The Everlasting Magic of Mosaic Art

Mosaic is a type of tiling which is mostly used with showers on the home floors to provide style and color to rooms. Mosaics are available in a many varieties of colors, shapes, textures and layouts to facilitate you with many customization plans for each and every room of your home. They are not only simple tiling forms but are also considered to be great art works, known as "Mosaic art". Many people opt for mosaic tiles and experiment with the various possibilities that can be achieved with the artistic capability of these tiles.

Most of the mosaic tiles have ridges marked on their backsides so that any adhesive can be used to bond it in a secure manner. Most of the ceramic, stone and glass materials can be regarded as mosaic titles. One of such varieties, the glass mosaic tile, is a glassy stone-like material. It is opaque unlike other forms of regular glass while cutting. It is wise to use mosaic supplies such as mosaic glasscutters to cut glass mosaic tiles. The usual tile cutters (nippers) are not considered to be a good option to cut tiles and you may make the use of a mosaic glasscutter.

Ceramic tiles are considered to be a popular choice for architectural uses due to their cheap price. Thus, people who have a small budget at hand need not despair as they can easily arrive at the look they are aiming for with the help of these tiles. They can be easily cut through regular tile nippers. At times, small pieces of china and other china-like dinnerware may also be utilized as mosaics. However, the plates produce razor edges when broken, as the ceramic plates and other dinnerware is designed to be break resistant. It is seen that some of the mosaic tiles keep the tiles in a grid manner when attached to fiberglass mesh. The mesh can then be glued in a direct manner to the floor to be tiled. The tile must be soaked in warm water to make the tiles slide and fall off the mesh while removing them.

Mosaic tiles can also be used in create mosaic art pieces for displays apart from flooring purposes. Mosaic tables are considered to be great furniture pieces with a mosaic tiles crafted tabletop. Pools are believed to be one of the greatest usage sources of mosaic art being used in dissimilar mosaic patterns at the bottom portion and pool edges.

Waterproofing Foundation – What Are Your Choices?

If you are going to build a new home you need to waterproof the foundation of it so you won’t have a wet basement in just a few years.

There are different waterproofing products and systems on the market so it really can be confusing. Hence what are your options?

Here is the short overview of the most common foundation waterproofing systems to help you to decide:

1. Liquid rubber foundation waterproofing membranes

Are elastomeric polymerized coatings made from liquid rubber – the same quality material your car tires are made from.

Advantages: They are easy to apply, quick to dry, cold applied. You can do it by yourself, by using sprayer, roller or trowel. The liquid cures into an elastic rubber coating, able to fill up current small holes and bridge possible future cracks in foundation wall as the building settles down. Rubber is flexible. They also usually come with a long warranty, and many are environmentally friendly with low solvent content, or solvent free. Very economical.

Disadvantages: Possibility of inconsistency in coverage, but the newest products will help you to determine the “right” thickness by the intensity of color, i.e. if you apply the product and you see any lighter patches, you just add more liquid. Additional surface preparation and curing may be required. If there are bigger cracks or holes in the structure you have to fill in with cement or other trowel-grade material before applying the overall coating. Also some of the liquid membranes require longer curing times for the concrete before they can be applied to insure proper bonding.

2. Hot applied Liquid Rubber Foundation waterproofing product:

It is a rubberized asphalt compound that forms a strong, flexible monolithic waterproofing membrane. Can be also applied on roofs.

Advantages: Adheres to virtually any structural surface. Ideal for rough uneven surfaces. Monolithic, free of seams, watertight, eliminates water migration and buildup of moisture. Offers strong protection because of the way it has to be applied.

Disadvantages: The surface has to be primed by primer first. The cost is higher because the product has to be applied in layers – basically you apply first coat of hot liquid rubber, then you have to quickly firmly press on the fabric reinforced sheet into that hot layer, then apply a second coat of hot liquid rubber waterproofing. Also, depending on the local building code you may have to apply 2 or 3 of these sheet layers. Because of this, the elasticity is low. And because it is Hot you have to be very careful – the best is to have it applied by a certified specialist.

3. Sheet membranes

The most common are self-adhering rubberized asphalt membranes composed of rubberized asphalt laminated to a waterproof polyethylene film.

Advantages: The biggest one is consistent thickness because they are “pre-made” to a required standard. Mechanically strong, resistant to hydrostatic pressure. Cover even the bigger holes or damaged areas.

They can be applied to concrete, metal, wood or masonry surfaces.

Disadvantages: Harder to apply because of their very high “stickiness”, also the cost for in-place is higher. Application requires at least 2 people to put in on properly.

Requires lots of additional work = additional cost. If there are irregularities on the surface you want to put a sheet on they have to be smoothed first with some coat to make the surface even. You also would need to learn of joint treatment, lap joints, corners, penetration, priming, patching etc. And once the piece is down you won’t get it back up in reusable condition.

4. Cementitious Waterproofing

Is a cement based flexible waterproofing membrane. It can consist of Portland cement, sand acrylic mixture, plasticizer and other active waterproofing chemicals to increase it’s durability and effectiveness.

