Stone and Brick Facades to Dress Up Your Home

Many folks would like to spend a little money on their home, and they don’t have a whole lot to spend. They want their homes to look nice on the outside and give a good first impression. They would also like to do whatever home improvements that they decide on and make sure that those decisions will help the value of their home when they go to sell it later.

Every good realtor knows that even small improvements to the front of the house, like a new flower bed, shutters, or even a new mailbox make a big difference. A new garage door could add $10,000-$20,000 to the actual selling price of a home.

One thing that I like to recommend to homeowners is that they put up a stone or brick façade alongside along the base of the house. Perhaps, up to the Windows along the frontage of the home. This makes the home look more valuable and more substantial, as well as sturdier. Stone and brick facades are not expensive to put up and if you use the right materials they are very long-lasting.

It is important of course to make sure that the coating of these materials is also a strong enough to handle any hard water spots from the sprinklers. Sometimes it’s the little things you do to dress up your home, that make the biggest difference. Your neighbors will definitely notice.

In fact, if you put stone or brick on your house, you might find out that other people in the neighborhood go and do the same when they find out how little it costs. This can increase the price of the entire neighborhood for everyone’s home. As each time a home sells it helps the average appraisal value of each home in the neighborhood go up slightly. I surely hope you will think about this.

Soldering Flux – The Stained Glass Magic Elixir?

For those of us that work with stained glass, “soldering flux” is one of those “gotta use it” items that we know we need, but we just don’t like to talk about. Shhh, it’s secret stuff! Whether we use the liquid, prefer the paste, or swear by the gel, we understand “what” it does, but we really don’t know the “how” or the “why”. Today, I’ll attempt to fill-in the blanks, and answer those questions.

The way I see it, fluxes shouldn’t be categorized by their form factor: Liquids, pastes, or gels all work well, and it’s largely a matter of preference which to use. The addition of glycerin or emulsifiers can change the form factor, but they really don’t participate to a large extent in the chemistry that makes a flux “flux”.

Which begs the question, “What does a flux actually do?” During the soldering action, a flux is responsible for three tasks:

  1. Dissolving of the metal oxide (MO) layer of the metal,
  2. Protecting the metal surface against further oxidation, and
  3. Enabling the “wetting” action of the solder, by lowering surface tension.

Some may argue that a fourth task might be, “creating a strong bond between the base metal and the solder”, but I argue that by the time the bonding takes place, the flux has done it’s job, and has left the scene. And this is really the “why” answer; we use flux so that we can create a strong bond between the foil (or came) and the solder. In other words, we want good solder lines.

In order to understand “how” flux performs it’s magic, we need to categorize them according to their chemical composition. I prefer to break fluxes down into three categories this way:

  • Highly-active, acid-based fluxes,
  • Rosin-based environmentally-friendly “safety” fluxes, and
  • Mild restoration fluxes.

Let’s look at each of these in detail:

Acid-based fluxes

This category of fluxes includes most of the “everyday” fluxes used by glassers. They contain one or more salt compounds, typically ammonium chloride (aka, Sal Ammoniac) and/or zinc chloride (aka, Killed Spirits), which are highly reactive with the metal oxides (aka, tarnish) on the surface of foil or came. These fluxes usually also contain a strong acid, such as hydrochloric acid, as a “pickling” agent.

One note about acid-based fluxes; they must be removed from your stained glass project, by washing with soap and water and/or neutralizing with “Kwik-Clean”, after soldering is complete. If the flux is left on, “white mold” will develop over the course of time on solder lines. This “white mold” isn’t really “mold” at all, but a continued reaction between the flux and the base metal, resulting in a moldy-looking formation of salts; namely lead nitrate (a carcinogen) or stannous chloride.

Rosin-based safety fluxes

A second type of flux, one that I prefer, is made from certain species of pine trees, specifically the pine tar from these trees. If we “distill” the pine tar, we end up with “rosin” (aka, colophony), which is a blend of mild acids and other compounds. If you’ve ever heard of “rosin-core solder” used in electronics, this is the same stuff wrapped in solder, albeit in a slightly different form factor. (Note: rosin-core solder should not be used for stained glass).

I like these fluxes because they are environmentally friendly; you aren’t washing zinc chloride down the sink when you clean your project. And because they are milder, they can be left on your foil or came for a longer time, without fear of pitting or corrosion.

Cleanup is easier with a rosin-based flux, because it easily dissolves in water, unlike the “greasier” acid-based fluxes.

Mild restoration fluxes

These fluxes are used for restoration work, primarily lead came. They have a higher pH, and as a result, are milder. The fluxes that fall in this category are oleic acid and steric acid.

They are also a good choice for beginners learning lead came, but are not recommended for copper foil. They don’t have the punch needed to pickle the copper.

Final Word

I hope I’ve taken some of the mystery out of stained glass flux, so that you can better understand the “why’s” and “how’s” of stained glass.

As always, whenever you are working with a soldering iron, you should work in a well-ventilated area, as the fumes given off (zinc oxide and acid fumes) can cause respiratory problems down the road. Also, if your skin comes in contact with flux, be sure to wash well with soap and hot water.

And always wear your safety glasses with side-shields! Molten solder can splash up in your face, so always work safely.

What’s the Difference Between a Soldering Iron and Gun?

Soldering is a technique that has many applications both industry related or recreational. Essentially, it is the process of melting a tin and copper mixture, called solder, so that it binds with other metals, but the tools can also be used to melt or cut other materials. The unique techniques for these applications involve a high level of craftsmanship, but can be learned quickly and perfected with practice. The two main tools used for this will be either a soldering iron or a soldering gun. Although these tools are similar, their applications will vary based on their inherent nature.

