Green Movement in Your Home Improvement

Put the Green Movement in Your Home Improvement

Now that the environmental revolution is no longer a new movement, the costs of many of the materials needed to go green have come way down. On top of that, the assortment of those materials has vastly increased, making the selection process that much more rewarding. You can simply get more of what you want for less than ever. And if you still cannot afford to make the environmentally friendly energy changes you would like, there are, at least, a number of ways you can compensate as a consolation until you are able to make the investments you want.

Especially in the energy business, one economic principle remains – hire a pro. Enlisting the right specialist is always a good investment, even if it doesn’t at first seem like a no-brainer. If you choose wisely, the money you pay the professional should eventually be returned to you as added savings. Not only have they spent the time gaining the experience and expertise, but it is also in their best interest to provide you with a solid, lasting service, so that they can expect your repeated business as well as that of your friends and colleagues.

In particular, a professional energy assessor will save you money in the long run. You may be quite unaware just how much money is going (sometimes literally) out the window until an assessor has had the opportunity to, well, assess. He or she will have nothing much personally to gain from exaggerating the truth or being at all ineffectual. Even if there is a third party contractor involved with which you suspect the assessor to be cooperating, your satisfaction is a valuable commodity once the energy upgrades are complete. And if you are not able to calculate real savings, the assessor and contractor are both vulnerable to criticism.

And in these days of the Internet one client’s dissatisfaction can be quite damaging.

One thing to keep in mind when assessing an assessor – you do not need to purchase a new water heater. If it’s time to replace your old one, you can opt to go “tankless,” which means replacing your water heater with a tankless water heating system that will only heat as much water as you use.

It’s not a coincidence that saving money and saving the environment go hand-in-hand. It boils down to circumventing a mass-production industry’s imposed standards, standards that were instituted for a singular purpose: to make more money. A parallel can be drawn with the organic foods and produce industry. Since when does the omission of chemicals cost more money? It doesn’t. The same goes for home furnishings. Some materials are simply easier to replace in nature and more cost efficient, and with today’s green competition, the quality has risen in many respects.

Building standards have improved across the board, and there is just too much pressure to go green for a builder not to.

Some products and practices to consider:

Most of the major paint manufacturers have come out with eco-friendly paints and painting products, but they will advertise as such, so look for something to that effect on the label or on their website.

Cork and bamboo flooring is not only eco-logically friendly, they’re eco-nomically friendly as well. They are naturally replenished much more rapidly than the slow-growing hardwood trees.

Wool carpeting, while often slightly more expensive than synthetics, gives an organic and comfortable feel to your home, without the expense to nature created by the carpeting manufacturers.

Consider the now-old phrase, “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle,” in terms of the larger home furnishing you may need to repair. If you can take an old piece of flooring or furniture and revamp it to a new finish, it will probably have more intrinsic beauty and character than a new piece. Then you can at least find it a new home if you still don’t want it, because someone will certainly appreciate it, and the overall environmental cost of the furniture industry can be somewhat abated.

It’s a new world we live in, and even the big businesses are aware that more green environmentalism will lead to more green in their company bank accounts.

 

Enjoyment of Your Outdoor Activities

A Gazebo Will Enhance the Enjoyment of Your Outdoor Activities

Building a gazebo is not as difficult as one might think – – especially if you purchase a kit or a partially constructed gazebo. However, even if you purchase a gazebo kit, there are certain things you must take into consideration before you even begin to take the pieces out of their boxes. Gazebos are a wonderful home improvement that will add value to your home and enhance your enjoyment of your backyard or lakefront property. With a little planning, and the right tips, you can construct a gazebo in a weekend or two.

Before beginning any construction project, including building a gazebo, you should check with your local government office for any required building permits. The fines for building without a permit could be quite steep and are easily avoided with a telephone call to your local Building and Codes Enforcement Office.

