Many people travel long distances this time of year to get together with their families for the holidays. One favorite spot to gather is around a glowing fireplace. Below you’ll find descriptions of today’s most popular fireplace choices. Is this the year to add the ambiance of a fireplace to your holiday festivities? Please also take a look at the descriptions of two recently completed remodels and find more information about them on our website.

Adding a fireplace has proven to increase the value of your home — while you are living in it, as well as when you are ready to sell. It can heighten your enjoyment of your home by providing a cozy focal point in your family room or master bedroom. And realtors have found that most prospective buyers are attracted to a home with a fireplace, since it creates such a welcoming atmosphere.

· A wood-burning fireplace (pictured above) provides those delightful crackling sounds that may be an essential part of the fireplace experience for you, however, due to their environmental impact they can no longer be built in California. A factory-built, self-contained zero-clearance firebox requires no foundation and simply needs a double-wall metal chimney. Since it may be installed to within 1/4″ of combustible wall materials, it offers great design possibilities. And, if you want to update an existing wood-burning fireplace, an EPA-certified fireplace insert can convert an existing fireplace to an efficient, low-polluting, heating system for your home on chilly days.

According to a recently-released report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans working from home, either full or part time, increased from about 9.5 million in 1999 to about 11.3 million in 2005.

Some are starting home-based businesses, while others are telecommuting to avoid the rush hour traffic. If you are planning to take the leap yourself-and you want to be productive and successful–it is essential to arrange your office environment carefully.

· Locate your office preferably in a room away from the central activities of your home. Enclosing a porch, or converting a seldom-used living room/den or garage works well for a home office. If your office is in a room with another use, divide the two areas with a screen, a bookcase or build a partition. If you expect clients to visit, you may need a separate entrance.

· Determine your needs and goals and make plans for how those will be achieved in your office space. Do you need space for a printer/scanner, filing cabinets, office supplies, inventory, a presentation area, a library, a work area for employees, a mini-kitchen or a half-bath?

· Make sure your personal office furnishings provide
an adequate work surface, along with sufficient space for your equipment and supplies.
If you are working from a table rather than a
desk, provide file drawers close by, as well as drawers with dividers for small items such as pens, markers, paperclips, a stapler, scissors, etc. A comfortable chair is important, and you should have 39″ behind the chair for clearance. Install ample task lighting in each work zone to prevent eyestrain, as well as plenty of ambient light in the room to aid productivity.

· Design an environment that keeps work separate from family–this is important for you psychologically. Set regular office hours and post them for family members, as well as clients. Dress for work each day. Consider a separate phone/computer for business only. Make your surroundings pleasant and inviting, so you personally will feel welcome when you enter each day.

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