The Iron

The soldering iron is perfect for binding fragile electronics and delicate jewelry. The gun runs from a range of 15-30 watts, reaching up to 350 F. This allows it to easily melt the solder or other light metals in a matter of minutes. The tool is capable of completing procedures that require precision as apposed to intense melting power. This is why the iron is generally used for binding smaller materials: In electronics it is used to create currents by properly bonding metal conductors and in jewelry it can be used to successfully bind precious metals without damaging them.

The Gun

The soldering gun is intended for applications that may require more heat than the iron. The robust output of the gun ranges from 100-240 watts, allowing it to reach degrees up to 2400 F, so it can be used in jobs that require melting heavier solder or a cutting through stronger metal. For example: Plumbing uses the gun to seal copper piping, stained glass artisans use it to fill the space between the glass shapes, and metal worker will even use it to cut precise shapes out of sheet metal.

Although these tools both essentially serve the same function,heating and melting metals, based on their power they must be used for completely different purposes. This just shows how the application of soldering is so broad; it isn’t limited to one application, and even requires different strength tools. Therefore, when trying to understand the difference between a soldering iron or gun, it is more important to understand what needs to be accomplished with the tool. The soldering iron does not have the capacity to melt strong metals or solder and the soldering gun will be completely impractical for precise electronic soldering or crafting jewelry.

How to Tile Around Light-Switches and Sockets

Tiling isn’t as straight forward as you think. Yes, the majority of your wall or floor tiles may be put down very easily, but then there are those fiddly corners and shapes to contend with.

But don’t worry; there are methods to use in order to successfully tile your wall, no matter how many fiddly bits you have.

The main culprits are sockets and light-switches, which can prove to be a real nightmare if they are not considered in advance, or if you are new to tiling. The best thing to do is to start by tiling as close to the socket or light switch as possible. Turn off the power supply and unscrew the socket or switch enough so that you can get the tile with adhesive behind it.

For each tile that is affected, you need to draw yourself a template on card. Cut it out and leave 5mm extra which will lie behind the switch or socket. Then it’s time to cut your ceramic tiles or porcelain tiles.

There are several ways in which you can do this. You can use a hand tile saw or you can use an electric tile saw. If you want to use an electric jigsaw then you will need to buy a tile cutting blade to allow you to complete the job.

So it’s not all simple squares that fit together like a jigsaw; but adopt the right method and you can make even the fiddly bits a walk in the park.

Opening the Mind – How to Access the Subconscious Mind

If you want to access the subconscious mind, it’s easy. You just need to shut the conscious mind up.

The catch is, that’s nearly impossible. The conscious mind is a huge part of our day. So huge, in fact, that we tend to think of our conscious mind as ourself.

It’s not. If we were exactly equal to our conscious mind, we’d cease to exist when asleep. Or dreaming. Or daydreaming. If we were our conscious mind and nothing more, we’d never have an intuition or a hunch or a gut feeling.

Brain scans of sleeping subjects have shown that in various stages of sleep, the brain can emit higher amplitude brainwaves than when awake, and even consume more oxygen than when awake. This means that our brains can be more active when we’re unconscious than when we’re conscious. There’s more going on up there when we think there’s nothing going on up there. And there’s even more going on up there when we’re not thinking at all.

Clearly there’s more to me than my conscious thoughts.

The conscious mind is the thinker. The subconscious mind is the knower.

The conscious mind is a thinking tool. It really is like a train, a vehicle. It’s meant to be used, not to be the user. As the sleeping/waking brain scans show, the conscious mind really is akin to the oft-quoted tip of the iceberg, with the bulk of it, the subconscious mind, being below the water line.

When your conscious mind has run amuck, you’ll be anxiously trying to figure out who you are and what you should do; you’ll be trying to think yourself into being. When your conscious mind is stilled and your subconscious mind takes precedence, you’ll know who you are, because your subconscious mind is the knower.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Cogito ergo sum. And since then, most modern people have equated the ability to reason as proof of their humanity. However, ancient scripture describes the revelation of divinity when God said, “I am who I am.” Meaning that being is being, without reason. Reason comes from being, not the other way around. Existence just is. Mind cannot wrap itself around the fact of being because mind is a subset of being, and the subset cannot encompass the superset.

In order to know, thinking must cease. Not for knowing simple facts like two plus two, but for knowing mysteries like the grandeur of a mountain range or the infinite depth of a night sky. And why these inspire some people to feelings of transcendence but yet others to feelings of annihilation. The rational mind can lead us to understand how brain chemistry comes into play, but it cannot lead us to know the experience of wonder itself, much less why the experience is important. It can conjecture, but it cannot truly know.

To quiet the conscious mind and access the subconscious mind, we have to offend the conscious mind, interrupt it, quiet it.

Why would I want to bypass my conscious mind to reprogram my subconscious?

First, because the subconscious mind is the real driver of action. Willpower can keep away a few cigarettes or a few extra servings of cake and ice cream, but eventually the subconscious has its way. This is what St Paul describes in Romans: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

For real change to happen, the conscious and subconscious minds must be in alignment; so here are some practical principles to accessing the subconscious mind:

First, get plenty of sleep.

Studies reveal more and more that sleep is absolutely crucial to proper brain function. No longer dismissed as a waste of time and a weakness, sleep has been shown to be essential for processing memories, balancing body chemistry and cleaning the mind of negative emotions that have a detrimental effect on the whole person. Get plenty of sleep.