Once you have determined whether you need a building permit, the next step is to choose the site for your gazebo. Gazebos are often used as a focal point for a garden or a gathering spot beside a lake or in a backyard. How you are planning to use your gazebo will help you determine the placement. Take into consider existing structures and the size of your gazebo when planning the location. It is a good idea to use some stakes and string to physically stake out your gazebo to see how the location and size of the gazebo will work. The size of your gazebo is another factor in the location – – a good rule of thumb is an eight-foot gazebo will comfortably hold two people, two chairs and a small table. With every two-foot addition to the size of the gazebo, you can add two people to the count.

Once you have established the size and location of your gazebo, you must determine what building materials to use in the construction. Wood is the most popular building material; however, there are gazebo kits available in vinyl. Vinyl will last a very long time and does not need to be repainted or weatherproofed. I prefer wood for gazebos because of the aesthetic value.

There are several excellent choices of wood for gazebos:

  1. Cedar is the best wood for gazebos because it is lightweight, naturally repels insects and resists warping, splitting and cupping. In addition, cedar is beautiful and weathers extremely well.
  2. Redwood is another good choice for material because it resists decay and repels insects. However, redwood is more expensive than cedar and can significantly increase the cost of your gazebo.
  3. Pine is an inexpensive but good choice for gazebos. It is easy to work with; however, you will need to treat the wood and do more maintenance because pine tends to not weather as well as cedar or redwood.

Browse the selection of gazebo kits and plans available from The Gazebo Factory and Summerwood Designs.

Real Estate Checklist

Construct with Care – a “Real” Real Estate Checklist

Property prices are typically built upon a set of factors that are determined by local real estate market conditions as opposed to national market trends. It’s no secret that a cape cod home in suburban California is going to fetch a far higher price than the exact same property situated in a rural Midwest location.

Market variables are constantly changing, but certain components are often used in the construction of a property’s price:

Foundation: Value of nearby homes – When a property is appraised, one of the factors which plays a major role in the final valuation is what similar-sized homes are selling for in the neighborhood.

The price of a 2,400 square-foot home with four bedrooms and two baths may be affected if a similar home across the street just sold last week. If the sale was closed at a higher than anticipated price, it would not be surprising to see an increased price on the home across the street.

The opposite is true as well. If the home across the street sold for a low price, the property still on the market may not be able to command its original asking price.

Framework: Size of property – This is evaluated by lot size and the home’s number of bedrooms, baths, and total square footage. “Additional” square footage, such as a partially finished basement or an enclosed porch, are secondary to the main living space.        Fixtures: Number of improvements (structures) – The home is the primary improvement on the property. Other structures might include a detached garage, storage shed, barn, workshop, greenhouse or poolhouse.

Beyond the home itself, if additional structures on the property are in good shape, they can enhance a property’s value. Conversely, if a garage is in dilapidated condition, it can detract from a home’s selling price.

Walls: Condition of property – How does the home look on the inside? Is it bright, airy and comfortable with newer plumbing and electrical wiring? Is it a freshly constructed home that will sell the minute it hits the listings? Or perhaps it is a 50-year-old home with a 50-year-old bathroom and kitchen that have never been updated.

In the big picture, appraisals are generally based on actual square footage, rather than décor details. But the interior’s appearance will influence the home’s value in prospective buyers’ eyes.

Topping: Amenities – Features beyond the property’s size, condition and improvements can affect real estate pricing. Common “extras” can include kitchen island, built-in dishwasher, fireplace, hot tub and walk-in closets.

Amenities are not limited to a home’s interior. Has the yard been professionally landscaped? Is the garage detached or attached? Is there a deck on the front or back of the house?

Sometimes what one person regards as a plus can be viewed as an obstacle to someone else. For instance, some sellers are convinced that an in-ground pool enhances their property’s value. What they may not realize is that a pool can be perceived as a problem to certain buyers, who may not want the maintenance or safety responsibilities that a pool requires.

The correct approach is to try to contemplate how the majority of buyers will feel about every “extra” on the property.

Finishing Touches: Curb appeal — Here is a factor that is sometimes overlooked because so much of the real estate pricing process is fixated in factual information. From a buyer’s perspective, a home’s curb appeal can motivate them to get out of the car, or just keep on driving.

