Building With Fabric – Material Choices

Today's Architect has a tough decision to make when it comes to choosing materials. There is steel and glass and concrete and wood. What about fabric! Architectural Fabric Structures are fast becoming a very common and visible part of the built environment. No longer used for garden parties and traveling circuses, these structures come in many new forms and uses.

Fabric structures are being designed for as few as one person as in a boutique resort hotel in the outback of Australia, to covering 50,000 plus at the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas. Fabric Structures are now also being designed to cover animals as well like at Seaworld, Orlando where these structures cover dolphins to prevent them from sun burn (they get sun burn too?). And let's not forget Man's newest best friend, the automobile. More and more, the automobile has taken center stage where valet parking attendants, airport parking owners and car dealers are discovering the advantages of covering automobiles.

Fabric Structures are beeds used as roofs, sails, walls, lights, shades and even signs. With all these different uses and forms, there are a variety of materials to choose from depending on one's needs, budget and design.

The best way to determine which material to use is to see what has already been used for the building type you are considering.

If you are interested in structures such as tents or umbrellas where the main objective is to provide temporary, nomadic shelter, you are probably looking at vinyl laminated or coated polyester.

If you are researching awnings and canopies, the options are endless. You are most likely to hear words like acrylic canvas and backlit fabrics and materials which you can apply graphics to.

If shade is your primary concern, the buzz word is structural mesh, high density polyethylene (HDPE), perforations and percentage of light transmission.

For warehousing, industrial applications and temporary buildings, a common term may be clear spans or pre-engineered fabric fabric with materials that are mold and mildew resistant like polyolefin.

The interior and lighting industry have their own variety of fabrics where flame resistance, UL ratings and percentage of reflection are the most important issues.

Air and Tension Fabric Structures greatly heavily on the fabric's structural characteristics so tensile strength, sound absorption and solar transmission play a major role in their selection.

So, What material do you use?

Is your project near the water? Is it mean to last 20 years? Do you want to see it from afar or do you want it to be dark inside at noon? These are all important questions one should answer before you even start. Fabric Structures have very few components. In most cases, it is just steel, fabric, cables and hardware. The choice for each component will most certainly affect the others. Other issues include: span, size, availability, cost, codes, etc.

In most States, permanent, collectively enclosed structures require a "non-combustible" or class A / B rating according to Building Codes. The most recognized and accepted material used for Architectural Applications is Teflon Coated Fiberglass or PTFE.

Recognized manufacturers include Saint Gobain, Verseidag, FiberTech and Taconic. Teflon comes to the site brown like a pair of khakis but bleaches to a milky white over time (usually 4-8 weeks). The biggest problem with Teflon is that it is stiff and brittle and must be handled very carefully to avoid breaking the fibers. The best part is its life span (25+ years) and its "self cleaning" attributes.

Other "non combustible" materials include Silicon Coated Fiberglass, Gore Brand Tenara Architectural Fabrics and Ethylene tetra ethylene or ETFE.

Silicon has been out on the market for quite some time. Unlike Teflon coated fiberglass which can be heat welded, Silicon must be glued with a special adhesive. The advantage of silicon over Teflon is its translucency, cost and availability of colors. Gore Brand Tenara is also in the "non-combustible category". Its advantages include its high translucency, long life span and it is more pliable than silicon or Teflon so it can be used for retractable structures.

ETFE is not really a fabric but a film previously being promoted as an alternative to structural glass. It is "green" friendly and is the new hot material to Architects world wide today. It is being used in FIFA Stadiums in Germany, the Olympic Games in China, being specified for commercial buildings and retail and the choice for creating artificial rainforests for zoos and Science Centers.

The majority of fabric structures being considered today are for uses which do not require complete enclosure. That means, they are most likely "open air" or do not require a Class A rating. Class C is the most common rating and NFPA 701 is the most accepted certificate for most Fire Marshals. Vinyl coated polyester (PVC) is the most common material used on the market today.

What's not to like. The material comes in a variety of colors, strengths, weights, thickness, perforations, translucency and textures. The material is pliable and stretches quite nicely. You can find material with 10, 12 and even 15 year warranties. You can find a material that is 50 to 100 "wide so you can have few, fewer or the fewest depths of seams.

Manufacturers include Ferrari, Mehler, Naizil, Seaman and Verseidag, to name a few. These are the names most seen on Specifications, which means that these companies are directly marketing and assisting the Architect in the early stages of the design.

PVC comes in a variety of top finishes: acrylic, PVDF and PVF film. There is much debate about top finishes but all manufacturers agree that they are needed to protect the base fabric from UV degradation, water and wind. Frankly, it's all about the coats. PVF is a film applied to the main fabric while acrylic and PVDF are coatings. Both PVF and PVDF claim to be "self cleaning" or provide the base material with a much cleaner and maintenance free surface but both require additional work in the shop which may be unknown to the Architect. Both top of the line PVF and PVDF require that the top coat or film where two panels are to meet be grinded off in order for them to be RF welded. This is time consuming and requires great care in order to keep the seams clear of dirt, model and mildew. There are "weldable" PVDF but their warranties are not as long as the high tech top coats.PVC Structures love graphics and provide a great backdrop for projected images.

Today, more and more fabric structures are being designed for shade only. Structural mesh and perforated fabrics are being specified because of the need for shade, the need to allow the elements to go through the material and the need for a space to "see through and be seen". The material most often used is high density polyethylene (HDPE). Manufacturers include Multiknit, Coolaroo and Shadetex. This material is a higher grade mesh than what one would see at a home improvement warehouse or at an outdoor furniture store. HDPE is used for playgrounds, areas requiring hail protection, schools, day care centers as well as theme parks and spaces of public assembly. Mesh is hot so you can stay cool. Mesh comes in colors, fire rated and with different perforations. It has a life span of 8-10 years and in most cases lowers the size and loads on the structural system and foundations because it takes less wind.

