Kitchen Renovations – 10 Tips You Need to Know Before You Start


Kitchen Renovation may be an exciting, creative project, and also you will create your dream kitchen. But where does one start? There’s a bewildering variety of choices available – to kitchen cabinets, flooring and countertops, appliances, lighting – your are limited only by your financial plan, and you have unlimited options available. Mistakes aren’t just costly, and kitchen renovation is a huge job, they’re time consuming. Here are 10 tips before you start your kitchen renovation, you need to understand.


The first of the 10 tips before you start your kitchen renovation, you need to understand, is follow it and decide on a budget.


The next tip may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many people launch right in, to their detriment on and skip it. It is plan, plan, plan and simple. You’ve your budget look the space you have available you use your kitchen and think in what you want to achieve together with your kitchen renovation. Can you use your kitchen for breakfast and snacks, as a family room? You could want to include entertainment options like a wall- along with a sound system in your kitchen renovation plans.


Decide that which you want, just how much you really want to spend, and then plan around that. It is advisable not to skimp on quality as it pertains to kitchen cabinets – rather choose the best you are able.


The fourth tip before you start your kitchen renovation isn’t obvious to many, you need to understand – pay attention. Just as it is a kitchen, doesn’t mean the floors need to be ugly.


The fifth tip before you start, you need to understand is to decide early on what kind of a look does one want to your kitchen, and follow it, or you’ll end up using a mish-mash design. Unless you happen to be opting for an eclectic look, you’d be better off sticking to your theme, so all of the elements blend seamlessly together.


Make sure your kitchen design fits in using the rest of your home, and is timeless. You could possibly want to redecorate the rest of your home prior to getting around to renovating your kitchen so make certain it is possible to live together with the kitchen design you choose.


The seventh tip before you start your kitchen renovation, you need to understand is that lighting has gained prominence in modern kitchens. Where possible consider the use of layered kitchen lighting and LED’s.


The eighth tip is important – choose wisely should you be planning to choose a contractor. Do not hesitate to check up on references, and look for someone reputable – many people have had terrible experiences with contractors who did not do what they disappeared through the kitchen renovation, or promised.

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The ninth tip before you start your kitchen renovation, you need to understand is that there exists lots of kitchen design software that one may make use of when you’re planning your kitchen.


The tenth tip you need to understand before you start your kitchen renovation is keep your existing kitchen, what shape it’s, and how big it is – if you should be renovating your kitchen, you’re not planning to alter the basics – so work in that which you’ve



Which Flooring Option Works for Your Garage?

Fortunately there are plenty of flooring options available for garages. Concrete garage floors coated or may be covered to make the floors easy to clean and prevent an excellent deal of damage. The choices can vary greatly to concrete stains and sealers that are concrete.


Epoxy coatings


Coating your garage floor may be a process that is complicated but the outcome makes everything worthwhile. Resulting in a smooth and resilient floor, applying for your concrete garage floor involves a preparatory stage which is essential to make the the majority of the coating. Because it must be employed prior to the epoxy has hardened, this type of coating can be tricky.


It may take as much as a week for the epoxy to set on the floor. Of course, you will not be able to drive during this time on the garage floor. Epoxy coatings could need to reapply a new coat and typically last.


Concrete Sealers


Concrete sealers are one of the cheapest options available and will be employed easily. Epoxy coatings are not tougher than paint but not more than sealers. Some sealers are not immune to the damage caused by chemicals helping to make it important to research in regards to the damage in your garage floor before you choose sealers.


With regards to the luster the polishing disks are changed. A sealer is used which toughens it and sinks to the concrete. This addition to this, it protects it and makes the concrete denser.


Polishing and Diamond grinding leaves you with a shiny and smooth surface. Several drawbacks of the method are the amount of time required to finish the process as well as the high costs involved despite the fact that the final product lasts long.


With this specific information, you’ll now be in a position to decide which option is best on your garage without compromising on the standard.




Refinishing a Fir Hardwood Floor

Does one have?

Fir floors are one of the most beautiful floors found in lots of homes.

This implies performance and the appearance of your floor will differ from those of an oak floor. In the event that you would like to be happy with your floors understanding these differences is important.

Fir is vulnerable to impact damage than white or red oak. With this scale, white oak rates at 1360, red oak fir and 1290 in the bottom using a lowly 660. Fir floors are more difficult to refinish since they’re soft.

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Great care must be taken to make sure the absolute minimum amount of wood is removed through the sanding process. This has lots of experience. This is one of the floors that are easiest should you not know that which you might be doing to mess up. Many fir floors become ruined by deep drum marks caused by hardwood floor refinishing companies that are inexperienced.


This takes decades off the life span of a floor as well as in cases of floors that are thin, it may mean being forced to replace large sections.


Fir is not the kind of flooring to practice on your sanding skills.


Refinished fir floors exhibit another characteristic called bruising or mottling. The extent of the bruising can vary greatly to area in just a single room. In close to the perimeter of a room or high traffic areas, darker, blotchy areas are often shown by the fir. The structure of cells and fibers in soft fir is very different to hardwoods like oak. Fir becomes bruised and this shows up as darker, blotchy divisions in the ground as traffic makes its way on the other side of the floor over many years.


It’s not uncommon to be in a position to tell where furniture was placed for a lot of years in a room. You may be in a position to visit a light patch which is the size of dresser or a bed surrounded with a darker area which shows the occupants walking path. Usually there’ll be a darker path to entrance and the closets of the room also. Unfortunately there’s nothing that may be achieved to guarantee this natural occurrence of bruising mottling or blotching WOn’t occur. The only assurance that it’s going to not show up is in the event you install a fresh floor.

– Your Fir Floors Could Be Very Thin –


Within the years your floors could have been refinished many times, especially for those who have a heritage home. Due to numerous sandings, the thickness of the wood decreases along with the heads of nails begin showing involving the boards. In case your fir floors are this thin refinishing isn’t an option, and installation of a new floor could be necessary.


Especially if there’s only several nail heads showing, though this may be a false assumption and they may be irregularly scattered through the floor. The original installer may not have set the nail which is now sitting in the floor in relation to the rest. These fir floors installed over a ship lap sub-floor have lots of movement and may be loose. It might function as case the nail needs to be set and just has worked its strategy to the surface within the years. So don’t let someone tell you that they can’t be restored unless they may be absolutely certain which they are unrecoverable.


Another clue they could be thin is to look in the most notable of the grooves. Whenever they may be splitting and breaking off, there’s a good chance there’s not enough wood. The measurement will function as the difference involving the distance along with the surface to the tongue.


Old fir floors are far more susceptible to squeaks and movement . This is the fasteners used as well as due to the way they were installed. Screws weren’t used for holding down the sub-floor, as it’s called under these type of floors or ship lap. The tongue and groove fir flooring was blind nailed to the ship lap.


Within the years, through summers and many winters, your house has settled as well as the floor has settled and moved along with it. In high traffic areas, the ship lap as well as the fir will work its way loose from your nails causing these areas squeak and possibly to move.


Squeaks and movement are normal for all these beautiful floors that are vintage. In the event that you’ve no squeaks consider yourself one of the extremely lucky few. Attempting to repair this kind of movement may be pricey. It involves removing the existing flooring to expose the ship lap which needs to be screwed down. Not any process that is quick, easy or cheap.


Another characteristic of fir floors is they have large gaps involving the boards. This has a great deal to do with all movement and the settling as described above. As they expand on the years and contract, the boards leave you with space involving the joints and can spread apart. Many refinishers trowel fill these gaps to be filled by putty on the entire floor just like they’d for an oak floor. But this might not be with fir in your best interests.


