DIY Outdoor Fireplace and Concrete Pads

Concrete or Dirt? That is the Question

cDIY Concrete slab in backyard with grass wood
Concrete slab is ready for cinderblock.

The other day my phone rang and it was a customer of Backyard Flare that had purchased a DIY construction plan for the Pima II design.  This customer was looking for information about whether he needed to build the fireplace on a concrete pad or whether he could just build it on the dirt.  This question comes in quite often so I wanted to address it again.  Concrete pads are necessary for a masonry outdoor fireplace.

Where You Live is Important

DIY concrete pad deck level outdoor fireplace
Finished concrete is ready for block work

Think about all the places you have been and the ground you have walked on.  There’s Arizona with ground so hard that it almost takes a jack hammer to dig down a couple inches.  Then there’s Florida with gorgeous sandy beaches, but that sandy soil reaches inland too.  You have the northeast states that have frost lines so deep, that it’s a wonder that it ever thaws out. And we can’t forget the northwest that gets a lot of rain that could create washout conditions.

There is our dilemma with phone calls relating to how thick or whether a concrete pad is necessary.  Even here in Arizona, I always build my outdoor structures on concrete.  This is for peace of mind so if there is any ground settling, the structure will hopefully be okay.

If a masonry built structure settles, and it has been built on a running bond (stair step) block pattern, the cracking will look like a stair step going up.  The blocks will often separate at the seams, not crack.  This is not the way you want your outdoor structure to end up, because you spent your hard labor to build it.

What should you do?

DIY outdoor fireplace, stone seating
DIY outdoor fireplace on new poured concrete pad.

Do it right from the beginning and pour some concrete. Support that structure and keep it from settling and cracking.  Now you say, that’s all fine and dandy, but how thick does the concrete need to be? There’s an issue with that portion of the concrete pad question in that there is no “one answer” to that question.  There is no recommendation that we can give you because your geographic area and soil will dictate the answer.

Remember all the different soil types we cited a few paragraphs ago?  There are so many variables that exist that will need to be addressed and recognized before a concrete pad thickness answer can be formulated.  Our advice is to seek out some professionals in the concrete industry and ask.  Go to Home Depot or Lowes and see if there is a person who used to pour concrete for a living that is working there in retirement.  They are sometimes a wealth of information.  Go to the internet and search for recommendations based on your soil type and geographic area.  Again, lots of information.

Test Time

So, what have we learned?  I always recommend a concrete pad for an outdoor masonry built fireplace or kitchen.  There is no hard and fast recipe that applies to everyone that they should follow to pour the pad, so go find your local resources.  They’re out there.

If you would like to discuss your backyard outdoor fireplace or kitchen and would like to learn more about the DIY world we love so much, visit Backyard Flare.  We can help make it a reality, saving you thousands of dollars.  Give your backyard a face-lift and beautify your outdoor space.

Thanks for reading and as always, happy building.

Dan Heston
Backyard Flare, LLC
Tucson, Arizona

You Can Do It

Feeling Apprehensive?

You can do it!!!  I remember receiving a phone call from Shelley who said she lived in New Jersey.  Shelley explained to me that she was single, in her sixties, and that she lived on a piece of property that had a small creek running through it down the hill from her backyard.  Shelley explained that she really wanted an outdoor fireplace but that she was super apprehensive about doing it herself.  Because of the limited knowledge she had about masonry construction, Shelley was concerned with her age and ability to do the physical labor.  I asked her some questions about her ability to lift and explained what the project would require.

Shelley Said Yes to the Outdoor Fireplace

We talked it through, and by the end, Shelley was ready to take on the challenge.  A DIY outdoor fireplace does not have to be intimidating or seem out of the realm of possibility if you have the right tools, preparation, and a good plan.  A construction plan that is…something that will take the guess work out of the project.  If you are physically able to lift a 60-pound bag of mortar, or if you have someone who can do it for you, that’s the first step.  If you’re willing to step into a work site with an open mind, then you too can do what Shelley did.