If you want to keep it simple, then work with materials which do not rely on their structural characteristics for its stability. These materials are usually clad on a frame. The materials are usually vinyl laminated polyester, acrylic coated canvas, and materials with a light topcoat. Sunbrella is a common brand name. The material has less technical information available for applying them to fully engineered light structures but when used as a cladding on a frame, they offer many opportunities to the Architect. One can apply graphics to the material, bringing texture to the surface or make something truly unique.

If you want to look at materials for interior application, look no further than the industrial fabric industry and Theatrical Drapery. There are lightweight PTFE materials used for ceilings in dome stadiums, PVC fabrics are used for interior tensioned fabric sculptures while theatrical drapery materials from companies like Rosebrand and Dazian are used for a softer look. Spandex / Lycra is another common material used for transforming temporary and permanent spaces but require the material be fire treated prior to fabrication.

Lastly, it does not hurt to dream about the future of architectural fabrics. The wish list would include "Smart" fabrics, fabrics that change color according to weather, light or mood. Fabrics made with optical and photovoltaic fibers, materials with longer life spans, higher tensile strength, improved self cleaning, higher translucency and environmentally friendly.

The future of Architectural Fabric Structures depends on the continuing effort of manufacturers to improve its existing products and to introduce new materials.

The Cost of Invisalign – Is it Justified?

How much does Invisalign cost? Invisalign gained popularity when it provided the option of teeth alignment without the ugly metal wires sticking out in your mouth. You certainly will feel self-conscious meeting people with your wired teeth so visibly obvious. Consequently, the thought of not looking good will result in an unfavorable decrease in self confidence.

Invisalign is the latest breakthrough in orthodontic care that provides an alternative method to conventional metal braces. These are transparent, plastic aligners that are produced in a series of created models that can be custom fit onto your teeth. Invisalign clear aligners effectively push on to the teeth and continuously correct the teeth position using the specified pressure in each aligner. The said pressure is created by consistent resetting of these braces by replacing the aligners every two weeks.

Another similarly striking feature that makes these Invisalign invisible braces interesting is they can be removed at any point of the day. The proposed recommendation is to wear them for no less than twenty-two hours daily. When you need to do some activities that make the presence of the Invisalign aligners inconvenient, you’ve got the option of taking them off temporarily. That means you can eat, drink or brush your teeth without being bothered by these braces.

A number of satisfied patients have enthusiastically expressed their approval of Invisalign in delivering its final result and the million dollar pearly white smile it can definitely bring. As a result, one will be led to ask, ‘How much does Invisalign cost?’ A conspicuous factor that directly affects Invisalign cost is your locality. The amount you pay in ritzy Hollywood will definitely cost more than the same dental service in Moline, Iowa. The seriousness of teeth crowding also has an effect on cost. The Invisalign cost for minor tooth adjustment can be lower than $3,500. A complex treatment for those with severe teeth problems can reach up to $7,000. A higher fee is brought about by the need to produce more plastic aligner trays and longer dental visitations. The average Invisalign cost ranges from $4,000 to $5,000. There are also other braces-free, Invisalign-like options available to treat very simple crowding problems that can cost as little as $2000 or less.

It might be beneficial if you talk with your insurance company to ascertain if this type of treatment is covered under your dental or orthodontic insurance. Several orthodontic insurance packages are available, under which Invisalign can usually qualify. Another payment plan that you can entertain is the one furnished by your dentist. Orthodontists are usually very willing to offer extended or flexible payment options that may fit your financial situation. Some companies also offer programs of setting aside part of your salary for future medical costs. The program, called Flexible Spending Account, can be used for paying for an orthodontic treatment. Check with your company’s benefits department and check if you can enroll in this beneficial program.

A beautiful smile can bring confidence and a positive temperament towards life. Don’t let the question ‘how much does Invisalign cost?’ deter your treatment plans. The value of securing a radiant smile that lasts a lifetime is priceless and has perhaps the most justified cost/benefit ratio in all of healthcare. Emerge into a better, new you with assistance from Invisalign.

Why Replace Carpet With Hardwood Flooring?

Is your carpet worn and dated? If it is time for you to replace old carpet you should seriously consider installing hardwood flooring instead of replacing old carpet with new.

There are many advantages to hardwood flooring. Consider the environment for instance; hardwood flooring is made from all natural timber which is a renewable resource. Today's hardwood is harvested from managed forests. USFS (United States Forest Service) reports show currently twice as many hardwood trees are planed than harvested to ensure that hardwood is a continuously renewed resource. 50 years ago there was only half the hardwood standing compared to today. The hardwood industry has proved itself environmentally responsible. Consider synthetic fiber; it can last in a landfill for 200-500 years.

We hear on the news reiteratedly, and the EPA confirms that one of the top threats to our health is poor quality indoor air supply. Wood flooring helps create a much healthier living and working environment with its hard surface preventing dust mites and molds from proliferating as in a carpet. It has been estimated that 35 million Americans suffer from allergies, many of which are mold and dust mite related. Wood flooring is a blessing for these allergy sufferers.

The EPA further reports that chemicals such as garden pesticides can accumulate on floors, especially on absorbable carpet fibers. The hard surface of wood flooring significantly reduces these chemical accumulations. The home environment is also subject to what is termed "off-gassing", the release of toxins by certain synthetic materials. These toxins are known to cause chronic illness to those living within the home. Carpets soak up and retain these toxins whereas wood floors do not.

Cleaning and maintaining wood floors is much simpler today than it was in the past. Modern wood floors only require simple sweeping and an occasional vacuuming. It is essential that your floor be protected against constant moisture and scratches due to heavy wear. It is recommended that your wood floor be cleaned routinely with proper hardwood floor products. In heavy traffic areas, simple preventative measures in the form of rugs will protect the surface from scratching and wear.

