April 27 2015

Tips for Starting a Rooftop Garden at Work

Many urban dwellers who are stuck inside all day at their jobs don’t even bother to leave their office during breaks because the outdoors looks just as industrial as the inside of a building. What better way to make your employees really feel like they’re on break than providing them with a garden to relax in? You don’t need a yard and picket fence; rooftop gardens are all the rage now and are perfect for adding some actual foliage to urban jungles.

The first step is taking measurements and developing a plan. Consider how much money you want to spend, and try to envision what you want the space to look like. Make sure to pick out seating that compliments any ornaments and the colors of your plants. Read below for some ideas to help get your garden off the ground.

  • Start out with perennial plants that stay green all year. You can incorporate seasonal flowers, but making perennials the standard bearer ensures that your garden continues to look alive throughout the seasons.
  • Sculptures can provide a good centerpiece to balance the area, and creative lighting can enhance the mood; for example, placing an up-light underneath a sculpture or wall draws attention it and can provide a good focal point.
  • Add sand or white rocks to the soil for heightened contrast against your plants to better accentuate their colors.
  • Check with your building manager to see if you can install a small fountain. The sight and sound of running water is a proven stress reducer.
  • If you’re up for the challenge, try growing some simple herbs and vegetables. Giving employees something to take home every now and then will boost morale, and you can create your own salads for group lunches.
  • Make gardening a group project! Cooperating on a creative project builds teamwork and gives employees a sense of ownership over the space.
  • If you don’t have the time, energy or the green thumb necessary to take care of plants, you can always settle on a rock garden. They require no watering yet still add a touch of nature to modern workplace environments.
April 07 2015

Why February is Chimney Inspection Month

Fireplaces and chimneys are great to have during the cold winter months, but they require a little bit of upkeep every year to keep you warm. Aside from the obvious wear and tear from all the smoke, snow and ice buildup can also damage your chimney rendering it ineffective and potentially dangerous. As water seeps into the mortar and goes through a freezing and thawing cycle, the mortar expands and can leave cracks. These problems get worse if not addressed right away, which is why February is an ideal time have your chimney inspected. If any repairs need to be made, you’ll soon have warm weather to work in and you’ll be prepared for anything the next winter brings.

Chimney inspection is serious and hard business, so unless you thoroughly understand how they are constructed and what problems to watch out for, it’s a job best left to professionals. Below is a checklist of things people look for when inspecting a chimney.

  • Check for cracks, which can leak dangerous gasses, by performing a smoke test
  • Probe the outside mortar joints to make sure water isn’t seeping into the flue
  • Evaluate the inside mortar joints. If the inside is eroded, the chimney may need to be relined by a professional.
  • Check where the chimney meets the roof for open caulking or deteriorating flashing
  • Check the attic for stains or leaks in the rafters and ceiling
  • Check to make sure the cricket is in proper condition
  • Close up any open joint with a strong sealant
  • Examine the cap for weathering and heat cracking
  • Evaluate the flue liner’s condition and replace it if necessary
  • Replace any missing or worn cotter pins
  • Ensure the damper is working properly
  • Check the anchoring mortar and base plate for any cracks
  • Empty the ash pit
  • Clear creosote and soot buildup from the flue
  • Examine the stovepipe thimbles
  • Remove soot and debris from the smoke shelf