How much? Studies suggest anywhere from 7.5 to 10 hours. Your needs probably lie somewhere in between. Err on the side of more sleep. Imagine how much sleep you would be getting in a natural environment without artificial light. You’d go to sleep shortly after sundown. Suddenly, ten hours of sleep per night seems quite reasonable, doesn’t it? That’s how our ancestors would have slept, for millennia. Late-night culture is younger than Thomas Edison.

Waking Techniques

Waking techniques such as hypnosis and meditation are also helpful in quieting the conscious mind. Here are three practices that you may find beneficial in quieting your conscious noise, opening your mind and accessing your subconscious. These are practices that can be practiced for short periods daily or more often:

1. Meditation

The basis of meditation is to observe one’s thoughts without judgement, without labelling them good or bad. Just to observe them as you would observe birds and bugs flying by your window.

Then you will realise that your thoughts are not you. Then you will feel comfortable detaching your sense of self from your driving thoughts. Then you will no longer be under the control of your thoughts but begin to control them.

Sit comfortably for twenty minutes without interruptions and just observe your thoughts – as though they were leaves floating by on a river; you pick them up, look at them with a goofy smile on your face and put them back down to float away.

2. Hypnosis

The basis of hypnosis is to enter a relaxed, uncritical state where the conscious mind ceases its judgemental function. This is the hypnagogic state, where post-hypnotic suggestions can enter the subconscious mind.

For many, the idea of giving up critical control is frightening. This is because they’ve been brought up on cogito ergo sum. If I believe that I am my thoughts, the idea of giving up my thoughts is like suicide. At least, to the ego it feels very much like death. But it’s not really death. It is just the quieting of a part of you, like slowing down your heart rate. As essential as your heart is to you, your heart is not you. As essential as the mind is to you, your mind is not you. There is more to you. And when the lesser can be quieted for a moment, the greater can emerge.

Related to hypnosis are various forms of subliminal programming. These range from audio tracks such as the famous stop-smoking tracks with affirmations exhorting you to quit smoking recorded beneath soothing music, to sophisticated Paraliminals, which are a fascinating technology using a simple stereo recording to play back one message into your right ear and another into your left ear, with increasing degrees of overlap.

The theory with Paraliminals is that the conscious mind overloads and gives up – here is the principle of pattern interrupt, of offending the conscious mind – leaving the subconscious mind to piece together the input. This results in the programming suggestions bypassing the gatekeeper, the conscious mind, and being accepted as truth by the knower, the subconscious mind.

To practice self-hypnosis, search online for an excellent hypnosis, subliminal or Paraliminal audio and listen to the guided hypnosis. They usually last from half an hour to an hour.

3. Brainwave Entrainment

Finally, there are the methods that seek to modify the mind by changing the brain.

When we’re actively thinking and solving problems – or feeling anxious – our brain emits an electrical frequency that neurophysiology categorises as beta waves. In the hypnagogic state where we’re open to suggestion and super learning, our brains emit alpha or theta waves. In deep sleep, delta waves. *

Modern brainwave entrainment methods, first developed in the 1930s, train the brain to function at specific bandwidths for short periods of time, exercising the brain to function more often in those states, namely the alpha, theta and delta states associated with relaxation, creativity and learning.

Ever been in a shopping mall when a familiar song came on and you found yourself tapping your foot and humming along without realising it? Brainwave entrainment audios use the same principle, but with much more precise frequencies.

Do a search for brainwave entrainment audios and spend some time with them every day. They’re really enjoyable; I’ve tried a few and recommend The Morry Method.

Caution: Recordings that quiet the conscious mind should not be listened to while driving, operating machinery or balancing your chequebook.

Is all this pseudoscience?

Compared to the realm of physiology, the field of psychology is more recently explored; and the area of human potential and the science of mind even more so. Thus, much of it may seem esoteric and unfamiliar. This is expected of any new field of endeavour.

Before we’re through, some things will have been shown to have been pseudoscience while others will be proven legit. Already, the increasing overlap of neuroscience – traditionally a domain of physiology – into the field of psychology is proving rather gratifying.

One can sit back and wait till everything’s settled, or one can roll up one’s sleeves and dig in. Which way you decide will largely depend on your temperament and values.

In summary:

Our conscious mind is the tip of the iceberg, and just a part of our being, like a vital organ. We are much more than our conscious mind; we are moved mostly by the unconscious mind that lies beneath the water line.

In order to open the mind and access the subconscious mind, we need only still and quiet the conscious mind through daily habits that can be practised for twenty minutes or more at a time, namely:

– Meditation, which is to observe our thoughts and disidentify from them.

– Hypnosis, which is to bypass the critical, conscious mind.

– Brainwave entrainment, which is to train the brain to function habitually at alpha, theta and delta bandwidths.

The Black Hole Metaphor Of Anxiety

Many times in my articles I am using the metaphor of black-hole to describe the way that anxiety affect our existential state. In this article I want to explain this metaphor since it can be used to visualize what is usually very difficult to say in words, about the anxiety and its affect on our mental life.

There is no need to be an expert in astronomy, neither understanding Einsteinian’s relativity in order to understand this metaphor. All you need is a little bit of imagination.

First let me try to explain in layman words, what is black-hole:

Every body has a gravity. The relations between gravities of bodies in the universe form the spacetime. A black hole, is a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape. It is the result of the deformation of spacetime caused by a very compact mass. Some stars at the end of their life, collapse under their own gravity and produce black holes. Around a black hole there is an undetectable surface which marks the point of no return, called an event horizon. It is called “black” because it absorbs all the light that hits it, reflecting nothing.