The dried filler will have difficulty staying in place because these floors can move much. The gaps involving the boards will be full of residue and dirt which has collected on the decades and this may further interfere together with the adhesion of the filler. Will get ground shortening its life and scratching it up.


Fir varies from board to board regarding color. Some boards is going to be red, others a lighter brown and others will have significant light colored streaks included. Due to this, no filler color will match. Always take these points into consideration before deciding whether your floors are for filling a candidate or not.


Unfortunately, fir that is new looks nothing. They’ll stand out like a sore thumb, in the event that you use this new flooring to patch areas in your floor.


So there you have it, wood that is soft, bruising, gaps, squeaks and movement are all part of beauty, the charm and character of the gorgeous vintage floors. In the event that you accept for the things they are, these characteristics, then you are going to love these floors just as much as we do.


We have many happy customers to vouch for our top quality work and have completed hundreds of wood floor restoration projects.


While you are there, take several minutes to check out a few of our photos we’ve done for previous clients that were happy.





Windows: The Triple Pane Dilemma

Can I use triple pane windows, in case a double pane window is better than the usual single pane window?

Wonder if we’ll be considering quad pane windows one of those days?

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In the event you wanted the best wall construction possible and were interested in saving energy, you’ll not put a window in the wall. A wall with no window includes a greater R- fewer air leaks and value. We know the best way to create a wall that can separate the outdoors – what we do not know how to do is let through light and still build a wall that will keep out the outdoors and the indoors in. Come to think about it, our need is in the cause of the issue.


Letting light in is one of having a wall using a window of the needed benefits. Being able to see through the wall is an alternative benefit and being able to get from a room in a fire is another. A door, energy wise isn’t much better than the usual window, and so I guess windows are here to stay.


The Space Involving the Glass:


A window with over one piece of glass is an actual blessing for helping with indoor comfort and saving energy. There’s more to a vinyl window than several panes of glass. Two panes of glass have better air seals, mounting flange, and an insulated frame. But the part that is most important is the space involving the glass, although not the glass. Considering window performance, it is the space involving the glass that makes the difference.


Since there’s greater than one pane of glass, there exists a space involving the two glass pieces, in the middle. The window manufactures have the possibility. Low-E coatings be in the middle where it’s protected and can cover one of the surfaces of the glass. Low-E is a metallic coating that could reflect unwanted rays of the sun. The room stays cooler in the summer sun and also the carpet will not fade.


Another use for the space involving the glass panes would be to hold a particular gas that slows the transmission of heat. The name of the gas that’s used makes the windows sound efficient and high-tech. How could you want to have triple pane windows with low-e coating and krypton gas. The mention of gas Krypton, makes the windows sound indestructible and strong. I feel warmer already.


It’s the gas, argon or krypton, that’s between the glass panes that allow higher insulation values to be reached by the window. Having a triple pane window, there are two spaces -E coatings and superman gas.

Comparing Triple Pane and Double Pane:


Remember, the bigger the R-value and also the lower the U-value, the energy that is better for saving. Values are representative of an average range for this window type.


That is easy to remember.

Replacing windows has a long pay-back period. The ROI ( return on investment ) isn’t encouraging. However, in the event the home is well insulated, air sealed, as well as the cooling and heating system is efficient, window replacement is a logical next step to saving energy and increasing energy efficiency.


In the part of the country where heating out number cooling degree days, choose a replacement window based around the lowest U-value. We’re looking for good insulation value here.


With this specific window, we’re seeking to reduce solar heat gain so the A.C. unit doesn’t have to work so hard or so long.


The energy Star rebate program along with the federal energy tax credits, both have continued with lower U-values and greater efficiency to spec windows. Five years ago, new windows were wonderful using a U-factor of 0.35.


The Future of Windows:


The only way a window manufacturer will soon be in a position to reach the energy efficiency ratings of the future is with four or three panes of glass. You ought to select the best window for the climate, in case you are considering a retrofit window project and that means the window will have three panes of glass.


Shop for the best U- the best SHGC for the best price as well as factor. It’s going to be better to install two triple pane windows, if finances are the deciding factor. Stick with you and the triple pane window will have greater energy efficiency for the future that may help you save money for years to come.


P.S. Buy window and your windows installation from a licensed general contractor or an area glass company. Please do not buy our windows at a home show that’s and a worthless lifetime warranty from a super salesman.


Thank you for stopping by, please come back soon, but I will not leave the light on for you…





Great Architectural Facades

If your home or office building is starting to look tired, why not create an architectural facade that will refresh its image? Interestingly, many of the facades listed below are polar opposite in style and design to the building they are covering. Their juxtaposition appears to have the intention of shocking, or at the very least, capturing the attention of its audience. Facades are the perfect way to add an element of drama to a building. Come on… live a little. Splash some personality onto your building.

Fasadrenovering Stockholm

  1. Psychodelic exteriors:


Where: Kelburn Castle, Scotland


What: Exterior painted with bright, Brazilian colours


Who: Brazilian street artists from Sao Paolo, Nina and Nunca Os Gemeos


  1. Architecture wrapped in art:


In spring/summer 2009, the Hong Kong museum of Art hosted an exhibition that should not have been missed “Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation”. In addition to it being an exceptional exhibition of one of this century’s most notable fashion designers, the museum commissioned Richard Prince to wrap the exterior of the building in images of Hong Kong. It was one of Hong Kong’s first ever public art installations.


  1. Melting buildings:


What: Melting windows of the Steckelhorn 11 building- part of the city’s plan to renovate this historic area


Where: Old centre of Hamburg


Who: Designed by J. Mayer H.


  1. Playful art school:


What: Ontario College of Art and Designs’s Sharp Centre for Design


Where: Toronto, Canada


So: Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, this art school stands on colourful stilts shaped like thin pencils. The building’s exterior is decorated with colourful squares.


  1. EcoPods:


What: A vertical tower of prefabricated eco pods, filled with bio-fuel producing algae


Where: Downtown Boston


Who: Howler and Yoon Architecture together with Square Design


  1. Modern Renos on old homes:


If you’re bored of looking at your old Victorian home, then why not renovate an exterior section? By adding a fabric such as copper-concertina clad, you will add a new, modern look, and maximize its innovative potential.


  1. Influence from the Orient:


Many people in the West have adapted the interior and exterior styles of their homes to be more like those seen in Japan. The simplistic look inclusive of ramp walkways, sliding screen doors, and feng shui gardens makes for a very zen home life.


  1. Stacked homes:


With the big, modern family in mind, Herzog & de Meuron architect created a new house architecture concept. Imagine five storeys inclusive of 12 separate houses with both classic and modern designs.




Proper Land Drainage is Important!

Many property owners are not concerned with yard drainage until they have a problem. Water naturally follows the path of least resistance to lower elevations and problems arise when original pathways constructed by the builder become blocked or were inadequate from the beginning. Not having suitable slopes and drains on a property to direct or divert water runoff can allow the water to find a path directly to areas where you would least want it such as foundations, under pavement, in your basement etc. Flooding basements and cracked foundations are good wake-up calls to the issue but addressing problems beforehand can save you thousands of dollars, and headaches, down the road.

The two categories of water supplying a lawn are surface and subsurface. Subsurface water refers to the water below the first layer of topsoil which cannot permeate any lower due to the tightness of the soil beneath. Also known as the water table, all soil has this layer of water with differences in depth depending on the area. Although a high water table can be a problem in some areas, in general, surface water is the cause of excess subsurface water as too much surface water penetrating the ground can raise the water table. Surface water sources are rainfall and irrigation, such as sprinklers, and can be particularly troublesome in urbanized areas which contain numerous impervious surfaces.


