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Tile Problems: Chips, Scratches and Cracks

When it comes to decorating a wall or floor space, you can’t go wrong with tiles. They’re sturdy, long-lasting, and easy to install. However, as robust as floor tiles are, like with anything, if they’re being constantly trodden up, or if dining chairs are constantly being dragged over them, you may experience the occasional chip, scratch or crack. If you do, don’t panic – we’re here to help! The guides below will help you get your wall and floor tiles looking fighting fit again!


1) How to fix small chips and scratches

The most common problem with floor tiles is small chips, which can occur around the edges. They appear more visible on darker tiles, ans they expose the lighter ceramic or porcelain underneath. There’s a simple trick for covering up tile chips – and, if you’re a woman, it’s probably sitting in your drawer right now. Nail varnish! Simply find a matching shade (or mix two colours together to find the right hue) and then paint it onto the chip! As time goes by, the nail varnish may darken. If this is the case, simply apply a little nail varnish remover, and re-apply the original mix. This tip also applies for scratches!

2) How to fix larger chips or holes

If you’ve really been giving your floor tiles a battering, and they’ve accumulated larger chips that can’t be fixed with nail varnish, then you’re going to need to up your solution. You can buy ceramic filler online. It’s similar to plasticine, and dries completely solid. It comes in a variety of different colours. Simply mix two shades together until you have a matching colour, and then work it into the chip or hole, and leave it to set. However, depending on the tile, it may be cheaper to replace the whole thing, according to the guidelines below.

3) How to fix a broken or cracked tile

If the breakage goes beyond the cosmetic appearance of the tile – if the whole piece has actually broken in two – then your best option is to replace it. We do suggest ordering 10% more than you need to allow for cut pieces and spares. So hopefully, you’ll have some spares sitting out in the shed. If you don’t, however, then Walls and Floors are your best bet for finding a match – with more than 6,000 tile designs in stock. You can either order one full-size sample tile or a whole square metre, if you’d like to be on the safe side and have plenty of spares for future usage. Once you have your replacement tile, score around the broken tile with a chisel, and prize up the broken pieces. Scrape away any residue left beneath the tile, apply fresh adhesive, and sink the new tile into the hole, before grouting the joints with a matching tile grout.

4) How to fix a loose tile

If your grout has worn thin around a particular tile, and it feels loose as you step across it, then you need to reapply both adhesive and grout. Using a chisel, prize the tile up. Work loose as much grout and adhesive from the edges and underside of the tile as you can – as well as any residue left on the flooring. Re-apply adhesive to the back of the tile, and set it back in place. Replace the grout joint around the edges of the tile.

5) Out-dated floor tiles

If your floor tiles are generally out of date, and you’re not happy of them, why not replace the whole floor? Don’t worry – that’s not as daunting a proposition as it sounds. If your floor tiles are sound and sturdy, you might not have to rip them up. You might be able to simply lay your new floor tiles over the top! Give the old layer a good scrubbing, and then leave it to completely dry. This will ensure there’s no dirt present to effect adhesion. Once it’s dry, you’re ready to apply new adhesive, and tile your new floor!


Type of Fences

Great idea for new homeowners in choosing fences. Or if you simply want a change in your home, try upgrading your fence.

The type of fence you choose will not only play a key role in your home’s exterior design, but also provide one of the most important benefits of all homes; security. Privacy and security are two of the most common reasons Americans look to buy homes. A professionally installed fence gives every homeowner that true sense of home we all desire. Fencing, whether it be wood, chain link or wrought iron, will greatly affect your sense of home.

Fence Types

Before we jump into all fencing types, you have to know your options. The most popular types of fences are:

Aluminum Fencing

One of the most basic and attractive fencing types is aluminum. While it does not provide the amount of security many homeowners look for in a fence, it’s relatively maintenance free and can essentially look like any other type discussed in this article. The only maintenance will come during installation when you choose to paint and decorate it. However, along with the security, it’s not as strong as you may think and we do not recommend it for areas with severe weather.

