a thorough clean-up and strategic upgrades.

Ravens coaching staff likes what they see from safety Kendrick Lewis

— The Baltimore Ravens have used high draft picks to address the safety position in recent years. Matt Elam was a first round pick in 2013, and Terrence Brooks was a third round selection the following year. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees talked about the importance of solidifying the back end of the defense, specifically the safety position after practice on Saturday. There is heavy competition between Will Hill and Matt Elam at strong safety but newcomer Kendrick Lewis has a stronghold on the starting free safety spot.

The move to add Lewis to the team was not met with much fanfare, but it is likely to be one that will really help a secondary that only generated a franchise low six interceptions last year. There was a dearth of big plays from the Ravens secondary last season. According to head coach John Harbaugh, the team is placing greater emphasis on making more plays this season.

“We need to create turnovers. We need to be a defense across the board that people fear in the sense that you want to throw the ball out there. …There’s a good chance it’s going to come back the other way,” Harbaugh said. “You have to have that from your back end. That’s something that has been a big emphasis for us, so we’re working hard on that.”

Lewis is a ball-hawking safety that had two interceptions for the Houston Texans last season. He returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year old safety has already made an impact in training camp with his new team. Lewis has intercepted two passes in his first three practices. He has done a great job covering Maxx Williams on plays designed to get him the ball in seams.

There were a number of times last season when the Ravens had miscommunication in the secondary which resulted in allowing a big play. A veteran like Lewis can help avoid such miscues. Lewis is recognized as being a very smart player. Pees said that was something that he was told about Lewis when they signed him.

“We heard that he was a very intelligent football player, but there are a lot of guys that are ‘intelligent’ football players and you find out maybe they’re not. He’s everything as advertised, and more.”

Pees also pointed out that he likes the way Lewis is very definitive when making the calls in the secondary. There is no room for being indecisive. The safety has to make the call and get everyone lined up. The safety is the quarterback of the defense. He sees the whole field in a way that is very similar to the quarterback.

When talking to Lewis, it becomes clear that he has the mindset of a quarterback that is joining a new team. To Lewis, it’s important to build camaraderie with his new teammates. He wants to get to know his teammates on and off of the field.

Harbaugh gave a description of Lewis that sounds very similar to the way that someone would describe Joe Flacco. “He doesn’t say much in terms of walking around the building. He just puts his nose to the grindstone and goes to work,” Harbaugh said. “I see him in the weight room. I see him in the meeting room. I see him on the field just working like crazy.”

The secondary needs a vocal leader, another quarterback trait, and that’s precisely what the team added when they signed Lewis. “You have to be vocal,” Lewis said. “You have to check in and out of coverages. You have to get guys lined up who may be crossed on a different formation. Being vocal is part of my game. It’s the part of the game that I’ve brought here with me.”

Common qualities that the Ravens coaching staff mentioned when asked about Lewis is that he is a smart player that communicates well. Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt echoed that sentiment and mentioned an added bonus.

“Kendrick [Lewis] is a great football player. He’s not just a guy that just plays the run; he plays the pass extremely well. But his biggest strength right now is [being] a guy that comes in and he brings leadership to our secondary. He’s a great communicator. He’s a guy that lines everybody up and he’s ahead of the game. [He’s] a very smart football player, and we’re very thrilled to have him.”

The Ravens need to shore up the secondary on an otherwise top notch defense. They are a team that doesn’t add high profile free agents often, rather opting for a lower cost veteran player that fits their scheme. Lewis seems like he could be the team’s latest successful low cost acquisition.

Ravens launch Emoji keyboard

— Capitalizing on the explosive global use of emoji, the Baltimore Ravens have launched a customized, Ravens-branded emoji keyboard designed to work across any iOS or Android device.

“The Ravens constantly strive to find new ways for fans to engage with our brand,” said Michelle Andres, Ravens Senior Vice President of Digital Media & Broadcasting. “We are one of the first NFL teams to develop an emoji keyboard because we know it will spur social shares for unprecedented fan engagement.”

The keyboard is compatible with virtually any mobile messaging app or social network, giving fans the ability to send more than 80 emoji and stickers to friends and family. The keyboard is available for download in Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Access the keyboard here:

“As one of the first teams in the NFL to make customized emoji available to its fan base, the Ravens are leading the charge when it comes to the best way to engage fans with fun and spirited content that they can share with friends, family and social networks,” said Evan Wray, co-founder and vice president at Swyft Media. “Emoji keyboards are the equivalent of digital swag that diehard fans can carry with them wherever they go to represent the team they love. Swyft is very excited to be on the ground floor of what will be a growing and evolving way for forward-thinking organizations like the Ravens, as they discover and implement new ways to connect with their fans and followers through cool and interesting branded mobile content.”

The Ravens are also one of the first NFL teams to partner with Twitter to utilize the Twitter Mirror, which provides fans an enhanced Twitter experience. The Mirror gives fans a fun, behind-the-scenes look at player, coach and fan selfies that can be visually modified and Ravens-themed.