Streets, driveways and parking lots simply leave nowhere for rainwater to go. As with a lawn, the runoff will either pool in depressions or flow to soil around the edges causing saturation in another area. When soil reaches 100% saturation, with little or no drainage to assist in excess water removal, not only do pools of water collect, but the saturated soil takes much longer to dry out. This excess water retards plant growth by decreasing aeration in the root zone and decreasing nutrient supplies. Additionally, excess water in the soil will increase freezing damage in the winter months. Having proper drainage on your property will prevent water from collecting around your building or home foundations, minimize soil erosion and help protect your vegetation from death and disease.

Surface and subsurface are the two types of drainage solutions and both are vital protections for buildings and lawns. Surface drainage refers to the natural pathway taken by the water following rain or irrigation and is achieved through gutters, downspouts, surface grates, exposed French drains and by shaping and grading your lawn to provide maximum surface water removal with minimum soil erosion. Subsurface drainage refers to pipes and drains placed in the lawn which remove excess water that has gravitated underground, either through holes in the soil or simply from soil saturation. Water travels through soil by capillary action, which is much like a paper towel – when one side gets wet, moisture will slowly travel to the dry side until the entire substance is saturated. Once the soil is saturated, subsurface French drains are needed to remove excess water. In doing so, subsurface drainage keeps plants healthy, helps soil to warm earlier in the spring and leaves less water to freeze in the winter, minimizing frost heaving damage to your home or building.

Problems associated with improper drainage

Improper drainage can lead to pools of collected water in your lawn and/or around your home or building, both of which pose a threat. When collected close to your foundation, standing water can potentially cause foundation cracks, foundation movement and flooded basements. When collected on your yard, pooling water gives mosquitoes a breeding ground and can leave your grass susceptible to disease.

Foundations: The most costly issue associated with improper drainage is your foundation. Soil naturally expands when it is wet and contracts when it is dry and as long as all the soil underneath your building expands and contracts uniformly, it is not likely to cause a problem. Damage is done, however, when only part of the soil heaves or settles. This differential movement is most often due to differences in soil moisture. Improper drainage on one side of the building can leave wet soil that remains waterlogged for days or weeks (or in worst cases leaves constant water pooled around your foundation walls) while the other side of the structure has soil that dries quickly following a rain.


The wet side has expanded, and remains so, while the other side contracts as it dries, and this action pulls the walls of the structure away from one another. Repetition of this process will eventually produce cracks in the foundations, walls and/or ceilings. Foundation repairs are not usually covered by homeowner’s insurance policies and can cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000 or more to fix, not including cosmetic fixes to drywall, door jams, bricks, flooded carpets, flooring, etc. Anyone who has experienced a flooded basement or cracks due to heaving can attest to a costly fix! In addition, the drainage issues which caused the problem will still need to be addressed.

Basements: The same issue associated with foundations applies to your basement, with the added problem of letting water into your home through the cracks. In addition to damaging carpets, flooring, drywall and furniture, the water increases your basement’s humidity creating the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria and mold. Mold enters your home as tiny spores, which need moisture to grow and multiply. They can grow on almost any surface and they digest and destroy your home as they do. When disturbed, mold spores are released into the air and can be breathed in by you and your family, aggravating allergies and asthma. A small number of molds produce mycotoxins which can induce nausea, fatigue, headaches and lung and eye irritation when a person is exposed to high levels. Furthermore, mites and spiders can proliferate in a moldy basement as mites feed on mold spores and spiders feed on mites.


Waterproofing your basement can help protect your home and is a good insurance policy, but your first line of defense against a wet basement is improving the drainage in the lawn and all areas surrounding the home or building. According to most engineers and home inspectors, 85 to 95% of wet basements and interiors of buildings can be made dry by improving exterior drainage around your house or building.


Mosquitoes: We are all familiar with one of the biggest nuisances of the summer but were you aware that mosquitoes need less than an ounce of water in which to lay their eggs? While standing water is generally the egg-laying site for mosquitoes, some species lay their eggs on damp soil and, if your lawn has poor drainage, leaves your grass as a perfect home for these pests. Needing only two to three days to hatch, your property needs to be able to dry out quickly enough either to prevent females from seeing your yard as a prime location or to dry out eggs that have been laid.

With females laying up to 300 eggs at a time, your yard can easily become infested, driving you and your family inside on warm summer nights. Along with the itching and aggravation of bites, mosquitoes bring diseases such as West Nile Virus, Malaria, Dengue and encephalitis. All are potentially fatal. Your pets are also at risk, as mosquitoes are the hosts for heartworm and can communicate this disease to dogs, cats and other animals. Additionally, West Nile and encephalitis can be transmitted to horses. The American Mosquito Control Association instructs property owners to not only eliminate standing water around your home or building, but to ensure proper drainage on your property to eliminate this potential hazard.

Turf Diseases: As the first impression a visitor or customer has of your home or business, it is no doubt important to you to have well-maintained and inviting landscaping around your property. Death and disease of grass and plants is not only ugly, it is a waste of money invested as well as expensive to correct. Excess water on or in your lawn prohibits the growth of grass, plants and trees by robbing them of their air and nutrient supply and leaving them susceptible to attack by fungi, moss and mold. Fungi, the most common cause of lawn diseases, are microscopic organisms that spread by air- or water-borne spores. The spores act like seeds, sprouting to life and infecting its environment when conditions are right.


Rhizoctonia Yellow Patch, Red Thread, and Pythium Blight are some common fungi diseases which appear in moist environments resulting from extreme soil and surface moisture. Many of the fungi diseases are difficult to control once they appear and damage may remain for two to four years following treatment. While fungicides can be applied to help prevent or control lawn diseases, several strains are resistant to fungicides. The best prevention is the absence of favorable conditions, including improving moisture conditions on top of, and under, your turf.


Mushrooms also need extreme wet conditions to grow. While mushrooms do not harm grass, many of them are poisonous and can be a danger to children and pets that ingest them. Poisonous mushrooms have no features to distinguish them from nonpoisonous mushrooms and identification, therefore, is only possible by those educated about the various genera and species.


Erosion: In addition to the issues associated with standing water, water moving too quickly off your property causes problems as well. As raindrops fall on your lawn, if there is sufficient intensity, the impact will dislodge small particles of soil which can then be carried off by the rain as it flows. This soil will either be carried off to sewers or deposited in another area of your yard, depending on your drainage conditions. Over time, original drainage measures, such as ditches and trenches, can become filled with soil, defeating their purpose and redirecting how water moves on your property. Erosion is accelerated where plant cover is sparse and spaces between plants become larger, leaving no protection for your soil during intense rains. Proper grades and slopes stop water from carrying away your soil by keeping water runoff at an acceptable rate. Slowing down water that is running off too quickly gives soil particles time to settle out of the water and back onto the ground before being transported too far away. Additionally, healthy plant life with deep roots protects and holds on to your soil.


Benefits of proper drainage


Structural Protection: Having a comprehensive drainage system in place protects your structure by preventing water’s damaging contact with concrete. Water that doesn’t evaporate and isn’t absorbed by soil eventually goes somewhere and, oftentimes, it sits under and around your foundations. Drainage solutions will keep the moisture content around your foundation stable and uniform, keeping contraction and expansion to a minimum. This maintains the integrity of foundations and helps prevent cracks and water seepage.


