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.

Construction Calculators

A Consumer’s Guide to Construction Calculators

Many home improvement and remodel projects fall through because of budget failures. The cost for materials is underestimated in the overall budget; leaving the project undone and the homeowner feeling overwhelmed.

The days of making a last minute mad dash to the DIY store for more materials needs to end. Bought your new flooring on clearance and it’s no longer made but everything you bought is now glued to the floor? Tough break.

The other less delightful end of the spectrum is gone too, that of trying to return unused materials for a possible refund. Why haul materials back and forth for little or nothing?

This problem can be solved by using a construction calculator to estimate the materials needed beforehand. The project can then be done in stages according to the budget or all at once.

Types of Calculators:

Construction calculators are available for different trades: pipe layer, carpenter, contractor, electrical and plumbing. Some models come with workbooks with construction formulas so the average DIY’er can easily estimate the materials needed. Others are available for the professional contractor for major projects. They range in price from approximately $20 and up depending on the use.

The InchMate calculator helps with finding accurate dimensions. Nothing in home construction or carpentry is ever just “one foot” exactly. Able to help convert metric to inches and deal with fractions of inches, this calculator can be used by anyone to find the exact measurements for the project.

Construction calculator software is also available for those who need accurate estimates but do not want to deal with a hand held model and remembering formulas. Affordable and easy to use; formulas are already programmed into the template. This saves time and effort. The information can be saved and printed out with professional looking results- far better than notes stuffed into a pocket or written on a wrist or forearm.

By using a construction calculator guesswork is eliminated. The DIY’er can measure stock already on hand and know exactly how much is needed to complete the project. Calculate wood, concrete, electrical lines, pipe, roofing material and more accurately with this invaluable tool. Keep it in your toolbox or tool belt so it will be available when it is needed the most.

These calculators are available at any DIY store; ask trained employees to help match you with the right one. They are also available online with customer service available to help you.

Safe Sandbox for Your Children

How to Make a Safe Sandbox for Your Children

There are some factors to consider when making and locating your child’s sandbox. This article will reflect on safety, location and construction of your child’s sandbox.

First, decide where you want your sandbox located. Keep these factors in mind. You want to be able to see your child while they are playing in it. If it is too close to the house, you might not be able to see them playing in it. Keep it away from driveways, sidewalks, streets, wells, and gardens. Each of these areas can present their own problems. As for gardens, they attract insects.

You also don’t want the sandbox in direct sunlight. Sand can get very hot and cause burns. You want shade on the box but, you don’t want debris from trees falling into it either. So this sets up a good challenge for you. Once you find your location, you are ready to start.

I would caution on the use of truck or tractor tires. Insects like to fly or climb into the inside of a tire. They build nests inside. This could cause problems like bites and stings. If you decide to do this, always check it out before letting a child play in it. Snakes also like the coolness on the inside of a tire.

Construction: When you have picked out your area, stake it off and use a string to mark off the area where your sandbox will be located. Using a spade or sharp shovel, dig out the area. You don’t need to go very deep. However, you want a smooth surface with no grass, weeds, or vegetation growing inside this area. I would think three to four inches of sod removal is enough.

Now use some heavy duty plastic to line over where you dug out. You can usually find a roll at your local hardware store. You can also find them at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Simply lay it down in the area and cut it off at the ends. If you have to overlap, make sire you go at least 8 inches on the overlap. The plastic does several things. It keeps out weeds from growing. It provides a smooth flooring for your child’s feet and hands. To some degree it holds some moisture. However, once the sand is turned over, the moisture usually evaporates.

I recommend using 2 by 6’s or 2 by 8’s for the sides. 2 by 4’s are just too small. You want something strong and that is hard for the child to move. Now simply measure and box up the size that you want. Use long dry wall screws to secure it together. Three inches are great for this project. Once you have it boxed up, set it where you want it. It is okay to have some of the black plastic on the outside of the box frame.