One of the truly outstanding features of hardwood flooring is the rug decorating possibilities it presents. You will want to choose rugs that magnify the natural beauty of the wood. Keep in mind that the floor will change color over time and with light exposure, select rugs that you can easily move around the room. Think of the freedom your hardwood floor affords you; no longer are your rug choices limited to only those that would look good with your carpet. Natural wood looks good with any colors and patterns you wish to choose. If you find the perfect Persian rug, go for it since it will be standing on your wood floor. With wood you are free to buy rugs for all corners of the room, under the table and the hallway if you want! Hardwood flooring sets your inner rug shopper free.

Your hardwood floor will give you a lifetime of health and pleasure if you maintain it properly and protect it with area rugs.

Find What You Are Looking For With an NcStar Mark III Series Scope

Whether you are a sniper, target shooter, or hunter, you want to know you have the best scope there is on the market. There are a tremendous amount of scopes to choose from today, which is precisely why it pays to do your research. Fortunately, you can save yourself the trouble of researching for hours and go with an NcStar Mark III series scope.

By purchasing such a scope, what you will find is that it offers a plethora of features that can not be found on any average scope. It has features that separate them far beyond the rest of the pack. And with five different sizes and three different reticle options to choose from, you are bound to find one that suits your needs.

With that said, the only decision you need to make is what size and reticle you prefer. On the low end you can find the 2.5-10X40 Rangefinder that runs for just $ 110. It includes fully multi-coated lenses, a one piece 30mm anodized aluminum main tube, a built in sunshade, and a quick focus eyepiece. In addition, it has an ultra bright green illuminated reticle with seven different levels of intensity. The scope is waterproof, fog proof and shock proof.

For just a few more dollars, you can find a 4-16X50 Rangefinder for $ 130. It has a built in tactical sun shade and 30 mm of tube maximizing light gathering. You will be able to use the objective and ocular lenses without having to deal with a glare thanks to the multi-covered lenses that provide the clarity needed.

This scope allows you to zero in to your target perfectly with new cl click open turret knobs. And if the lighting becomes poor, you will be able to find your target without any trouble because of the seven levels of intensity it has to offer with the ultra-bright green illuminated reticles.

The middle product to look at for the NcStar Mark III series scope is the 6-24X50 Rangefinder. For $ 151, this scope features open target turret, fully multi-coated lenses, and a one piece 30mm anodized aluminum main tube. For your convenience, it does have a built in sunshade, quick focus eyepiece, and a side focus parallax adjuster. In addition, it is also waterproof fog proof and shock proof allowing you to bring it in any kind of weather condition.

Finally, the top of the line for this series brings you to a product that runs for $ 182. This scope possesses all of the features that the above scopes have as well. Its magnification is 10X-40X, its objective DIA is 30mm, and its FOV is 9.8-2.7. It has tremendous strength and power, and is absolutely what every serious hunter or sniper needs to have.

As you begin to shop for a new scope, it is imperative you stop to take a look at the NcStar Mark III series. There is a wide price range allowing you to stay within your budget without handing over quality. Each offers exquisite features and the power you need to zero in on any target you may be looking at.

Simultaneous Evolution – Retractable Awnings in Europe and the US

Awnings have been common for more than 2000 years; retractable awnings have been around for almost 150 years. While the history of using awnings stretches far back in Europe and retractable awnings are commonly used there today, they're rare in the United States – despite the fact that retractable awnings were invented in the US. This uneven adoption has led to an exposure of design options in Europe – intrate frames, new types of retractable frames, bold colors, and luscious patterns – while America, treating awnings as a practical afterthought, has stayed more conservative.

A Quick History

Some form of awnings has been around for millennia, starting in Egypt and the Middle East and spreading across the Roman Empire. Most of those were fixed canopies of mats, skins, or fabric bolts hung over poles. In the mid-1800s, shop owners began using movable awnings, which simply bunched up the fabric when it was taken down. In the latter part of the century, they began rolling awnings on a tube, cleanly retracting them and keeping the fabric safe. With minor variation, this is the same basic design used today on lateral arm retractable awnings.

Retractable awnings were quick to catch on in Europe, from open air markets to apartments and homes. In fact, the classic lateral arm awning is called a California Style Awning in Europe – and a European Style Awning in the US. Now, the retractable awning market is decidedly driven by Europe. Millions of retractable awnings are sold there annually and are found on the majority of homes and businesses, even being considered in the architectural design process. The highest quality manufacturers, most innovative new designs, and emerging trends are coming from European companies.

By comparison, the awning market in America has been limited to primarily commercial buildings. Substantially fewer awnings are sold in the United States annually – less than 50,000 – so the market, according to the Industrial Fabric Association International, is only about 2% scheduled. There's room for a change.

Different Reasons for Using Awnings

Various factors have come into play for why Europe has, for nearly a century, been consistently integrating retractable awnings into architectural plans. Many of the initial reasons were cultural; prevalent open air markets had contributed to a long history of fixed awning use, so it was a natural transition to easier to use and longer-lasting retractable awnings.

More practically, though, the widespread use of retractable awnings comes down to cooling and energy efficiency. Europe has very high energy costs and, because of many old homes and flats, most residences do not have air-conditioning systems installed. Therefore, European homeowners have had an imperative to find inexpensive, effective cooling and efficiency products – and one of the most effective methods for controlling interior heat is retractable awnings.

In addition to the practical reasons, Europe has had a long aesthetic tradition with awnings, so retractable awnings are a natural part of any home design, and that organic led into creative and adventurous designs, which made using awnings even more appealing.

The US, on the other hand, has had historically cheap and accessible energy, with widespread air conditioning and central air systems. Combined with suburb-motivated home designs, neither energy nor aesthetics has given a compelling reason to include retractable awnings on homes as a standard practice. Energy shortages and price increases in the 1970s, though, did begin bringing retractable awnings to the popular mind as a functional solution for energy efficiency.