Plants and Landscaping: Proper soil moisture is essential for plants and lawns to establish a healthy root system. Removal of excess water in the soil deepens the root zone and increases the air in that area. The increased aeration, in turn, increases the supply of nutrients, many of which need the air to convert chemically before they are accessible to plants. The deep root system which grows will then holds on to the soil and protect it from erosion. Additionally, water will not pool in areas of your property, leaving turf susceptible to disease, and help you maintain the pleasing aesthetics in which you invested.


Recreational Areas: By implementing drainage solutions, recreational areas, such as parks, golf courses and athletic fields, improve traffic ability and increased use of the property. Drains help nature clear out excess water and allow turf to quickly recover from rain. The result is that the recreational area can be open for extended periods of time and for more intensive use, resulting in increased revenue.

Spring showers are not the only cause for concern


The Midwest is notorious for extreme weather changes with a drought one year and floods the next. While St. Louis has an average rainfall around 40 inches, in 2008 we had 50.72 inches pour down on us, with nearly half of that amount coming between June and September. If you have weathered winter snow and spring rains, do not let down your guard thinking you are safe for another year. Summer can sometimes bring surprises and the added deluge to your soil will only intensify existing problems requiring more extensive repairs.


A note about water tables


Water table refers to the depth at which the soil always contains 100% water. In some areas the water table is higher than the bottom of the foundation, requiring a complex system of drains and sump pumps to draw the water away from your structure. High water tables can lead to devastating damage to your foundation or basement and is sometimes cited by professional waterproofers as the cause of a problem because of the expensive measures to correct it. The National Association of Home Builders, however, estimates that only five percent of wet basements are due to high water tables. If you have water damage, you are most likely dealing with surface runoff problems which can be corrected through slopes, grades and drains in your yard, along with proper gutter systems. Modern building codes prevent contractors from building basements where water tables are high and if your home or building is less than 30 years old you can be reasonably sure a high water table is not your problem. If you have a wet basement, be aware of this issue! Inform yourself by contacting your local building inspector and getting information about your local water table.


Do you have drainage problems?


Try this experiment: dig a hole one foot across and two feet deep and fill it completely with water during a dry spell. If the hole drains completely in less than five minutes or in more than 15 minutes, you have a problem. A more simple way to spot problems is to look at your lawn during and following a rain. If you have water flowing quickly across the yard removing topsoil during a rain or pools of water on driveways, parking lots or lawns following rain, then you have a problem. Other indicators include yellowing plants, yellowing or thin turf although it receives plenty of sunlight and has no obvious disease, fungus or mold on the lawn, stagnate water smell and water seeping through door sills, basements and garages.


Types of drainage solutions


A comprehensive drainage system will include surface and subsurface drain solutions. Surface drains remove the large amounts of water that fall in short periods of time and subsurface drains remove the excess water absorbed into the soil. The two systems work in conjunction to maintain the moisture in your soil at the proper level for protection of your landscaping and your home or building.


Gutters: Your first line of defense against foundation flooding is your gutters! During a moderate rainfall, the average sized roof sheds 160 gallons of water runoff per hour. To prevent the runoff from being deposited on the ground next to your foundation, a proper gutter system is essential. Not only is the correct gutter size for your roof area a consideration, but an insufficient number of downspouts is equivalent to having no gutter system at all. Downspouts are needed to handle the volume of runoff your roof will collect and splash blocks must be utilized to direct the runoff away from your home or building and out to your drain system. A better solution to splash blocks, however, is to install PVC piping to the end of the downspouts to remove the water 6-10 feet or more away from your home or building. Furthermore, gutters must be properly maintained to prevent clogs and gutter joints must be inspected for leaks. Having a suitable, effective gutter system should be the first step in your drainage solution.


Grades: To protect structures, the most important grades on your property are those within 10 feet of your foundation or basement. This will prevent the water you just diverted away from the structure from soaking back through the soil toward your structure. Suitable grades vary depending on who you consult but a safe measurement is a 1 inch (or more) drop for every 1 foot out for the first 10 feet. This results in at least a 10 inch slope for the 10 feet closest to your foundation walls. The rest of your yard should contain a continuous slope downward to keep the water moving away from your foundation.

Surface Drains: Surface drainage can be defined as the controlled removal of water that collects on the land from rainfall, irrigation, snowmelt or hillside seeps. As gravity is the primary force driving this type of system, it involves shaping the land with a continuous fall in the ground level to provide a downhill passage for surface runoff at an appropriate rate of flow. For grass drainage channels, or swales, a minimum slope of 1% to 5% is desired. The contours of the land then direct the runoff to a suitable collection site, such as ditches, basins or storm sewers. At the low point of the ditch or interception point, area drains are installed which are connected to a main or submain and prevents the water from pooling in your yard. The underground pipes need a minimum slope of 1% or 1/8 inch per foot to keep water moving through them. If the ditch is long, several smaller drains should be spaced in a series, rather than one large drain in the middle, to help prevent erosion.


For driveways and other hardscapes, channel drains and exposed French drains are ideal. These linear trenches collect sheets of water that run off, as concrete and asphalt absorb none of the water as it falls. The open area of the channel/ exposed French drain is much greater than an area drain and is better suited to the greater volume of rain it will need to collect. Additionally, channel drains allow designers to modestly slope hardscapes, rather than requiring numerous, extreme slopes to direct runoff to area drains.


Subsurface Drains: While the benefits of subsurface drainage are hard to see because they occur within the soil, the difference will be noticeable in your plants, grass and soil. Subsurface drainage is the removal of gravitational water from the soil, which is accomplished by placing French drains underground to collect and remove water to a drainage outlet. Subsurface drains do not remove water necessary for plants, only excess water, which flows to the drains by gravity. Sub-Surface French drains consist excavating a sizable trench and lining it with a filter or geotextile fabric, which helps prevent soil particles from entering the French drain. The trench is then filled with clean rock/gravel and a proper sized perforated PVC pipe for the application is placed in the gravel.


Once the trench is filled with grave, it will be covered with a layer a permeable filter fabric, installing a mixture of high quality topsoil/ sand and lastly installing new sod on top (assuming this French drain will be located in a grassy area). French drains function when water in the soil enters the gravel bed, flows into the perforated pipe and travels through connecting solid pipes to a discharge point. A general guideline for placing French drains is to use 4 – 6 inch perforated pipes, bury them 18 to 36 inches deep and space them 15 to 20 feet apart. In the trenches, pipes must maintain a .1% to a 1% slope. Soil construct, acreage and turf usage, however, may require variation from these guidelines and a professional can help you determine the best solution for your situation.


Discharge Outlets: Once water is collected in the pipes, it must be diverted to a suitable outlet to be released. This outlet can be a street gutter, a storm sewer or an onsite pond. Using a pop-up drainage emitter, water can be diverted to a water-safe area on your property away from your home or building. Pop-up drainage emitters are opened by the hydrostatic pressure of water flowing through the drain pipe, releasing water collected from gutters, downspouts, basins, grates, etc. If placed close to the street, the released water can flow over the curb and into the street without having to drill through the curb. The emitters then close as water flow diminishes, preventing debris and animals from entering the end of the pipe and clogging the system. Property owner or maintenance personnel need to make sure they perform routine maintenance on the pop-up emitters. This can be done by removing the pop-up to make sure there is no debris washed down from the roof gutters or surface drains that could potentially slow down the water flow in a heavy rainfall event.