You are ready for your sand. Some people like to use white sand. I caution against it ,because in direct sunlight, it will get hotter than regular sand. Regular sand will work just fine. Your pit should be filled only about two thirds the way up to the top of the sandpit.

Now take some left over sod and go around the outside of the sandbox and cover any plastic that is showing. This is very important to do, because the if you use black plastic, it will attract bugs. Just like a tractor tire, insects will be looking for a nesting place.

There you have it. Your child’s sandbox is ready to go.

Note: Double check to make sure that no screw points are splinters are exposed on the sandbox. You can add a board on the corners for seating if you desire. Just be sure they are safe.


Home Drummer Friendly

How to Make Your Home Drummer Friendly

  1. The first step is the simplest, just try and choose a room to drum in, that is the furthest away from other living areas in the house and from your neighbors.
  2. If you still live at home, talk to your parents. Maybe they would let you use the garage to practice in. All you would need is a small heater.
  3. If one of your siblings has a room, more out of the way, ask whether you can trade. This should keep everyone happy.
  4. Talk to your family about sound proofing the room. Although it is very expensive to professionally sound proof a room, there are steps you could take to reduce noise.
  5. If you are allowed to use the garage, that would be best, as sound proofing isn’t always pretty.
  6. Talk about what budget is available for sound proofing and look at your options from there.

Here are some options that you can use for sound proofing:

  1. Acoustical foam can be bought from music and hardware shops. This is rather expensive, but when attached to ceilings and walls does a great job at sound proofing.
  2. Extra insulation will also help.
  3. Carpeting will help reduce sound waves. Generally speaking, the rougher textured carpets will absorb more sound waves.
  4. Egg crate mattress pads also absorb sound and can be attached to walls.
  5. Fabric furniture pads are often used for sound proofing and are available from furniture shops. Try to avoid the flimsy furniture pads, as these will not work as well.
  6. Add a thick rug to hard wood floors.
  7. Thick rubber mats, or gym mats can be used to stop vibrations, under your drums.
  8. Ask your local movie theatres whether you can buy used draping. This is a very thick material and works very well. Used products are also a lot cheaper.
  9. It is very important to install a smoke alarm and make sure you never use candles in your drum room. Some of the sound proofing equipment would catch fire easily and could end in disaster. However with care, this can easily be avoided.
  10. Keep your room clean and dust free.
  11. If you are buying used materials, you may want to hang them outside for several hours, to get rid of any odor.

Small Towns: Supporting the businesses that make up our homes

I live in a small town, and I’m often frustrated by the lack of everything there is to find in our small town. No big bookstores, no good coffee houses, no good grocery stores. Our little place on the map survives (but barely) through an odd combination of old and mostly struggling industry and hopeful tourism. Industry brings in big-moneyed citizens at the tops of our economic chain while feeding a number of families and threatening them with layoffs each month. Tourism brings in seasonal influxes of summer-folk who rave about how rural we are, then dash back to Detroit or thereabouts to live their real lives.

It’s a hard situation for me, as a business-owner, to want to stick around. Not being a native to this particular small town, I have a difficult time finding any reason to stay here. And, economically speaking, a larger town would very likely have more opportunities for me as an independent consultant.

I’ve struggled with this for nearly three years, wondering what on earth this little town has for me. And then, as so often happens for me when I’m reading a good publication, it all coalesced in a single moment.

In an article that showed up in my last Utne Reader, singer-songwriter/business-owner, Ani DiFranco is quoted as saying,

“And Buffalo needs us. We considered going to New York years ago…but New York doesn’t need another 15 people hangin’ around. In Buffalo, we can make a difference in the community. To set up shop in Buffalo, in what is basically almost a ghost town downtown–and to be a thriving office full of people trying to re-create the music industry is a good feeling.”

And I couldn’t help thinking, “Yeah.” That’s it, and that’s what connects me here. As a business-owner, especially one in a small community, I can truly make a difference. And I think this is important for all of us as women and as business-owners. There are special issues that we can work for that are important for the survival of any community. We can work to support other local businesses–each other, in effect–in the face of huge corporate layoffs, a dwindling economy, and the in-coming corporate stores. Small-town America is in danger of disappearing, and with it go our livlihoods and our control over our own lives.