Differences in Style

The different reasons for retractable awning use in Europe and the US have produced different emphases on style. Because awnings had a stylistic influence in European history which transitioned to efficiency uses, European awning fabrics and designs tend to be more dramatic and flamboyant. For example, European fabric lines average about 400 fabric designs, while American lines average 200. Color choices in Europe tend to be lighter and brighter.

American homeowners, approaching retractable awnings as a functional addition to a house, without the stylistic background, tend to be conservative, choosing fabrics in blacks and grains in sedate stripes and staying with more traditional frame styles.

That is starting to change, though. More and more American consumers are asking about vibrant colors or patterns – like florals and even paisleys – when they look at awning fabrics, and more exotic designs are starting to come over from Europe, at least for high-end use. As energy efficiency becomes more common, it could become more natural to look for stylish, as well as functional, solutions, which will broaden the retractable awning market even more.

What the Future Holds

As energy efficiency continues to be a growing issue for American homeowners, retractable awnings will be a new opportunity to explore. Based on the experiences and widespread effectiveness observed in Europe, there are exciting changes in store for American markets in the next few years: new architectural design integration with new construction, wildly expanding fabric choices and styles, new retractable awning designs, and natural energy efficiency .

How to Prep a Driveway For Asphalt Paving

Although most people do not have the tools or equipment to actually install an asphalt driveway there are many things you can do to prepare the drive for paving work. The driveway without exception must have a solid base underneath to pave upon. Soft or wet spots are the most common reason for failure of the pavement itself. Cracking or alligatoring means the ground is unable to carry the weight of the vehicles driven over it. Severe wet spots will cause the pavement to fail altogether and break into large chunks and cause the entire driveway to fail.

There are available today ground stabilization fabric materials that can be laid under stone sub base materials in wet areas to help solidify the sub base itself. The material is fairly expensive but may allow installation of a driveway where it would not be possible other wise. If placed directly on the earth below the sub base and over the wet area, once the sub base material is properly compacted the ground will support a great deal more weight without and shifting or movement. Many masonry supply stores carry these materials. It will take two people to roll out and handle the fabric as it generally comes in twelve feet wide rolls. A local excavating contractor may have some smaller rolls to sell. Give them a try as well.

Our first job is assure there are no wet spots either by installing some under drains, ditching along the edges to carry away surface water or actually replacing some of the wet earth with stone or other suitable materials. Sub base materials could be small and large stones, DOT item 4 materials, crushed gravel or bank run sand and gravel regardless. The material needs to drain well and can be compacted with mechanical compactors. Drainage piping could be twelve inch corrugated piping which when installed will help water quickly pass under a drive or smaller four inch perforated piping run under the driveway areas encased in stone to provide constant pathways for water drainage without soaking the soils themselves. Water will always take the path of least resistance so any drainage piping installed will help the ground to dry much more quickly than nature would allow by itself.

Once you have solved any current or potential water problems you can move on to the actual asphalt sub base itself. Most homeowner driveways have a four inch base of gravel shale or item 4 installed when the home was built. Over the passing years, car tires break the shale down into very small pieces which will not provide a great sub base material. Adding new shale or stone can become a yearly maintenance project to maintain a smooth driving surface. As the stone or shale is pressed into the earth you are creating a thicker and thicker sub base. Depending upon whether you want your new drive to finish up higher or at a level level than the adjoining lawns or gardens is how much sub base you want to have in the end. A typical residential driveway is ten feet wide with an actual driving surface area of ​​about eight feet wide. For paving, you will need a solid ten foot surface to get a nine foot drive. Ten foot drive, eleven foot surface and so on. You need to have at least six inches of sub base beyond the actual finished paved width on both sides. The extra flat area is used to backup the asphalt and prevent the edges from crumbling. Remember also that asphalt and sub base may be as much as six inches thick and will require extra topsoil to backup the edge of the sub base and asphalt.

By adding sub base material and keeping the surface as level as possible, you will already have the sub base built for the paving man. In many areas of the US a material called blue stone screenings is available. This material is actually finely crushed granite and comes in three colors. Blue which will turn a darker blue when wet as time passes. Red that will also turn a lighter blue over time and yellow which stays yellow tinted forever. Once graded, this material becomes as hard as concrete on a driveway. I have seen blue stone screening surfaces snow plowed winter after winter without any plowing damage. A new dusting every few years keeps the crisp color and in-fills any depressions that may have developed. This makes a super sub-base for finished asphalt.

Well ahead of the time to have the driveway paved you should also install several conduits under the driveway for future landscape lighting. Depending upon the length of the drive, a crossing conduit every fifty feet or so should suffice. If an area is very rocky or wet, add additional conduits now before paving. Adding them later will require cutting and patching the asphalt and will not only destroy the driveways appearance but will provide a potential area for surface water infiltration. Conduit is cheap and if you never use it, it is better safe than sorry. Plastic (PVC) conduit is better than metal as it will last underground forever. Put caps on both ends to avoid any nasty surprises later on when you forget them. Clearly mark the ends with stakes but also draw a little map and take measurements to each end from permanent objects in the yard. Once the grass grows back you will have no idea where the conduit ends are located. If you do this far ahead of the actual paving, your car traffic will compact the sub-base and will prevent any future sinking under the asphalt and thenby causing the asphalt to crack. You do not want to have to cross the new asphalt with anything later on ..