Cleanout Connections: It is a good idea to install cleanout connections on all drainage systems integrated into your property. This is commonly overlooked until pipes need to be accessed by cameras or cleaning equipment years after the initial installation. Access points are needed for the following three reasons. 1) Routine maintenance, and especially if routine maintenance is neglected because the contractor will have to access the pipe to unclog them for a fee of course. 2) If the systems functionality has declined. 3) If damage has occurred to the drainage system pipes from heavy equipment or excavation during an on-site construction project. Although cleanouts add cost to your project, it is highly recommended to have cleanouts installed on all downspout connections, all French drain systems and all long mainline pipe runs over 80′ without drain grates in which you can access.


Before contracting to have you project installed, make sure cleanouts are integrated into your drainage system. It has been calculated that the cost to cut into a pipe and then patch it because there are no cleanouts will be a minimum of twice the cost as having them installed in the first place. Sometimes it is 5-10 times as much when access is needed to an existing French drain without cleanout connections. So don’t gamble because when you’re installing a system with materials that last decades, you undoubtedly will need access; if for nothing else, routine maintenance. A professional drainage contractor should be able to help you determine the best cleanout points for the system their proposing for your property.


Finding & Hiring a qualified drainage contractor


Doing your homework on potential drainage installers is important. You need to be assured that your contractor is insured and has the skills needed to properly install your systems. Be wary of “special deals” or the “great deal from a friend of a friend” – these will most likely cost you more dollars and headaches in the long run.


Tools for Locating a Potential Drainage Contractor: The Better Business Bureau is a great starting point in your search for a contractor. They maintain an online directory for BBB-accredited businesses in your area. You can check not only how long a contractor has been in business, but also any complaints filed about their operation. Angie’s List is another great tool for recommendations, as you can get testimonials from actual customers. Even if you “hear of a guy from a friend,” check their references online. See what other people’s experiences have been and choose a pool of potential contractors from the best you can find.


Portfolio and References: After you have a list of potential people for the job, ask to see a portfolio of their previous jobs and whether you can see former worksites. If possible, see their handiwork in person, perhaps driving by a home or business during or after a rain. This will help you not only to understand their drainage plans for your property, but to assure you they can indeed get the job done right. If you can speak with former customers, ask if they were satisfied with the work, whether the contractor stayed within budget and if the project was completed in a timely manner. You need to look for the best person for the job, not the lowest bid. You want the problem to be fixed upon project completion; you do not want to be dealing with drainage problems or, in worst case scenarios, legal problems, long after the contractor has left.

Bids: Get at least two bids for your specific job and get them in writing. Furthermore, make sure you understand the difference between the bids. Higher bids do not always mean a contractor is trying to get more money into his pocket. Better materials, more skilled workmanship and better reliability may be worth a slightly higher price. Keep in mind that, usually, you “get what you pay for.”


Insurance: An important issue when hiring a contractor is his insurance. If your contractor does not carry general liability insurance or worker’s compensation, the property owner can held responsible for any accidents which occur while work is being done. To protect yourself, ask for proof of insurance. Reputable contractors will understand that you are doing your research and will not be offended. Be wary of any that try to convince you this is unnecessary – they may have something to hide.


Skills Needed: Make sure potential contractors have the skills needed to do your job. Is your contractor a drainage specialist or merely a landscaper who has dabbled in drainage installation? Can he utilize a transit to analyze your slopes if needed? Does he know the proper depths and spacing for pipe placement in your yard? Most importantly, is he diverting your excess water to a suitable outlet? Purposefully diverting water to a neighbor’s yard, when runoff didn’t already naturally flow to that yard, can result in huge fines. As the property owner, you will be held responsible for your contractor’s end result.


Equipment, Supervision & Project Site Management: Find out who will supervise the work and how often will they be onsite to see that the plans are followed? Will the project continue daily until finished without interruption other than weather delays? You need to know who to call if you have a question or problem. Furthermore, does your contractor have access to the equipment needed to get the job done?


Products: Which products does the contractor use and are they the best in the industry? Be wary of contractors that offer a big discount because they will use materials left over from a previous job. While you may be interested in saving a few bucks, are you certain these materials are suitable for you project and needs? Having the project done with substandard materials that will not last never ends well for the property owner. You might have to have the system torn up and reinstalled a couple years later, costing you double down the road.


Warranty: Make sure there is some sort of a warranty with your drainage system installation once it is complete. More importantly feel confident enough with the company that they will even be in business to fulfill that warranty agreement. See if they can give you a past customer that you can call to talk to where they had a warranty issue that the contractor successfully resolved for them. Many specialized drainage companies offer a minimum of a 12-month warranty of full functionality, some contractors offer more.


Warning: We know of a family who hired a contractor that a friend’s neighbor had used. Although they met with him and thought he seemed like a “good guy,” they did no research on him or his business and references were not checked. After realizing that no real progress had been made in spite of the thousands of dollars they had paid him, they began to investigate. As it turns out, the friend’s neighbor had had similar complaints and was dissatisfied. If the homeowners had spoken to the people for whom the contractor had worked, rather than going by their impression of his personality, they would have been spared a good chunk of change. In addition to leaving their home a complete mess, they lost all the money initially invested and had to pay someone else to finish the job. Furthermore, because they had not done their due diligence regarding the contract, they had little legal recourse. The lesson: always err on the side of caution! Do not assume that a contractor has your best interests at heart; look at their previous jobs and, if possible, consult people for whom they have worked. Most people are happy to tell you about their experiences with a business, whether good or bad, and businesses with a solid reputation are not wary of you seeing their previous work.






Fireplace Design – Where Do I Start?

Picture how your fireplace will be used. You’ve probably already got a location in mind, but the practicality of the location may be affected by venting needs, installation clearance requirements and fuel choices.




First, why are you installing a fireplace? Is is for recreational use and entertaining? Is it serving as a backup emergency heating system? Supplemental heat for a chilly room? Is it simply a decorative element to enhance your decor? Fireplaces are available in a wide range of designs fireplaces being used as supplemental or backup heat sources will get the most use and a higher quality (more expensive) model will be a better choice that generally offers greater efficiency.


Who will be using the new fireplace? What is your lifestyle? Elderly people and those with health problems may not be able to handle the vigors of toting firewood. But if you have the time to enjoy the rituals of cutting, splitting and stacking wood and the idea of free heat from fallen trees on your property, an investment in a wood burning fireplace may suit your needs perfectly. Otherwise, expand your possibilities to gas or electric fireplaces.


Fireplace design experts and chimney sweeps agree that low-end, builder-grade fireplaces should only be used for occasional, recreational fires such as family gatherings at holidays. If you expect to use your fireplace once a week or more during the winter, opt for a higher end model that will last for many years because replacement is an expensive, time-consuming project. Now let’s begin with the next stage of planning.






Do you picture burning natural firewood? Wood burning fireplaces will put the most restraints on your design. The chimney system must run vertically in a relatively straight configuration and clear the roof line according to local codes, which are a minimum of 3′ in most areas – but can be excessively more depending upon your roof pitch and home design. You’ll want the fireplace installed in an area that’s accessible to a doorway to the outside to bring in your firewood and take out ashes. A wood burning fireplace will also have the greatest requirements for a fireproof hearth that protrudes into the room and for side and top clearances. And unless you opt for a high-end, energy efficient fireplace fireplace design that offers tightly sealing doors for long burn times and upgraded designs to provide high heat output, burning wood may actually remove more heat from your room than it adds.


Opening front, decorative wood burning fireplaces are banned as new appliance choices in some areas that are prone to air quality problems. Decorative fireplaces consume a lot of fuel, can produce excessive amounts of smoke into your neighborhood, and offer little to no heat output. So carefully consider the quality and features of the models available during your planning stages. Higher end models may give you many more years of service plus convenience features that give you longer burn times, more heat from every piece of wood and cleaner burning that results in less smoke and a cleaner chimney.


