All About Concrete Mixer

A concrete mixer, as the name states is a tool, which mixes cement with water and other additives like sand and gravel. Ranging from big profitable concrete mixer trucks to moveable mini mixers, this power-driven device usually comprises of a motor, a revolving drum and a chute. The materials used in creating concrete spin around in the drum, mixing consistently and are set for application or pouring.

Commercial concrete mixer

For large-scale projects plan, a huge commercial concrete mixer truck is usually used for mixing concrete and other transporting it to the excavation site. Concrete companies, which provide such services generally, ask for right to use to the building site as near as likely. Also, as concrete could dry fast, it is significant to have concrete finishers to pour and be relevant the concrete as fast as possible. Most truck providers charge per cubic yard of concrete amount ordered for.

Mini concrete mixer

A mini concrete mixer is a moveable concrete mixer, which carry the work of a commercial concrete mixer, but on a low level scale and is normally used where lesser volumes of concrete are in fact required. Homeowners who would desire to carry out minor fix activities or try their skills at installing gardens, driveways or concrete slabs, which have broken down. A moveable mini concrete mixer does the job on electricity and has a stand with wheels for easy transport. The small revolving drum in the concrete pad mixer could be tilted down that actually makes it simple to fill a wheelbarrow with set concrete for use.

Tips for using concrete mixers

It is significant to remember that even though a concrete mixer arranges concrete for application and keeps it soft and set to use, it would not be able to keep the concrete in available condition for a long time. The time necessary for setting for various kinds of concrete is dissimilar and the handyman might be required to decide precisely how much concrete is necessary for a specific task or for a land clearing process. For big land clearing projects, concrete contractors are usually aware of the amount of concrete, which have to be used on an each day. Hence, chances of waste and drying of concrete is least in such cases.

Acid Staining Concrete – Tips for Success

Concrete acid stain can be applied to new or old, plain or colored concrete surfaces. They are available in 10 basic colors. Although they are often called acid stains, acid is not the ingredient that colors the concrete. Metallic salts in an acidic, water based solution react with the concrete to permanently color of the surface. Siliceous aggregates such as gravel or sand, do not react with the stain. Surfaces containing a higher content of cement will react more than one with less cement yielding more intense colors.

Since each surface is different, results may vary from one surface to another. We always recommend testing a small area to determine how the final result will appear. Note that the final color will not be apparent until the sealer has been applied. With wood stain you can still see the grain of the wood through the stain, acid stain is very similar to wood stain as you can see all defects or finishing marks through it.

Factors that may affect the final results include:

  • Cement properties and amount used, Admixtures and type of aggregate used.
  • Concrete finishing methods, concrete age, and moisture content
  • Porosity and Texture of the surface
  • Weather conditions when the stain is applied
  • Efflorescence.

Concrete acid stain finishes do not require much equipment for the application. The applicator usually uses a garden sprayer that is completely plastic. Some prefer a fine bristle brush or a combination of both. All equipment that will come in contact with the acid stain, such as sprayers, must be resistant to acid. Brushes to apply or spread the stain must be resistant to acid, and also colorless bristles.

Workers must have the proper safety equipment, including acid-resistant gloves, goggles, boots and masks to filter the acid fumes. A good quality wet vacuum is recommended for cleaning. Golf spikes are also recommended because footprints will show through and create undesirable markings in the final appearance.

Surface Preparation

Surface preparation is considered the most important step in any decorative concrete application. It is important for the immediate and long term performance of all decorative concrete applications. Poor surface preparation can turn a simple process in to a difficult and lengthy repair.

First you will need to throw some water on the surface in several places to see if the concrete accepts the water. If it is not absorbed by concrete, you may have a sealer on your surface. If so, you will need to strip the surface using EnduraPrep Coatings Stripper. This stripper is ideal for removing coatings such as paint or acrylic stains and colorants. If there is not a sealer on the surface, but it will not absorb water, then your surface is too dense. This is usually caused by over troweling of the surface when the concrete was poured. It is very important to condition these types of surfaces to accept the acid stain. Surface conditioning is often the key to success. If it does not accept the water, it will certainly have to be conditioned. Sometimes, very dense surfaces must be conditioned twice. When the surface is conditioned properly, it should feel like sandpaper of 120 grit. To use EnduraColor Reactive Concrete Stain, DO NOT USE hydrochloric acid on the surface because it would deprive the concrete of the necessary minerals to react with the acid stain. A properly conditioned surface can be easily accomplished using EnduraPrep Concrete Surface Conditioner, a safe alternative to the typical acid etching.

Finally, we will wash the surface with EnduraPrep Cleaner and Degreaser. The surface must be clean and free of grease and oil, drops of paint, taping adhesive residue, caulk, cement, or any other surface contaminants. All that remains on the surface will affect the final result of the surface. EnduraPrep Cleaner and Degreaser is excellent for cleaning any surface contaminants. You can dilute 10 to 1 for cleaning your surface and use more potent for persistent surface contaminants.

If patching is necessary, you should use a material with low shrinkage that will accept the stain. The final result will always show these patches. The owner must be aware of this.

Decorative patterns with templates can improve the appearance of stained surfaces. The timing of these operations, however, depends on the desired effect. When you want the final appearance to be as even as possible in color, cut lines and patterns after staining is complete. Stains penetrate differently around cuts and indentations. If you want there to be a color change at a pattern line, cut the line first to form a barrier to stain movement. If sawed joints will be grouted, complete the staining and sealing before grouting to help prevent the stain from coloring your grout.

Patterns are usually arranged in pencil or chalk. Mark only where you will cut. Also don’t use chalk that is difficult to remove. Many tools are available for cutting pattern lines in concrete. Most installers use grinders and hand saws with tables, riding against a guide. A 1-1/2 “extruded aluminum” L “angle, available in most hardware stores, will make a good guide. Diamond blades for dry cutting do minimal damage to the edge of the cut. Dust Collectors that attach to grinders and saws are very useful to acid stain applicators.

If patterns are cut before staining, cut just before cleaning the surface prior to staining. Saw dust containing free lime can bind to the surface, causing distortion. If cut after staining, do so after the first coat of sealer has been applied.

Applying the Acid Stain

New concrete must cure for 28 days before starting work. Depending on the type of concrete, temperature, etc., stains can be applied in as little as 21 days.

When you apply the stain, consider the following:

  • Humidity and moisture content will affect the stain reaction. For color consistency, make sure that the moisture content of concrete is the same for all surfaces that are stained.
  • Staining, sealing, and covering the surface before and after other construction trades work on them will save on preparation and cleanup, giving you a better looking installation.

There are many ways to apply the stain, each method offering an alternative final appearance. Here are some application guidelines:

Sprayers are usually used to apply the stains, but they must be designed for acid and have no metal parts. Acid will quickly destroy metal parts and may affect the color of the stain. Use a spray tip with a circular pattern, spraying in a pattern that goes from left to right then from right to left, with someone using a large medium bristle brush to work the stain into the surface just behind the spray. It is important to scrub in the stain and not just push it around. An additional spray pass just behind the scrub removes brush marks. This method ensures good penetration and minimal marking from spraying or brushing.

EnduraColor Reactive Stain Extender can be used to dilute the stain to achieve lighter colors.

Acid stain applied with a brush will penetrate well, but be careful to minimize brush marks, which are usually regarded as undesirable effects. What is the method of applying stain, be sure to completely cover the surrounding areas to avoid accidental staining. Spillages can be difficult, and in some cases impossible to remove.