Advantages: Very easy to use, just mix the powder with water according to manufacturers recommendation and apply with brush or trowel. Very accessible – available from suppliers of masonry products, or specialized dealers. Paintable. Also comes in a variety of colors. In most cases one coat is sufficient, although some areas may be needing a use of the reinforcing mesh. Low cost. Corrosion and weather resistant. Can be applied as a positive or negative side waterproofing.

Disadvantages: No flexibility – cement does not stretch, so as the structure settles down there are the possibilities of the future cracks. Before applying the surface has to be free from protrusions, gaping cracks, oils, paints, water repellents and any other foreign material that could act as a bond breaker. Holes must be filled with approved block filler.

5. Bentonite Waterproofing

is a bentonite clay below-grade foundation waterproofing product which consists of sodium bentonite clay sandwiched between 2 layers of woven and no-woven puncture resistant polypropylene fabric. Comes as a clay panels and sheets.

Advantages: Can absorb tremendous amount of water. And as it takes the water in the clay swells and pushes itself into cracks and voids where it stays permanently as a barrier against the water. It is flexible and resistant to most chemicals. Non-toxic, non-polluting. No fumes. Can be applied in cold weather.

Disadvantages: Because of the way the clay works the seal does not form until the foundation is backfilled and the water reaches the bentonite material, which means you cannot confirm the integrity of the seal.

Summary:

As you see a lot depends on your own situation, needs, requirements and what you feel comfortable with. The best way is to talk to the experts, check the manufacturers requirements especially for the concrete curing time, temperature limitations and additional labor requirements. Yes, waterproofing of the foundation can seem to be expensive at the first glance, but remember that it is a Long-term solution which when applied properly will save you lots of time, headache and money in the future, so please, don’t skimp on it.

Ways to Prepare for a Painter

When hiring professional painters can save you time and stress when it comes to changing the look in a room. To make their job easier, however, there are few things that a homeowner can do to prepare. Obviously maintaining a home with clean walls and floor will make it easier to apply the paint and move around the house. To prepare for the crew that will come in, you can put down a drop cloth and then scrub the walls with a detergent to remove any dirt. The cleaner the surface, the more perfect the painting will be.

The first steps that a property owner needs to make prior to hiring a company is to decide what rooms they want painted and what colors they want used. The rooms will determine what type of paint the company uses on the walls. There are paints that are easier to wipe off body oils or crayon, while others make cleaning grease off a pain.

Make sure the walls are completely clean and free of defects. If you have areas that have had pictures hung often, you will want to fill the holes. You will also need to check to see if there is anything specific you need to do with carpets and outlets. All items that have sentimental value will need to be put up or moved to a different location. After you have cleaned and vacuumed, you are ready for a drop cloth to be placed for work to begin.

When deciding what colors to go with, you will need to take into account of the lighting in your house. It is best if you take home color cards or swatches to place against the surface. Some home improvement stores offer sample containers for only a few dollars so that you can check it on a small section of the wall. This allows you to compare different looks.

Finally, you need to contact several different companies that do contract work. Make sure you ask for previous clients and references so you can see work that has been done. Get price quotes, taking into account if you will need to move furniture or if that is included in the price. Some companies expect you to provide your own drop clothes and have things taped up, while others prefer to set everything up themselves.

Preparing for remodeling can consume much of your life, especially moving kitchen appliances, covering all dishes, getting furniture out of the way, or prepping any living space. Allowing a contracting company to come in and help out will take much of the strife. You can put the fun back in the change and design elements.

Get to Know Chandelier Styles

A chandelier provides a touch of luxury in a house. Whether you plan on renovating or simply redecorating the place, a chandelier is a good piece to add.

There are plenty of different styles that you may consider purchasing. However, choosing the right style for your home or room is quite a challenge, since the style should match the elegance and look of your place. You must be knowledgeable of the styles to avoid projecting an exaggerated or mismatch look.

In case you are not aware of the chandelier styles, then this article will fill you up.

Chandelier styles are classified as mission chandeliers, wrought iron, Tiffany, rustic, antler and custom made. A mission chandelier is simple and has an even, straight edge. This type is created with mica, stained glass or other materials that can cast soft, warm light. Tiffany chandeliers can also be produced with stained glass of different colors. Many Tiffany chandeliers in the market are available in diverse prices, shapes and sizes. Wrought iron chandeliers are not produced of the same quality.

Compared to the original wrought iron, these are just coated with powder to give a genuine effect. Of all the chandeliers, the rustic style gives a traditional homey feeling. Mica and metals, like copper, steel or bronze are combined to create the look. If you need a distinctive style, opt for an antler chandelier. This can either be fake or authentic. Real antler chandeliers are from shed antlers and are combined together to create a chandelier. This is more costly than faux antlers, which are commercially made and are mere copies of the original design. The most expensive, however, is a custom-made chandelier. It can be created out of many things that you choose. You can use glass or mica depending on what kind of light you want to produce. Chains and other pieces of metals can be incorporated to produce your own unique design. You can ask the dealer for a chandelier that is off the shelf. You can even call the manufacturer to build you something of low wattage. If you want uniqueness and you can afford it, then opt for custom-made chandeliers.

