How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit: DIY Tips

Build Fire Pit Yourself

Building a backyard fire pit of your own will certainly add a charm to your place. Imagine days of camping outside in the lawn with your kids on a cool evening near the fireplace. Or perhaps the idea of a barbeque next to the fireplace during the winters sounds appealing? So if you want to learn how to build a backyard pit there are a few instructions you can follow easily. Before building a fire pit ensure that you prepare the selected area that surrounds the pit with layers of decomposed pavers, concrete and granite for an inflammable surface.

A sophisticated fire pit in the backyard can include a number of features like gas lines and in-built seating to add a dramatic punch! It is an inexpensive method to build a pit on your own than hiring a professional. You should start with digging a pit that takes roughly around eight hours. Add in cemented covers and retaining walls. While picking a significant spot for the pit, ensure that you look for a flattened area which measures around 10-12 feet in diameter.

Materials
1. Course concrete sand (1 cubic yard)
2. Retaining wall units
3. Concrete Adhesive
4. Gravel

Tools
1. Level
2. String
3. Stake
4. Shovel
5. Rake
6. Tape measure
7. Handheld tamp
8. Mallet
9. Wheelbarrow
10. Safety gloves
11. Wet saw
12. Plate compactor

Procedure – How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit

1. Cut a part of the string which should have a length similar to the radius of the fire pit. Tie one end of the string to a stake that is kept at the center of the fire pit. The other end of the string is connected to an upside down can. Using paint, draw a circle to identify the boundary of the pit. Dig out the dirt and debris present within the marked circle. Ensure that the pit is around 18 inches deep.

2. Gravel must be poured within the pit at a height of six inches. Make sure that you the base is smooth by pouring the gravel after every layer inside. Once you’ve raked the topmost layer, tamp it down. You can spread a thin layer of sand atop the granite layer.

3. Mark an inner radius within the fire pit which functions as an efficient guide for placing retaining walls. After you’ve placed the first row retaining walls within the inner circle, secure the units into the gravel using a mallet. Ensure that the retaining wall units are at equal levels.

4. The second row of retaining walls can comprise of a groove at the bottom and a ridge that stands at the end. This easily interlocks the retaining wall units together. Once the units are clean you can stick each unit together using concrete adhesive. The pavers added to the fire pit consist of 4-6 inch of a gravel base.

5. The pavers can be laid in suitable pattern which depends upon the kind of style you’re looking for. You can lay the pavers in a staggered layout or arrange the bricks against one another. In order to get a smooth edge you can always purchase pavers from a store. Aluminum or plastic edge restraint keeps the pavers from moving.

Smart Home Environments

Now the Lowe’s Iris system has great options for controlling and monitoring your home energy usage, the energy efficiency and settings of your central heating and air conditioning, leak detectors to keep you from floating away, but it hasn’t quite branched out to really making your home a “smart home”. It’s great to have that kind of information available, and to be able to make changes to how you live in your home by using that information, but what about when you’re at home and you want to watch a movie? Or you settle into a comfortable chair with a good book, or with your tablet to play a game or just surf the internet?

In those situations Wink really is one of the most stable, and up and coming control hubs you can have. While Revolv may talk to more devices, and Apple may promise a multiple network whole home control center, Wink is delivering a great cross section of devices geared towards making your home respond to you and what you are doing. There are robotic triggers that you can set to get the devices to respond to each other. It is possible to do these things with other controls using IFTTT or geographical sensing on your smart phone, but Wink makes it a bit easier by sensing state changes, or output signal and then issuing predetermined commands to other devices in the house.

Lets use two examples.

Waking up in the morning can be a chore. Rather then letting the obnoxious buzz/jangle of your phone or alarm clock startle you out of bed, imagine that the lights in your room slowly ignite in a soft red/orange combo that starts with only the fixtures farthest away from your bed, and slowly brighten over the course of 5-10 minutes. If that isn’t enough to wake you slowly and much more naturally, the blinds in your room will trigger to open part way after the lights have started to brighten, letting in a little bit of that early morning light. It might be raining but that’s okay. Shortly after the lights come up the speakers in the ceiling in your room and your bathroom start playing your favorite morning Pandora station at a soft level so as not to disturb anyone else in the house.

This very easily accomplished using Sonos speakers, Phillips Hue lighting and the automatic blind controls from Bali motorized window treatments. It’s a much better way to wake up, it keeps you relaxed and stays away from the obnoxious noises that so rudely startle us awake every day.