The way a property looks from the street can be a crucial element in determining what a buyer will pay. It should emanate an element of warmth that invites prospective buyers and investors to walk through the home’s front door.

Extras: There are a myriad of other elements that can also affect real estate pricing. Sometimes they are foreseeable, other times they are not recognized until after the fact:

* Trees can be a negative influence if they are too mature and located too close to the house. Trees can also be a plus if a buyer wants a closer connection to nature.

* Nearby main thoroughfares can be a plus for someone who wants to get to work quickly or ride public transportation. Busy streets can be a detriment to others who worry about vehicular noise or crossing the road safely.

* A wood-burning stove could be desirable to certain-minded individuals, who might perceive it as a value. There are other individuals who might be concerned about having one in their home.

* Swimming pool – Here’s something that can either enhance a home’s value or detract from it, depending on the buyers’ preferences. If the buyer wants a swimming pool with the home, it can be a plus. If the buyer really likes the home, but does not want a pool, it can be a deal-breaker.

Fortunately, no matter how a real estate price is constructed, it can always be rebuilt to adapt to the conditions that guide the market.

Washington's Shoreline Management Act

Washington’s Shoreline Management Act

Under the Washington State Shoreline Management Act enacted in 1971, all building or development in marine waters, streams, rivers or lakes or within the immediate vicinity of these waters is subject to the Act’s regulations and permitting requirements. The Shoreline Management Act was designed as a partnership between state and local government. The Act gave local government the authority to plan, permit and enforce the Act. When building an addition to a home that is located close to the shoreline, following and adhering to the Shoreline Management Act’s regulations and restrictions can be a lengthy and costly process.

Single Family Resident Exemption

Single family residence construction can be exempt from the Act’s regulations. This construction, however, “must be by an owner, lessee or contract purchaser for their own use.”

Additions, or garages, that are attached to a single-family residence can also be exempt. However, other permit requirements and environmental regulations might still apply.

Burden of Proof

According to the Shoreline Management Act, the burden of proof lies with the applicant as to whether or not a project is exempt from the permitting process.

The Role of Local Government

The Act holds local governments responsible for implementing and administering the provisions of the Act. Building permits are issued by local government agencies. Before planning an addition to your home it is advisable to consult with your local planning or building department. Local governments also have the authority to grant deviations from the Act, such as variances or conditional use permits.

Non-Exempt Permitting Process

For projects that are not exempt from the Shoreline Management Act’s provisions, building permits are issued by local government, with the approval, however, of the Washington State Department of Ecology. The permitting process includes:

(1) Pre-application conference between staff and applicant.

(2) Application, including site plan, map and corresponding information on shoreline environment.

(3) Public notice

(4) Department of Ecology review

(5) Revisions and appeals.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the Shoreline Management Act is to protect the environment and avoid “piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.” While provisions have been made to accommodate single-family homes and additions, it is advisable to confer with your local building department before planning construction near a shoreline in Washington State.

Basic Drawer Side Construction

Basic Drawer Side Construction

Many types of joints are used in the construction of drawers. The joints range from the traditional dovetail to the nailed butt. The strongest joint is the one that is in-between the front and the sides. This is where the drawer takes the most abuse. The joint should look good and go with the design of the cabinet since this is the joint that everyone sees.

The half-blind dovetail joint has been used for over two hundred years and is still the best joint available for strength when properly completed. Originally the dovetail joint was cut by hand and was seen on all price ranges of furniture. Today, the half-blind dovetail joint is basically seen on high-end and custom-made drawers. This type of joint is not seen on the outside of the drawer. When looking to the inside the dovetail joint may be seen. A half-blind dovetail joint may be used on any of the drawer types (lipped, flush and overlay).

The straight dovetail joint that shows to the outside is not universally used in high end furniture. When used, a false front it put on the drawer to cover the dovetail unless the dovetail design is part of the desired look.