Chandeliers can beautify your home or can make it look worse. The total outlook depends on the style that you choose. Options from ready-made to customize are there to satisfy your need for a decent, homey and luxurious chandelier.

Guide to Hiring a Wedding Coordinator / Planner

After reading everything in this book, you may be concerned that you do not have what it takes to plan your own wedding. Perhaps you feel that you're too busy or that you're just not creative enough. That's okay.

Finding help

Wedding coordinators and planners are professionals at making your special day memorable and stress free. They know the ins and the outs of planning a wedding. And since they're local for the most part, they also know what your city is like. They will know where the good places to have a reception are, or where the best catering can be found.

They do the work for you and come back with options for you to select from. You work together until you find something that suits the both of you. They'll help you work within a budget, make all the calls that you need, and even remind you of things that only you can do.

They're really a day planner for your wedding day creation.

For the busy couple that does not have the time, or needs to travel a lot, a wedding coordinator or planner can provide a sense of security and ease. A good one with attend to your every need and desire in a beautiful wedding, while also relieving you of going through the motions.

Not for everyone

One of the main reasons that couples do not always enlist wedding coordinators is that they do charge a fee for helping throughout the process. This makes sense because it is their time and their livelihood. However, if it's an investment in your sanity, it may be well worth the extra check.

Another thing that you may want to consider before hiring someone to help you is whether or not it will make you less stressed. Those brides and grooms that enjoy planning and being in control of tings may find it hard to relinquish that to someone else. They end up calling the planner constantly, making additional plans without their knowledge, and other destructive behaviors. This is why sitting down with a few different coordinators will help you to choose one that complements your personality and your wishes.

A wedding coordinator or planner will be with you from the first step to the last, helping you navigate the details and doing the busy work. If you're concerned that you'll fall behind on the wedding planning, or you just want someone else to handle it, interview a few wedding planners and see if there's someone who can help.

Sandbags – How To Fill Them and What Types to Use

When filling a sandbag at least two people, ideally three should take part in the process. All people should wear gloves to protect their hands as some sandbags are treated with chemicals to make them last longer. One member of the team should place the empty bag between or slightly in front of their widespread feet with a flat back and arms extended. The opening of the bag is folded to form a collar, and steadily held for the other person to shovel in the sand. Sandbags are commonly filled completely with sand, this is incorrect. The sand bags should be filled no more than two-thirds full to allow effective shaping and wall building.

The person holding the bag should be standing with bent legs and keeping their back straight to prevent future back pains and keep their head as far away as possible from the hovel to avoid the shovel missing the sandbag and cutting the face of the bag holder.

If the bags of sand are filled with too much sand then they could be too heavy to lift and can cause injuries after a prolonged exposure to sandbag work. Leaving room in the bags means that the sandbags can be maneuvered to form a tighter seal from the flood water.

Ideally, to speed up the operation more people should be involved. Two people will be able to fill more sandbags if they have a third helper handing the bag holder the empty sandbags from the bale of sandbags and then taking the filled sandbags when they are done. If the filling of the bags is being done near to where the flood is happening then a line of people can be formed and people can take the filled sandbags from one person and pass the filled sandbag to the next person and so on, forming a constant stream of sandbags on the wait to their destination.

Sandbag Placement

Before making a wall of sandbags, it is essential that any debris from the area if removed. Fold the open end of the unfilled portion of the sandbag to form triangle. If tied sandbags are used, flatten or flare the tied end.

Place succeeding bags on top, offsetting by one-half filled length of the previous bag, and stamp into place to eliminate voids and to form a tight seal. Stagger the joint connections when stacking lots of sandbags on top of each other. Stacking three high is the maximum recommended for single file walls of sandbags, if you require a wall of sandbags higher than three sandbags, the pyramid method is essential to build a foundation large enough to support whole sandbag structure.

What Type of Sandbags to Use

Hessian sandbags are the oldest and most common sandbags, constructed from woven jute material in a bag measuring approximately 13” x 30”. Hessian has been used and is still being used for its biodegradable qualities. Hessian sandbags will disappear naturally into the ground over a short time period which is why they are used by many for their disappearing qualities. Because hessian breaks down it is not advisable to use this type of sandbag for continual flood defense surrounding a river as they will probably break down before the flood comes.

Polypropylene sandbags are more useful for a permanent flood barrier as they do not degrade from the ground and weathering, however sunlight will break down the plastic material. It has been known for a polypropylene sandbag to completely disappear after two weeks of extreme sunlight exposure. For this reason is it advisable to build the wall using the polypropylene sandbags and then cover the wall with black sheeting to protect the sandbags from the sunlight.