Situation 2 can be applied to any number of instances. A romantic movie night, a rivalry football game in the man cave, or just sitting down to watch TV in the evening while trying to unwind after your long day. Simply using Wink to turn on a setting for television or movie, will trigger the speakers on to a preset volume, the TV on, the lights will dim around the room and over the TV while the ones at the back change color to red or a soft blue to not distract from the experience. Around the room the blinds lower to shut out the outside world and your intimate setting is ready for action. The best part? If you get up and leave the room, the room can sense your departure, pause the TV or movie and bring up the lights until you return and settle back into place.

These are the things that really start to make an automated house a Smart Home environment that reacts to you and the things you like to do. It makes it feel like your home works with you, instead of you having to work in or on it.

Spring Is Here! Time to Get Organized

It’s that time of year again: spring! As in spring cleaning, spring forward or how about spring into action!

March 20th marked the first day of spring and is considered a great time to thoroughly clean your house from top to bottom, hence the name Spring Cleaning. It could also be considered an opportunity to engage in heavy duty organizing of your house as well!

The thought of doing a massive cleaning and actually doing it are two different things. How do you motivate yourself to get started and to keep the momentum going? Try focusing on your end goal. Maybe you want to have a more organized space where you can find belongings quickly, or a neat and clean place when guests come to visit. It could be that you desire to live a calm and peaceful environment.

Regardless of your reasons for cleaning and de-cluttering here are a few suggestions to help you spring into action:

1. Get a plan. Figure what you want to clean or organize, how you plan to do it, (I would suggest starting small), also when and where – for example, targeting 30 days to tackle one room at a time.

2. Get support. Identify what resources you will need to help you in this project. Consider reading books, magazines, hiring a cleaning service or a professional organizer.

3. Get supplies. The key to any project is making sure you have what you need to do the job right. Create a list of supplies, materials and equipment that you will want to buy or borrow.

4. Get going. There’s no time like the present to create your ideal environment. Roll up your sleeves and dig in… think of sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you’re done!

One of the biggest challenges my clients face when tackling their stuff is what to do with the things they prefer not to throw out or just give-away. This is especially true with the higher-end or nicer items. While garage sales and charitable donations are ideal ways to get rid of stuff you no longer want, the Internet may be the best place to sell valuable items for top dollar.

Here are some websites to get you started.

Craigslist, as many people know, allows you to post descriptions of your items for free. This site is ideal for furniture or other large items you want to get rid of fairly quickly.

eBay is a great platform to sell rare or collectible items or unique items that people with similar taste would want. Interested buyers bid on your items or can purchase them outright if you choose.

Amazon is ideal for selling books, media, clothing, jewelry, etc. for more than you would probably get at a yard sale.

Half.com is another site you could sell books, music, movies and games. The site takes a commission percentage based on the selling price of the item.

If, however, you are more interested in donating your things for a good cause. Check out the following sites.

Webthriftstore.com allows you to sell old clothes, electronics, gift cards, and even some cars; simply post photos of each item and identify a charity you want to support with your sales.

Neweyesfortheneedy.org provides a place to send your old eyeglasses abroad, bringing the gift of sight to places like Bolivia, Ghana, and Cambodia.

Careergear.org is great place to donate old men’s suits to Career Gear which offers unemployed men interview clothing and career counseling.

Made4aid.org allows you to offer up leftover supplies from knitting, painting, and sewing projects and sells them to artists and crafters and then donates proceeds to Doctors without Borders.

Musicandmemory.org is where you can send iPods in working condition, as well as, donated iTunes gift cards to help lift the spirits of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

Oneworldrunning.com is a site that promotes health in the U.S. and third world countries by sending new or nearly new sneakers to American shelters. FYI – if your shoes aren’t quite nearly new enough they are recycled into material for tracks and playgrounds.

Getwellgamers.org is a site for The Get-Well Gamers Foundation that believes playing video games can help hospitalized children forget their pain. Send new and used games to its headquarters in California.

Getting rid of your old or unwanted things after spring cleaning doesn’t have to be so daunting. Do a little research to determine which site best suits your needs and you’re on your way!

Author, coach, speaker, and gifted intuitive healer, Paris Love helps overextended professional women cut through energetic, emotional and physical clutter to ease stress, reduce fatigue, promote healing, increase productivity, and improve quality of life.

7 Tips to Avoid Needless (and Embarrassing) Calls for Repair

It can happen to the best of us. We discover that something isn’t working and we jump to the conclusion that it isn’t working. We feel that feeling in the pit of our stomach as we think, “well how much is THIS going to cost?” And maybe we wonder if the item somehow knows that we just got a bonus and is figuring out how to spend the money FOR us.

But is it REALLY broken?

Here are some tips (from our real life archive of repair calls to fix things that weren’t really broken) to help you avoid unnecessary expenses.