As the saying goes, “Think globally, act locally.” How better to act locally than to work to support your local economy? What can we do? Here are some suggestions, just off the top of my head:


The Valuable USPTO Provisional Patent Program: Full Invention Protection for One Year

This program allows time for establishing the value of inventions, before investing in more permanent type patents. This is an important way to help new inventors reserve more of their funds for invention development, rather than needing more up-front money to invest in patents and before having the opportunity to fully test-market their inventions.

One Year Length Provisional Patents

The Provisional Patent Program (PPP) which was established by the USPTO in the year 1995 has in one-sense replaced a former program discontinued by the USPTO that was called the “Disclosure Document Program” (DDP). The DDP was a method offered to establish an invention’s “date of conception” but offered no real protection and was discontinued in the year 2007.

A provisional patent offers an established date of conception for inventions and much more. This includes a trial period for test-marketing and selling an invention for one year, before an inventor follows through with one of three more permanent types of patents. Continuing with longer-term patients is optional under the PPP and an inventor may instead allow it to lapse if he feels his invention does not merit further patenting.

The three longer term patents which are 14 years in duration include the following:

  • design patents (design for an article of manufacture)
  • industrial patents (a new and useful process of manufacture or composition of matter)
  • plant patent (new asexually produced variety of plant)

Securing a “Patent Pending” Status

Formerly, when inventors sent their invention-descriptions in to the USPTO under the Disclosure Document Program, they would do so to establish a “date of conception”, meaning proof of the date in which they established having invented it. This program, however, was not a protection for the invention as a provisional patent is and also did not allow-for the inventor placing the “patent pending” notation on their invention, it’s packaging and promotional materials. This is the advantage that the still-affordable provisional patent has over the former, lower cost DDP.

A Cost of $105.00 for Small Entities

The USPTO offers provisional patents to small entities, meaning individuals or companies that have less than 500 employees, for a nominal fee of only $105.00 (please check the USPTO website for price updates). This is a very cost-effective price because an inventor is allowed to test market his invention for one year after notification that they have received and accepted a PPP application.

If during the one-year, an inventor discovers that the invention does not merit following through with a more permanent patent, at additional costs, he can allow the term to expire and forfeit the option to continue the patenting processes. If an inventor decides his invention is not worth the obtaining of a longer term patent (14 years), he can simply allow the provisional patent to lapse and he will have no further patenting costs or obligations with the USPTO. If, however, the value of the invention is proven during the one-year grace period, the inventor may choose to invest further, to obtain a longer-term patent.

Opportunity for License Agreements

A major value of the one-year grace period provided by the PPP is that the worth/value of the invention can be established, with a much-lower risk of theft of the inventor’s product-invention. It is also valuable in-that an inventor may pursue a licensing (royalty agreement) during the one-year grace period.

If any further patenting is done, it would be the responsibility of the “licensee” (if specified contractually). This means the party paying royalties on sales for marketing an invention under a License Agreement, would be responsible for patent updates, should an inventor (“licensor”) secure a licensing for his invention before the one year period has expired.

See the link in the “Sources” section below, that goes to the USPTO webpage, which gives detailed information about the PPP. The page also gives instructions on how to apply for a provisional patent and the address for sending applications and payment, to secure a provisional patent status for an invention.


Selling a Project and Selling Project Management Expertise

Entrepreneurs can sell almost anything that someone else wants or needs. Aside from products or professional services, creative entrepreneurs can also sell unsolicited projects or project management expertise for things that are yet to materialize.

In short, entrepreneurs can sell non-tangible, forward-looking projects through the leverage of intellectual capital, creativity and innovation. Thus, entrepreneurs can employ very minimal cash of their own in a projects-based business compared with capital-intensive ventures such as manufacturing, retailing, hotel operations or trading.