Wood Fencing

Wood is the most popular fencing type across America. Not only does it give homeowners a sense of privacy with the height wood fencing provides, but they are also one of the more attractive options on the market. They give homeowners a warm and welcoming feeling and without the headache of breaking the bank. Beware that the height and size of your fence will greatly impact the price. The more lumber you need, the more expensive the project will be. On top of that, like all fences, they take awhile to install. Therefore, a smaller fence will clearly be cheaper than a larger one.

On the plus side, wood fences can easily last the lifetime of your home. Just like hardwood floors, the quality of your fence will greatly depend on the type of wood you choose. Needless to say, you have plenty to choose from.

PVC Fencing

Hands down, the cheapest way to fence in your yard is by using one made of PVC. These fences use PVC to replace wooden stakes and pickets, and although not nearly as sturdy, they can certainly serve their purpose. The posts are PVC sleeves that go on top of wooden posts to add stability to the fence, but also cut down on material costs by using less wood. Sometimes, the PVC stakes are attached with an adhesive to the cross bars and other times, they are fastened with screws. This type of fencing comes in a variety of different heights and colors. Because of its PVC makeup, the fence is very resistant to the elements and can last for years.

Wrought Iron Fencing

When you see homes with funky designs on top of their fences, oftentimes, those homeowners chose a wrought iron fence. While wrought iron fences are both strong and beautiful, they do require constant upkeep. If you want to maintain its beauty, wrought iron fences need to be sanded or repainted every two to three years.

Furthermore, going back to the security portion of the conversation, wrought iron fences are not popular choices for the more conservative homeowner. On top of that, wrought iron fences are custom made and therefore, will not be cheap.

Vinyl Fencing

Other than cost, vinyl fencing is elite when it comes to any other category. In fact, according to our friends at HomeAdvisor, some manufacturers claim that vinyl fences are nearly five times stronger and four times more flexible than comparable wood fences.

Vinyl fencing is maintenance free and resists paint, allowing you to easily clean graffiti or any other unwanted stains. All you will need is a hose and soap to make it look as good as new.

Installing a vinyl fence may have a higher upfront cost, but given its low maintenance costs and long lifespan, vinyl fencing is cheaper than many other fencing types.

Chain Link Fencing

Chain link fences do not add much privacy to the home, but perform the other basic functions of a fence quite well. Homeowners, as well as school administrators (very popular), will be delighted to know that they are cheap, durable and need very little maintenance (like many of the other options).

Oftentimes, homeowners add a good amount of shrubbery, flowers, vines or even privacy slates on the outside of chain link fence. Not that this would add any more security to your home, but it would add a pinch of privacy. Any homeowner can cut off their neighbors’ views with a little bit of creativity.

Electric Fencing

Invisible fences are mainly used to contain dogs through an invisible field of electricity. Typically, the installation involves placing a wire in a trench dug along the boundary the owner wishes to fence off. A wireless transmitter is also set up nearby to activate the wire. The final item in the fencing is a battery-powered collar to receive the signal from the wire. The collar warns the animal when it’s near the boundary with a sound pitched only to the animal’s hearing. If the animal tries to cross the boundary, the collar delivers an electric shock.

Bamboo Fencing

Like hardwood flooring, bamboo fencing is starting to hit its stride in the market. It can be grown naturally, so many of our green readers will be happy to hear that it’s one of the most environmentally friendly and attractive options on the market.

There are three styles for bamboo fencing: live bamboo, bamboo cane and rolled bamboo. Rolled bamboo and bamboo cane use poles linked together that are a bit sturdier than live bamboo. Live bamboo can grow up to a foot a year. We would not recommend this style in colder climates.

Farm fencing

Farm fencing certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but it plays a vital role across America. Just like all non-farm homeowners, you have many options, such as wood, electric, barbed wire, woven or high tensile. No matter what fencing type you go with, beware that installation is expensive and timely. Given the amount of land farmers own, you can imagine the manpower it takes to put up an entire fence.


While security and privacy are certainly the top two functions of all home fences, design and creativity should never take a back seat. With all the fencing choices available, no home in America needs to sacrifice looks for security.


DIY Removal of Popcorn Ceiling

A popcorn ceiling, also known as a cottage cheese ceiling, a stucco ceiling or formally an acoustic ceiling, is a term for a spray-on or paint-on ceiling treatment. It was the standard for bedroom and residential hallway ceilings for its bright, white appearance, ability to hide imperfections, and acoustical characteristics.