The sliding dovetail is used only on an overlay drawer. It is easy to make once the proper setup has been completed. This dovetail slot is visible from the top edge of the drawer front and can distract from the look of the cabinet once it is completed. That is why the overlay drawer front is used.

The box joint is made by using either a router or table saw. It does not have the interlocking capabilities of the dovetail. The box joint yields a strong hold due to the many gluing surfaces it provides.

A plain rabbet or dado joint connects the drawer together with an ease in construction. The joints do not interlock. There is no good gluing surface so the drawer will not last the test of time. The hybrid dado-and-rabbet joint does provide the locking of the pieces together. It is easy to make but it exposes the end-grain on the drawer front. This means a false front will need to be added unless it is part of the cabinet design.

Lock joints are strong and simple. They are especially used when dealing with routed drawer locks. A special router bit is used to produce both parts. This type of locked joint works well on all three drawer types (lipped, flush and overlay).

When deciding on what type of drawer construction to use it is best to consider the visual appearance after the project is complete. Each jointing procedure provides a different look to the completed drawer. The particular look could add character and dimension to any woodworking project.

String, the Ultimate Tool

String, the Ultimate Tool

String comes in a plethora of sizes, materials, and strengths. The string needed in a home owner’s toolkit is made from nylon which gives it strength. Everyone could use a roll or two with several hundred feet on them.

Sting is used in chalk lines, for marking long lines where a ruler is far too short to get the job done accurately. The string is carried in an enclosed reel that chalk can be added to, simply mark the object at opposite ends as needed, and stretch the chalk line across tightly. Once the line is taught snap it once and a line of chalk will mark where the line is stretched. Keep extra chalk handy as it tends to use it up quickly.

Plumb bobs use string to suspend a weight to mark vertical lines, keep the weight off the floor slightly so the bob is free to swing until it stops on its own. Find the mark on the floor or ceiling you want to transfer and mark the opposite end…. A chalk line reel is great for a plumb bob, and will keep the string neatly rolled up and out of the way when not in use.

A roll of string has many uses and a line level is just one more way to utilize string the ultimate tool!

A line level, hooks over the string and once you have pulled the string taught over your project it is possible to check it for level over a long distance. You can set grade, level forms, and measure rise or fall from it.

A string line on grade stakes will allow a straight wall to be built, or your concrete forms to run straight and level, or about any other long project that only string can aid in the completion of.

String can be used in a pinch to lash projects together like a clamp or temporarily hang one end of a long board in place when working by yourself when you need an extra hand.

String can be used as a means to draw large curves or circles, find your center point, run out a length of string to match your needs and attach a pencil in a loop at the other end to mark your curve with.

String the Ultimate tool, don’t leave home without it… or at least not when remodeling your house. Try to keep several rolls around since it is all too easy to cut one up for smaller projects.

Building Construction

Do it Yourself Tips and Tricks for Building Construction

Every building construction trade has its share of useful tricks that make life easier, and the job go faster! Here are a few gems I’ve learned through the years.

Making a 90 degree angle, or squaring a large area.

Every now and then you find yourself needing to make sure that the project you are working on is square. You might be building a deck, laying a concrete pad, or building a wall that you want square to another wall. If the area is bigger than you’re framing square how do you square it?

Use the 3-4-5 rule. A simple but very effective way of measuring a right triangle that works in any size as long as those increments are used. You can use 3x4x5, 30x40x50, or 300x400x500 inches or feet, the results will remain the same.

Measure over three feet, then four feet down, and finally close off the triangle by marking where a five foot line stretched from the outer end of either mark intersects the opposite angle at its far end. You just drew a right triangle.

You may have to adjust one of the legs of the triangle until the ends of the measurements meet to form the right triangle. A great thing for any do-it-yourself type to know!

Finding plumb

There are times when you may need to find a plumb line straight down from ceiling to floor with no wall or other guide. A plumb bob, or a string with a pointed weight used to be the best way to do this, but now we have laser levels to work with! Simply set the level in place (as long as it is a self leveling model) and mark the floor or ceiling where needed. For most do-it-yourself types the laser level is an expensive toy that would not get used much.