Also, a heavy duty polypropylene sandbag does exist which has a UV stabiliser added to the material to reflect the sunlight. This makes the bags last longer, but does not make them invincible, it would still be recommended to cover the heavy duty polypropylene sandbags with black sheeting to protect the life and functionality of the sandbags and save you from having to replace them all.

Choose the Right Vehicle Lift For Your Scooter

Using a mobility scooter or power chair means you have to have a way to transport it with you when you ride in a vehicle. There are a variety of options available to help you transport your scooter either inside your vehicle or outside it. Even if you have a scooter that breaks down for travel, the convenience of a lift can come in handy when you’d prefer to leave your scooter intact and ready to go. Choosing the right lift means more convenience. As a general rule, the more you pay for a lift, the more of the work it does for you.

Manual Lifts

Manual lifts, also called hand-operated lifts, are an economical choice. These cost less than electric lifts but do require a little manual labor. These lifts come with a ramp that you lower to load the mobility scooter onto them. They attach to a trailer hitch, so you’ll want to make sure the model you’re interested in works with the type of hitch you have on your vehicle, as not all models work with all types of hitches.

You should also consider whether the cost savings is enough to warrant the manual operation of the lift. Someone a bit unsteady might have trouble lowering and lifting a steel ramp, for instance, and loading the scooter onto the lift. In that case, a model with a steel frame and undercarriage for sturdiness but a lighter weight, aluminum ramp will probably be much easier to manage. Someone with hand mobility issues may want to avoid this type of lift altogether and opt for one that does more of the work.

Electric Lifts

There are two basic kinds of electric lifts available: drive-on lifts and swing-arm or boom lifts. Drive-on lifts work much like a manual lift. These transport the mobility scooter on the back of the vehicle or lift it inside the vehicle. These lifts are ideal for people who want to avoid lowering and lifting a ramp and loading the scooter by hand. Instead, they offer drive-on convenience. Simply drive the scooter onto the lift and it automatically raises it off the ground and locks it in place behind the vehicle, or lifts it into the back or side door of the vehicle. This is one of the most convenient lifts you can buy, because it’s as fast and easy as driving your scooter on any surface.

Boom lifts use a swing-arm to lift the scooter into a vehicle or into the bed of a truck. As with the other lifts, it’s necessary to make sure the lift you choose can support the weight of your particular scooter. Some models are more heavy-duty than others and can handle 300 to 400 pounds, or more. These can typically be installed inside a trunk or cargo area of a vehicle, or they can be freestanding outside the vehicle. They lift the scooter automatically and allow it to be moved, via the arm, into the vehicle or truckbed.

Another option is a pull-behind trailer which can allow you to take a scooter along even with the smallest compact car. Loading is manual, so it might not be the best option for people with hand and upper-body mobility issues.

Choosing the Right Elevator For Your Home

Choosing the right elevator for your home is a very important decision. Residential elevators are considered an ideal option for the physically challenged and elderly family members, making it easier for them to move up and down the stairs.

Most elevator systems available for residential purposes are of the cable type. They are easy to operate, safe, quiet, and also relatively quick. However, you should be very careful while choosing a residential elevator. A wrong selection of this accessibility equipment can cause harm to the people who'll be using it.

Wide Variety of Home Elevators Available

Today, a wide variety of home elevator models are available in the market from leading manufacturers; so you are sure to get the perfect elevator that suits your individual needs, home designs, and budget. Elevators from the base model to the most elaborately designed ones with customizing options are available. These residential elevators are built to give you years of dependable service.

You can choose between the various styles and designs that best fit your home. Each model boasts different features and options, making it more comfortable and easy to use. The standard features include emergency alarm, manual swing door, emergency stop switch, backup lighting, telephone system, interlocking facility, cable safety devices, slack chain, automatic cab lighting, and more.

Points to Consider While Choosing Your Elevator

There are certain factors you must take into account when choosing the right elevator for your home. The capacity of the home elevator should always be the top consideration. The design, speed range, location of controls and manner of operation, type of drive mechanism, price, safety measures, and warranty coverage are other factors that should be taken into account. The final yet important factor in choosing the right elevator for your home is the reputation of the manufacturer and the dealer you approach.

Add a Quaint Touch to Your Home With Some Decorative Plates

An attractively designed home interior is the product of a host of factors. The furniture and flooring must be chosen to give it the ideal blend of fashion and flow. The interior colors and wall hangings set the overall tone and décor style. But the picture isn’t complete without some strategically-placed home accents.

One of the most popular categories of accents is decorative plates. These can be placed in stands on end tables or mantles, or hung directly on walls or large furniture pieces. Either way, decorative plates add just the right touch of flair and beauty to bring life to any room.

Here are some decorative plates which can add a quaint touch to your home:

Primitive Painted Wood Circle of Love Family Plate

There’s no better way to show your guests what you truly value in life. This charming, “down-home” country-style beige plate with a dark brown border features a folk art design of a farmer and his wife holding hands while standing underneath a tree. A red heart sits on the bottom edge of the plate, while the phrase, “A Family is a Circle of Love” is spelled out across the top.