Frankly, it’s pretty simple. It’s messy, but it’s simple. Let’s go over the steps.

First, you remove everything from the ceiling. We’ve already removed the fan and the AC vent in the video. If you’re not comfortable removing the fan, please consult an electrician. It’s safe, it’s not expensive and it’ll save you some heartache.

There’s only a few tools that you need in this process and that’s a:

– Garden sprayer
– Drywall knife. We prefer 6 inch.
– Some tape and plastic.

As you can see in the video, we have not taped and plasticked the wall off, or the floor. One reason is for lighting. The other is that this floor is getting removed and we’re putting tile down. We really don’t have to worry about covering it, but usually, you’ll drape the walls, drape the floor and it makes an easy clean up.

When you’re plasticking, there’s two types of tapes you can get, that’s the regular masking tape and the blue tape, painter’s tape. We prefer painter’s tape.

When painter’s tape gets wet, it doesn’t leave a residue, so you don’t have any issues later with it pulling paint of the wall, or painting over the adhesive that’s left behind. A little more money, a lot less headache.

There’s some talk about dry scrape vs. wet scraping. We wet scrape. We don’t dry scrape and here’s why:

When you dry scrape, it’s dusty. It’s messy. You don’t get that clean look that you want. We wet scrape because It’s cleaner, easier, and all you have to do is pump it up a little bit, and spray it on there.

Depending on the weather you’re in, 5 minute wait, maybe 3 minutes, and then, all you’ve got to do is scrape.

You’ll get a clean scrape with hopefully no issues. Then, once that’s all done, you really can do the whole ceiling. Just spray the whole ceiling and then do it at once.

We’ve just done this section to show you. Then, once all the popcorn has been removed from the ceiling, you roll your plastic up, haul it off to the dumpster. That’s it.

5 Tips on Raising The Value of Your Home

Having a home is a huge investment. You constantly have to pay for bills, the mortgage, renovations, and improvements. In fact, more often than not having a house is a total nightmare, especially during the selling process. However, if you know what to do you can get a great deal for your home. To sell a house the buyers have to be comfortable enough to see if they can live there, so having a presentable house is a must.

  1. The kitchen is one of the most important areas of the house. It is the first place they will see when they get up in the morning to eat breakfast, and most likely the last thing they see before they go to bed. The kitchen is where people get together for meetings, parties, and other household events. Upping the value of your kitchen can be pricey but in the end it is worth the cost. You can try upgrading the countertop, replacing cabinets, and even altering the tiles.

  1. Bathrooms are definitely one of the all-time bonuses. Having a sparkling clean sink, and a great scent in the air won’t do the trick when attracting buyers. Remodels that include a new toilet, sink, and bathtub will. You might also want to pick new tiles for the bathroom as well. Adding a small bathroom would also benefit you and the buyers likewise.

  1. Repair what is broken. There are always areas around the house that can use repairs, whether it be the backyard fences, the porch lights, or even sliding doors. Make the necessary repairs at the right time. Making repairs to random things around the house does significantly alter the value of the home itself by quite a bit. Even repairing the electrical wiring, or the roof, will raise the value of your house by a great amount.

  1. Make space. One of the most important things to do when selling a house is to make extra space. If you have a garage or attic try moving things around, or converting the attic or basement into a room. Having more space would definitely be a great attribute to both you and the buyer. A house always seems more appealing when there is more space that can be used for a bedroom or entertainment room.

  1. Install a deck. Making a deck in front or behind your home can be the difference between a win or a bust. Decks are useful and look very attractive to buyers. Decks provide a play area for kids, and a get together area for adults.

Making other small tweaks such as improving the landscape, adding new paint, and getting attractive appliances also boost your house’s value by a great amount. When it comes to your home every detail counts. As long as you make the right improvements and renovations you’ll make a good amount of profits and see a shortened selling period. Regardless, you have hundreds of options to add value to your house, so the opportunities are endless.