The growing interest in acid stained surfaces is in the direction of more subtle effects. Applicators often dilute the stain with EnduraColor Reactive Stain Extender to produce less intense effects. For example, some applicators often apply the stain with a working dilution of 80% (20% stain extender). In this case, the contractor can gradually build up the color to meet owner expectations. Second and third colors can also be added in the same way to create a multiple color overlay.

A portion of professional applicators find that the addition of a concrete overlay prior to staining is the best solution for concrete surfaces that show damage or have been mistreated during construction. Overlay materials of can be stamped, textured and/or stained to create a new range of decorative options. Overlays are highly resistant to cracking and wear. As with any stain, it is wise to create a sample in an inconspicuous area on the same surface to ensure compatibility between the overlay and the stain, and then obtain approval from the owner if necessary.

Cleaning and Neutralization

Once the Acid stain reaction is complete, a layer of acidic residue will remain on the surface. This residue should be completely neutralized using EnduraPrep Neutralizer. Failure to completely neutralize the surface will prevent the sealer from adhering to the surface. Use a white cloth after neutralization to check for residue. If, after wiping the surface with the white cloth, you have color on the cloth, then you will need to scrub and rinse the surface until you can no longer wipe colored residue from the surface. Furthermore, using a pH meter to test pH of the surface is a good way to ensure that conditions are ready for the next step in the implementation of clear sealer.

Sealer Application

External stained surfaces usually are sealed using acrylic sealers so that the moisture can escape from the slab. Solvent-based acrylic sealers generally work better than water-based for outdoor use. A good application usually consists of two thin layers of a clear acrylic sealer for best results. A wise addition to the acrylic sealer would consist of applying Endura Seal Floor Finish. This adds a sacrificial coat that adds shine giving you general wear and slip resistance. In high traffic areas you might consider using a high-performance sealer. High Performance Sealers (epoxy and urethane) are much harder than ordinary acrylics, but they are much more expensive also. For application instructions follow the directions on the label of the sealer you have chosen.

Owner Approval

Despite the limited color palette, acid stain finishes are growing in popularity. Today, homeowners are going out of their way to install the concrete, just so that they stain their surface. Acid Stained floors are very easy to clean and maintain. Popular applications of acid stains include concrete counter-tops, sinks and showers, plaster and stucco walls, both inside and outside. Acid stain will chemically react with any cementitious material.

In talking with customers about the possibility of acid staining concrete, have them to describe the look they have in mind and provide images that show different types of applications. Show color samples to help in the decision process.

Water or Coolant Mixed With the Transmission Fluid: Is the Gearbox Ruined?

A silent killer of automatic transmissions or gearboxes is water or coolant mixing with automatic transmission fluid (ATF). This problem used to be seen in older vehicles with neglected engine cooling systems, but is becoming common in later model cars and trucks that have followed their maintenance schedules. The result is always the same: the transmission must be completely overhauled or replaced.

Can the Contaminated Fluid be Cleaned Out Before Damage Occurs?

Just about every automatic transmission on the road today uses cellulose based paper lined plates called clutches or frictions. These clutches act like brakes for moving and stopping different components inside the gearbox. When the shifter is placed into drive or reverse, it’s the frictions that are being applied.

The paper that lines the clutch plates is a very delicate material that is glued to a steel backbone. Before the paper is glued to the plate, it has the strength and consistency of a graham cracker. Once the material is bonded, it becomes much stronger and can last a very long time under normal operating conditions.

The clutch material is Hygroscopic. This means when the clutches are exposed to moisture, the paper material will displace ATF for water. That moisture reaches the steel plates causing rust, and breaks down the glue that bonds the paper to the plate. A study done by International Lubricants Inc about the effects of water exposed to automatic transmission clutches states, “The testing indicated that water added at levels as low as 600 mg/kg migrated to the surface of untreated paper frictionals and contributed to loss of the paper coating and erratic torque transfer properties.” In laymen’s terms, that means less than a tablespoon of water or engine coolant in a transmission can cause a failure.

How Did Water Get There?

There are three ways water can enter a transmission:

  1. Through the engine’s radiator. From the 1950’s to now, most automatic gearboxes are cooled with the same water based system that keeps the engine from overheating. There’s a separate tank in the radiator for transmission fluid that allows the coolant to take heat away from the ATF without mixing the two liquids. When a leak occurs between the ATF and engine coolant tanks in the radiator, the fluids will mix with each other. It was more common in older vehicles that had eroded cooling systems due to neglect, but some of today’s newer vehicles are using materials that are failing because of pressure problems in the cooling system.
  2. Exposure to deep water. Driving through large puddles during rain storms or off road driving can expose the transmission’s breathing system to moisture. The best chance of preventing a failure is to check for water in the ATF after a vehicle has been in this type of scenario.
  3. Moisture entering through the dipstick. Most vehicles have a dipstick where ATF is checked and added. Moisture can easily enter the transmission if the dipstick was sprayed with water during an engine cleaning, or in some cases, water draining from rain or a carwash drips onto the dipstick. GM and Chrysler have bulletins pertaining to this problem on some models of their vehicles. Qualified shops will have access to check for these types of bulletins. A tell tale sign of this problem is moisture or rust around the dipstick tube.

Replace or Rebuild?

It depends on how much water mixed with the transmission fluid, how long the vehicle was driven with the contaminated ATF, and the type of gearbox your vehicle has. Metal and electronic parts inside the transmission will quickly corrode when exposed to moisture. If there is too much damage inside of the gearbox, the cost of the parts to rebuild the trans will exceed the cost of replacing the unit with a remanufactured product. Some manufacturers like Nissan and Chevy have computers inside of the gearbox that will fail when exposed to moisture. These computers or mechtronics cost as much as $2,000 and that does not include rebuilding the rest of the unit. When parts cost that much, it’s often a better decision to replace the gearbox entirely.

To sum things up, if water gets in a transmission, there’s no way to get around an expensive repair. Flushing the fluid out will only cost you extra money and can make the inevitable failure happen sooner. Service the engine’s cooling system regularly and ask a professional transmission mechanic if your car is common for this type of failure. If it is, bypass the radiator with an external oil cooler.

How to Specify an Overhead Bridge Crane

Specifying and getting the correct overhead bridge crane for your application requires upfront work but getting the right piece of material handling equipment for your facility will be worth the effort. Often putting a bridge crane into your new or existing building is an afterthought in the overall scope of work. Following is a list of questions to present to your architect, or crane sales person.

1. What type of crane do I need? If you are not familiar with the type of cranes below is a short list of the types. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

a. Workstation crane system. These type of cranes are typically used for lighter weights 2 tons and under although they are usually used in applications of 1 ton and under. Advantages include lightweight, pre-engineered, and relatively inexpensive. Disadvantages include limited capacities.

b. Top running single and double girder. These cranes are used in heavier applications. In a single girder application the trolley hoist runs on the bottom flange of the bridge beam. Advantages include reduced cost versus double girder and lighter wheel loading thus reducing building and/or runway costs. Disadvantages include less hook height possible, not as durable and trolley is in a suspended position versus running on top of bridge beams (on heavy applications premature beam wear has been noted).