Now, lets see why is this metaphor so great for visualizing anxiety:

  • Body”: the bodies in the universe (e.g. stars) are the ingredients that compose the universe. Lets assume now there are ingredients for our mental life. So our mental life is made of “bodies”.
  • Every body has a gravity”: Each “body” of our mental life has some sort of effect upon other bodies.
  • The relations between gravities of bodies in the universe form the spacetime” : the relations between ingredients of our mental life form our own spacetime – existential state.
  • A black hole, is a region of space from which nothing, including light, can escape”: some regions of our existential state are affected by metaphoric “black hole” that pull anything around into it. Including (and especially) the ‘light” of our life.
  • it is the result of the deformation of spacetime caused by a very compact mass.” : It appears that some ingredient has such a “compact mass” that cause deformation in our existential state. All factors in our life, new ones and old ones, seem to circle around and gravitate into the black hole caused by this body with the tremendous compact mass.
  • Around a black hole there is an undetectable surface”: the compact mass is hidden from us. It lay upon undetectable “surface”. Surface is a formation of ingredients of our mental life with all the relations between them. We are dealing with hidden surface.
  • surface which marks the point of no return, called an event horizon”: the “event horizon” is our symptoms. The behavior that can be inspected from the outside. We do not see body with the compact mass, neither the undetectable surface around it. We only see the side effect of this massive gravity.
  • absorbs all the light that hits it”: any new factor added to our life is absorbed by this black hole. A new friendship, a new job, a career…. Anything become affected.
  • reflecting nothing”: under the effect of the black hole there is lack of mutuality. The “light” that arrive from the ‘other” is absorbed instead of being reflected back and rising up to create some mutual product.

What are those “bodies” that compose our mental life? What are those ingredients that form our internal spacetime by having cross relationships with each other? Please keep tracking my articles to find out. Did you know that mapping a text for finding the network of terms underline the main motive has great similarity with the act of mapping some person’s complaints about a suffer from anxiety, for finding the ingredients that compose this person’s mental state?

Crawlspace Vapor Barrier Installation

Installing a crawlspace vapor barrier is not rocket science. It is not physically difficult. Whether installing a quality vapor barrier in a vented crawlspace or doing a complete crawlspace encapsulation, it only takes a little time, a little patience and a willingness to crawl around on your hands and knees for a couple of days.

Where to Buy a Crawlspace Vapor Barrier

There are many places to purchase a crawlspace vapor barrier. An on-line search will provide contact information many retailers. And the products they offer vary from inexpensive clear plastic to woven and coated fabrics much like swimming pool liners. The inexpensive liners can also be purchased from many hardware stores and home centers.

What Vapor Barriers Are Available

The inexpensive vapor barriers will do the job but it’s been our experience that they tear easily, don’t stay in place, and become brittle and crack after four to five years. But they are inexpensive.

The alternative is to spend a couple times more initially and purchase a product with a twenty five year warranty. The reinforced or woven products require no more time to install than the inexpensive shorter-lived products.

The real question is whether an installer wants to spend a couple of days crawling around in a damp crawlspace every four or five years, or wants to spend a little more initially and have an installation that is maintenance-free and will last for decades. Personally, it makes more sense to me to do it right the first time and be done with it.

Installing the Vapor Barrier

Whether doing a full crawlspace encapsulation or simply installing a vapor barrier in a vented crawl space, the installation of all products have a lot in common.

First, the floor needs to be completely covered, with all seams overlapped 6″ to 12″ and sealed with tape. While duct tape is a wonderful product with countless uses, it does not do a good job sealing the seams of a vapor barrier. A quality, water-proof vinyl tape designed specifically for sealing the seams is recommended.

Wrapping the Crawlspace Piers

Second, the floor material needs to be sealed around all the foundation supports. Whether steel posts or concrete block piers, it is necessary to prevent the migration of water vapor from around the foundation supports. This is usually done by wrapping the piers – sealing the piers with the vapor barrier 6″ to 12″ up from the floor. This provides a sealed pier to which the floor material can be sealed to using seam tape.

Wrapping the piers can be a little problematic. No safe, nonflammable, nontoxic construction adhesive is effective with the available materials except for a newly developed, patented proprietary wall and pier liner. The vapor barrier is typically applied to the piers using a combination of tape, mastic, caulk, and mechanical fasteners. The mechanical fasteners require that holes be drilled into the piers using a masonry bit and hammer drill. This adds exponentially to the installation labor.

The patented wall and pier liner can be applied to most any surface using a low VOC and nontoxic construction adhesive. Being low VOC and nontoxic, it is nonflammable and safe to use in the confined area of a crawlspace. It can be safely installed in a fraction of the time. It is the only material of its kind and can be ordered from it manufacturer.

Sealing the Crawlspace Walls

Finally, regardless of whether you’re installing a vapor barrier in a vented crawlspace or doing a full encapsulation, it is necessary to seal the floor material to the crawlspace walls. Most experts agree that this is a vital step for a well installed barrier or encapsulation.

If installing a vapor barrier, the floor material should be sealed to the wall 6″ to 12″ above the outside grade. Like wrapping the piers, most companies recommend the tape-caulk-mechanical fastener combination. The mechanical fasteners should be placed every two to three feet long the perimeter of the crawlspace. If taking this approach, be sure to use a respirator as concrete dust can cause severe respiratory problems.

If doing a full encapsulation, the entire wall, a minimum of three inches down from the sill plate to allow for a pest control inspection, should be sealed. Enough floor material can be purchased to extend up the walls or, the method we’ve found easiest, the wall is covered and sealed with a wall liner and the floor material is sealed to the wall liner using seam tape. Regardless of which method you use, the vapor barrier must be securely attached and sealed to the wall.