Call several paving contractors for prices. The nicest guy may not do the nicest job. Make sure you tell each one exactly the same things you want. If you change the description of the work, you will not get comparable prices. Write down what you want done and then give them a copy. Ask for a written quote to make sure they included everything on your lists. Will they pickup all spillage? Are they insured against yard damages to flowers or trees or your house? How long is driveway guaranteed? How thick with the rolled asphalt be when done? Loose roled asphalt 3 inches thick will be only 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick when rolled. Ask questions before they do the work. Get a written signed contract and a copy of their insurance policy. Be very careful with down payments. If they insist on one, make sure it is not a major portion of the contract value. Many times a down payment is paid and the contractor never shows again. Do not be suckered in by sob stories. Reputable contractors have open accounts at asphalt plants and do not need your money to buy the asphalt. If you sense something is awry move on to someone else. Ask neighbors about his work or stop at someone's house who he has just paved their driveway. Most people are proud of their new yard and will glad to talk to you. Call the Better Business Bureau and check on the contractor as well. It may sound like you are a bit over cautious but after all it is your hard earned money.

Once you have selected a contractor ask him / her if there is anything else you can do to save a few bucks on the price. Maybe removing a pre-installed asphalt driveway apron or removing adjacent features such as signs or statues or whatever else that he figured on doing for you. If you save fifty bucks on the price, that is fifty dollars toward your next project.

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BICES-Building Inspection & Code Enforcement System Software

Flying Over The New Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

If you think the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is impressive from the ground, wait until you fly over it. The twin-rib concrete arch structure is the largest of its kind in the US, and makes aerial tours to the area a "must-do" for Las Vegas travelers. The official name of the $ 114 million bypass is the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, and it's massively huge. Here are some quick facts:

1. The arch span is 1.060 feet long
2. The bridge is 1,900 feet long
3. The bridge deck / sidewalk are 900 feet above the Colorado River

Located 1,500 feet south of Hoover Dam, the bridge spans Black Canyon and serves as the connecting link between the Nevada and Arizona approach highways. The bypass also includes a sidewalk on the Nevada side where views of Hoover Dam are optimal. Other visitor facilities include a parking lot, trail, and interpretive plaza.

The Hoover Dam Bypass was built to increase driver safety, protect the dam, and relay traffic congestion. The original two-lane was steep and twisting and came with potential hazards to travelers and the dam itself. The road was also overwhelmed with traffic: Up to 15,000 trucks and cars crossed the dam each day. Those vehicles now use the bridge and the top of Hoover Dam is only open to pedestrians.

Las Vegas Hoover Dam tours are the most exciting way to experience the full scale of the bridge. Here's a quick list of the most popular trips:

1. Helicopter flights. En route, you will fly over Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, and then enter Black Canyon, where you'll hover over the bridge and the dam. Flights use the EcoStar 130, a deluxe helicopter that features stadium-style seating, wraparound windshields, and Fenestron quiet-ride rotor technology. Includes hotel pick up and drop off. Total tour time is about three hours. Note: Helicopters fly at a lower altitude than planes.

2. Airplane. This tour follows the same route as the helicopter tour but continues on to Grand Canyon West, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The return gives you another opportunity to see the bridge. Many flights use a fixed-wing Vistaliner aircraft (over-sized windows, taped tour narration, climate-controlled cabin). Includes free hotel shuttle service. Total tour time is 5.5 hours.

3. Bus tour with helicopter ride. Includes VIP Discovery Tour of the dam's interior, as well as access to the visitor's center, exhibit areas, movie room, observation deck, and generator room. Transfer to an EcoStar 130 helicopter for stellar views of the bridge and the dam. Includes hotel pick up / drop off. Total tour time 3.5 hours.

Wrap Up

The new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, aka the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, is a sight to behold. Started in 2005 and completed in October 2010, the structure is already being revered as one of this century's elite engineering projects. Epic in scale, the bridge is best experienced from the air. Las Vegas has a number of excellent tour operators who offer superb helicopter, airplane, and bus-helicopter packages . But book online in advance: The bridge is Las Vegas' newest natural attraction and flights are selling out fast.

Put on a Great School Assembly Program

If you want to make waves with the kids at school this year, consider a school assembly program that will not bore them with talk, talk, talk and nothing else. Sure, the kids will listen, but you'll never know how much of the information they're actually going to absorb. Either that, or they end up squirming and fidgeting through the entire thing, wondering when it's going to be over.

With an exciting school assembly program, the kids will be groaning with disappointment when it's over! What kind of program are we talking about? How about action-packed extreme sports shows that combats riveting music, educational topic discussions, and action all into one? An extreme BMX stunt show riding team can provide everything school school program needs to keep the attention levels high, the focus on topic and provide enough impact to make it a lasting memory.

Whether you need a school assembly program to promote Red Ribbon Week, bicycle safety, drug awareness or other topics that cover school safety, health and motivation, an extreme sports school assembly program is not only relevant to kid interest these days, but can make a difference when nothing else can. Watching grown-ups don safety gear, talk about important issues and provide thrilling stunts all at the same time will make a lasting impression on kids at any well-planned school assembly program, no matter their grade level, through the country.

When it comes to ensuring that those kids are going to remember the lessons you've tried to teach, drive it home with a bang. An extreme sports show will spice up any school assembly program, no matter what your topic, and have them talking amongst themselves about it for months afterwards. Whether you're on the PTA planning committee, a member of student council or a concerned parent, suggest an extreme sports show to offer your kids at your next school assembly program not only information and education, but awe-inspiring excitation as well.

Mounting Mariner Optimax Outboards

Mount outboards

A variety of clamping and bolting devices is used to mount outboard motors such as sail-boat auxiliaries. The type of fitting will depend upon the stern shape, height of the transom, position of the rudder, etc. Mariner Optimax Outboards are designed to operate with the anti-cavitation plate or exhaust outlet about 2-3 inches (50-75 mm) below the surface of the water. At a depth less than this. the outboard will vibrate. race as the stern lifts to a wave, and overheat. If the mounting bracket is too low. the motor will operate below its optimum speed, power output will be reduced, and fuel consumption will increase. A selection of clamps, alternative lengths of propeller shaft 15-19 inches (380-480 mm) and a choice of propellers of different pitch and diameter enable motors to be tailor to the boat.