For truly heavy duty designs then a double girder design should be considered. The trolley rides on top of two bridge beams on ASCE rail. This is a superior design for heavy applications such as steel service centers, concrete facilities, foundries, and aerospace to name a few. Advantages include superior durability and more options available such as walkways and cabs. Disadvantages include heavier wheel loads and cost.

c. Under running single and double girder design. Under running cranes are normally thought of as lighter duty than top running cranes. This is due to all of the running surfaces for the crane and trolley hoist are on the bottom flange of the beams and premature wear can occur with heavy duty cycles. Advantages include better hook coverage and it can be designed to hang from your building structure on new buildings. Disadvantages include typically lighter duty cycle.

d. Gantry Cranes. Gantry cranes can solve numerous issues when you are limited in building structure. They can be provided in numerous configurations and can run on one runway with the opposite end running on the floor, or be completely independent of your building. Some require special track or ASCE rail, and some can run on the floor trackless. Configurations include single girder and double girder.

Advantages include being independent from building structure in some configurations with disadvantages including moving legs on your shop floor, and not as mobile or fast as a crane on two runways.

2. What is the duty cycle of my crane? The duty cycle of your crane is as important as the type of crane you choose. CMAA has service classifications as follows:

Class A-standby or infrequent service

Class B-Light service

Class C-Moderate service

Class D-Heavy service

Class E-Severe service

Class F-Continuous severe service

Refer to CMAA Definitions of crane service class and load cycles as shown in Table 2.8-1 of CMAA Specification #70, Revised 1994 and Table 2.6-1 CMAA Specification #74, Revised 1994.

Numerous factors go into determining the correct crane class including weight of load, number of payloads at average load, how many lifts per hour, per shift, per day, travel distances of the hoist, trolley and bridge, speed required for each movement.

3. What type of power and control will my application require? Cranes can be provided as manual, air or electric powered. Cranes can also be a combination of manual and electric or manual and air. Depending on what you are lifting and what is available in your plant will help determine what you need.

Typically air is used in explosive environments or severe duty cycle applications at lighter capacities. Electric control is the most common and can be provided with simple single or two speed controls or precise variable frequency controls with control ratios up to 1000 to 1.

4. How will I control my crane? Cranes are generally controlled from a cab, pendant push button station or radio control. Depending on how you are going to use the crane will determine what type of control is best for your application.

5. Is there anything unusual about my application such as a special environment? If you have a special application such as molten metal, explosive environment, high heat, or some other special consideration then special care needs to take place in choosing your bridge crane.

Make sure and have a qualified crane professional help in specifying the correct bridge crane per applicable requirements.

These items will help you get started with choosing the

right piece of equipment for your facility. Using the above guideline as well as consulting with industry professionals will lead you to purchasing the proper bridge crane.

The Different Types of Auxiliary Lighting Beam Patterns

This article will explain the differences of the four major Vision X off road lighting beam patterns.

The Euro (Medium Beam) is designed to produce a very strong beam of light with wider coverage than the normal pattern. The Euro pattern can actually project its beam up to 1500 feet away, at a width of 250 feet! This pattern is designed to illuminate the side of the road, making it much easier to see pedestrians and street signs while driving. To achieve this, the Euro lenses are angled slightly up and to the right, with a 15 degree angle.

The Flood (Wide Beam) is a much wider pattern than the Euro or Spot but has a significantly shorter reach. The width of the Flood pattern stretches up to 80 feet while it’s reach extends up to 60 feet. The Flood pattern is very good for dispersing light and lighting up larger amounts of space with just one bulb. The flood beam is considered a wide angle pattern with a width of up to 80 feet and a reach of around 60 feet, with a 35 degree angle.

The Spot (Narrow Beam) is a very concentrated pattern that is very narrow yet very long. Coming in at up to 10 feet wide and a 1000 foot beam reach. This pattern produces more of an intense center spot to light up objects right in front of you, while sacrificing useable side light. The Spot beam has an angle of 10 degrees.

The Elliptical is a fairly wide pattern, very similar to the Euro style, except it is the only non round beam pattern. This rectangular wide pattern measures in at 45 degrees wide and 15 degrees in height.

So to recap, the Flood beam is wide but short reach, the Spot beam is narrow but long reach, the Euro beam is between the two, and the Elliptical beam is the only non round beam style out of the four. For more information on beam patterns for Auxiliary and off road lights visit http://www.VisionXonly.com

It Is Easy to Clean Aluminum Rims That Are Corroded or Oxidized If You Know How

All you need are the right tools and know-how to cleaning aluminum rims that are in these types of conditions.

Just by following these simple procedures you can quickly learn how to clean aluminum rims easily.

Corroded or oxidized aluminum rims can mean anything from just some sticky road grime and brake dust all the way to much more harsh damage such as pitting. The amount of time and effort that will be needed to clean them is primarily based on how severe the condition is. You need to be aware that oxygen is definitely one of the worst enemies for aluminum. Just by allowing your rims to be exposed to the air will result in them turning dull coloured, old and weathered. Moreover, people who live in colder climates and expose them to road salts damage them even quicker. Other culprits are grime, brake dust and other pollution contaminants. All these external factors can greatly affect the shine and lustre of your rim. So if you have invested into a brand new, or gently used, set of shiny rims you need to protect them from the air as much as possible.

To begin with, park your vehicle in a shaded area and take a garden hose and spray your rims with a strong steady stream of water. Then fill a bucket with lukewarm water and add a generous amount of liquid dish soap or other gentle rim cleaning liquid and mix thoroughly. Apply this mixture to each rim and let it soak for approximately five minutes and then hose it off with a pressurized stream of water. Take a good soft microfiber cloth or chamois and wipe them dry. This initial step alone should remove the majority of the surface grime and allow you to get closer to the actual corrosion and/or oxidization.

Mask off surrounding painted areas of your vehicle by utilizing some painter’s masking tape and large sheets of plastic. After that, spray a layer of regular household oven cleaner on them and let it to soak in for about a half hour. Now take a pot and pan scrubber and scrub the entire rim thoroughly. When that is completed, take a hose and rinse it off right afterwards and then buff it dry with a clean cloth. For numerous types of corrosion and oxidization it is important that you repeat this process. A good point to know here is that sometimes that is all that is necessary to complete your cleaning job. If that is the case then all you need to do now is polish them with a professional aluminum brightener, which can be bought at any automotive store, and also polish them with regular car wax. However, if you find that it still does not completely fix the problem you will need to take more drastic steps.

This step will require you to apply a 400 grit sandpaper to all the pitted areas on your aluminum rims. For the majority of types of pitting this is basically the only do-it-yourself solution. Sanding can be accomplished by hand or, for much bigger areas, a motorized sanding wheel installed onto a drill can be used. If you do use this make sure you don’t apply too much pressure and also be mindful to keep the wheel constantly moving in a circular motion so that you do not scrape too deeply into any one spot.

After they have been meticulously sanded to an even brightness you will then need to rinse them with a pressurized spray of water and polish them with aluminum brightener. Again you will need to wax your rims with some basic car wax to prevent further oxidation or corrosion.

Remember that you will need to clean aluminum rims on a consistent and frequent basis to keep corrosion and oxidization damage to an absolute minimum. When cleaning aluminum rims you will need to reapply a clear coat of wax after each time, or alternatively, rub on a mild coating of oil on them to also prevent future oxidation or corrosion. The final most important thing to remember on how to clean aluminum rims properly is to always rinse them off and wipe them clean after driving in salted road conditions.

Architecture of Mesoamerica

Mesoamerican architecture is defined as the incorporation of architectural traditions by pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica. Their traditions are unmatched, known in the form of public, ceremonial and urban colossal buildings and structures.