Primitive “Give us this day our daily bread” Plate

The center of this hand-painted plate prominently displays the popular entreaty from the Lord’s Prayer in black lettering. A yellow star sits at each of the “quarter hour” positions, and they are connected by green branches with red berries. The off-white plate is finished to look weathered and well-used to give it its laid-back country feel.

Dashing Through the Snow Winter Scene Plate

This item can be a lovely part of your wintertime décor – even after the holidays have passed! It features a nighttime winter landscape with a dark, starry sky and a white, snowy hill. Two people in a small horse-drawn sleigh are arriving at a tiny, welcoming church set in front of tall, snow-covered pine trees.

Primitive Wood Quilt Star Plate

This handsome keepsake is part of the Hearthside Collection and was created by designer Kathy Graybill. Available in several colors, this heavy wooden plate is hand painted with a folk quilt star in the middle. The antiquing of the plate gives it an aged look, making it perfect for display on a fireplace mantle.

Primitive Pineapple Painted Wood Plate

This versatile decorative plate represents the perfect combination of country warmth and tropical island color! A full pineapple is hand-painted over a dark background in the center of this plate. The outside is finished in earth tones with flowing flowery vines around the border.

Primitive Americana Sheep Plate

You can proudly exhibit your patriotic pride while showcasing artistry at the same time. In the center of this mini plate, a fluffy white “Americana” sheep stands on green grass in front of red and white stripes. The border is hand-painted in blue and dotted with eight golden stars.

Primitive Schoolhouse Plate

This mini plate is ideal for the home of a current or retired teacher or educator. The border of this white plate is adorned with an apple on each side, “ABC” at the top, and “123” at the bottom. A quaint log cabin-style schoolhouse topped by a golden bell is flanked by two trees in a grassy field.

The “Grow Old with Me” Plate

Another member of the Hearthside Collection, this plate displays a hand-painted design from Donna White. The item’s title phrase is scripted in black lettering across the top, while “the Best is yet to Be” completes the sentiment on the bottom. A gold-colored heart on a background sits in the center of this hand-painted plate with a purposely aged look.

Primitive Saltbox House Plate

This is the decoration of choice for the homeowner who wants a terra cotta-colored plate in a rustic décor setting. The mini plate’s center features a white saltbox house with a black roof standing tall between two trees in a grassy field. The border is adorned with gold colored detailing with a matching star on each side and a red heart at the top and bottom.

Small Primitive Rooster Plate

This item skillfully combines a country home theme with a retro style look. The white plate prominently highlights a green, gold and fiery red rooster in its center; while the outer border is dotted with a “crow’s feet” pattern. It’s the quintessential decorative plate for everyday display.

Primitive “FAITH,” “HOPE,” or “LOVE” Mini Wooden Plate

You can choose the mini plate that best suits your worldview – or you can buy the entire set! Each eggshell-colored plate has one of the three words in black lettering set in its center. The border is embellished with green leafy vines and red berries, while a beige border surrounds the edge of the plate.

Decorative plates are an easy and inexpensive way to tweak the look of a living area, kitchen, bedroom or any other location in your house. And with so many choices to pick from, you’re sure to find some that reflect your values, tastes and style preferences.

Beginners Guide to Using Your Wood-Burning Stove

You've just bought yourself a new wood-burning stove and like most people you just can not wait to get a roaring, cosy fire going. But before you can reap the benefits of your wood-burning stove you're confronted with the task of actually getting it to work.

In this article, I'm going to outline some of the basic knowledge and tasks that every good wood-burning stove owner should know.

Firstly, make sure you buy a stove that's going to fulfill your heating requirements – any of your local stove suppliers should be able to tell you the correct heat output you'll need from the dimensions of your room and the number of radiators that you need heated (if you're buying a boiler stove). If not, you can find room heat calculators online with a quick Google search that will give you a rough estimate to work with. When buying stoves bigger is not essentially always better, it is important to only buy a stove that suits your living space and delivers just the right amount of heat output required.

Next lets take a look inside your new stove. The part inside is the firebox, for most stoves you'll see air vents above and below the glass. The bottom air vent is the primary vent and the top one is the secondary vent. These vents allow you to control how fast your fuel burns by controlling the air supply to the stove. On the top side of your stove you'll see a pipe coming out of the wood burner. This is called the flue, which is basically a duct that takes away the waste gases and smoke produced by the fire to the outdoors through the chimney.

Lighting your wood-burning stove

When lighting your stove for the first time it is advised to only light small fires. This is because when you first light the stove residue from the manufacturing process (glues, paint, seals etc.) start to burn off and smoke as the stove adjusts to the heat. It will take about 4 to 6 hours at least for your stove to be "burnt in".

To light your stove first open your air vents to help the air circulation. Then crumple up some newspaper and place it in the middle of your stoves firebox. Now just add some kindling and light your stove. Once the kindling starts to burn well you can then add your fuel.