1. Check the Batteries.

Even if it was just working yesterday, if it has batteries, make sure they’re fresh. We got a call from a client who thought that their thermostat needed to be replaced and after replacing the battery it worked just fine.

2. Be sure which one is broken.

If the light won’t turn on, it could be one of several things, but the first thing to test is the light bulb. Try the bulb in another fixture. If the bulb doesn’t work (or if it’s a three way, has one or two settings burned out), replace the bulb in the original fixture. If it does work, return the bulb to its original location, make sure it’s screwed in all the way and test again. If it still doesn’t work it could be the fixture, or…

3. Make sure it’s plugged in.

Sometimes things get unplugged for whatever reason. Before calling the repairman to fix any appliance make sure it’s connected to power. And if it is…

4. Make sure the circuit breaker hasn’t been tripped.

One thing that’s important to know is where your breakers are, which plugs they affect and how to reset one properly. We’ve gone out on numerous calls where either the homeowner didn’t know where the breaker was OR they thought they had reset it, and it wasn’t done correctly. If you’re not sure, ASK! We are happy to show you how.

5. So your garbage disposal isn’t working?

Did you know they have a reset switch? If you’re not sure where (or if) your model has one, Google is a great resource for finding that out. But before you flip that switch – Make sure there’s nothing clogged inside. Spoons, rags, etc., can trip the switch. So have a look and make sure it’s clear. If you have to reach in and get something out, remember safety first. Be sure the switch is in the OFF position and the no one turns it on while performing this operation.

6. Dryer not drying?

Check the lint trap and make sure the vent is not clogged with lint. This is a major cause of house fires, so add cleaning the vent to your list of regular and important home maintenance items.

7. Above All, Safety First

These days, we use our homes for so much more than originally imagined. When older homes were built, some of the appliances that are used in our kitchen, living room or garage were just a fantasy or thought too expensive for the average homeowner. In addition, we use rooms intended for sleep for home offices. If your circuit breaker keeps flipping, chances are you are overloading it. We’ve heard horror stories about people who get annoyed with having to reset it over and over again – and tape the breakers so they won’t flip! This is incredibly dangerous. Don’t be that person.

The Fix-It Professionals is a team of professionals working together to make your environment functional, beautiful and FIXED. John is the licensed electrician and fix-it guy who helps busy, professional women fix their homes & offices, making their environments be exactly as they wish them to be.

The Fix-It Professionals also help the commercial world, assisting Realtor and property managers with everyday fix-it jobs that contractors won’t fix. Let’s face it, most contractors won’t enter the building or office unless it’s a larger job. Not us, we are proud to help you with your everyday fix-it needs

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Shipping Container For Use As a House

I have never been a fan of typical housing structures, especially the homes found in modern suburban neighborhoods. The communities I’m speaking of particularly are boring, personality-less and have very little appeal to me. These neighborhoods usually consist of houses that all look nearly identical. This would be especially bad for drunks trying to find their way back home after a night at the bar. But seriously, my interest in this type of living is very limited.

My first love of alternative living is the Airstream travel trailer. I’ve always been very intrigued by these metallic moving structures. In my eyes, everybody should be. But that is simply not the case. And I’m okay with that. I like to feel different, and I’ve always been unique when it comes to the things I like. My parents, however, consider me weird, not unique. But that’s not the point of this article.

There is another type of alternative living space that I would like to discuss: the shipping container house. Yep, I’m talking about those giant steel boxes that travel across the world on ships. Well now they can be converted into homes. And this is something that I am a bit too excited about. Just search the internet for some examples. You will find plenty of images of these awesome shipping container houses. But for a few moments I am going to be realistic. Here are three important things to consider before owning a shipping container house.

1. Zoning – What good is having an awesome shipping container house if it is illegal to live in and there is no way to connect your utilities to it. I do not really need to say more about this.

2. Skill – If you do not have a knack for renovation, this may not be a good option for you. The inside needs insulation, walls, plumbing, electrical hook-ups, etc… you know, the normal fittings of a home. Fortunately, shipping container house conversion kits are available to ease the process.

3. Significant Other – Well, the shipping container house transformation idea is a bit nerdy. I will be honest about that. And many of the people I have discussed it with have given me the “you’re out of your mind” look. So unless I can find a significant other who has a life plan that also includes a shipping container house, then I may just have to either be single or just conform to suburban life. I’m not ready to live alone, so that may be the most likely outcome. I can dream though, can’t I?

Ronnie Pistons is a punk musician and recording engineer who lives his life searching for DIY and cost effective solutions in the daunting field of audio recording. But now he aims to take his DIY sensibility into other areas of his life.