The word architecture comes from the Latin “architectura,” meaning chief, leader, builder or carpenter. It is the art and science of designing buildings and other structures. It is a method and creation of design and construction of spaces that imitate and are functional, artistic and have environmental consideration. Architecture works are often acknowledged as cultural and political ciphers and works of art.

An added remarkable part of Mesoamerican architecture is its iconography. The mammoth architecture of Mesoamerica is adorned with images of religious and cultural significance and in many cases the writings are made with some of the Mesoamerican writing systems. Iconographic decorations and texts on the buildings are important contributors to the overall current knowledge of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican society, history and religion.

An important part of the Mesoamerican religious system was replicating their beliefs in concrete touchable form, consequently leaving the world a personification of their beliefs. The Mesoamerican city was constructed to be a microcosm, manifesting the division that existed in their religious, mythical and geographical being. Also showing are divisions between the underworld and their human world. The underworld was represented by the direction north and many structures and buildings related to the underworld, such as tombs, which are often found in the cities northern half. The southern part represented life, sustenance and rebirth and often contained structures related to their continuity and daily function. Found in the southern parts are monuments depicting their noble lineage or sometimes their residential noble lineages. Between the two halves of the north/south axis, was the plaza which frequently contained stalae similar to the world tree the Mesoamerican axis mundi, and a ball court which served as a passage point between the two worlds.

Pyramids, temples and other configurations were designed to attain special lighting effects on the equinoxes or on other important Mesoamerican events. It is believed that much of Mesoamerican architecture aligns the pyramids to fact the sunset on August 13, which was the beginning date of the Maya Long Court calendar.

The Mesoamericans had a ballgame ritual which was a symbolic journey between the underworld and the world of the living. Over 1300 ball courts have been identified. All have the same shape but vary in size and all have a long narrow ally flanked by two walls with horizontal, sloping and sometimes vertical faces that are covered with complex iconography and scenes of human sacrifice. The early ball courts were open ended. Later the ball courts had enclosed end-zones.

The pyramids were plat formed and many used a style called tahud-tablero. This style consists of a platform structure, or “tablero,” on the top of a sloped “talud.” There were different “tableros” developed and manifested differently among the various cultures.

Mesoamerican architecture in Mexico is best known for its public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures, several of which are the largest in the world.

A Lump in the Sole of the Foot – Plantar Fibromas Explained

Anytime one feels a lump in the body, mental alarm bells ring out with fears of cancer. This natural reaction is fairly universal for most people. When the lump is felt in the bottom of the foot, where it can cause pain with every step, the fear can be even greater owing to the noticeable symptoms the lump has when walking or standing. Fortunately, true malignant tumors of deep tissue in the foot are very rare. However, it is not uncommon for many people to develop a benign firm mass on the bottom of the foot arch called a plantar fibroma (or superficial fibromatosis).

Plantar fibromas develop from a part of the foot known as the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick, strap-like dense tissue that connects the heel bone and the ball of the foot. This tissue is broad, traversing across the entire width of the foot in three distinct bands. It is essentially a thick ligament, and provides some rigidity to the arch of the foot. In some people, small nodules, or growths, can develop along the surface of the fascia, and can slowly expand over time. These growths can be single, multiple in number, or one mass with numerous areas of bulging. The nodules are well affixed to the fascia, and do not move when one tries to move the overlying skin around. In general, these nodules grow very slowly, and do not appear ‘overnight’. However, they may seem to suddenly appear as most people cannot feel them until they become very large or develop pain. At times, people who rub their feet might notice them early on, but most people only notice the mass all of a sudden when it is big enough to expand the underlying skin or is tender to pressure. One can rest assured that these masses are benign, and conversion to a malignant cancer (fibrosarcoma) is almost unheard of.

Symptoms are usually related to irritation of the fascia tissue and inflammation around the nodule when one stands on the foot and places pressure on the fibroma. Many of these plantar fibromas are painless masses that are not irritated by pressure on the sole of the foot. Some are painful, though, and can limit one’s ability to comfortably walk. This is especially true when the mass pushes into a sensitive tissue, such as one of the many nerves found traversing the bottom of the foot above or below the plantar fascia. Barefoot walking and shoe use can be uncomfortable due to the ‘lump’, and other parts of the plantar fascia can become irritated as a result.

Treatment is geared towards either accommodating the mass to make those who suffer with it more comfortable, or removing it all together. It should be noted that if the mass does not cause any discomfort, it does not need to be treated. Its growth cannot be slowed or prevented with early treatment, and aggressive treatment of a non-painful plantar fibroma is not necessary. When there is pain involved, treatment with accommodation or removal is clearly recommended. Accommodating the mass involves the use of stretches to keep the fascia limber, anti-inflammatory medication, and accommodative inserts that pad and protect the area around the mass. In some people with painful plantar fibromas, this can help relieve, or at least temporarily control, the pain. If this is not effective, then surgery is typically needed to remove the mass itself. This surgery can run the range from simple to highly complicated depending on the size of the mass. Small plantar fibromas are easily removed with out too much tissue loss, and the resulting tissue gap can eventually fill with scar tissue to keep the structure of the plantar fascia intact. In any removal procedure, it is vital that all of the fibroma, along with a margin of normal fascia and the overlying under surface of the skin be removed to help prevent recurrence. Medium and large size fibromas are much more difficult to remove. Their removal causes large gaps in the plantar fascia, and can effect the stability of the bottom of the foot to a certain degree. This also leaves open an internal area that can be apt to developing scars and adhesions in the surface under and on the skin. At times, the resulting tissue can potentially be more painful than the original fibroma if healing is poor. These gaps need to be filled in if possible to maintain integrity of the fascia and limit scar tissue. Newer tissue grafts that act as scaffolds for whatever tissue is attached to them can help with this problem. The remaining fascia tissue will creep into these grafts, effectively restoring the fascia to a similar state as before surgery (and before the mass). Whether large or small, all plantar fibromas have a fairly high rate of recurrence, and even the best surgical technique cannot necessarily prevent this from happening. Simply put, some people quickly regrow these masses even after removal. This is not a sign so much for malignancy as much as it’s a sign of a common problem after excision surgery for plantar fibromas. There is no way to effectively control this potential for regrowth after surgery unfortunately.

One final note should be made regarding plantar fibromas, and foot masses in general. As stated previously, true deep foot malignant tumors are very rare…but they do occur. It is recommended that a medical evaluation by a foot specialist (podiatrist) be performed to ensure that the mass felt is simply a common plantar fibroma. An MRI may need to be performed if there are unusual characteristics to the shape or location of the mass (or even if surgery to remove it is being planned). Less commonly, a biopsy may be considered if there is great abnormality or questionable findings on the exam. While all this may seem like a lot of time and money for a little mass, it can potentially make the difference between a healthy foot and a leg amputation if there truly is something more abnormal to begin with.

Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction

So often people want to rush out and buy estimating software or takeoff software without first trying to define their internal estimating processes. Once the estimating process is clearly defined, then and only then, can you actually try to compartmentalize the process into segments. So often the segment is really quantity takeoff. Takeoff of what you may wonder? That is like the million dollar question. This article will speak about the takeoff software process which usually associated with estimating software processes. The takeoff software process can often be takeoff of materials for some folks, and to many others, the takeoff process of scoped systems to create estimates or proposals. This review or comparison will not try to explain the estimating software process but bring to you valid quantity takeoff thinking among estimators in a quest to find which product thinks the way you do. These are the opinions of the author.