With prudent cash flow management, entrepreneurs can build wealth from an idea whose time has come without taking a big mortgage on their homes. Progress billing together with bank- or investor-financing with the contract as security might be most of the funding that the entrepreneur needs to complete the project.


Selling Project Management Expertise

When a business owner or government agency, say, the US DARPA or HSARPA solicits a Request for Proposals for a certain project, the bidders will essentially be chosen based on the financial bid and technical bid. Here, the technical bid will almost always feature project management expertise. This is to ensure that the project can be completed successfully.

Thus, a good reputation in the implementation of prior projects is of key importance including the demonstrated expertise of the bidder in the specialized technical skills that the project owner requires.

Another point in focus is that selling project management expertise is not limited to the act of selling to the project owner.

Entrepreneurs also sell project management expertise to sources of project funding such as banks, investors or grant providers. Funding institutions or venture capitalists are more likely to do business with entrepreneurs or organizations with known management reliability and efficiency.

Likewise, entrepreneurs sell their project management expertise to industry networks such as sub-contractors, joint-venture partners or suppliers for better payment terms, on-time deliveries, better line of credit and other benefits. Cooperation and collaboration on projects multiply resources that the entrepreneur will otherwise not have.

Finally, entrepreneurs also sell their project management expertise to the general and/or specialized publics. Winning the support of the public will minimize potential risks to the project such as protests to stop the project or poor sales during operations due to bad publicity. Small corporate responsibility projects that support the bigger project demonstrate the entrepreneur’s project management expertise.

Selling Unsolicited Projects

Entrepreneurs in real estate development will typically sell unsolicited projects through the scale-model, the community master plan, the house models plans, the virtual model, and/or the feasibility study. They will first try to sell the project to a financier or team of financiers then ultimately sell it to the end-users.

However, creative entrepreneurs like Donald Trump, when he was still starting out, first sold his unsolicited real estate development projects to people who are technically not his regular employees like the sales agent or broker representing the property owner; some lawyers to determine the legal feasibilities of some of his ideas and how to solve certain legal issues; to the architect who made the building plans; and to the public via newsworthy events.

Researchers are also like project-based business entrepreneurs in the sense that they sell ideas for unsolicited technology projects or study projects to win grants or research contracts through any of the following:

  • One-page Concept of Operations or CONOPS
  • Prototype
  • One-Page Proposal Abstract
  • Proposed Methodology
  • Project Proposal

Note that creative entrepreneurs engaged in projects-based businesses are actually selling plans rather than selling tangible, finished products. Packaged with the plans are assurances that they can complete the finished products through a demonstration of their integrity and reputation.

Creative Business Project Management Fundamentals

In summary, these are the main points of creative business project management for entrepreneurs who are about to venture into a projects-based business:

  1. Projects are mainly about intellectual capital, creativity, innovation and the reputation to succeed.
  2. Projects-based businesses infused with creativity and sound planning will typically require very minimal cash to generate bigger amounts of sales.
  3. What entrepreneurs actually sell is the simplified plan first then detailed plan second backed with assurances that the project can be completed.
  4. Anybody can be a project stakeholder.
  5. Project management expertise equates to good reputation.

Articles of Incorporation Defined

Articles of Incorporation are legal business incorporation documents for Canadian or American companies. Depending on where the business is incorporated, the documents are filed with a state, provincial or federal governing body. These documents are a required part of the incorporation process, and list the reasoning behind why a corporation exists.

The Purpose of Articles of Incorporation

An article of incorporation, when filed with a government agency, creates the corporation as well as how the shares of the company will be structured. The Articles of Incorporation also explain who is actually incorporating the business (i.e. the individuals filing the forms), and may list the initial directors of the company as well. Any rules or regulations of the business are laid out in a related, attached document, called the Bylaws of the corporation.

Is The Article of Incorporation All That’s Needed?