DIY stone outdoor fireplace
Talk about charming. This backyard patio was transformed into a great sitting destination.

Shelley built her very own DIY outdoor fireplace and although it was small, it made a huge impact in her backyard and it is definitely a focal point.  Do you agree, and do you think you want to join the DIY world?  She had us do some special design work to make the fireplace what she wanted.  We angled the chimney on all sides and designed the firebox to be low on the structure, which gave it a neat look.

It Was Fun According to Shelley

DIY outdoor fireplace plan
The fireplace sits on the edge of the patio with the treeline in the background.

After building the structure, Shelley said that she took her time and didn’t push hard to get it done quickly.  She said that if she could do it in her sixties, then anyone could do it.  This is a testament that most people have the capability to do more than they truly think.  There is an inner construction worker in most of us.  Give your insecurities to us and let us provide you with a DIY construction plan.  If you follow it, you to will be able to build a beautiful outdoor fireplace just like Shelley did.

DIY outdoor fireplace with fire
Shelley built her first fire and started making memories.

If you are wanting to learn more about the process of building a DIY outdoor fireplace, visit us online at Backyard Flare.  We know that you can do it and that we can help.  A construction plan may be exactly what you need to overcome the fear of building so you can DIY too.  Thanks so much for reading and we hope to hear from you soon.  Leave a comment and let us know if you think you’re up for a DIY project.

As always, happy building,

Dan

3 Ways to Improve

3 Ways to Improve the Look of Your Backyard

swimming pool umbrella palm tree flagstone planter
An uncluttered and clean backyard is a welcoming backyard.

Okay, I’m going to get right into it today.  Not need to beat around the bush here.  Your backyard…and mine…needs help probably.  Your backyard might be old, dated, tired, messy, and it needs a little “pick me up”, so why not get started?  There are quite a few things that you can do that will make a HUGE difference and at the same time not break the bank.  Here are 3 ways to improve the look of your backyard.

Start By Picking Up the Place

First, pick up the clutter.  If you’re like most of us, you have odds and ends laying around.  You may have a section of your yard that is dedicated to compiling the old car parts or the old bikes that haven’t been ridden in years.  Chances are that if you haven’t needed them in the past year (or five) you won’t need them at all in the future.  Collect them and put them on Craigslist so you can make a few bucks too.  Just cleaning up a cluttered corner will make a huge difference.

Unsightly Patio or Deck?

swimming pool patio umbrella fireplace deck planter
A clean backyard draws you in for an extended stay.

Second, sweep up the patio or deck area of your yard and then look up.  Are there spider webs hanging around the lighting fixtures or the underside of the patio cover?  Take down those spider houses with a broom and make a change up high.  Get a hose or high pressure sprayer and clean up the whole area that is attached to the house.  This includes patios, brick work, decks, patio covers, and even the back of the house itself.  You’ll be amazed at how much dirt your house holds onto.  A quick wash down may bring the color back to your home’s exterior too.

Time to Pick and Trim

Flagstone patio red door grill kitchen flowers
Cleaning low and high will make it look more inviting.

Lastly, pick the weeds growing in your flowers and trim your bushes and trees.  The branches and clippings will usually take a while to get rid of if your garbage can isn’t big enough to handle a lot, but the yard will sure open up.  Getting rid of low hanging branches and unwanted ground plants will make an immediate positive impact on the overall look of the yard.

The best part is that these three de-clutter and cleaning tasks are virtually free to do.  They shouldn’t cost you any money, just a little time and sweat equity.  In the end, you’ll have a nicer, cleaner, and more welcoming backyard area.

Who knows, your clean backyard may go on to inspire other projects.  Start small and work your way up to a finished backyard sporting an outdoor fireplace or outdoor kitchen.  You’ll love it in the end and you’ll marvel at the hidden gem that was under all that dirt and clutter.

Check Us Out

If you are interested in any construction plans for an outdoor fireplace or an outdoor kitchen, look no further than Backyard Flare.  We specialize in easy to follow DIY construction plans that will take virtually all the guess work out of the build.  Follow the plans, finish the structure, and begin relaxing in your backyard.