The plumb bob is more patience intensive but still works. Keep the bob just above the floor and wait until it stops swinging, then either mark the floor, or if you need to find that spot on the ceiling move the string around until you find your spot on the floor with the plumb bob as still as you can manage. Small circles are ok as long as the mark is in the center. It helps to have two people when using this over longer distances.

The angle finder

A great device for matching angles needed to cut pieces to fit an angle. It usually has two arms and a lock nut to hold whatever angle you measured so that you can transfer it to your work piece.

Dividers

Dividers come in many styles and sizes, but they all do the same basic thing, they draw circles. Dividers can be used to mark off specific distances by walking them, find the center of a work piece by making an arc from each side, and drawing a straight line between the two outer points where the arcs meet, and even draw… a circle.

However, if you need a really large curve or circle, a string attached to a stake or nail with a pencil attached to the other end will work wonders.

Finding level

Levels come in many shapes, and each one has its own uses. A nine inch torpedo level is a handy item to have around and a magnetic one is perfect for certain things, but it is not a good idea to try leveling a large surface with one when a four or six foot level would give much more accurate results.

A line level is necessary when a string line needs to be level, and no other level is going to take its place in a pinch. They hook right onto the string, they are small, and they are cheap.

A graduated level is used for plumbing work and have marks to set the fall or drop of the pipe without having to constantly measure it, water after all does not flow uphill unless under pressure.

Laser levels are handy once again in certain places and can save you a great deal of time in many applications.

Home improvement is an ever present reality for most home owners, and knowing these tricks and special tools can make a world of difference when you really need one as any do-it- yourself home owner knows!

Restoring an MG Midget Interior

Restoring an MG Midget Interior Part 10: Reconstruction – Panels and Parts

Your carpet has been installed, and before you applied your sound deadening materials and carpet you took lots of pictures to remind you where the little holes are in the side wall interior. And you’ve also got in hand a diaper pin or large embroidery needle.

Chock, block and disconnect, as usual.

Lay out the vinyl panels on the garage or living room floor, in the positions they go when inside the car. If your panels are like mine, they are constructed with a fiberboard interior, a thin piece of foam on top of the fiberboard and sealed by a piece of vinyl on the front and back. Some of the panel backs may be clear vinyl – it just depends on your manufacturer.

You may find some pre-drilled holes – some only through the back of the vinyl, and a few through the fiberboard as well. While these are useful in generally being in the place you need them to be, you can’t rely solely on these positions as matching your own car. Dry fitting the panels where they go in the car and measuring / marking the holes that you need saves you the pain of drilling a hole in the wrong place.

I also found that some of my panels were bigger than where they were to fit – the two I had most problem with were the ones over the wheel well. Be careful when forcing a fit – the interior fiberboard is sturdy but will not tolerate a lot of stress.

Starting in the footwells, dry fit and mark the places where your screws and grommets need to go to attach the panel to the side wall. If you’ve covered some or all of the side walls with sound deadening material, you will use your diaper pin or needle to poke through the material into the hole of the metal side wall. Find the holes first, then mark your dry-fitted vinyl panel.

Some people find it easier to create a paper template of each panel piece, and dry fit that to locate the holes. Just remember to mark each side of the paper as “front” or “back” and lay the “back” side of the paper on the front side of the vinyl panel.

For the screws to get through the fiberboard, use a razor blade to cut a small “X” where the hole should go on both sides of the panel. Then using a drill and the appropriate sized drill bit, AND TIGHTLY PRESSING DOWN the vinyl into the foam and interior fiberboard, drill a hole so your screw will go through the fiberboard.

Why, you may ask, are you emphasizing the “tightly pressing down”? Experience is a harsh teacher. If you don’t firmly hold the foam in place against the vinyl, the drill bit will grab the foam and quickly spin it into a ball underneath the vinyl, much like I’d imagine a tumor would look just under the skin.