Maintaining A Water Garden Pond

Caring for Garden Water Features to Keep Them Healthy

Although the ins and outs of water garden pond planning including layout and finding the proper balance between fish, plants, rocks and chemicals can be complicated and involve years of study, some basic knowledge of these areas will bring great satisfaction to the neophyte backyard pond owner. The result will be a beautiful, restful refuge for humans and wildlife and an increase in property value.

Create a Balanced System in a Water Garden Pond

The healthiest water garden ponds have a good balance between the numbers of fish and plants in relation to the size, shape, depth, amount of rock and whether there is a waterfall. Finding the correct pond volume, appropriate pond linersand the right pond pumpis critical to maintaining the health of a backyard garden pond or a pondless water feature. Keeping the pond clean also contributes to overall water garden pond health.

keeping the pond clean

Adding Plants to a Pond Water Feature

Plant life in garden water features is very important, not only for looks, but to help provide shade for fish and decrease the amount of available oxygen to keep algae growth to a minimum. Many kinds of beautiful plants are available and two of the least expensive are sea lettuce and water hyacinths, which bloom with lovely tiny flowers. These plants are called floaters and multiply quickly. Place one or two in your fish pond, depending on its size, and watch them carefully to keep them from taking over. Water lilies, lotuses and other ornamental water plants are also appropriate to add for highlights.

Fish Contribute to a Balanced Water Garden Pond

Depending on the size of a water garden pond, fish may be added to enhance the healthy pond system and for viewing pleasure. Add declorinator to the water the day before adding fish to remove chlorine. A waterfall or aerator is necessary for adding air to the water for fish health. To maintain fish pond algae control, allow the fish to eat the algae which they do on their own, and refrain from feeding fish food once they have become established in the garden pond.

Using Environmentally Friendly Chemicals in a Garden Pond

Keeping a healthy eco system and clear water in your water garden pond often requires the addition of a variety of products which support your pond’s overall health. There are environmentally friendly enzymes designed for different seasons of the year which help to maintain pond pH. for a wide array of water garden pond needs.

Fish Pond Algae Control and Sludge Removal

For fish pond algae control, add barley straw, which comes in a liquid or solid form. The liquid is the best and fastest working in reducing and maintaining pond algae. If string algae becomes a problem, try using one of the animal friendly algaecides. For removing decay that forms at the bottom of your pond from fish waste and other organic breakdown, there are products available for sludge removal. If pond products are not doing the job, inexpensive pond vacuums are available to remove excess gunk.

Managing Mosquitoes in a Water Garden Pond

Moving water helps prevent against mosquito infestations in backyard ponds and pondless water features. In addition to keeping the garden pond water in motion, add BT, known by its full Latin name, bacillus thurengensis. BT is an organic substance that can be added to the water to kill and prevent mosquito growth. It’s completely harmless to fish and plant life. The liquid form of BT works within hours to kill an infestation and lasts for months.

It’s time to get going for the season if you haven’t already started and prepare your backyard water garden pond for a long and healthy summer filled with flowering plants, happy fish and clean, clear water. Good luck and remember to refer to the website in the reference section for a great place to find reasonably priced products.

Tiling Tips for Homeowners

tiling tips

How to Lay Tile for a Long Lasting Installation

While there are many times when a tiling job should be completed by a professional, there are many more times when a homeowner can tackle the job himself. Those wondering how to install tile in many applications, may find that the same rules will apply for many tiling jobs and applications.

How to Measure for Tile

The most important thing for homeowners pondering a tile job is determining how much tile to purchase to complete the job. This is done through proper measuring of the space. Begin by breaking the area to be tiled into smaller pieces. For example, if a shower is being tiled, each wall will be measured separately from the next and the three areas added together. A room with bump-outs and angles in the floor will be broken into sections so that an accurate measure can be obtained. Measure each bump-out separately from the rest of the floor, so that each area measured can form as close to a rectangle as possible.

Measure each section in inches, for example a measurement of 6 feet, 4 inches should read 76 inches. When the length and width of the area have been measured multiple the numbers together and then divide by 144 to obtain the amount of square footage needed. For example, a foyer measuring 76 inches by 146 inches will come in at 77.06 square feet. Additional tile will be required for waste, cuts or breakage. If the tile pattern being considered is just straight laid squares, add 5% more tile for waste. If the pattern is on the diagonal, add 20% more for waste, due to the additional cuts. Slate tile and most other patterns will require approximately 15% more tile for waste.