The manufacturer of the pier wrap also makes a patented wall liner that attaches to and seals the wall in one simple step. It reduces installation time by several hours. Like the pier wrap, it is available from the manufacturer.

Understanding UL Classifications for Fireproof Safes

A fireproof safe has an insulated body and doors designed to protect the safe contents from high temperatures or actual fire. In addition these types of safes may be rated for impact resistance should the safe fall during a fire. Underwriter Laboratories (UL) in the United States is a world leader in both the writing of standards and the actual testing of safes.

Under the UL classification system fireproof safes can be given one of three classifications with the classification given dependent on the maintained internal temperature and internal humidity when subjected to at a designated furnace temperature. Dependent on the safe’s construction and the test parameters the UL time rating label indicates the time the safe can maintain the internal temperature and humidity at the furnace temperature for which the safe is being tested.

The three classes UL uses to classify fireproof safes are Class 125 (maintains an internal temperature of 125 degrees F and humidity not exceeding 80%), Class 150 (maintains an internal temperature of 150 degrees F and humidity not exceeding 85% ) and Class 350 (maintains an internal temperature of 125 degrees F and humidity not exceeding 85%) and are used in conjunction with UL time rating labels. UL time rating can be for half an hour at a furnace temperature of 1700 degrees F, one hour at a furnace temperature of 1850 degrees F, two hours at a furnace temperature of 1850 degrees F, three hours at a furnace temperature of 1920 degrees F or four hours at a furnace temperature of 2000 degrees F. Having three different internal temperature classifications combined with five time ratings allows fireproof safes to be classified according to the type of records being protected.

Fireproof safes can be separated into two main categories, data safes designed to protect computer media and document safes designed to protect paper products. In the event of a fire a Class 125, 1 hr UL fire rated safe would hold an internal temperature of 125 degrees F at a humidity less than 80% and could be relied on to protect computer diskettes for one hour in fires where temperatures do not exceed 1700 degrees F. The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology test report FR4009 recorded the temperatures reached in a controlled house fire. The maximum temperature recorded was 1350 degrees F which is well below the 1700 degrees F used in UL testing of fireproof safes. A Class 150 classification would be suitable for protecting microfiche, cassette tapes, microfilm etc.

Home safes are typically smaller than those used in business, but depending on individual requirements business safes may be suitable for home use. Floor safes are also popular in homes and business and when installed in concrete can provide excellent fire resistance. In the majority of cases a Class 350 fireproof safe would be suitable for the majority of homes. Typically a Class 350 fireproof safe with a UL half hour rating has been heated in furnace to 1550 degrees F and the interior of the safe has maintained a temperature of no more than 350 degrees F for a period of half an hour. This class of safe is best used for the securing paper products.

The majority of business safes are used to secure cash, paper documents and proprietary files. For businesses the industry standard fireproof safe is a UL Class 350 1 hour rated safe. Because paper begins to burn at 420 degrees F and most fires are extinguished within twenty minutes a Class 350 1 hour rated safe will provide the majority of businesses with the fire protection they require. Cash and valuable papers will not burn because of the built in safety margin between the flash point for paper, 420 degrees, and the interior temperature of the safe which will not exceed 350 degrees for at least an hour.

Whether you are looking for a safe for home or business using the UL class ratings in combination with the type of products to be protected will give you a good start in selecting the fireproof safe to suit your needs.

Wallpaper – Is It "In" or "Out?"

Several times in the past few weeks, I have been informed by clients that wallpaper is “out.” I would hate to see this source of exciting decorating ideas abandoned and suspect that the “out” response is more from fear of the unknown than any kind of practical decorating sense. Of course, decorating is just like fashion, there is a need to have trendy styles that come and go. However, wallpaper has been around since 200 BC so the Chinese must have been on to something with this “trend.”

There will always be a demand for wallpaper for those who are decorating historic homes or wish for a period look to a room. The Victorians truly loved wallpaper; and lots of it. There are Art Nouveau and Mission style borders, reproductions of wallpaper from famous historic homes and from antique wallpaper design books. For the rest of us, wallpaper is extremely helpful in creating a unique room.

Faux paint finishes are very ‘in’ but they require a skilled or deft hand in application to avoid an amateurish look. The same textured effect can be achieved by using wallpapers. Some papers are actually textured. There are grass cloth, cork, and split bamboo papers, as well as 3D paintable papers and borders. One of my favorite rooms has a 36″ high paintable border which looks like antique tooled leather wainscoting. It is elegant, unusual and was extremely easy to apply.

On the practical side, paper can be used to disguise a less than perfect wall surface, to cover patched cracks, and even old style paneling. Clever use of faux architectural borders can add height or interest to a room and give a charming trompe l’oeil effect.

You can mix paper and painted surfaces. I’ve seen a very clever wall done with a wallpaper frieze and columns framing a painted mural of the Greek countryside. Individually cut and pasted grapes climb the columns and a couple of pottery wine jars set in front complete the picture.

You can purchase faux columns, tiles, carvings, windows, and doors. These are not meant to look genuine, but to create a feeling of whimsy and surprise in an ordinary room. They are excellent to add interest to a dull apartment. Make sure they are strippable. When you leave take them down, wipe the wall and you are ready to go.

Covering a wall is not the only use for wallpaper. You can apply cut pieces to lampshades, screens and boxes. The special effects are limited only by your imagination and your budget.