I will review and compare 3 types of measuring takeoff products:

It is extremely important to note that these are ONLY measuring takeoff programs, NOT estimating programs.

1) Planswift

2) On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software

3) Electronic Plan Takeoff Software

All three products have their strengths, however, Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated live with Microsoft Excel which means that it starts and finishes and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, however, you will have to evaluate your thought process and decide which of the three products work-flow think along the lines of how you think. For instance, what is the first thing you do when you get a set of plans? Typically, you start flipping through the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work do you see that is attractive for your company. Then when you decide you are going to estimate this job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the world of construction estimating by opening your takeoff master template Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to the new job or project and off you go performing takeoff. This is where the differences are:

In Planswift, you decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of an item you want to perform takeoff on the plan. Unfortunately, that is not exactly how an estimator thinks. Planswift does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then perform takeoff of it; somewhat of a very manual and slow process. They also provide you with the ability of applying a type of assembly to a takeoff to aggregate quantities of items in that assembly. Not quite the way an estimator thinks. It forces you to jump to different screens which slows down the process. Typically, the main start of anyone’s takeoff process, or some may think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. Those items can be material items or can be scoped assembly system items. Either way, by starting with a master spreadsheet say in Excel for example, many estimators think of this as a risk reducer, not to forget things they normally takeoff. Being that Planswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, it typically saves your takeoff images in Planswift instead of your estimate in Excel, if Excel is your estimating system. If you are using Excel, you have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in Planswift or elsewhere, just not in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to either export or import takeoff items from Excel rather than being dynamically integrated live to Excel. They do however have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or the primary focus of this program is measuring, therefore it does a good job at that function. Most of the other functions require you to jump around different screens, and essentially, you loose your thought of where you are. There are some features that attempt to address the estimating process, however, there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a full fledged estimating system; it is NOT one. Planswift does integrate with the leading estimating system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s power is in assembly takeoff and where most estimators reside in Timberline, Planswift does not give the estimator the ability to add quantities of miscellaneous Timberline items or one-time items that need to added on the fly to an assembly while they are in Planswift at the Timberline interview screen, and while being in the measuring phase. Planswift does allow the deleting of assembly generated items as well adjusting assembly item quantities in a different screen. Again, to perform all that, you are forced to jump around to different screens. No assembly is ever perfect in any estimating system since project conditions are always uniquely different, therefore, having to add items to an assembly is extremely important. That adding of items and associated quantities is an absolute requirement any estimator typically has to do during the takeoff measuring and estimating phase; something that Planswift struggles with as related to Timberline Estimating. Planswift does allow the direct send of measurements to Timberline Estimating items and assemblies while in Timberline Estimating, just as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the Grand Daddy of software takeoff products due to the fact that it has been around the longest. On Center recognizes that On-Screen Takeoff is primarily a measuring program. That is why they have a separate estimating program named QuickBid for those who want an estimating program. On Center does not try to trick you into thinking it is an estimating system. In On-Screen Takeoff, you also decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of the plan. BUT, before you start, you can load a master set styles of things you typically takeoff or measure from your own library. That process seems to be less complicated than that of Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then performing takeoff of it; somewhat of a manual and slow process as well. The program does come with many features that are primarily focused on simple measuring to advanced measuring issues all with attention to detail regarding easy navigation for the takeoff process. On Center does a very good job at that. However, there seems to be a disconnect of thought from an Excel spreadsheet items you may use for estimating and/or proposals. The integration to Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic live link, more like an after thought in my opinion. Yes, you can establish links to named styles to cells or ranges in Excel, somewhat rigid. But the question you will have to ask yourself, which will happen more often than not is: What do you do when you need to add things on the fly during takeoff and in an Excel spreadsheet? Again there will be manual associations you will have to establish with Excel which is another major slowdown. You have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in On-Screen or anywhere you decide, except the takeoff images will not be saved in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. This type of situation arises when a takeoff program is a stand-alone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff has the best integration with the most widely used estimating system in the USA: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. By working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to perform takeoff of a Timberline variable question and immediately returns back directly with the takeoff quantity in a Timberline assembly at the variable question. By virtue of this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue his/her Timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating by reviewing/massaging generated quantities, or adding items in a Timberline assembly as the estimator see fit. That workflow process gives full control to the estimator, good job On Center. Training, support and maintenance are extra for On-Screen Takeoff. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

This next system is ONLY if your estimating system or proposal generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic Plan Takeoff Software is a plug-in for Excel. You start your spreadsheet, you perform the measuring takeoff, you may even add some more items on the fly all the while you are in the measuring phase in the Electronic Plan Takeoff program. When you are done, even if you added items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel is the control of everything. Your project is started in Excel, your takeoff is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal is/can be produced there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel somehow, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is live linked with Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the measuring takeoff program so you always know where you are in Excel. That is a huge difference in comparison to Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. You can even change a description of a takeoff item in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it is automatically changed live, in your Excel spreadsheet. When you talk about the estimating and takeoff phase you must keep processes cleans and easy and this program does just that. There is no getting lost in this program. Just like the other reviewed programs above, the central focus of this program is takeoff measuring, and it does a GREAT job at that. The navigation within the program is really simple and easy. It is not made to work with other estimating systems, but there is a version that allows the direct send of measurements to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting a keyboard entry, just as you would do with digitizer measuring boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards as well. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimating, or takeoffs, or proposals, then this Electronic Plan Takeoff program for Excel would be your best choice. The integration to Excel is unmatched in Electronic Plan Takeoff compared to Planswift or On-Screen Takeoff. What is quite different in Electronic Plan Takeoff is that training, support, and maintenance are INCLUDED with a purchase, whereas training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. Moreover, annual support and maintenance for Electronic Plan Takeoff year two and beyond is a low fee per company per year, instead of per license. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is the registered trademark of Tech Unlimited, Inc. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are registered trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating are registered trademarks of Sage Software, Inc.

Internet Marketing – Building a Web Site

Nearly a lot of people, from the kids to the business-minded ones, think about having their presence felt or spotted on the cyber space. That is why even youngsters spend their time in building their websites. Are you also interested in coming up with a website of your own? If yes, better think about how you could better do it employing good tips, the right kind of knowledge, programming tools, and the language so it would be all and well.

Before finally jumping into the task of building a web site, here are some vital questions that you better ask yourself with.

What is your main purpose for building a web site? Is it out of your hobby, commercializing it, online selling, or you want to extend help to people?

Who are your targeted audience?

How much time and effort are you willing to spare for monitoring your website?

How much profit do you think of raising?

As you gather the answers to your queries, you are then helping yourself clear your visions and you are likewise nearly assessing everything that you would need to devote for your web site and internet marketing venture. Now, before you could build a web site, there are important processes that you have to undergo such as the choice of the right theme or topic or niche, the listing down of the exact keywords, and the research from the internet of the popularity of your keywords used. A discussion of these things is shown below so read on.

The choice of the right topic, theme, or niche. Selecting the correct topic, theme, or niche must depend highly on how well versed you are with it. If you would be doing the writing, then you have to make sure that you are equipped with the knowledge or background of those. Just list down all topics that you could so that you would have better choices.

Listing out of the keywords for some topics. The keywords or key phrases are the terms typed in by the web site visitor as he accesses the internet. The search engines try to crawl and match these keywords and key phrases so that the information would be found. Your web site should then be keyword or key phrase friendly.