Mariner Optimax engines are designed to withstand the occasional splashing and the ubiquitous spray. They can, however, be seriously damaged if submerged. To prevent this, and as security against theft, it is sensible to chain the outboard motor to the boat.

Stern mounting Mariner Optimax engines

In many boats and in particular sailboat auxiliaries, the outboards are double as rudders. The motor is clamped at the center of the transom and the boat is steered by the tiller fitted to the outboard. This works very well, provided one remembers that steerage is lost once the motor is cut or slipped into neutral.

The propeller should turn in water that is as free from turbulence as possible. It is often impossible or undesirable to mount the motor so that the propeller is deep below the keel. In such a position it would be vulnerable to damage. The normal mounting point for the outboard is on the center-line immediately aft of the skeg. In this position, the motor may tend to vibrate, and the forward motion relative to the output of the motor may seem disappointing. The likeliest reason for this is that the turbulence created by the skeg causes the propeller to cavitate. Move the motor to one side, or trim the skeg to reduce turbulence.

As a propeller turns in the water, it produces forwards motion and slight sideways thrust. This is because the lower part of the propeller is operating in deeper (and there before denser) water than the upper half – and the stern is pushed sideways in the direction of rotation. A propeller turning clockwise will threaten the stern to starboard – altering the heading to port. The bias which is the result of the offset mounted engine position can be afore compensated for by mounting the motor on the appropriate side of the boat.

Auto Safety Hammer

Have you ever woke up in the morning and said to yourself, "Self, what is an auto safety hammer?" If that is you; you need to hear what I have to say about the auto safety hammer. I will explain its usage and why it's a good idea to own one.

What you use an Auto Safety Hammer for:

· When you find yourself in the dark the super bright LED flashlight will come in handy to help you find or negotiate your way.
· When you are able to unfasten your seat belt the razor sharp seat belt cutter will do the trick quickly.
· When your airbag goes off; but does not deflate all the way the hideaway air bag spear with facilitate your escape.
· If you find yourself on the side of the road at night and need to let other motorists know you are there the flashing red LED's will warn them up to a mile away.
· In the unfortunate event you drive into a lake with your windows up the emergency window hammer will make fast work of shattering the glass for your swim to freedom.
· When you need to be heard the emergency whistle will get the job done.
· This 6 in 1 auto safety hammer comes with a magnetic mount.
· It measures 8 "tall, at its widest 3" and 1 "thick.
· Operates on 2 – 3 volt Lithium CR232 batteries. Batteries included.

Why you should own one:

· With the odds of being in a car crash at 1 out of four in your life time and chances of dying in a car crash 1 out of 140 it makes since take every precaution to protect you and your loved ones.

· Whether you are in a crash yourself or are witness to one; having the ability to help you, a loved one, a friend, or stranger to escape from the car can be monumental. Having that small inexpensive tool could possibly be the difference between life and death.

· No one expects that they will end up in a river or lake with their automobile; even being prepared would not hurt.

· Most modern cars have self locking doors; in the unofficial event you should come across someone unconscious in their car you would be able to shatter the window and attend to the person.

· Should you come across a dog or a child left in a locked car in the heat of the day you would be able to free them.


The Auto Safety Hammer is a unique, compact emergency safety tool no one should be without. Why take the risk when you can be prepared. My wife and I have never had to use ours; but should the occasion a rise we are prepared. Remember the best time to learn your lesson about personal security and self defense is before something happens.

How to Make Mosaics!

Mosaics take us back to Roman times, but today these seem to have made a comeback and are pretty fashionable. This is quite an interesting form of art and many people use it in their homes for a variety of things.

So, first of all, what will you really need to do your mosaic? PVA glue or a water soluble glue, depending on which method you opt for. Grout, mosaic tiles, whatever you want to decorate, sponge, chalk or maybe a pencil, brown paper, face mask and goggles, nippers and a squeegee.

What are your choices? You can use like nuggets of glass, mosaic tiles, shells, glass beading, even marbles and now you can get tiles which are like mirrors. Smash some crockery or simply use pebbles. So, we can not say we are stuck for ideas and materials. Some people go as far as to paint their own plain tiles with a porcelain paint. So you can do your own thing!

With tiles, when you buy them, they have a backing of brown paper. This being the case, you need to release the paper by letting them soak in warm water first. Rinse your tiles and leave them to dry.

If you use the tiles straight from the paper you can use what is called an indirect method.

Use a sheet of brown paper for this by gluing your tiles into place upside down with an adhesive which is water soluble. If you do this, you will maintain a good smooth surface.

You then need to prepare your item with a tile cement that is quick drying and then put your tiles on to the wet cement. Leave the brown paper at at this stage. Once it has dried, all you need to do, is to soak the paper with a wet sponge to remove it.

Basically more or less the same applies to grouting your kitchen or bathroom. Ensure that all the little cracks are well filled in, using your squeegee. You can clean up the grouting the same way with a wet sponge. Let it dry before you attempt to polish up and finish the surface.

Now for your designs. When you first start, it is often easier to do something like geometric patterning. With more experience you can move on to designs with circles and curving's etc. The tiles may need shaping to fit your design, so for this you need the direct method. This can be achieved in two ways.

The first one with the anvil, hammer and 'hardie' method, a well known way! This requires a fair amount of skill. Hold the tile over the 'hardie' and tap away with the hammer to cut through the tile, moving the tile to create your choice of shape.

Or you could use nippers, which is by far the easiest method. This lets you cut tiles in to quarters and halves by nibbling away, as it were, to give you curves or whatever you may need. Practice with some spare tiles first, until you are satisfied with the result. It does not really matter if you have some weird shapes, you should be able to incorporate them into your design.