What to burn

First of all establish whether you have a multi-fuel stove or a wood-burning stove. Wood-burning A stove Typically will have a flatbed for fuel, The while a multi-fuel stoves have grates Because coal and similar Retail fuel need an air supply from beneath to burn properly. It is also important to recognise that you can use wood in a multi-fuel stove, but you can not use coal in a wood-burning stove.

When it comes to the type of wood that should be used, wood that has been seasoned is probably the best fuel. Seasoned wood has been cut and allowed to dry for at least a year, this gets rid of moisture and gives a more efficient burn as a result. If you can not get your hands on seasoned wood, any wood really will suffice as long as it has not been treated or varnished.

Safety

It goes without saying that you should only use a quality assured installer to fit your stove as they will be able to see and address any problems during the installation, and will ensure a safe installation when completed. You should also consider getting your chimney swept at least once a year. Doing so prevents a build up of waste products or creosote that can lead to chimney fires.

Slow Cooker – Useful Tips For Cooking

Slow cookers, also called crock-pots or slow-cookers, are a counter top electrical devices that produce low temperature and make unattended cooking possible. This is basically a ceramic or porcelain pot surrounded by a metal case with a thermostatically controlled heating element. The pot is closed with a transparent glass lid which controls the vapors that are created in the pot during the cooking process. The heating elements are placed in the bottom of the cooker and sometimes also partially in the sides so some amount of liquid has to be poured in to prevent overheating.

If this is your first time using the cooker and you haven’t experienced the wonders of cooking in it before you may want to know some tips. They would help you get along and knowing them can prevent some common mistakes. It may seem hard in the beginning but believe me, cooking in it is so easy and it lets you have so much free time that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Tip #1: Make sure the size of the cooker matches your needs. You see, the food made in a slow cooker is cooked by hot vapors that are released during the cooking and marinated in it’s own juices. If the slow cooker is too small the food will not be entirely cooked because in the overfilled cooker the flow of hot vapors that soften the food is restricted.

Tip #2: The temperature of the food in a slow cooker mustn’t be less than 140 degrees. This is so called- safe temperature because on it all food contaminants are killed. The low setting on a slow cooker must produce at least this temperature! If it doesn’t your food will not be safe. Check your slow cookers low setting temperature to see if it’s working properly.

Tip #3: Never fill the crock put to the top. Leave some space for the food to cook properly. Also put enough liquid. If you don’t put enough liquid your food will cook too soon and it may even burn.

Tip #4: Do not lift the lid and stir the food while cooking because every time you lift the lid the temperature in the crock pot decreases and the vapors escape out. The basic principle of slow cooker cooking is that the temperature is low but hot vapors stay inside and finish the job. If you lift the lid a slow cookers is useless and it’s basically a regular cooking dish.

Tip #5: Make sure you don’t over cook the food. If food is left in a cooker for too long it will become dry and tasteless and meat will be torn and raggy. Yes, the cooker does give you the ability to do something else, but don’t forget your food and turn the slow cooker off when the meal is done. Some cookers have the option to shut down automatically when the food is finished but if your slow cookers doesn’t have that and you sometimes tend to forget that you put your lunch for cooking-set a timer that will remind you.

Can You Really Make Your Own Solar Panel?

If you fit solar panels to your domestic electricity or hot water system then you’ve found a great way of saving money while making a contribution towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuel for our power generation. After all, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Any responsible householder needs to consider their environmental responsibilities and, if the action we take means we can save money too then so much the better.

You may have investigated on the internet or perhaps contacted a local supplier and found that commercial solar panels can cost upwards of $4000 for a single house. Now, no matter how committed to the green energy movement you are, four thousand bucks (probably more) is an awful lot to shell out on something that might take ten or fifteen years to cover its original cost. Sure you’ll be benefiting the planet from day one, but let’s be realistic, most of us can’t afford that sort of money for something that has such a low return on investment. 

But, of course, it only has such a low ROI because it is so expensive in the first place. If a solar panel cost, say, $200 rather than $4000 then the whole economics begin to look very different. So, is it possible to get a fully functional solar panel for this sort of money? It sure is!

There are people out there who have dedicated their lives to finding low-cost solutions to our energy problems and now details of everything they have learned, designed, built and tested is now available to the rest of us. To be realistic, for most householders, the only way they are going to get a solar panel is to build it themselves.

So is it possible to build you own solar panel? Well, if you are competent do it yourself-er, can follow simple instructions and can use a bit of imagination and initiative when it comes to sourcing components, then you could have your first DIY solar panel up and running in a few days.

There are of course two types of solar panel. I referred to these above. 

A) There is the flat plate solar collector that is essentially a matte black box containing a network of (also matte black) copper pipes. As water from your hot water system passes through the pipes it is heated by the sun’s rays. In strong sunshine a panel like this can make the water very hot indeed, far too hot to hold your hand in. And the beauty of these systems is that they even absorb indirect solar radiation on cloudy days, so they are very effective. To build one of these you need to be able to build a wooden box and do a bit of pipe bending and fixing. There’s not much more to it than that.