How to Lay Tile

Once the tile is on site and the surface prepped for installation, the next step to take is a dry-layout or dry-fit of the tile. This is done to determine how many cuts need to be made, and where these cuts should be placed.

Always begin in the center of an installation with a full tile. This means for a floor, a full tile should be laid in the exact center of the furthest wall from the door. For a wall tile application, a full tile should be laid in the exact center of bottom of the wall. A fireplace hearth should have a full tile laid in the front center of the hearth.

install tile

Lay the adjacent tiles equally out to each side so that the tiles will be balanced when they get to the edges of a tile run. Cut any tiles to fit that require cutting, and return them to the dry-layout before continuing to ensure that the fit is correct.

If installing natural stone or a tile with a lot of variation in color from piece to piece, lay the tiles from several boxes at once, and blend the colors as they are laid. This will keep colors and patterns from bunching up in places, and will ensure an even layout.

If laying borders, decorative tiles or cut-in tiles, make all the necessary cuts and double check the dry-fit to be sure they fit together correctly. Then install the field tiles first, let them set up and then go back and install the decorative tiles into the place left. This is done so that if the decorative tiles are thinner than the field tile, they can be built up properly to ensure an even layout.

Installing Tile Patterns

multi-piece tile pattern

If installing a multi-piece tile pattern, a dry-layout is essential. Start with a full tile in one corner of the room, and work outward from there. The entire layout may need to be moved from one place to another to ensure a pleasing layout. Some patterns draw the eye in the direction the tiles move, so lay out the entire pattern, and step back to be sure that this is the desired direction. If not, re-lay the tiles before making any cuts.

Once cuts have been made, leave the tiles where they are in the pattern, taking up only a few at a time to install. This will ensure that the pattern gets installed in the same direction that it was originally laid, and that no mistakes are made.

The most important thing to do is double check each step as it is done. The old saying, “measure twice, cut once” applies to nearly every stage of a tiling job. Be absolutely certain with a dry-fit before laying a single tile, and the job should go over without a hitch.

How to Improve Downspout Drainage

Downspout is an important part of your gutter system. If poorly maintained, they can get clogged and result in some serious gutter problems. This article will focus on simple solutions for poor downspout drainage.

Add downspout extender

If your home have well-drained soil that slopes away from the foundation, then, downspout extender could be a perfect option to enhance the downspout drainage. It is advisable to use a straight, folding vinyl as an extension. Besides, accordion-style flexible extender is a great option.

Note that you can easily twist these extenders into various angles to effectively divert the water flow away from the foundation.  

Consider piping the water away from your house

If you want to divert the water far from your house, you can use French drains or other trench drainage systems. Note that French drain slopes away from the house and empties the water to an open ground away from the house.

This method of diverting water away from your house has limitations too. Since water is flowing naturally, it can erode the drain easily and make it deeper. Besides, it can interfere with your landscape and make it look ugly! To avoid such problems, you may need to fill the bottom of the French drain with gravel, lay in a flexible pipe and cover it with more gravel, then add soil. This will keep off all the problems associated with open drains.


Bury drainage pipes

Not all houses are built on sloppy areas. If your yard doesn’t slope away from the foundation, you may need to construct more complex trenches. Note that most municipal administrations don’t allow homeowners to directly attach their drainage to the storm sewer system. But you can construct an underground drainage system. Keep in mind that this will require you to dig and install pipes on the gently sloping trench.

Install diverters

You can use diverters together with the other methods. This is because diverters might not be a completed solution especially during heavy rainstorms. Note that diverters draw water from rooftops into barrels through the downspouts. Depending on the size of the barrel, diverters can be a perfect solution especially if you have a huge water tank.


Enhancing downspout drainage is simple. However, if neglected, poor downspout drainage can damage your foundation by weakening it and causing cracks. Besides, leaking basements and mold can be as a result of poor downspout drainage.