You don’t need to be an expert to hang paper. Patience, some basic and inexpensive tools and boundless imagination are the only things needed to create a wonderful effect. If you are nervous start small with a border or wallpaper cutouts. Once you get a feel for the technique you can branch out. Textured papers requiring little or no matching are easiest for an amateur to apply. Papers requiring a match are easier if the match is a small one; 3″ to 7″. However, beware of vertical stripes if your walls aren’t perfect. Striped paper and the walls of an old home are a short trip to insanity and broken relationships.

If you find a paper that you love and are nervous about the size of the job, call in an expert to hang the paper. If nothing else, watching wallpaper being hung is fascinating and you will learn some techniques for your next DIY project. Theses cautions aside, have fun. The nice thing about patterned papers is mistakes are easily hidden. Before you do your next room, take a trip to your nearest store that sells paint and paper, or get a book from the library on uses for wallpaper. Once you’ve worked with this fascinating decorating source you’ll be hooked.

Contributions for this article provided by ON THE GO 4 U design consultant, Suzanne Copenhaver who has had years of experience decorating the less than perfect space.

Mesothelioma Cancer Still Affecting People

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the linings of the chest (the pleura) abdomen (the peritoneum) or heart (pericardium). This cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous incombustible mineral used for fireproofing, electrical insulation, building materials, brake linings, and chemical filters. When this chemical is inhaled, it can be extremely toxic and cause this type of cancer.

Asbestos was widely used especially before mid-1970s in industrial products such as cement, brake and clutches, roof, floor and ceiling tiles, textiles, and insulation.

The people that are most likely to suffer from mesothelioma are those who were exposed to asbestos fibers at work. Since mesothelioma usually has a latency period of 20-50 years where the illness is not apparent, most people with this cancer did not know about it until it was too late. The disease usually appeared many years after having been exposed to asbestos, even if it was only during a short summer job. The jobs that are believed to have been exposed to considerable amounts of asbestos are: workers in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, insulators, who are also known as asbestos workers, boilermakers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, plasterers who worked with fireproofing spray, shipyard and Navy workers, electricians, mechanics, bricklayers, millwrights, carpenters, steel workers, refinery and other industrial workers, maintenance workers, and many others.

There are also other people who have been exposed to asbestos in their homes without even being aware of the danger. There were those people who were family and friends of those who worked with asbestos products. These workers would bring asbestos particles stuck to their clothes, shoes, hair and skin. This is known as household exposure.

However, mesothelioma is still considered as a cancer with a relative small reach. Not everyone who was once exposed to asbestos developed this cancer later on. The figures are still low compared to other types of cancer: about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed in the US every year. Although it seems to affect mostly men, increasing the risks with age, it can appear on anyone at any point in their lives. The asbestos found in finished products in the houses like walls, tiles, and pipes do not pose a threat unless they are damaged or disturbed. It is only this way that the asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled or digested which may cause the cancer.

Since Mesothelioma is primarily a personal injury occurring from the work place, those injured should be able to take action against irresponsible businesses that exposed its employees to this cancer-causing material. This disease can actually be completely prevented, since the only known cause is asbestos exposure. This disease not should continue killing people. The horrific effects of asbestos were well-known by companies making good use and big profits out of this material. Many companies even tried to hide the awful truth about the deadly effects of asbestos to its workers and their families. Of course, this was easy because for most cases it took 20 years to be diagnosed.

There are many treatments to combat this cancer such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. However, this is one of the deadliest cancers because the time between it is diagnosed and the person dies, averages to less than 6 months. Because of this rapid nature of Mesothelioma, it is imperative to take action against those companies that lied to its workers before it may be too late.

Masonry Information and Definitions

Masonry is when you take a variety of components and assemble them into a structure using an adhesive mortar. This is done by stacking one piece on top of another, with some sort of bonding agent in between them. The materials used can be just about anything, but it is usually some kind of stone. The materials can also have almost any shape, although those with linear lines tend to create the most stable structures.

Masonry generally creates buildings which are very strong, although their vertical power is much greater than their horizontal strength. This is because the various components that go into its structure are layered, one on top of another. This means that each piece is supported both from above and from below. On the left and on the right of the wall however, there are no stones supporting it, making it susceptible to twisting and shaking forces, such as those you get during an earthquake.

The final appearance of a masonry wall is determined by the type of materials used, and the way that they are patterned. You can use standard bricks set in a slightly offset pattern, this was very common in America in the seventies. If this is too uniform for you, you can try throwing in a few discolored bricks. Many designers add a charred or reclaimed brick to a standard pattern to create a unique look.

If you want to get even crazier, there are a variety of natural stones you can also use to create your wall. You have marble, slate, travertine, limestone, sandstone, quartzite, and granite to select from. These stones can have uniform colors in a variety of shades, or can be multicolored where each brick is a different hue. When using exotic stones it is important to understand their resistance to weathering in your geographical location, or they may start to fall apart after a few years.

Occasionally veneers are used to simulate the look of a masonry job. Veneers consist of thin stones or faux stone materials, which are designed to look like the stone components in a standard masonry installation. The individual parts of a veneer are usually extremely thin in order to conserve the space which is taken up by the thickness of the wall.

Masonry is an ancient profession, and the tolerances and properties of such projects have been well documented over the years. Those who practice this artistic profession often receive their training through an apprenticeship of 2-3 years. Others can be trained through various school and university programs which combine theory with practice.

The Advantages to Suspended Ceilings

There are many different types of ceilings that can be used in different buildings throughout the world nowadays but one of the ones that is taking the building business by storm is the suspended ceilings type. There are so many places that can have these installed as well as so many different reasons why you would want one.