Make sure you have a good source of firewood available and space to stack your wood pile. The type of wood you burn – and how you store and care for your firewood – will greatly affect your wood burning experience.


For all but the most talented do-it-yourselfers, a woodburning fireplace is a job that is best done by a licensed and experienced professional.




Gas fireplaces offer a convenient, realistic flame at the touch of a button. Remote controls are available for most models. Many can also use thermostat controls that adjust the flame or turn the fire on and off based on the room temperature. Venting options may allow installation in nearly any room, on any floor of your home.


Gas fireplaces come in a variety of styles, sizes and designs and offer multiple venting options. Decorative models won’t give you much heat, while higher end models can heat an open floor plan nearly as effectively as a furnace. Direct vent models may vent horizontally or give you enough options with offsets for the vent to terminate remotely from the fireplace. Every model from every manufacturer is different, so check installation requirements carefully to make sure your design can be implemented for safe and efficient use.

Gas fireplaces are designed to burn either Natural Gas (piped into your home by the city gas company) or LP (Liquid Propane) which is stored in a tank in your yard.


Installation of a gas fireplace will require a plumber or HVAC technician (check local codes) to run gas lines to the fireplace and to install the fireplace and venting system, so this is a project that will require professional installation.


Electric Fireplaces


Once not even a consideration for fireplaces, electric fires are now all the rage. They operate at 100% efficiency and require no venting so they can be installed any where. They may also be the only option for renters or for high-rise condos and office buildings. Designs range from small to large, traditional to contemporary. Most include a heater than can provide plenty of warmth for smaller areas. There are no special installation requirements – just plug into an existing 3-prong outlet – so this is a relatively simple installation that most homeowners can accomplish on their own.


Now that we know what type of fuel is right, let’s plan where it will be installed.




As we learned in part two, the fuel you’ll be burning in your fireplace may dictate where the fireplace can be installed based on the venting requirements of the model chosen. A woodburning fireplace in an upstairs bedroom is not practical because you’ll be toting wood up and carrying ashes down.


Sometimes a compromise will be required to meet venting and clearance requirements of the fireplace style you choose. Your ideal location between two windows may not work, but the more spacious area on the opposite wall would be perfect. Or perhaps the woodburning fireplace you prefer between the windows can’t fit, but a gas burning model will. So determine how important the location of the fireplace is to the design you have in mind and remain flexible during this stage of planning.




Depending upon the era, fireplaces have been designed through the ages with a variety of styles. A corner fireplace may provide the perfect balance for other elements in the room. Flat or low-profile hearths are more practical in smaller rooms where you’ll be less like to stub your toe walking by. Flat hearths were popular from the early 1800’s to the 1940’s. Raised hearths may bring the fireplace up to offer a better view from a bed or sofa. A hearth raised 16″ to 18″ offers additional seating in the room. Think of the design elements in your room, how the furniture will be arranged, and the type of fireplace you’re installing. Raised hearths allow less bending when loading or tending to a wood fire. If you’re trying to replicate the look of a particular era then research the style of fireplaces, surround and hearth materials plus mantel styles that were popular at that time.

I’ve chosen my fuel and the room it’s going to be installed into, now how should it look?




A fireplace is usually a generic box that holds a fire. Decorative accents provided by the manufacturer (such as trim styles and door or window finishes) will be your next decision. The greatest element of your design style will be the hearth, surround, trim and mantel choices.


The hearth is the extension into the room that provides protection to your flooring while the surround provides protection for the walls surrounding your fireplace. Requirements will vary greatly for the surround and hearth based on the type of fuel your fireplace burns and the individual requirements for the model chosen. Woodburning fireplaces will most often require a hearth 18″ or more in front of the fireplace, and extending to each side to offer maximum protection for sparks and tumbling embers. Gas fireplaces and electric fireplaces may require little to no hearth or surround, although incorporating these elements into your design may offer a more authentic look and appeal for your room.


Hearths and surrounds can incorporate a wide variety of materials just be sure and choose the right material, in the correct thickness for heat transfer protection, and make sure it’s installed correctly. Make sure there is adequate weight support beneath the fireplace and hearth area to support the fireplace, venting system and hearth/surround materials. A fireproof underlayment may be needed in some installations. Here are some materials you may consider for hearths and surrounds:


Brick or brick veneers


Stone, stone veneers or cultured stone


Ceramic tile


Slate, marble, granite & solid surface materials


Metallic surfaces such as stainless steel or copper


Cement slabs


Mantels and Trim


Your mantel and trim choice may have the greatest impact on the aesthetic design of your fireplace. A grand mantel can take a standard fireplace from ordinary to exquisite! Many home owners choose to allot more of their budget for the fireplace installation into the mantel than any other part of the project, so consider how the mantel will affect your overall look and costs. The mantel is installed to from the surround and provide a finished look. Detailed mantels are most often used in homes with a traditional design. The mantel includes decorative vertical trim that sits on the fireplace hearth and most often includes a mantel shelf.

Make sure the mantel is installed to allow sufficient clearances to amply meet the fireplace manufacturer’s instructions. Deep shelves, for example, can present challenges with wood burning fireplaces as the overhang can cause fire hazards due to the excessive rising heat.


Mantels are available in a huge variety of materials, styles and designs:






Cast Iron




Cultured Stone






Looking for a very contemporary design? Contemporary designs use simple lines to create a harmonious feel, or exciting textures and patterns that might not be enhanced by use of a mantel or shelf. In a contemporary design, consider using a simple trim the merely finishes off the edges of your surround.


I have the perfect design in mind! I know just how it should look and I’m ready to go!




The complexity of your fireplace design and installation will determine how much help the average do-it-yourselfer may participate in the project.


Plan, Plan and Check Your Plans Again!


Does the fireplace offer the features you most want?


Can your home accommodate any required venting needs?


Do you have adequate space for the fireplace plus the needed framing and hearth required for this model?


What hearth and surround will you use?


Have you chosen a mantel that meets clearance requirements?


We recommend that you draw your fireplace project on paper and plan all dimensions very carefully. A great next step is to use newspaper and create a template on your floor and wall so that you can visually see the amount of space that will be allotted to your new fireplace installation, how close furniture will be to the new fireplace, etc.


Buy your fireplace and find your contractors


Now that you’ve chosen your fireplace, your surround, hearth and mantel, what’s next?


Purchase from a retailer or supplier that meets your individual needs. You may even find that a single store can help with everything you need: the fireplace, venting, mantel and surround plus the installers to get the whole job done for you. Or you may need to buy from several sources to get all the materials needed for the project. Buy from the store(s) that offer the technical support and product selection that you most desire.


Framing and sheetrock will probably be needed. Is this a job you can do yourself, or is a carpenter or handyman required? Make sure framing allows not only the proper opening for the fireplace but the hearth and mantel as well.


If you’re installing a gas fireplace, make sure you have a licensed tradesman to run gas lines. Arrange for delivery of the LP gas tank or connection of gas lines to your home if you’re adding a gas fireplace to a home that doesn’t already have gas appliances in use. Gas service may include a wait from a few days to several weeks, so plan early!


After the framing is done, the fireplace is installed. Check building code requirements and make sure you or the contractor apply for the permit and have the required inspections done to help assure the fireplace is installed safely and correctly. Installation of a wood or gas burning fireplace, the venting system and the gas lines are jobs best left to a professional. A safety inspection is performed after the fireplace is installed, checking for proper clearances to framing, proper installation of the venting system and proper installation of gas lines.