Home Remodeling: Investment Cost vs Return Value

cost vs value home remodel

A Soft Real Estate Market and Tight Credit Affect Home Improvement

When allocating the home improvement money as tax refund season looms and another economic stimulus package is discussed, it’s important to stay current.

Factors Affecting Home Equity on Remodels

• Emerging energy-efficient technology

• Sustainable, green building products

• Economic environment

• Seasonal/availability prices of construction materials (for example, a few years ago the price of concrete spiked while China was experiencing a construction surge.)

• Time of the year (remodeling contractor fees can vary; outdoor projects in the winter vs indoor projects during the summer, etc.)

• The cost of electricity, natural gas, and heating oil

The Current Remodeling Cost vs Recoup Value Statistics

Remodeling magazine keeps up with home improvement cost/return statistics. The national average presented is generated from US regional data. What does this mean if the home is outside the US? It means nothing is nailed down, but due to today’s global economy, general economic trends may be able to be extrapolated.

Their 2014-2015 national averages report reveals that the ROI on almost all projects is down from 2013. It may be speculated that this may be due to the slumping and uncertain real estate market, leading to uncertainty. Only three remodeling projects are trending up:

Bathroom remodel. The old stand-by maintains its importance. Why? Perhaps because it remains the most personal room in the home and the fixtures can be very cost-intensive per square foot. The average cost of the bath remodel is $51,455; the resale value is $36,400; and the recoup value is 70.7%. Yes, resale is lower than investment, but recall that this is today’s cost recoup data relative to 2013.

Deck addition using Trex or other composite deck materials. This may reflect the tendency to spend more family leisure and entertaining time at home (the hip, new term for this is “staycations”) rather than taking vacations and traveling during tough economic times with uncertain fuel costs. The average cost comes in at $37,498; the resale value is $23,706; and the recoup is a healthy 63.2%. Once again, this percentage is up from the percentage in 2013.

Siding replacement using foam backed vinyl. The fact that foam backed vinyl siding (which means added insulation) went up while cement fiber siding (such as Hardi products) went down may indicate that the trend is that energy savings are trumping durability. The vinyl statistics are: average cost is $12,528; resale is $10,074; and recoup is 80.4%.

What’s in the Future for Remodeling Trends?

home improvement

Currently, more focus is on exterior rather than interior projects. With more homeowners electing to sit tight, this may be a hedge against both high and uncertain energy costs.

With the home resale market in a slump, homeowners may be more focused on lowering utility bills and not moving rather than banking on ROI.

Design Your Own Home

DIY Home Architectural Design Course

This approach to home design is meant to assist the faint-of-heart amateur in overcoming the challenge of creative design.

E is for Educate

1. Would you bake a cake without a list of ingredients? Mostly this step is about creating a scrapbook, describing the lifestyle to be lived in the home. I recommend a few Sunday drives around historic neighborhoods.

2. Would you assemble a bicycle without instructions? If your house is to have “good bones,” you’ll need to make at least one construction site visit.

3. Set a realistic construction budget (no need to do a line item take-off), take take a trip to the lumber yard.

4. Learn to “translate” the language of realtors, contractors and mother-in-laws (the advice you will surely receive from all the sidewalk superintendents in your life.)

C is for Conversation

Conversation is about speaking and rehearsing and then writing down the thousand words that is the picture of your dream home. If we don’t yet have the picture we must write the description.

We have all walked through houses that only exist in author’s imaginations, sea captain’s homes, medieval castles, antebellum plantation homes. It is because they have been described to us in vivid and exacting detail.


The work of design is A.R.T. (approximate and adjust-revise and recognize-transcribe and trace). These tasks start where your elementary school art teacher left off.

home architectural design

A is for Approximate

When you start drawing, it should in a sense be from memory, not trying to recreate exactly something you have seen you like, but recreate the feeling and emotion of your “scrapbook” collection. Try to push yourself to get as many ideas on paper as you can. Don’t try and solve the whole problem at once, just play with it for now.

Get ready to access your inner child, get ready to scribble outside the lines. Put your wastebasket at three point distance, wad up your first dozen attempts (at least), launch them (remember your follow through). Your tools will be fat magic markers and stubby crayons, “bum wad” (rolls of thin trace paper available at most art stores).