From the safety angle I would recommend that you wear the face mask and goggles. Use a hoover or dustpan and a brush to clear up any fragments of glass, crockery etc. It is quite a good idea to prepare your tiles in a clear polythene bag as this will keep any fragments and dust contained.

10 Steps for Repairing a Pebble Tec Pool

If you are the owner of a pebble tec pool, you undoubtedly know by now that you need a matching pebble tec patch mix to make most repairs. Pool technicians can cost a fortune and often an effective patch or repair can be made with the right materials (which can easily be bought on the web) and without the added cost. Here are some guidelines to get you started on your DIY pebble pool repair project.

  1. Determine the amount of pebble tec repair mix you will need for your project.
  2. Once you have everything together, make sure that the area you will be working on is clean and dry (lower the water level of your pool if needed).
  3. Study the instructions on your product purchase. If the product you got isn’t a ready-to-use variety, make sure to follow their instructions carefully to get to right consistency.
  4. Tapping the area surrounding the crack with a hammer will expose any hollow cells and will let you know how much of the pre-existing pebble material needs to be knocked out around the crack to make a lasting repair.
  5. Knock out the area to expose the underlying substrate using a hammer and large chisel (find one designed for this type of work) and continue tapping around the area to find more hollow areas until you find no more.
  6. Use a 4″ masonry blade on a 4″ grinder to saw-cut the edges straight down so that they do not bevel or slant (always using the appropriate protective gear – goggles, gloves, etc.) You can also continue to use your hammer and chisel to do this, however it just isn’t as fast and accurate. Ideally you should have worked down at least 1/4″ for a good patch.
  7. Leaving the working area smooth doesn’t always allow the most effective bond. To fix this problem, cut criss-cross grooves into the underlying substrate with the grinder or roughen it up with the chisel.
  8. Rinse and scrub the area of loose dust and debris, using a sponge to remove any excess water.
  9. Apply the prepared pebble mix with a trowel or your hands to fill in the area that needs repair and smooth it out to be flush with the surrounding area. Use a rounded edge trowel level out the area, removing excess repair material from the repair area. Holding your trowel against the existing pebble surface acts as a guide as you remove excess pebble material to obtain levelness at the edges.
  10. Sponge the edges to fill in any voids. While waiting for the material to stiffen you can clean up any loose materials – using a hairdryer or anything else to speed up the drying process is not recommended. Once the material is stiff to the touch (confirm this with the labeling of the product), use a hose with a soft spray or bug sprayer to remove extra cement and expose the pebble. Use a sponge to clean off any excess repair material surrounding the repair area.

For repairs inside the pool let it set overnight before refilling the pool (or per product instructions).

Jack Humphrey – A Canadian Artist

I came across Jack Humphrey's work accidently and was quite taken by his rugged and honest style. I found his work quite captivating. Jack Humphrey was a Canadian Artist who spent time in his early career to master the techniques of watercolour and draftsmanship. However, it was his oil paintings of people in his native St John that really inspired his generation. His depictions of his hometown during a time of economic depression effectively captured the mood and essence of hardship using a palette of subdued color and effective compositional designs.

Early year as a developing artist Born in St John, New Brunswick, 12 Jan 1901, Humphrey was a natural artist with a long desire from early childhood to become a good painter. However from an artistic standpoint, Humphrey never really found St John to be an ideal place to learn about art and soon decided to travel south to Boston to strive to get a satisfactory artistic education. In the early 1920s, Humphrey studied under Philip Hale at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and then enlisted at the New York National Academy of Design where he studied under Charles Hawthorne. During these years Humphrey managed to get a thorough education in the basics of picture making. I believe Humphrey found Hawthorne to be a good teacher as he took extra tuition at Hawthorne's Cape Cod School of Art during the summer which spoke volumes to Humphrey's commitment to become an excellent artist.

Life in Europe Driven by ambition Humphrey decided that after completing his formal studies in America he would travel to Europe to further his education as an artist. He left for Europe in 1929 going first to Paris to sketch some of the fantastic architecture and visit the many wonderful museums. While in Paris he also took modernist classes from the Cubist painter André Lhote. Humphrey historically left France and traveled to Munich, where he spent 10 weeks studying modernist techniques under Hans Hofmann. Hofmann was one of the most celebrated artists of the time renounced as a fantastic teacher and modernist abstract expressionist painter. Following his intuition Humphrey sent time traveling around Europe studying some of the old Masters in Italy, Netherlands and Belgium an artistic voyage which many artists have undertaken over history.

Returning back to Canada Unfortunately when the depression of the 1930s hit Humphrey was forced to return to his native St John due to personal financial concerns. Humphrey's concerns about the artistic immunity of his hometown where now obsolete as a trained artist was was now a fully capable painter and it was St John that brought out the inspiration and affection that Humphrey needed to create some remarkable work.

St John was hard-hit during the depression with many people homeless and starving in the streets. Employment was a rarity and desperation and poverty was around every corner. Humphrey decided to use these scenes as inspiration for his work making a record of this difficult time in his beloved St John. It was his paintings, especially his portraits of children which are incredibly moving and powerful. In many of his portrait paintings Humphrey was very careful to express the inner emotion and character in his subjects. Many of the people in his paintings fill the frame presenting an almost sculptural presence with his lavish brushwork and expertly modeled features overemphasising the anatomical features to create curves and shapes to meet an underlining abstract design. In many of his paintings Humphrey uses color contrast putting the subject against a large dominant area of ​​color.

In addition to his character studies, Humphrey also did some incredible paintings of the local harbor, the streets and people around the city using a rugged honest approach to his work. Because his work was focused in New Brunswick, he soon became an established regional painter. I believe however that it was his approach to painting that soon won him respect other other artistic groups across Canada which included the Montréal Contemporary Art Society and the Canadian Group of Painters. Humphrey was invited to become a member of both of these groups.