After the framing inspection is done, you may install sheetrock, surround and hearth materials, and the mantel. This part of the project may be done by talented homeowners, or may be left in the hands of tradesmen specializing in the materials you’ve chosen such as tile installers, carpenters, general contractors or talented handy-man companies.


After your fireplace installation is complete, a final inspection by the building inspector is required for gas or wood burning fireplaces. This helps assure that another tradesman has not covered combustible areas of the fireplace with surround materials (such as covering vents on the fireplace with tile) and that the hearth and mantel are installed with proper clearances. Final gas inspections are also done at this time, perhaps by a different inspector.


After final inspections are done, follow your manufacturer’s instructions for break-in use. This usually involves small, low fires that help cure paint and refractory materials used on gas and wood burning fireplaces. Review use and safety instructions with everyone in the home who will be operating the new fireplace.


Now uncork the wine, call your friends and family, light a fire and enjoy! Your new fireplace will add a special warmth to a chilly evening. You’ve made a great investment in your home’s value and to your quality of life.



Glossary of Common Accounting Terms

Bling Lingo made simple

Today…again…I was scratching my head over an accounting mess, for which the owner had paid a bookkeeper many dollars over many years. How did it happen? If you don’t know the basics, you are a sitting duck, my friend. You know, accountants do it on purpose. They use weird words to make you think that they are smarter than you are. To keep you in the dark. Or, the less nasty ones just don’t know better.

Bokföring Stockholm


ts and bookkeepers want you to learn the lingo. They want to help you make the bling, baby! So, read and learn. Keep this glossary handy as you work with your professional money managers. Use it to begin your journey to financial literacy!

Bling Lingo – Glossary of common Accounting Terms…

ACCOUNTING EQUATION: The Balance Sheet is based on the basic accounting equation. That is:


Assets = Equities.


Equity of the company can be held by someone other than the owner. That is called a liability. Because we usually have some liabilities, the accounting equation is usually written…


Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity.


ACCOUNTS: Business activities cause increases and decreases in your assets, liabilities and equity. Your accounting system records these activities in accounts. A number of accounts are needed to summarize the increases and decreases in each asset, liability and owner’s equity account on the Balance Sheet and of each revenue and expense that appears on the Income Statement. You can have a few accounts or hundreds, depending on the kind of detailed information you need to run your business.


ACCOUNTS PAYABLE: Also called A/P. These are bills that your business owes to the government or your suppliers. If you have ‘bought’ it, but haven’t paid for it yet (like when you buy ‘on account’) you create an account payable. These are found in the liability section of the Balance Sheet.


ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE: Also called A/R. When you sell something to someone, and they don’t pay you that minute, you create an account receivable. This is the amount of money your customers owe you for products and services that they bought from you…but haven’t paid for yet. Accounts receivable are found in the current assets section of the Balance Sheet.


ACCRUAL BASIS ACCOUNTING: With accrual basis accounting, you ‘account for’ expenses and sales at the time the transaction occurs. This is the most accurate way of accounting for your business activities. If you sell something to Mrs. Fernwicky today, you would record the sale as of today, even if she plans on paying you in two months. If you buy some paint today, you account for it today, even if you will pay for it next month when the supply house statement comes. Cash basis accounting records the sale when the cash is received and the expense when the check goes out. Not as accurate a picture of what is happening at you company.

ASSETS: The ‘stuff’ the company owns. Anything of value – cash, accounts receivable, trucks, inventory, land. Current assets are those that could be converted into cash easily. (Officially, within a year’s time.) The most current of current assets is cash, of course. Accounts receivable will be converted to cash as soon as the customer pays, hopefully within a month. So, accounts receivable are current assets. So is inventory.


Fixed assets are those things that you wouldn’t want to convert into cash for operating money. For instance, you don’t want to sell your building to cover the supply house bill. Assets are listed, in order of liquidity (how close it is to cash) on the Balance Sheet.


BALANCE SHEET: The Balance Sheet reflects the financial condition of the company on a specific date. The basic accounting formula is the basis for the Balance Sheet:


Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity


The Balance Sheet doesn’t start over. It is the cumulative score from day one of the business to the time the report is created.


CASH FLOW: The movement and timing of money, in and out of the business. In addition to the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement, you may want to report the flow of cash through your business. Your company could be profitable but ‘cash poor’ and unable to pay your bills. Not good!


A cash flow statement helps keep you aware of how much cash came and went for any period of time. A cash flow projection would be an educated guess at what the cash flow situation will be for the future.


Suppose you want to buy a new truck with cash. But that purchase will empty the bank account and leave you without any cash for payroll! For cash flow reasons, you might choose to buy a truck on payments instead.


CHART OF ACCOUNTS: A complete listing of every account in your accounting system. Every transaction in your business needs to be recorded, so that you can keep track of things. Think of the chart of accounts as the peg board on which you hang the business activities.


CREDIT: A credit is used in Double-Entry accounting to increase a liability or an equity account. A credit will decrease an asset account. For every credit there is a debit. These are the two balancing components of every journal entry. Credits and debits keep the basic accounting equation (Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity) in balance as you record business activities.


DEBIT: A debit is used in Double-Entry accounting to increase an asset account. A debit will decrease a liability or an equity account. For every debit there is a credit.


DIRECT COSTS: Also called cost of goods sold, cost of sales or job site expenses. These are expenses that include labor costs and materials. These expenses can be directly tracked to a specific job. If the job didn’t happen, the direct costs wouldn’t have been incurred. (Compare direct cost with indirect costs to get a better understanding of the term.) Direct costs are found on the Income Statement, right below the income accounts.


Income – Direct Costs = Gross Margin.


DOUBLE-ENTRY ACCOUNTING: An accounting system used to keep track of business activities. Double-Entry accounting maintains the Balance Sheet: Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity. When dollars are recorded in one account, they must be accounted for in another account in such a way that the activity is well documented and the Balance Sheet stays in balance.


You may not need to be an expert in Double-Entry accounting, but the person who is responsible for creating the financial statements better get pretty good at it. If that is you, go back through the book and focus on the ‘gray’ sheets. Study the examples and see how the Double-Entry method acts as a check and balance of your books.


Remember the law of the universe…what goes around, comes around. This is the essence of Double-Entry accounting.

EQUITY: Funds that have been supplied to the company to get the ‘stuff’. Equities show ownership of the assets or claims against the assets. If someone other than the owner has claims on the assets, it is called a liability.


Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Equity


This is another way of stating the basic accounting equation that emphasizes how much of the assets you own. Net equity is also called net worth.


EXPENSE: Also called costs. Expenses are decreases in equity. These are dollars paid out to suppliers, vendors, Uncle Sam, employees, charities, etc. Remember to pay bills thankfully, because it takes money to make money. Expenses are listed on the Income Statement. They should be split into two categories, direct costs and indirect costs. The basic equation for the Income Statement is:


Revenues – Expenses = Profit


(You’ll see a profit if there are more revenues than expenses!…or a loss, if expenses are more than revenues.)


Remember, all costs need to be included in your selling price. The customer pays for everything. In exchange, you give the customer your services. What a deal!


FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: refer to the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement. The Balance Sheet is a report that shows the financial condition of the company. The Income Statement (also called the Profit and Loss statement or the ‘P&L’) is the profit performance summary.


Financial Statements can include the supporting documents like cash flow reports, accounts receivable reports, transaction register, etc. Any report that measures the movement of money in your company.


Financial Statements are what the bank wants to see before it loans you money. The IRS insists that you share the score with them, and asks for your Financial Statements every year.