Trial and error is our method of choice. Sure it would be safer to build what everyone else is building, (while you’re at it, draw in the Green Mini-Van in front). Listen, why is it after looking at twenty thousand pre-drawn house plans on the internet you haven’t found one you like? It’s because they lack one essential element in the design process; the Client. Most architects would agree that their designs only improve after meetings with a client. Clients push designers to put more of their character, personality and lifestyle into the final design.

R is for Recognize

It has been said architectural design is only about recognizing the solution, another talent every reader has in his or her possession. Maybe you want a house that reminds you of the feeling of the house you vacationed in at the “Cape” when you were a child or the “painted lady” on Main Street. The cliché, “I’ll know it when I see it” is an appropriate sentiment.

R is for Revise (Sidewalk Superintendents, Mother-In-Laws and Me)

We’ve all encountered the friendly retiree watching diligently over a construction project’s progress, we’ve all been on the receiving end of one or another relative’s opinion on how they would improve our home. And alas, even strangers may only be too happy to offer their two cents worth of advice for your building project. It comes with the territory. Criticism is an absolute necessity to improving your design, you must learn to filter these well-intentioned comments, consider them and test them, and be confident enough to revise your design (or not).

T is for Transcribe

Architectural design shouldn’t be thought of as a foreign language in need of interpretation, but rather an unspoken language you already are fluent. Like many second generation immigrants, we can hear and understand the language, but haven’t yet learned how to put it to paper. And yes, all this can be accomplished with a fourth grader’s skill set; after all this method is called “tracing.”

Using a Wood Stove as a Primary Heat Source

Heating Your Home With Firewood is a Viable Option


The cost savings related to home-heating double as a personal benefit of using wood heat as well. Because wood heat is less expensive, budget-conscious home-owners feel better about keeping their homes at warmer temperatures.

Darren Gordon’s story illustrates this point. “[Before installing a wood stove,] I turned down the thermostat in the winter and turned it up in the summer. We kept the house pretty cold all winter. But now we keep the house toasty warm twenty four hours a day.”

Jim Ballenthin’s story is similar. When the Ballenthins were considering moving from a warmer area to a colder area of Minnesota, Jim Ballenthin’s wife, Jean, wanted to make sure that their home would be comfortable in the cold winters.

“Wood heat was the perfect way for Jean to be as warm as she wanted without me complaining about the cost of heating fuel,” says Jim Ballenthin.

And it does get cold in Minnesota! The Ballenthins have kept their house warm using wood in temperatures as low as -50F!

“Nothing beats a wood stove for the warming effect of radiant heat,” adds Jim Ballenthin. “It’s very cozy, comfortable, and frequently romantic.”

installing a wood stove


Before burning wood, Darren Gordon used to exercise at the gym. Now he uses wood splitting as a primary way to stay in shape. “If you are going to work out,” Gordon says, “you might as well do something that puts money in your pocket at the same time. Splitting wood really is an enjoyable activity. It has actually become one of the major reasons that I want to keep heating with wood.”

Similarly, the Ballenthins see the physical benefits, as well. Jim and Jean Ballenthin enjoy splitting wood together. “The exercise of cutting firewood is better than that obtained at any health club,” says Jim Ballenthin. “It connects us to—and makes us more aware of—our need to live in a sustainable relationship with our environment.”

Personal Satisfaction

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” says Darren Gordon. “Either you love [heating with wood] or you don’t.” It’s safe to say that Darren Gordon loves heating with wood. In fact, he has even written a detailed account of his family’s experience with wood heat.

Jim Ballenthin agrees. “Burning wood may be a hassle for those for whom money is of no concern or for those who are not connected with the woods, forests, and outdoors. But it is second nature to us,” he says. “It’s a matter of choices, priorities, economics, and exercise of personal values. At this time, it’s hard to imagine us heating any other way.”

Ballenthin continues, “Friends and guests crowd around the stove after being outside on a cold winter day cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating on the lake, or just walking. A hot toddy, cup of hot cocoa, or coffee with Kahlua and a warm stove just can’t be beat for social conviviality.”