National Recognition In 1933 Humphrey travelled across Canada to many cities including Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto exhibiting with the Canadian Group of Painters. It was at this point where Humphreys work started to become nationally recognized. In the years after 1933 his reputation grew rapidly as he steadily obtained contracts and sold work nationally. Humphrey travelled intensively exhibiting and working internationally returning to Europe during the 1950s where his work took on more of a modernist abstract style.

At the end of his career Humphrey was widely recognized across Canada as one of the best painters of his time. He was a member of the Eastern Group of Painters, Contemporary Art Society, Canadian Group of Painters, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, Canadian Society of Graphic Arts, and International Association of Plastic Arts. He was also a fellow at the International Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1951 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of New Brunswick.

Jack Humphrey died in St John, New Brunswick, 23 March 1967

After tracing Humphrey's artistic development and journey, it was his work in the 1930s that stuck me most profoundly. His raw depiction of his hometown was what inspired me and made me think more deeply about the living people in St John during the depression.

Classy Trends in Chandeliers

Contemporary Options

While traditional chandeliers are heavy and heavy looking – made of wrought iron and lead crystals – contemporary chandeliers are much lighter. Made of aluminum, these beauties are lightweights in terms of weight and corresponding price. Thanks to new advances in design and materials, you don’t have to pay for raw materials that aren’t seen or needed for strength or support. One of the great things about these contemporary chandeliers is that they go with a wide range of styles, from traditional to modern. Let’s face it. It’s hard to match an overly ornate gold and crystal chandelier with a modern furniture grouping. They go together about as well as peanut butter and Swiss cheese. Eschewing complex designs, contemporary chandeliers get their beauty through intriguing and innovative design concepts. But don’t think these chandeliers are blasé. Hardly. They instantly draw the visitor’s eye while adding superior lighting design to any space in your home.

Thinking Small is Big

These Days Not all chandeliers are monstrosities that require a crane to install. Mini chandeliers are really popular these days and fit into smaller spaces than their full-sized counterparts. Minis are particularly well suited for hallways and open spaces where a full sized chandelier would look silly. Thanks to their smaller size, they’re also easy for any homeowner to install. If you’ve mastered a ceiling lighting fixture or a ceiling fan, a mini chandelier is a snap to add to your home. The process is virtually the same and they can usually be installed without the need for additional support or bracing in the ceiling.

The Lowdown on Installation

If you ignore their haughty-taughty legacy, a chandelier is basically just a lighting fixture. Its primary purpose is to bring light to an area of your home. The design is really secondary. When shopping for a chandelier, be sure that you consider the space you’re going to install it in. You don’t want to pick a chandelier that’s too tall for the ceiling height you have or get one that’s too small for a larger space. Most home modern lighting and home improvement stores have plenty of choices available for you to look at, ranging from the gold and crystal masterpieces to the more modern and contemporary models If you’ve settled on a mini chandelier, replacing an existing fixture is a snap. First, be sure that you shut off the electricity to the outlet on the ceiling. Turning the light switch off on the wall is not the way to do this. You need to do it at the main service panel in your home. If you’re not comfortable doing this, then it’s probably best to call in a handyman. More than one do-it-yourselfer has become French fried by an outlet that was still hot. If there is no existing wiring in the ceiling, you probably want to call in an electrician.

Adding a new junction box isn’t something an amateur should tackle, particularly one that is on the ceiling where everything is upside down and it’s easy to become disoriented. If you’re installing a large chandelier, you may need additional support in the ceiling. Cross braces may be needed to distribute the weight of the chandelier over a wider area so your ceiling doesn’t end up on your floor. Mini chandeliers aren’t this complex. Usually the instructions found in the box are all you need. Once you shut off the power at the main service panel, the installation is fairly quick. While you’re doing it yourself, you may want to consider adding a dimmer switch to the wall to control the chandelier. The dimmer will allow you to create a mood or alter the intensity of the lighting.

Installing, Designing and Planning Custom Elevators

Residential elevators are becoming less of a luxury for home owners, so one option for modifying a large home with an elevator has been custom elevators. All of the same features of home elevators are in place in a custom elevator, but what differentiates one of these apart is the design. Instead of relying on a strictly wood or metal design, custom elevators can conform to the design of your home, or, essentially, they can be designed any way you would like. For an ordinary home elevator, the planning involves choosing the type best suited to the house and installing the elevator and, if needed, the machine room. But with a custom elevator, architectural planning of the design and which materials are going to be used is involved, as well.

For the basic information about home elevators, four basics types are available. The most common is a hydraulic lift elevator. While this type of home elevator needs a machine room to operate and in case of emergencies, the elevator is lifted from the ground up. Hydraulic is considered the safest design for emergencies and natural disasters like earthquakes and, as a result, is the most popular for all homes. A traction elevator is another type, and one of its benefits is not needing a machine room to operate. As the design uses cables and weights to move the elevator car, however, the design is not as safe for regions prior to earthquakes and other natural disasters. Another type of elevator that does not need a machine room is a pneumatic lift elevator which, in a home, involves a clear chute that moves a car up and down by suction. And, if you're trying to go green, an overhead winding drum elevator is often the best option, as oil is not used in its operation.

In terms of design, both hydraulic and pneumatic lift elevators appear to be the most popular, not only for safety issues but for design possibilities, as well. A pneumatic custom elevator, for example, allows your home to have a panoramic view when ascending or descending through your house. Hydraulic elevators, with a larger design, give more options for metal and work working and additional details in the interior of the elevator cab. Essentially, design for custom elevators is limitless, but consulting with an architect or designer beforehand can assist you in finding the best fit for your home.

After the type of elevator and style has been determined, the next step is to install the custom elevator. In a home, this often means having space set aside for the elevator shaft and machine room. Custom elevators are installed like any ordinary residential elevator, but the final result looks more polished.