Basically suspended ceilings are like a secondary ceiling, they are hung off of the existing ceiling in a metal grid which then has ceiling panels installed so that it looks like the actual ceiling.

There are many different reasons as to why you would get suspended ceilings installed and the major bonus with these ceilings is that you can get them installed in pretty much any room in any building from your home to supermarkets etc, etc. One of the main reasons that places like supermarkets and shopping centres tend to go for suspended ceilings is because they are used to cover up air ducts and maintenance areas.

As the ceiling is suspended from the original you can have all kinds of things up there and one of the major advantages is that you can easily have wires or piping going up there which can be easily modified as you can dismantle pretty much all of the suspended ceilings. On a normal plastered ceiling it is very difficult to make alterations to piping or wiring without having to demolish it and start again. This is a major issue so a suspended ceiling can significantly help with room above it for the wires and/or piping.

Another advantage to suspended ceilings is that that can be very good for fire safety, you can get ceiling tiles that are made from certain mineral fibres or fire proof fibres that will meet fire codes around the world and possibly save you or others lives.

Suspended ceilings also have their disadvantages albeit not very many of them but there still are some, one of these being that there is going to be reduced headroom in the room considering you are technically hanging a second ceiling under the first so before you get these ceilings installed you may want to think about whether or not it is going to be a pain for being to low or not.

Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring – Important Things You Need to Know

Luxury vinyl plank flooring is considered by many to be the perfect blend of style and functionality. Current styles by major manufacturers have never look better and more realistic. Luxury vinyl planks also offer in many cases a more durable and tougher floor than other options such as hardwood and laminate, especially when it comes to handling scratches and water issues. If you are one of the many consumers considering luxury vinyl wood looking planks, there are several things you will need to know when choosing your floor.

Not all luxury vinyl flooring planks are created equal. There are quite a few differences between construction styles among the major manufacturers. Backing systems can vary between brands. Some luxury wood vinyl plank floors have residential warranties and others have a commercial warranty as well. Other differences include is the vinyl plank water proof or water resistant? Is the plank UV stabilized to prevent fading? Does the luxury wood vinyl plank you are looking at have a built in mold and mildew inhibitor? Also, some major manufacturers even certify their luxury vinyl to be hypo-allergenic. You can also compare thickness as a relative concept for durability. The basic, entry level products start at around 2 mil thickness progressing up to 6 mils. The key thing here is that not all luxury vinyl planks are built the same.

Price can vary extremely among styles and brands. Prices can range from $.99 per square foot to $5.00 a square foot. If your budget is limited and you need to go with a cheaper, entry level luxury vinyl that’s fine. Just make sure that the price point you are paying matches the thickness and wear layer of the product you are looking at. You will see 2 mil products discounted in the lower range and work up from there. The important note to remember here is to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples while shopping a specific price range.

Luxury vinyl planks have two basic installation methods. The predominate method is using a full spread adhesive. This is the most common type of application and is not recommended as a do it yourself project. The other installation type is a self adhering type. Do not confuse this with peel and stick. Peel and stick are a lower grade of vinyl and will almost always come up and usually have to be replaced within 3 years. The peel and stick types stick directly to the floor. The true luxury vinyl planks that are self adhering, stick to each other, not the floor. These luxury vinyl planks usually have a lip on two edges and a recessed lip on the other two edges that have a factory applied glue. You use the lips to glue the tiles together and not the floor. Currently Konnecto, Armstrong Luxe, and some styles by Amtico are the only valid offerings with this type of self adhering, do it yourself installation system.

There are several finishes available in luxury wood looking vinyl planks. A smooth finish is what most consumers are familiar with. However, you can get a more realistic floor by using a plank that has a ribbed, hand scraped (simulated) or finish with registered embossing. These finishes give the plank a more wood look and style by adding texture to go along with the color and wood species. If you haven’t seen a sample of a luxury flooring vinyl plank with registered embossing, make sure you check one out before you make a final purchase, it’s pretty impressive.

Well Pump Repair: Common Water Pump Problems

If you’ve owned a home, chances are you’ve experienced problems with water pressure. Whether it’s a complete loss of flow pressure, or intermittent and inconsistent flow, water pressure trouble always seems to come at the most inconvenient time. Some homeowners water pressure problems may be persistent, such as constantly low water pressure, while others may experience an occasional but sudden lack of water pressure. While it’s always best to have a professional water well contractor make repairs, it’s good to know as much about your home’s well water system as possible so that you can make the most informed decision possible when it comes to well pump repair.

Bad or No Well Water Pressure

Water wells are complicated machines, as are the pumps that pull the water from the well into your home. As with any complex mechanical system, a single problem can have more and more causes as the system increases in intricacy. (Anyone who has owned a car or a computer knows this truth well.) When it comes to low water pressure, the problem can range from problems with the pressure tank, worn pumps, clogged pipes and pumps, and even clogged filters and purification systems. The problem may be mechanical or electrical, or may be caused by the water your specific well is drawing from (for example, water with higher iron concentrations may contribute to clogged pipes which can affect water pressure). If the problems with your water pressure are a result of these or many other causes, a professional water well repair team should be able to diagnose and correct the problem, restoring your water pressure to its normal level. It should be noted that regular water well maintenance checks may catch many of these problems early, before they begin to have such noticeable and bothersome effects.

Another possible cause for diminishing or non-existent water pressure may have nothing to do with faulty or damaged equipment. Instead, it may be possible that the water reserves from which your well is drawing may in fact be running low. While this is not the most likely explanation, a professional well drilling and repair company will be able to determine if the water table is in fact running low and, if so, make adjustments to return the pressure to its normal level.