GENERAL LEDGER: Once upon a time, accounting systems were kept in a book that listed the increases and decreases in all the accounts of the company. That book was called the general ledger. Today, you probably have a computerized accounting system. Still, the general ledger is a collection of all Balance Sheet and Income Statement accounts…all the assets, liabilities and equity. It is the report that shows ALL the activity in the company. Often this listing is called a detail trial balance on the report menu of your accounting program. The detail trial balance is my favorite report when I am trying to find a mistake, or make sure that we have entered information in the right accounts.


GROSS PROFIT: This is how much money you have left after you have subtracted the direct costs from the selling price.


Income – Direct Costs = Gross Profit. When this is expressed as a percentage, it is call Gross Margin.


This is a good number to scrutinize each month, and to track in terms of percentage to total sales over the course of time. The higher the better with gross margin! You need to have enough money left at this point to pay all your indirect costs and still end up with a profit.


INCOME STATEMENT: also called the Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L, or Statement of Operations. This is a report that shows the changes in the equity of the company as a result of business operations. It lists the income (or revenues, or sales), subtracts the expenses and shows you the profit J! (Or loss L.) This report covers a period of time and summarizes the money in and the money out.


The Income Statement is like a magnifying glass that shows the detail of activities that cause changes in the equity section of the Balance Sheet.


INDIRECT COST: Also called overhead or operating expenses. These expenses are indirectly related to the services you provide to customers. Indirect costs include office salaries, rent, advertising, telephone, utilities…costs to keep a ‘roof overhead’. Every cost that is not a direct cost is an indirect cost. Indirect costs do not go away when sales drop off.


INVENTORY: Also called stock. These are materials that you purchase with the intent to sell, but you haven’t sold them yet. Inventory is found on the balance sheet under assets. It is considered a current asset because you will convert it into cash as soon as you sell it. Beware of turning cash into inventory. You may run out of cash. Work with your suppliers to keep inventory SMALL.


JOURNAL: This is the diary of your business. It keeps track of business activities chronologically. Each business activity is recorded as a journal entry. The Double-Entry will list the debit account and the credit account for each transaction on the day that it occurred. In your reports menu in your accounting system, the journal entries are listed in the transaction register.


LIABILITIES: Like equities, these are sources of assets – how you got the ‘stuff’. These are claims against assets by someone other than the owner. This is what the company owes! Notes payable, taxes payable and loans are liabilities. Liabilities are categorized as current liabilities (need to pay off within a year’s time, like payroll taxes) or long term liabilities (pay-back time is more than a year, like your building mortgage).


MONEY: Also called moola, scratch, gold, coins, cash, change, chicken feed, green stuff, BLING, etc. Money is the form we use to exchange energy, goods and services for other energy, goods and services. Used to buy things that you need or want. Beats trading for chickens in the global marketplace.


Money in and of itself is neither good or bad. I want you to make lots of it, and do great things with it!


NET INCOME: Also called net profit, net earnings, current earnings or bottom line. (No wonder accounting is confusing – look at all those words that mean the same thing!)


After you have subtracted ALL expenses (including taxes) from revenues, you are left with net income. The word net means basic, fundamental. This is a very important item on the income statement because it tells you how much money is left after business operations. Think of net income like the score of a single basketball game in a series. Net income tells you if you won or lost, and by how much, for a given period of time.

By the way, if net income is a negative number, it’s called a loss. You want to avoid those. The net income is reflected on the Balance Sheet in the equity section, under current earnings (or net profit). Net income results in an increase in owner’s equity. A loss results in a decrease in owner’s equity.

RETAINED EARNINGS: The amount of net income earned and retained by the business. If net income is like the score after a single basketball game, retained earnings is the lifetime statistic. Retained earnings is found in the equity section of the Balance Sheet. It keeps track of how much of the total owner’s equity was earned and retained by the business versus how much capital has been invested from the owners (paid-in capital).


Each month, the net profits are reflected in the Balance Sheet as current earnings. At the end of the year, current earnings are added to the retained earnings account.

Ellen Rohr is the President and Founder of Bare Bones Biz, a business training and consulting company that teaches clients how to turn big ideas into successful businesses. Rohr is the successful author of numerous business basics books, including: Where Did the Money Go? – Accounting Basics for the Business Owner Who Hates Numbers and How Much Should I Charge? – Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love.




Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the earth’s natural heat to circulate water or refrigerant between an underground network of pipes and heat pumps located inside the house. Although geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, they only differ in their usage of the ground instead of outside air to provide heating and air conditioning. The principle behind geothermal heat pumps is that in winters, the pumps move the heat from the earth into your house and in summers, the devices pull heat from your home and discharge it into the ground.

As geothermal heat pumps mostly use renewable energy from the ground, these heat pumps are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technology. Although geothermal heat pumps are costlier to install than regular heat pumps, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that geothermal heat pumps can also lower energy bills by 30 to 40 percent. Additionally, geothermal heat pumps are mechanically simple and most of their parts remain below the ground and are protected from the weather, thus reducing maintenance costs as well. Geothermal heat pumps are also included in the types of products rated in the EnergyStar program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for being an environmentally friendly invention.

Geothermal heat pumps are durable, comfortable, environmentally safe, non-allergenic and clean. Such heat pumps not only lower your heating and cooling bills, but also require minimal maintenance. Geothermal heat pumps provide the utmost comfort by heating and cooling in an even fashion and eliminating hot and cold spots. Such heat pumps are also environmentally safe, as they minimize environmental threats posed by the burning of fossil fuels, like acid rain, air pollution, and the greenhouse effect.

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Geothermal heat pump systems are not only environmentally friendly but can also reduce the homeowner’s utility bills.



Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Bathroom Renovation

Most people prefer DIY style for their bathroom renovation. For readers who do not know what is DIY, it means do it yourself. Bathroom renovation DIY is a good option if you enjoy learning new things, have patience and willing to get your hands dirty. This is also a cost effective method to beautify your bathroom.

Should you DIY?

Bathroom renovation DIY is definitely a cost saving and a satisfying process, but should you DIY? Most people DIY project management, color selection, demolition and remove and repair most fittings like hooks and towel rails. However, if plumbing or electrical jobs are involved you need to get professional help, unless you are very skilled.

Planning a bathroom renovation DIY

You need to first decide if your bathroom needs a full redesign or just a makeover. This depends on factors like number of people using the bathroom and the requirements of the family. You can have a spacious bathroom if you plan and design the process of bathroom renovation DIY well. You can work this out with the help of computer software, or if you have a major renovation plan you can hire a professional.

If the layout and water proofing system is fine, you can renovate your bathroom by changing the color scheme, replacing cabinets and retiling. You cannot however do a major plumbing or electrical jobs in bathroom renovation DIY, as this is not permissible legally.

How long will the renovation take?

This depends on the renovation DIY plan. It can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending upon the work that needs to be performed.

Legal issues

Whether you DIY or not, check with your local authorities if you need to obtain a permit. You would need a permit if you are planning to reconstruct your bathroom from a scratch.

Bathroom renovation DIY costs

The cost generally varies a lot depending upon the work. An approximate cost charged by a renovator would be between $12,000 -15,000 for a small job, up to $20,000 for a medium renovation and above $30,000 for a complete renovation. Check with your renovator for the exact costs.

Working with trades

Bathroom renovation DIY would definitely work out cheaper by a few thousand dollars, but it needs some skill, time and motivation. This is extremely satisfying and you are the boss for implementing the plans. Also this would make you feel proud of your achievement each time you are in the bathroom.

However if you are planning to hire a professional, be clear on what youíre expecting from them and get the complete details before finalizing contracts with them. Hire an industry qualified, licensed and insured tradesperson to avoid hassles.