This is the time of year when most homeowners spend a good deal of time pruning trees and shrubs, trimming hedges, mowing lawns and doing many other chores that involve working with power-driven lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers and similar pieces of yard equipment. These tools go a long way toward transforming drudgery into a pleasant outdoor chore, but they also can cause serious injury if carelessly treated or not properly handled by someone unfamiliar with safe operating practices.

Probably the most important safety rule to follow when using any power-driven tool or appliance is to read the operating manual carefully and be sure you understand. Many accidents occur because of simple ignorance -- not knowing how to use the machine properly. The user should be thoroughly familiar with what its various controls and adjustments are for, and with how they can be changed or regulated when necessary.

It is equally important to know how to keep the tool in proper working order as it is to know what to do when minor problems develop. Regular preventive maintenance -- lubrication, sharpening, adjusting of drive belts, replacing of worn parts and similar care -- is just as important for safety reasons as it is for proper operating efficiency: a properly maintained yard machine is less likely to cause accidents due to forcing or overloading, or due to something letting go or falling off while the tool is in use.

Tools powered by a gasoline engine require extra care to protect against fire or explosion while pouring fuel or refilling the tank. Make sure the gasoline is stored in an approved container outside the house, and in a place where children cannot get at it. Never refuel when there are flames or lit cigarettes nearby, and do your filling on a paved area where spills can be washed away easily. Try to avoid overflowing the tank when you fill, but if you do spill some, wipe up the excess before starting the engine.

Users of electrically powered mowers, trimmers and other tools do not have to worry about gasoline, but they must take extra precautions to avoid damage to the long extension cords often used with these tools. In addition, they should avoid using the such tools when the ground is wet. Clippers or trimmers never should be used on wet foliage or plants. If the tool is not double insulated and has a three-prong grounded plug, make sure any extension cords are also three-conductor cords with grounded plugs at each end.

Power mowers are probably the most widely used of all outdoor power tools, and they are probably responsible for more accidents than any other piece of equipment around the house. A few of these accidents undoubtedly are due to fautly design or poor construction, but most accidents occur because of ignorance or carelessness. Here are some rules every operator of a rotary power mower should keep in mind:

The first step was resurfacing the old concrete floor and leveling where necessary with latex underlayment as mentioned above. Putting down the actual flooring is not very much different from putting down ordinary vinyl tiles, but because this flooring comes in planks or strips of varying widths, it does require a bit more advance planning to make sure plank widths will be varied in adjoining rows, and to make sure joints will be properly staggered when all the strips are down.

It is generally best to lay the planks lengthwise, that is, parallel to the longest dimension of the room. However, laying them across the narow dimension will help make the room look a little wider, but it will mean extra cutting and fitting. If in doubt, try laying some of the planks down "dry" first, without stripping the paper backing off, so you can see what the finished floor will look like.

If the walls have baseboards with moldings at the bottom, it is best to pry the moldings off before starting to put the floor down. These can then be re-nailed on top of the flooring after the job is down.

After deciding on the wall that will be used as a starting point, stretch a chalk line tightly along the floor, parallel to the wall and about 3 1/2 inches out from that wall. Then snap a clalk mark on the floor to indicate where the first row of planks will be laid. (Chalk lines are sold in hardware stores and lumberyards; they contain powdered chalk that coats the line so that when the line is lightly flicked or "snapped" while tightly stretched, it leaves a straight chalk line on the surface.)

If the wall lis perfectly straight, it is possible to skip this step of marking a guideline for the first row and start laving the strips right against the wall. Unfortunately, most walls are not perfectly straight, so an artificial guideline is needed for a starting line. Strips will be cut to an exact fit between the wall and this first row later.

The first row you put down should consist of the narrowest (2 1/2 inches wide) planks; the second row should be the widest (5 1/2 inches wide) planks. The third row then will be the middle width (4 inches), after which you start again with the narrowest planks. This sequence will continue across the room, alternating widths in the same sequence until you reach the opposite wall.

In addition to alternating widths, make sure you stagger end joints between planks. Since all are originally the same length (36 inches), this is accomplished by cutting planks shorter at the beginning when you start each row.

Make the first narrow plank you put down 30 inches long. The first 5 1/2-inch-wide plank you put down next to this should be 18 inches long, and the first 4-inch-wide plank should be cut to just 6 inches long; (the leftover pieces will all be used later to fill in around the edges).

After these cut-off pieces are put down in each row, continue with full-length strips for the rest of the row, and joints automatically will be staggered for proper appearance. Be sure that when you start the second series of three rows, you begin at the opposite end of the room and work back toward the original starting wall.

Border pieces, including those needed to fill the original 3 1/2-inch-wide gap along the first wall, should be installed last; trim each piece separately for a snug fit by using a sharp knife or shears. Directions supplied with the flooring illustrate a method whereby extra planks can be used to scribe strips accurately to fit, or paper patterns can be used where there are irregular contours to be matched.