Intermittent Pump Cycling, or Short Cycling

Though some homeowners may imagine that the pump activates every time they turn on a tap — and then closes each time they shut it off — this is in fact not the case. Instead, the water well pump fills up a storage tank fitted with an air bladder. The pump fills the tank until it reaches a pre-set pressure, then shuts off. As you use water, the tank drains and the pressure decreases. Once the pressure reaches the low pre-set pressure, the pump turns on once again to refill the tank.

If everything is working as it should, a homeowner will notice the pump kicking on every so often, remaining active for a short period of time, then turning off until the next time it is needed. However, some pumps may begin to cycle intermittently, a process that is called “short cycling.” Like low water pressure, short cycling can have many causes. If your water tank is leaking water, the tank may fill to its proper pressure, but because water is constantly flowing from the tank, the pressure drops rapidly and the pump turns on again a short time later. (You might also have other problems if you have a leaky water tank in your house!) Other causes may be a defective air bladder in the water tank, or damaged water pressure control switches, which measure the water pressure in the tank and tell the pump when to turn on and off.

Whatever the case may be, a professional water well repair team can diagnose the problem and come up with a plan to solve the short cycling problems.

Driving Results With a Lean Staff – The 15 Essentials

Working with a reduced number of staff during lean financial times can be either a blessing in disguise or a curse, depending on your outlook. For those of you who are working with limited staff due to budget cuts, reductions in force, or lean quality initiatives – here are my 15 essentials to help you achieve positive results.

When working with a lean staff, you should:

  1. Keep the flow of communication open. With limited staff and resources, effective listening and communication is vital to success. If you don’t keep your team regularly updated, you leave the work environment open to negative gossip and rumors that may be far from the truth.
  2. Create a high sense of trust. The quickest way to build trust is to demonstrate your loyalty to your team. When employees feel that you trust them and their judgment, they are more apt to go above and beyond to ensure the team’s success.
  3. Solicit good ideas. Don’t operate in a vacuum, solicit ideas from staff members on how to improve efficiencies within the department, and involve them in determining which ideas get implemented, tracked and measured for success. When you sincerely ask, with the intent of using their input to improve the work environment, it is amazing the positive feedback you will receive from staff.
  4. Reward and recognize. Even the small victories should be acknowledged, showing your appreciation for a job well done. When you are working with a lean staff, be sure to give them as much credit (in public) as possible for system improvements. And don’t forget, a sincere “thank you” at the end of the day will go miles in fostering employee engagement, trust and loyalty.
  5. Create a culture of teamwork. Create a “we” mentality through teamwork and self-accountability. When working with a lean staff, employees who don’t feel they are part of a team can quickly erode workplace morale and job satisfaction. Reward and recognize team achievements as much as possible to reinforce the need for everyone to be a valued contributor to team success.
  6. Create a culture of empowerment. Empowerment is giving employees the freedom and authority to make workplace decisions, after they have been properly trained. Make time to ensure the staff is properly cross-trained, and equipped with the skill, knowledge, and confidence to make sound decisions on your behalf.
  7. Focus on process improvement. Identify ways to streamline work processes, so they are efficient, save time, and enhance the product or service you provide. When working with a lean staff, it’s critical that systems and processes are refined to eliminate mistakes, rework, breakdowns, inefficiencies, and variations that create frustration and negativity in the workplace.
  8. Accelerate change. This is not the time to be apathetic, change must happen effectively, quickly, and with a high level of intensity. The longer you wait to implement changes in the way work gets done, the more time you will allow for negativity to contaminate the work environment.
  9. Informally measure satisfaction. Find cost-effective ways to assess the satisfaction of your internal and external customers. Comment cards can be used for customers, and possibly some form of anonymous feedback like suggestion boxes for employees. Whatever process you use to get the information, be certain to do something with it – don’t just gather the information for the sake of gathering it.
  10. Face the facts. Honestly, change and innovation are the only way your organization or team will survive in lean times. Help your team realistically and positively face the fact that change is both inevitable and good.
  11. Encourage cross-training. In lean times, it is vital that team members are capable of multi-tasking in a variety of roles. With accelerated change, comes the opportunity to learn new skills that may later lead to new and exciting career advancement opportunities. The more equipped your team is during lean times, the more likely they will be perceived as valued contributors to the organization.
  12. Encourage balance. During lean times, staff members often push themselves into a frenzy to get things done. This can lead to burn-out, low productivity, attendance issues, and low worker morale. So, be concerned and cautious of too much overtime and make sure staff members take their allotted lunch breaks and PTO to ensure work-life balance.
  13. Respect the company. Don’t encourage or allow negativity to fester within the team. In the beginning most employees are negative about working with a lean staff. However, over time as work systems and processes become more efficient they will no longer miss the additional bodies that staffed the department. Be the role model by respecting the company’s decision to operate with a lean team or consider seeking other employment.
  14. Handle workplace conflict right away. With the same level of intensity that you use in driving change during lean circumstances, you must also quickly move to resolve internal conflict. In the beginning tensions may be high, but that is no reason to allow conflict to fester and eventually become uncontrollable. So don’t avoid any inkling of conflict, confront and resolve it right away.
  15. View lean as permanent. Don’t consider having a lean staff as a temporary fix until the recession is over, otherwise the team will eventually revert back to their old, inefficient way of doing things. View lean as the new way that work gets done, encouraging the team to foster a work environment of continuous improvement forever.

Bottom-line, leaders are expected to drive results even in times when they are working with a lean staff. Certainly, teams who are able to create and sustain a culture of service, performance, and operational excellence under such circumstances well achieve success over the long-term.