It depends on where the business is incorporated. In Canada, there are a few forms to fill out (Articles of Incorporation Form, Restated Articles of Incorporation Form). In the US, most states require more than just an article of incorporation (see: Articles of Incorporation Form), such as an annual report. After filing for incorporation in the US, the business directors will receive the necessary documents in the mail.

Article of Incorporation Sample Template – Restriction on the Transfer of Shares

Please do not take the following information as legal advice. This is merely an article of incorporation sample, and will require review by a lawyer familiar with business incorporation procedures in your jurisdiction before use.

The ability and legal right to transfer the corporation’s shares is restricted, in that shareholders are not allowed to transfer corporate shares without written agreement from:

  1. the directors of the incorporated business, who require a resolution agreed upon by the majority of directors, as decided in writing or at a meeting of the corporations shareholders; or
  2. the corporate shareholders, who require a resolution agreed upon by the majority of eligible shareholders.

Article of Incorporation Sample Template – Other

Securities held by the corporation cannot be transferred without:

  • agreement by a majority of the incorporated businesses’ directors; or
  • agreement by a majority of the incorporated businesses’ shareholders.

If the law so allows in the corporation’s jurisdiction and by agreement with the majority of shareholders, the directors of the corporation may:

  • use the corporation’s credit to borrow necessary funds;
  • state, release, sell or guarantee the debt assets and liabilities of the corporation; and
  • create a security interest with regards to the property of the corporation, in order to shelter the debt assets or liabilities of the corporation.

What Will Improve Curb Appeal and Motivate Realtors and Buyers

The following is a guest post from Nigerian real estate developer Michael Chudi Ejekam.

When a home becomes a property for sale the owner must objectively look around and take care of his side of the business. Curb appeal should be improved before listing the house for sale. Failure to do so will affect the chance of a quick and profitable sale.

Therefore, the seller must understand that the potential of his house cannot always justify the sale price he has in mind. A seller can use some of these guidelines to take appropriate actions by playing the role of the realtor, or of the buyer, who sees the house for the first time. And, private house buyers in particular can use them as a check list.

The Curb Must Show Pride of Ownership

Often neglected is the street number which is what a first-time visitor will look for. Then, what has become invisible to the owner such as an obsolete television antenna on the roof, or Christmas lights in July, will be eyesores to the visitor.

Leaving garden debris or other rubble at the curb is a lack of consideration when a house is for sale. And, unless it is collection day, trash cans should be out of sight.

To repaint a gate or take care of squeaks is easier than repairing major cracks in retaining walls and pathways, but the visitor and the realtor will notice both.

Not to be neglected is the driveway, which should be cleared of what might be permanently left there. Because an unobstructed view of the house is important, as is space available, it is best not to have any vehicle in the driveway when a buyer is expected.

The Landscaping Must Show Tender Loving Care

A garden should enhance a house and draw the eyes to attractive surroundings. For this reason, bushes and hedges should be shaped, and vegetation in front of windows should be trimmed below the sills. Even if the landscape design is taken over by overgrowth, the addition of landscaping lighting under mature trees will pleasantly surprise the potential buyer who might want to drive by at night.

Stressed areas can be improved with bark-chips, rocks, or replanted. It makes sense to keep the lawn fertilized, watered and mowed, and to remove dead plants. Water leaks signal problems whereas a pond, a bench or other garden ornament please the eyes. Plants left in commercial plastic containers are unattractive and so is a tired seat on the porch.

The Front Door Area Must be Welcoming

Paths or stairs leading to the front door must be swept and not obstructed. A few solar garden lights are a welcoming touch for late showings. A negative sign while approaching the front door would be shutters, blinds or window treatment that are not hanging properly.

Garden shoes, untidy garden hoses, or empty containers don’t belong by the front door, but a few colourful attractive pots of seasonal flowers do.

Waiting for the door to open is when realtor and buyer have time to notice insect problems (ants, wasps, bee nests, spider webs). If eco-friendly solutions fail, an exterminator service might be the last resort.

A polished door handle, and door knocker will make a good impression. And, the best thing of all is an attractive new doormat as wide as the door.