And you’ve guessed I found out the hard way – yes, that’s true. The passenger side, under door vinyl panel above the carpeted floor is cut open on the back, so I could carefully reach around the fiberboard and untwist the foam. I then patched the back of the vinyl panel…one of those secrets that won’t show but you’ll always know is there.

Back to the footwell panel. After your holes are ready, put the panel in place, put a grommet (looks like a donut) next to the screwhead and screw the panel into place. The grommet distributes the holding surface of the screw across more panel area. You’ll have to judge how tight is too tight – remember you can fracture the fiberboard if you force it too tightly against a curved sidewall.

Continue working your way through the vinyl panels, lower to upper, overlaying pieces as they are needed. Behind the doors, you will recall that the side wall is actually covered with a piece of vinyl fabric. Carefully measure and dry fit this piece, then spray adhesive on the back of the fabric and the side wall itself (protecting the carpet and other vinyl panels from overspray). Allow the adhesive to dry to a tacky touch, and firmly press and smooth the fabric around the corners and into place. Do the same for the door caps, and go through that painful process to bolt the caps back onto the doors.

Pre-bend the panel that goes across the back wall to separate the passenger side from the trunk – you’ll see the melt lines in the vinyl panel that you follow to bend the panel.

If you plan to install speakers on your upgraded radio, most people put the speakers in that back panel. You’ll run the wires to the speaker under the vinyl panels from the radio to the speakers. Measure, cut and install with care – this is an expensive piece to replace.

Some of the panels, including the panels for the doors, use the “V” clip (with the “hat”) to hold the panel to the side wall. Slip the “hat” into the hole cut into the fiberboard, and twist the “V” around to fit into the hole in the metal wall. These pop nicely into place!

I did run into a problem where I could not find a hole. I did drill a couple of my own, and I did that with great care. You need to know what is behind the wall that you are drilling into, and you must STOP drilling before you punch through the exterior wall!

There are also restorers who will use small pieces of the vinyl ‘fabric’ to glue to the side walls where two pieces of vinyl panel meet. My previous restorer had done that. When I dry fit the panels, I decided I really didn’t need to do that work – I was happy with how the panels looked where they met on the wall. That’s a preference you’ll have to decide – just make sure that you cut pieces from the vinyl fabric that don’t leave you with enough fabric to cover those door caps.

Your panels should be in place, and the car’s interior should have a much more finished look. From a time perspective, it took me much longer to do the panels – about 24 total hours – than it took me to lay the carpet.

Now the fun part starts!

The first thing I put back was the ashtray! I had cleaned the pieces, and re-sprayed the appropriate pieces with matte black spray paint – several coats. Stabbing my diaper pin through the carpet and DynaMat, I located the two screw holes, and screwed the ashtray base to the carpeted hump. I fit the rod through the base and cover, and inserted the ash catcher! It was fast, easy, and started to bring the car back to life – and I don’t even smoke!

Got through your baggies and put back the glove box, door handles, window handles and door pulls. I did all this before I replaced the door trim, because I was in a hurry to see more of the finished look!

You will fit the door trim over the exposed metal edges, and over the vinyl fabric and panels. The trim I used was longer than I needed, to allow for variance in different MG door sizes. I started from the top behind the seat to the front of the doorway. Pressing the channel of the trim firmly onto the edge and over the vinyl takes some patience but is easy to do. Use a clean plastic putty knife against the vinyl and force the trim channel over the putty knife, to avoid damaging the vinyl. (Wiggle the putty knife out from under the hard channel to free it).

Cut the excess trim with a very sturdy pair of scissors, a tin snip or a wirecutter. Alternatively, you could cut it with a razor blade, but I’d suspect that would be hard to do. Return the finisher and the front trim clip to their rightful places for each door opening. Reattach the door straps over the trim and through the vinyl panels as well.

You’ll firmly close the doors against the stiff, new trim to get them to close, and it’s recommended you leave the doors closed for 24-48 hours to allow the trim to adjust to the door.