Get keywords from the internet. On a daily basis, several web sites appear on the internet therefore making it a really competitive arena for the internet marketers. The web site must not be too general that it would be very hard to spot what is needed nor that it is too specific that it limits the choices of the web site visitors. You would have to test the validity and reliability of the website by the help of internet research.

Now, more than ever, here are some valuable tips that you need to remember when building a web site.

Look for a niche that you would be marketing for your web site. Do not create a web site for nothing at all. You have determined your purpose and of course you would have to live with it. If your web site is all about recipe helps, then do not include insurance quotes, apartment rentals, and other unrelated things. Always compliment the topic that you have for your web site.

Do away with the dark background colors and wallpapers. Do not employ very distracting ones as they would not be liked by the web site visitors. Imagine that they would not be able to read whatever it is that is written there. Most probably, no transactions would come your way if they cannot understand the contents of your web site.

Do not use as much as possible the flash introductions. They may be entertaining to look at but they could get distracting too. Usually, web site visitors get irritated especially if they are in a hurry.

Avoid the use of music on the web site.

Put in bold letters the important things only.

Link, link, and link! Your marketing strategy is better sped up with the use of links.

You want to get something out of your web site, right? Then you have to take note of the things that you need to consider when planning for it.

When Buying Your First House – Do You Need A Down Payment?

Depending on your credit rating, a mortgage institution will advise you as to how much you can borrow and the interest rate they will charge you. Most lending institutions appreciate the customer who has been prequalified. I have done this but see very little usefulness in it unless you plan to buy very shortly.

The lending institution will check your credit history and employment before the qualification. The better your credit history, salary and the lesser your current debt (like credit cards and installment loan), the more apt they are to preapprove a loan. Of course you are under no obligation to give that lending institution control of your mortgage until the papers are signed.

Now about down payment. There are several schools of thought on this subject. My theory is the more down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage payments. Most lending institutions have requirements in this area. Some, as low as 3% and some as high as 20%. The same lender can require different percentages depending on your credit history, the amount of loan needed and the value of the prospective property.

You may want to reduce the amount of down payment to have some reserve money for remodeling or just furnishing the home. The one advantage of more down payment and less mortgage payments per month is that, if times get tough (you lose a job or your partner loses their job or sickness enters the picture), your monthly obligations will be more affordable.

Where do you go for your down payment? Retirement funds are one source but only if you are very young, let’s say 20’s to 30’s. From my experience, I personally feel it is a mistake to take retirement funds to make a down payment. Much better to use an inheritance, save yourself or win a lottery (laugh!). Some borrowers have taken a second mortgage to fund their down payment. This can really put a lot of stress on your budget. However, if you are serious about owning, you may be willing to struggle for a while. As your income grows, providing you have a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly mortgage payments become more affordable since they are fixed.

It’s not easy to save for a down payment but it is possible. Cut your expenses by cutting back on some unneeded extra’s and save the money instead. Allocate a certain amount for groceries and stick whatever is left at the end of the period in the bank. Conserve on energy and put the money saved in the bank toward your down payment. Put a chunk in a mutual fund and let it grow. Be careful in selecting the mutual fund. These are only a few ways to acquire your down payment. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your down payment be accumulated in a day.

As you approach obtaining a mortgage, you will find all kinds of variations. Some of these are interest rates, term of mortgage loan, type of mortgage and down payment requirements. Most of these items are contingent on the amount of the mortgage application versus the appraised value. Some mortgage lenders require taxes and insurance to be escrowed within the mortgage terms. This is an area where you should shop around. I have some friends with a mortgage on their property. Their lender allowed them to manage their own escrow. They fell behind in their property taxes and when the lender discovered the delinquency, paid all back taxes and forced them to escrow. The consequence of their delinquency was that their mortgage payments skyrocketed because of the delinquencies. The lender is only concerned with their interest in your property.

The more you borrow, the better the terms you will receive. Just remember, all the money you borrow for a down payment has to be paid back . . .the easy part is the borrowing.

When buying your first house you will need to make a down payment, whether it is a large percentage of the sales price or not will have to be negotiated between you, the buyer, and the lender you choose.

Window Design Pressures for New and Replacement Windows

New Building Codes change the industry:

The ever increasing demands of new building codes has significantly changed window and door design pressure ratings required for replacement windows, doors and sliding glass doors. This is especially true in wind-prone areas such as Florida. Not only are design pressures an important lifesaving issue for the everyday homeowner but they are critical for every high rise condo in over 4 stories. What’s the issue? As the elevations of a building increase, the design pressures go up dramatically.

In addition to the elevation, the location of the window (corner versus middle of the building) may quadruple the pressures effects. For safety reasons, all impact windows and doors for these applications must meet newly updated and enhanced air, water and structural design performance requirements. Many Home Owner Associations (HOA), Property Management companies and even replacement window companies are not familiar with the older codes let alone the new ones. As many people do when anything changes, some may consider these new Replacement Window Design Pressures to be over-kill, however. In reality one hit from flying debris or winds from even a modest tropical storm may destroy your windows and compromise the integrity of your home.

Design Pressures:

The easiest way to explain Window Design Pressure is to take a walk through downtown Chicago. Picture yourself walking down a street on a typical Chicago winters day. On just about any street you will encounter some amount of wind but once you turn that corner, the gusts of wind can literally knock you off your feet. Tropical storms and hurricanes are no different in their wind gusts dramatically exaggerating the winds pressure and its effects on the designs of a building.

Likewise when it comes to high-rise condos the wind speeds and wind pressures are even more pronounced due to the surrounding trees, buildings and higher floor elevations. Similar in effect to the wind passing over an airplane wing (Bernoulli’s Principle), these natural and man-made structures can generate negative air pressures that can lift or in this case suck windows and doors right out of the wall. Can you imagine what could happen if you were behind a window that gets sucked out at 150 mph? In some cases the winds can reach up to a staggering 300 mph or higher.

Choosing the right window and door for the application:

For high-rise condos, Single Hung Windows, Double Hung Windows, Casement Windows, Picture Windows and Sliding Glass Doors are available that are designed to meet and in most cases exceed regional and county design pressure codes. It is important to note that all windows and doors are NOT created equal. Finding a window dealer and installer who is experienced in dealing with design pressures is paramount. A reputable company can explain and help the homeowner to choose the right window and door product for their particular application.

High-Rise Condominiums:

Compliant window manufacturers have announced two major design pressure rating changes on Double Hung windows. Approved Double Hung window sizes now exceed a structural design pressure 40 rating, with most of them above a design pressure 45, and many reaching a design pressure 50 rating. These performance enhancements were made possible by modifications to the tilt latch, which now pulls the sash even more tightly towards the jamb. End result for you the homeowner, a greater energy efficient, quieter and more secure window.

Impact Windows:

The design pressure ratings on approved window lines – including single hung, double hung, transoms and picture window units – are also increasing. However approximately only 10% of the window and door products currently manufactured have been upgraded to meet the increased design pressure ratings. In order to meet these higher design pressure ratings, tested windows and doors were required to meet three (3) specific sets of criteria related to air, water and structural performance.

Air: The glass was required to show no evidence of air leakage around the weather strip or corner joints when installed in a 25 mph wind tunnel.

Water: Unit must withstand eight inches of rain per hour, driven by wind speeds of 55 mph.