B) The photovoltaic array. Typically these are large collections of glass (an increasingly, plastic) plates coated with a semiconductor material. The semiconductor material varies, and new types are becoming available all the time. The DIY process usually involves securing a supply of used, broken or imperfect solar cells and effectively recycling them into a working solar panel. It’s not difficult and can be very cost effective.

So you can see, if you have basic DIY skills, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to build your own solar panel. And if you do, then both your wallet and the planet will thank you for it.

How To Install A Bocce Court

Bocce is a ball game that dates back to the age of the Roman Empire; it used to be a sport played on dirt. It required special skills to win the game on dirt, because throwing the ball to the target on dirt was not an easy thing to do.

The complexity of being able to roll the ball through the dirt to the set target turned many off from the game. The idea of dirt-free bocce courts made the sport interesting to all clans who wished to play the game, because they did not have the need to deal with the hefty task of playing in the dirt. The sport has survived to date due to leveled bocce courts. Eventually, it has continued to be one of the most liked backyard sport and people of all ages play this game. This game is played as a tourney, league or commonly as a social leisure. There are famed Bocce Champions as well.

The bocce ball game when played in specially designed bocce courts provide players with great recreational experience.

Materials Making the Court

The standard recommendations for building a bocce court consisted of lumbar, drainage and gravel. The bocce court has the backstops and sideboards made out of weather-resistant lumbar. The play area in the court is compacted with crushed stone dust, natural gravel or clay. A tiny fortune invested in an excellent drainage system enhances the playability and longevity of the leveled surface.

The materials used to build the bocce court can differ from one to another based on personal choice and convenience. However, there are recommendations about the choice of materials and commonly applied dimensions for the court.

Layout Dimensions

The dimensions of the bocce court can follow the width range anywhere from 8 through 14 feet and the length can be somewhere from 60 to 90 feet. The recommended size for private backyard court has dimensions reading 10 x 60 feet. However, municipal courts or those meant for community bocce events, tourneys and leagues are set at larger dimensions at 12 x 76 feet up to 13 x 90 feet.

Surface Quality

The game is all about rolling the ball. It is important for the court to be flat and straight to ensure complete roll of the ball with minimal or zero bounce. The goal is to create a court with zero bumpy surfaces. Coarse material renders the surface too loose eventually hindering free rolling of ball. Based on personal budget and project affordability, one might have to do the best to invest in materials that form a smooth firm surface.

Post-play dent restoration becomes difficult on surfaces formed with large particles. Downpour during heavy rain leads to stagnant water and drainage therefore becomes difficult. Therefore, the best recommended surface material is one that consists of small particles. Eventually, minimal upkeep restores playability.

Crushed Oyster Blends versus Traditional Options

Crushed oyster shells blend well with few other natural materials enhancing the quality of binding, therefore, providing excellent drainage. The traditionally recommended material is stone dust, but increasing number of luxury bocce courts, use oyster shells blend with clay to bring in premium leveling.

When it comes to using stone dust for the surface, the dust is supposed to be fines. Coarser particle size of the gravel will make the field bumpy. Clay is an alternative in regions where appropriate particle size of sand dust becomes unavailable.

In regions where heavy rain is common, the downpour can lead to standing water. Therefore, excellent drainage system becomes essential to restore playability of the court at the earliest.

Procure Appropriate Perimeter and Surface Materials

Procure pressure-treated (or) ground-contact perimeter rails of appropriate size or pressure-treated (or) ground-contact perimeter posts of appropriate sizes for the external perimeter as needed.

Buy contact points for the end walls in the perimeter rails with appropriate Trex decking lengths. Procure pressure treated or standard perimeter caps, fasteners, lag screws, washers, and square head decking screws to strengthen the structure. For setting the drainage in small courts, sleeve drain tubing that provides minimum of 60′ of 3″ perforation / corrugation is used. The corrugation size should be more for bigger courts.

Purchase limestone or class 2-road base as needed to fill the depth of the court base. The surface material for the field can be appropriate sized sand dust/gravel, clay, or oyster shell blend as per personal choice. The appropriate perimeter chosen for the court can vary considering the private or community usage targeted for the court. The quality of the soil should be favorable to digging and installing of postholes.

The Installation of The Bocce Court

The perimeter, the length and width of the field, are marked using the post or plank styles. In the plank perimeter style, it is a common approach to double up with the 2″ planks or by using 3″ or 4″ thickness straight lumbar. In the perimeter marking process using poles, posts are commonly dug in per 5′ or 4′. In both the post and plank finishes, capping improves aesthetics.

Cement surrounds are increasingly becoming common in environments that face extremes of climate. In such conditions, concrete perimeters work best. Wood or composite liner finishes in the inner regions of the concrete boundaries saves the balls from suffering constant abrasions. Setting the bumper in concrete with appropriate liners are a permanent solution to avoid abrasions.