That’s all for now – the last 2 articles will cover the seats (no pun intended) and discuss some of the exterior maintenance items you may also want to address.

Outdoor Fireplace Construction

Outdoor Fireplace Construction

If you’re looking for a great way to accent your patio, garden or just favorite spot in the yard, then adding an outdoor fireplace is it. By adding an outdoor fireplace, you can create a snug and cozy alcove for just two, or make a fantastic gathering spot for your guests. No matter what you choose, you’ll find that an out door fireplace becomes a focal point in your outdoor occasions.

Outdoor fireplace construction isn’t for everyone. It is a complicated task in its entirety. That doesn’t mean you can’t sub out the hard stuff and do the easy stuff yourself.

Location of the outdoor fireplace should be on a level area preferably with a wind buffer like a hill or trees that block prevailing winds. You may need to install shrubbery or a fence to prevent prevailing winds from ruining your outdoor gathering with wind and flying hot ash!

You’ll need a good foundation to start with, so after you decide where you are placing it, dig a footer. It should be a minimum of 8″ into the virgin soil. Set up a set of forms if your soil is sandy and loose. Set a series of #8 rebar inside of the footer and pour on some concrete. Mixing a few bags should be enough for small projects, but if you’re going all out, you may want to think about calling in some help and a cement truck.

After your foundation has dried, its time to add some blocks. Concrete blocks are set with mortar mix and a trowel. Spread a layer about 1-2″ thick along the foundation and set the blocks on it. Use a string line and tape measure to square up the blocks as you set the four corners. After the corners are set, fill in the rest using a line as a straight edge. Add more mortar and continue adding alternating corners and rows until you reach the top. Keep the height of the joints uniform by adding more than you need and tapping the block down until it’s the same as the rest. Wipe away the excess mortar with a wet sponge.

In the center of the blocks, add the fire slab and fire brick in the same way as the block. Mix fire mortar for the inner hearth and fire brick. Stack the center until you reach the top.

You should make the chimney at least 10 feet high to prevent smoke from getting in your face when you sitting or standing next to it. If you’re unclear how a chimney works, you can find countless blueprints and side drawings of fireplaces and how they work on the web or call your local building department for more details to fireplace codes specific to your region.

Transom Windows

Add Style to Your Home Interior with Transom Windows

Often considered a classic element of Victorian architectural style, transom windows are making a big comeback in both new construction and home remodeling. Here is a bit of information about what transom windows are, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into your own home.

Transom Windows: What Are They?

Transom windows are small windows that rest above interior doorways or in walls. These windows can either be plain or decorative and come in a wide variety of styles. (Styles of decorative transom windows can rage from extremely detailed stained glass pieces to incredibly simple clear glass ones.) In addition, transom windows can either be able to be opened or stay fixed closed.

Transom Windows: The Benefits

There are two major benefits to adding transom windows to the interior of your home: light and ventilation. Traditionally, transom windows were able to be opened and allowed cross ventilation from room to room in homes that pre-dated central heating and cooling. For many homeowners, the height of transom windows (typically, high above doorways) allowed for secure ventilation without leaving a low door unlocked or window open. In modern times post the invention of the air conditioning system, these windows are usually used for decorative purpose. Transom windows are also an excellent option for hallways or staircases that have no outside windows and need to draw light from other areas of the home.

Transom Windows: Transom Windows In Your Home

Typically, adding transom windows can be a bit tricky in homes with low ceilings. However, if the room has a vaulted ceiling and standard height doorway, most contractors can easily frame and install a set of transom windows above an interior doorway. There are a wide variety of options and styles for these types of windows available from manufacturers in the industry, whether they are traditional “hand blown” glass styles (more expensive) to plain clear glass options (less expensive). Contact your local door and window contractor to find out if transom windows are an appropriate option for the architecture of your home.

FUN FACT: The American saying “over the transom” refers to a piece of literary or other work that is submitted without being solicited from a writer or artist to a publisher. This comes from the days when many offices had transom windows, and a budding novelist or musician would slip their work over the locked office door and into the building through a transom window.