Structural: Unit must remain structurally sound under 142 mph of wind pressure.

Finding the Right Company:

Here is where your real work will start as you will need to get yourself a little education. Finding a factory trained and certified window Installation Company that has not only been specifically trained on design pressure requirements but knows how to install those windows and doors is key. Many companies say they can do the job but few companies know how to do it right. Design pressure requirements can only be calculated with a “Structural Engineering” program. You can’t just wing it. If the company you are working with doesn’t have one, do yourself a favor, show them the door and move on.

Bending Wood – Different Techniques Used

How often have you gazed in wonder at the beautiful intricate shapes of wooden architecture, marvelling at the sheer creativity of the workman? Such extraordinary shapes and designs can be made only with the aid of bended pieces of wood. So how can this bending be done? There are various methods that can be adopted some of which have been since time immemorial, for e.g. right from the middle ages.

Steam bending is one such method practiced by people down the ages. A look at the processes involved in this method:

First of all you’ll need a few articles like a box in which the wood to be bent has to be placed, some water in a container, a hose or a pipe to let in the steam and some screws and clamps, not to forget a source to supply heat. The process begins by clamping down the wooden piece into a mold and placing it in the box. One end of the hose has to be inserted in the box while the other end lies in the water container. Once you heat the water the hose will transfer the steam into the steam box. One major advantage with this method is that the wood retains the long grain pattern with no apparent glue marks. Wastage of material is minimal here. This is most suitable for straight grain lumber. This method can be quite time consuming though, with a 1/4th inch lumber piece taking around 20 min to 2 or more hours for a piece of roughly 2 inches.

Kerf Bending: Here a Kerf or cut is made into the inside edge of the piece with the aid of a chop saw. Then these saw cuts are filled and the bending is done so that these cuts close. While making the cuts, be careful not to cut more than 2/3rds in thickness for anything more than that will cause the wood to break while being bent. This method was widely used in the construction of Victorian houses which sported rounded corners both on the internal as well as external sides.

Microwave Bending: One of the more modern approaches to wood bending is the microwave method. It can be likened to steam bending but is faster. This method is applied mainly to soften the wood and for molding it. It can also be used for partial heating of the material. In this process, the wood is placed in a wet paper towel and microwaved. The time is fixed according to the thickness of the wood. Best thing would be to give it a 20 second heating to test the pliability of the piece and then experiment further.

Laminated Wood Bending: In this method, thin layers of wood are chosen because they bend easier. The thin strips are placed in a mold and laminated together with the help of glue and clamped down firmly. Thin strips can be bought or can be sawed out of thicker pieces. Ideal thickness of each piece would be about 1/ 8″. Usually the finished piece will be longer than needed in which case you’ll have to trim the edges

Some of the lesser used methods are chemical and alkali softening, compression bending, cold bending etc.

Offshore Cutting and Dismantling

Offshore cutting and dismantling is usually undertaken as a result of decommissioning work on oil and gas platforms. In the UK this generally means in the North Sea. Because of the highly volatile nature of oil and gas and the potential dangers associated with working in such an environment, any offshore cutting operations have to be undertaken with the greatest degree of care and attention to safety.

Decommissioned materials are often of high quality steel, which makes their recovery desirable. This means that heavy structures need to be dismantled then cut into sizes suitable for transportation to onshore sites. Heavy lifting equipment may be required, along with the trained personnel to operate it safely and efficiently.

Subsea infrastructures have their own special challenge as regards cutting and dismantling. Thermal drilling and flame jet cutting methods may be employed to good effect. Offshore cutting and dismantling techniques have evolved over the years to provide the industry with efficient strategies that combine safety with cost efficiency.

Where there is likely to be a risk of explosion from combustible gases, as is certainly the case offshore on oil and gas platforms, any cutting required must be done in such a way as to eliminate any chance of a spark that might ignite gases. It goes without saying, that most common types of cutting appliances are not suitable.

The answer to this dilemma is cold cutting using high pressure or ultra high pressure water jets – sometimes containing a sharp edged abrasive. The water is mixed with the abrasive material and forced through a fine nozzle at extremely high pressure and speed, producing an amazing cutting force, perfect for locations, like oil rigs, where safety from fire or explosion is of paramount importance. It sounds simple, but this technology can slice through high strength steels, even when the steel is up to 30 centimetres thick! The lack of heat produced means the material being cut doesn’t get distorted.

Cold cutting can also effectively cut through reinforced concrete without creating a single spark, making it the ideal tool for offshore cutting and dismantling operations. Concrete up to one metre in thickness can be sliced through with little effort leaving a clean cut face.

Cutting and dismantling of pipes and equipment can be a hazardous job without proper care and attention. Using water abrasion suspension jet cutting means that the task can be performed remotely, thereby making the entire operation much safer for all the personnel involved.

Special handling is required when working with materials where oil has been in transit. Spills must be kept to a minimum, with procedures in place to deal with any unexpected situation that may arise during the operation.

Guide to Patio Door Types

Traditional or modern? Classic or contemporary? Varying tastes and different architectures throughout the years, as well as innovations and enhanced lifestyles, have given rise to the wide choice in patio door variations currently available in Britain. This article aims to describe the types of patio doors – their styles and functionality, similarities and differences, together with some of their main advantages and popular options – in order to provide readers with an informative guide.

Styles – French doors, sliding panels: retractable: folding doors, slide-and-pivot doors.

The latest patio doors innovation is slide-and-pivot doors. Developed and launched since 2007/8, slide-and-pivot doors incorporate the major benefits of bifolding doors and sliding patio doors. Comprising a number of individual glazed panels that fit snugly together when closed, there is a ‘master’ door that can be opened with a standard (pivot) action, enabling the other doors to be moved, individually, along the top and bottom guides; as each door is moved to the end of the guides, it can also pivot open to increase the access width between the divided areas ( to a suggested maximum of approximately 8 metres).

Because slide-and-pivot doors have no hinges, there is no requirement for a sturdy side frame; its only purpose is to cover the gasket that seals the double glazed unit. This means that the views afforded through the expanse of patio doors have minimal interruptions. At the time of writing, there are two versions of frame-less glass doors available in the UK, both using the slide-and-pivot technique: one manufacturer supplies their frameless glass doors with kite-marked double glazed units which have a visible seal, the other uses an almost transparent method of sealing their double glazing. Contemporary by design, the absence of visible characteristics makes frameless glass doors a viable option for period properties.

Bi Folding doors were launched around the turn of the century; they can be installed in place of French doors, where both doors are hinged to fold as they open together to one side. Bi folding doors can also span an opening to around 7 metres wide, depending on the frame chosen. A ‘master’ door can be placed amongst the doors, at the ends or in the middle, wherever the opening is required; this door is a standard (pivot) opening door which enables the other doors to be pushed to the side or sides of the aperture, resulting in a sliding-folding action, concertina-style, to maximise the width of the opening between home and garden or conservatory.

Originally, patio doors were all of the French Door variety; that is, a pair of doors that are hinged at the sides and open from the middle, each door pivoting in- or out-wards. French doors are still popular, especially with builders of new homes, as they are comparatively cheap and easy to accommodate in place of windows and offer an alternative evacuation route for families, especially for elderly or disabled people, to meet improved fire safety requirements.

Arguably, French doors could be considered as retractable as each door can be pulled back. The advantage of retractable doors is that maximum access is possible between the two sides of the aperture whereas sliding panel doors generally overlap unless built to retract into a recess.