Dig out the top soil to nearly 10″ in the perimeter and fill the area with limestone or class 2-road base. Drilling, driving nails, and appropriate centering ensures rebar support thus strengthening the structure. Good quality finishing at the fasteners is important, because if the fastener fails particles get in between the railing and repair gets to be expensive.

Back walls are set up for rebounding. Rubber fenders or sheet steel is the commonly used finish for the end walls in bocce courts. Trex decking is an alternative for better finishes as well.

Care should be devoted to creating a leveled court with the appropriate surface blends and tamping. Appropriate buffer placed in the court absorbs shocks created by overshot balls. Court markings and foul lines as needed are marked on the sideboard. Community-bocce-courts require facilities that permit the usage of wheelchairs by disabled people. The final stage of Installation involves setting up of ball racks and scoreboards. Glare-free lighting in place ensures playability after sunset.

Writing a Small Business Plan – Part One, An Overview

Small business plan One of the most important tasks to carry out when you are planning to launch a brand new small business, is to take time to prepare a fully functional small business plan.

Writing a small business plan will not only allow you to focus on your business start up, but it will also be a valuable asset to present to your business bank manager or indeed any potential investors who may wish to inject vital funds into your new small business .

Another key benefit of a well written business plan is that it becomes a permanent reference point for you to view as needed and will assist you in maintaining your focus for the life of your business.

I am writing this guide in small sections to allow you to follow the plan in your own time. This article will demonstrate the complete overview of what you will need to consider when writing your small business plan.

Small business plan – an overview There are 6 key elements to consider when preparing to write your business plan they are;

  1. Your business aim: this section should indicate your businesses generic goals and should also identify what areas you will need to research (such as marketplace, route to market etc) and also pinpoint an accurate timetable for your small business development.
  2. Stock: this section should demonstrate your products and / or services that your are planning to specialise in, where you may source your products and any legislation you may need to be aware of and comply to.
  3. Promotional: here you should plan to demonstrate how you intend to get your products and services to the marketplace, how you are to proceed with advertising media, where you plan to retail your products and services and also note any restrictions that may apply to certain products or services.
  4. Operational: This is where you should identify the time constraints that may apply (production time, supplier lead time etc), delivery timescale's to your customers, supplier conformance, shipping options and the limits that will apply.
  5. Financial: This is a key section and should clearly demonstrate your total costing's, direct expenses, projected stock holding (if applicable), accounting methods, sales tables and your sales targets and company budget controls.
  6. Timetable: When writing your business plan, you will need to focus on 'forward planning'. This will encompass you projecting a timetable of development … where do you see your company in 5 years for example.

This article gives you an explicit overview of what a business plan should contain. Of course, business models vary and you should be looking to vary the plan to meet the exacting needs of your own business.

In my next article we shall begin attacking each aspect of the business plan in detail beginning with your business aims.

I hope you find this resource useful and remember, taking a week or so to write your small business plan will save you time AND money in the future.

One famous quote to consider is "if you fail to plan, your are planning to fail".

The Best Products for Seniors

There may be some retirees out there who believe that every new product that comes out will be useless for them. There may even be some elderly people who resent companies for making products that are too small or too complicated for older generations. While this may be true of some products, there are definitely some really useful products and gadgets that seniors can use with ease.

The neat thing is that there are some great products that are strictly for fun, and others that could actually improve a retiree’s quality of life and safety. For some good time fun, there is an easy-to-use streaming player box called the Roku LT Streaming Player. You can stream movies and TV shows through Netflix by using this player (as opposed to buying a video game system like the Wii). You can also use a number of other apps with it, like Pandora and Hulu Plus.

For safety’s sake, there is a type of shower head called the HotStop Shower Head that helps prevent burns by slowing down the water flow when the temperature of the water is too hot. You can also install some grab bars anywhere you might need them with SecureMount Anchors.

You may think about looking into getting some LED PathLights to install near the steps on your staircase. They have motion sensors, so you do not waste their power by having them on all the time. Walking up or down stairs in the dark can be treacherous, so these are a great option to keep you safe.

If you are not particularly computer savvy, you may want to invest in an all-in-one printer that is even better than what you might think all-in-one printers are. The HP Envy 110 printer is excellent for seniors who do not want to get too involved in the throes of technology, but still want to keep in touch. The printer has an email address where others can send you pictures, which means you can receive pictures of your children and grandchildren on a daily basis. Retirees tend to be less technologically savvy than the younger generations, so having this printer, which works well without a computer, can be just the thing to cheer them up and make them feel like they are getting with the times.

There are items which are not technology related that may help you in your day to day life. A Doorknob Extender makes any doorknob easy to use by turning it into a lever instead. You need only push down on it, as opposed to trying to turn the knob with arthritic hands. Retirees may also enjoy a handrail that attaches to their bed, like the Bedside Assistant Bed Handles. This allows you to get out of bed easily because you have a handle for each hand.

Seniors should look into the many products that are made with them in mind, and they should definitely do this if they are in need of senior care. It helps the caregiver by having items around that facilitate the elderly person’s life. If you do need an assisted living home, look into the various senior care options.