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Soothing the Labor Day Heat

With Labor Day just around the corner, three elements are all but guaranteed; family gatherings; tasty barbecue and sizzling temperatures.

While backyard get-togethers are a summer must, even the best planned event can go south when temperatures head for triple-digits. A little planning now can turn a sun-drenched deck into a cool oasis for upcoming Labor Day celebrations.

As the home improvement industry continues to evolve, homeowners are spending more than ever to spiff up backyard getaways. Just as much as kids enjoy a place to take a dip during hot afternoons, friends of all ages will swarm to enjoy water systems geared at helping cool off gatherings.

A long-time summer favorite, misting systems are inexpensive and simple to install. Misters work when water droplets land on the skin, hit the surrounding air and evaporate, removing unwanted heat.

"Misters are especially popular at the fair each year and they hook right up to a hose so it's a quick and easy do-it-yourself type thing," says Medford Grange Co-Op assistant manager Sig Thurnbaur.

More intricate systems, which attach beneath roof awnings, start around $30 and can be incorporated into backyard plumbing setups or connected, as needed, to a garden faucet.

Die-hard do-it-yourselfers can buy pipes, fittings and valves to recreate the few pieces that come in a kit, Thurnbaur notes, but the cost will be about the same.

Not ready to go 'whole hog' for this year's barbecue fun? Consider one or more portable misters. Three foot mister sticks cost between $8 and $12.

Opt for misting units with replaceable brass fittings to ensure longevity and performance. A notch above misters, and slightly more costly, fogging systems producing a fine mist 'fog' rather than a gentle spray.

One downfall, mist-fogger systems often require a power supply and can be trickier to install. Units can cost in the hundreds, too.

With any mist or fog system, adding a porch fan - or even portable units - can cool things by 30 degrees or more when combined with a water feature.

Water aside, Toys for the Home manager Shawn Gillinsky says most elements of patio décor can be customized to combat summer's wrath.

"You want to go all out. You don't want everyone standing on a concrete pad, sweating and without a way to cool down. That's not fun," he says.

First and foremost, put up some shade where none exists.

"We have a shade cloth available with 60 percent light diffusion, Thurnbaur says. Shade cloth is available in bulk widths and lengths and is durable enough to stay up year round or be used only occasionally.

Another idea, Gillinsky adds, is to do away with surfaces that attract or trap heat.

"Shade tables and chairs with umbrellas. They add atmosphere and help cool things off," he notes. "And avoid plastic or thick cushioned furniture. During summer you want thinner, sling-back upholstery so it helps your skin breathe and you don't sweat."

Cool concrete with heavy-duty, outdoor rugs made from recycled (and washable!) plastic, ranging in cost from $65-$90. To cool the mind, rather than the body, think atmosphere. Cool colors, like blue and green, will encourage the mind to think it's cooler outside than it truly is.

Tropical decorations can help make a toasty afternoon more tolerable - think tiki bars, grass table skirts and festive dish and stemware.

Make your celebration the 'coolest' one around. Your guests will thank you by hanging out longer to eat, drink and enjoy themselves! Happy Labor Day!

Soothing the Labor Day Heat