In the mid-20th century, sliding doors became very popular – two or three panels of glass that slide along grooves in the floor. To distinguish them from traditional French doors, they were marketed with the thoroughly modern name of Patio Doors and this is often the image people have today when that term is used. Easily installed in place of a window, the immediate advantages were additional natural light and access to the garden. They also became a popular option to use where a pivot door opening space was limited or where the aperture was wider than a pair of French doors. Older installations were typically single-glazed, prone to warping and usually became difficult to slide open and closed. Still available today but in a developed form with double glazing and rollers for easier sliding, the popularity of sliding doors during this century has declined as bifolding doors gained market share.

Frame Styles – timber, metal, pvc, composite, frameless, profiles and sight lines.

Patio doors comprise an outer frame plus individual door frames. These can be made from wood (soft- and/or hard-wood), metal or alloys (usually aluminium), pvc (polyvinyl chloride, a thermo-plastic polymer – the ‘u’ stands for unplasticised) or a composite material, which may comprise any of the foregoing materials plus grp (glass reinforced polymer). There is also a style known as frameless, where the vertical sides of each door have no frames.

Generally, timber frames are considered more traditional and can look beautiful! Hard wood such as oak is, as the name suggests, far more hard-wearing than a soft wood such as pine. Weather, especially strong sun, can take its toll on timber frames which could need to be varnished or painted annually. Wooden frames can swell and shrink with humidity, therefore opening and closing doors can require force and gaps can allow draughts in colder temperatures.

Metal frames, usually aluminium, provide strength in compact form. As notoriously good conductors (which is a bad attribute for insulation), frames made from aluminium are thermally-broken, which is a good attribute. It means that the metals on the inside and outside of the door frames are not joined, preventing the temperatures from being transferred between them. A bare metal frame would look completely unattractive so it is powder-coated in a choice of over 100 standard colours, including a white that resembles pvc.

As with timber, the quality of pvc frames available can vary – and generally, you get what you pay for. The better ones will usually be reinforced with metal, internally, for greater strength but the cheaper options can be a nightmare to live with – sticking, twisting, splitting, discolouring, warping – often within a very short time. Most usually supplied as white, some manufacturers offer limited colour options or wood effect finishes.

Generally stronger than pvc, composite patio door frames vary with each manufacturer, offering a variety of finishes.

Whilst frameless doors have no side frames, the top and bottom of each door requires a mechanism, typically presented in aluminium, to allow it to slide within the top and bottom guides. Frameless glass doors have the best sight lines.

Sight lines is the term used to describe the interruptions in the view through the doors; in other words, the width of the vertical opaque areas between the glass when the doors are closed. On hinged doors, such as French doors and bi folding doors, timber and pvc frames generally have broad sight lines because, unlike aluminium, narrower frames would not be strong enough to be fit for purpose. As a guide to the width of two frames together, cheaper pvc door frames can exceed 200mm, aluminium frames are typically between 135mm and 160mm and frameless patio doors sight lines are under 40mm. Depending on the width of each door and number of doors to be installed, the difference in glass to frame ratio could be significant.

Door profiles – the width of the visible door edges when open – may be a consideration. Additionally, some door profiles are ugly, showing mullions or working parts that would be better hidden from view.

Glass – Kite mark, thermal performance, tempered, unbreakable, toughened, tinted, Georgian, leaded-light, stained glass, integral blinds.

All patio doors are required to have double glazing, although glass room dividers and glass doors to non residential properties can be single glazed tempered “unbreakable” glass.

A visible “kitemark” on the glass is the consumers’ assurance that the double-glazed unit has been manufactured to British standards. The BSI has numerous standards, including: U-value verification, Window Energy Rating and Window Installation. The lower the U-value, the better the thermal performance and most local authorities will require this to be 1.8 or better to meet building regulations.

Some manufactures offer optional extras, such as tinted glass, anti-sun, laminated, obscured glass and Argon-filled double-glazing. It is also possible to match existing period features by specifying Georgian bar or leaded-light in rectangular or diamond style. An innovative option is switchable privacy glass which enables molecules inside the double-glazing to become transparent or opaque at the press of a button; this is expensive, though, typically doubling the original price of good quality patio doors.

An alternative solution is to order patio doors with integral horizontal blinds, factory sealed inside the double-glazing cavity. Proven to be reliable, the blinds can be operated via a magnet system (there is an alternative electronic option) that enables the slats to be easily angled to control the amount of light filtering through and can also raise and lower the blinds for maximum light or shade. A major advantage of opting for internally sealed blinds rather than separate blinds is that they are totally maintenance-free – no arduous dusting or cleaning – and because the blinds are encapsulated inside the glazed panels, they are exceptionally difficult to break.

Hardware, Rolling, Thresholds and Security

French doors and bi folds need hinges that are strong enough to withstand the weight of the doors. Sliding doors (including bi folds) can be supported from the top or rest on the floor. Top hung systems tend to be easier to slide and will facilitate low thresholds.

Thresholds can be raised or virtually flush, if the floor area is suitable. Raised is usually cheaper and may be more suitable to certain environments; other factors to consider are access by wheelchair users, young children and elderly, infirm or partially sighted people who may be liable to trip.

Consideration should be given to how secure patio doors are. Not only the quality of the frames and glass but whether the doors can be unlocked from the outside. French doors are often purchased “off the shelf” and afford access from both sides whereas bifolding doors are often made to measure and can be supplied with locks on the inside only. Multiple door systems may have key-locks for each of the pairs of doors for extra security.

Access & Opening Widths

To recap, French doors come in pairs and therefore the maximum access width is in the region of 2 metres. Sliding doors comprise two, three or four sashes within a frame, the larger systems opening to provide maximum access width of approximately 3 metres.

Bi-folding and slide-and-pivot door systems are fully retractable, maximising the potential access width. The width-span of bifolds is governed by the stress of the hinged doors therefore a link of six doors is considered the maximum although, in theory, two of these could be installed to form a centrally opening retractable glass wall of twelve doors spanning 12m, provided the overbeam can be trusted (reputable companies will probably advise against this).

Without hinges and cumbersome frames, slide-and-pivot doors are lighter and operate independently, therefore their installable width span is restricted only by the length of the over-beam to which the upper guide needs to be attached. The upper and lower guides must be consistently equidistant along the full width of the aperture for the doors to slide. This system has been tested to approximately 8 metres.

Delivery & Installation

As previously stated, French doors can usually be purchased ‘off the shelf’ to standard sizes, as can smaller widths of sliding doors and pvc or timber bi folding door systems.

If purchasing a system that is made to order, it is advisable to ensure that it is manufactured in the UK. Main benefits include adherence to British standards and delivery timescales (not only for the initial import but for subsequent parts or problem solving).

When comparing prices, include: cost of buying the door system, delivery service, installation labour (if d-i-y, cost of appropriate tools and materials), making good and clearing the site. Price is not everything, though. Consider the time it takes for the installation to be completed – typically, an experienced team from the supplier will complete the job in a day so that home-owners can enjoy using their new patio doors as soon as possible.

Commercial Use

Patio doors are generally installed in residential properties but are also popular in restaurants, canteens, reception areas, sports halls, swimming pools and communal areas. Where double-glazing isn’t required, single-glazed frameless slide-and-pivot doors may be preferred – reception areas, enclosing a terrace or cloisters, shop fronts in shopping malls and conference area partitions.