Call or text Dan at 520-269-9740 or email him at dan@backyardflare.com for additional info, special deals, and some fun discussion.  As always, have fun and remember, happy building.

Outdoor Fireplace Review in LA

This Outdoor Fireplace is Amazing

DIY outdoor fireplace with fire
Blaine and Kristen are enjoying their outdoor fireplace.

Welcome back to my fellow DIY’ers and welcome to this edition of, “That Awesome DIY Fireplace” where we introduce a DIY homeowner, tell you what state they reside in, and show you how awesome they were at building their own outdoor fireplace.

Let’s go to the southeast, in beautiful Louisiana, to introduce homeowners Blaine and Kristen.  Their backyard needed a little extra something and after a bit of thought, they decided to build an outdoor fireplace.  Blaine and Kristen started their research online through Google searches and read a lot of material on outdoor fireplaces.  While on one of their searches, they found Backyard Flare and decided to use the Pima II design, outdoor fireplace construction plan to build the fireplace.

Blaine’s World…Excellent

DIY outdoor fireplace concrete pad extension
Area next to existing patio was excavated for the concrete extension.

Blaine and Kristen have a brick home with a grassy backyard surrounding a poured concrete patio.  Blaine dug out dirt next to the patio and formed the area for the slab.  Steel mesh was added inside the concrete pour and they successfully poured the slab extension.  The extension concrete was added so the fireplace didn’t have to be built on the main patio concrete.

 

 

Concrete pad for DIY outdoor fireplace
Finished concrete pad for their outdoor fireplace.
DIY outdoor fireplace plan cinder block mortar
Getting the cinder blocks mortared in place.

Blaine and Kristen followed the Backyard Flare outdoor fireplace construction plans and hit it out of the ballpark with their newly found masonry skills.  It really should be noted that Blaine and Kristen are not masons, nor have they worked a lot with cinder block and mortar.  They just followed the outdoor fireplace plans and called Dan at Backyard Flare with questions here and there.

Time For Veneer Choices

DIY outdoor fireplace with veneer and tile
The veneer and tile choices look great together.

After the cinder block was done, Blaine and Kristen decided on a real nice stacked stone veneer in a soothing gray tone.  It turned out beautiful.  For the horizontal surfaces like the seating and the mantel, they picked a tile with a complimenting tone, and because they had covered the seating surface with solid 2” tall cap block, there was a great flat surface for the tile work.

Completed DIY outdoor fireplace with owner and dog
Kristen and their dog proudly stand next to the completed DIY project.

When it was all said and done, Blaine and Kristen added a fire grate in their firebox and started building fires.  They immediately began building memories and are very happy with the final project.  What’s next for them?  Maybe an outdoor kitchen or pizza oven?  Time will tell, but until then we’ll let them enjoy all their hard work on the fireplace.

DIY outdoor fireplace with fire
Get the drinks ready for the first fire.

Where Can You Go?

We sure hope you like Blaine and Kristen’s Pima II outdoor fireplace and that it inspires you to think about one of these outdoor fireplaces in your backyard as well.  It’s really not out of reach to achieve a stunning outdoor living space, so think about your potential.  Blaine and Kristen proved that average homeowners can make it happen in the world of DIY.  If you have the DIY mindset, we can help you achieve greatness.  Backyard Flare has assisted hundreds of homeowners who are weekend DIY’ers, realize their potential to build outdoor fireplaces just like Blaine’s and Kristen’s, so you can do it too.

Thanks so much for reading about another great DIY outdoor fireplace build.   We’ll bring you more soon, and as always …happy building.

Dan Heston

Backyard Renovation Pricing

How Much $$$ Can Be Saved?
Backyard Renovation Pricing

Backyard Flare is dedicated to helping our customers.  We want you to have as much information as possible before you step into a backyard addition.  We want you to understand backyard renovation pricing.  One question I get quite often from inquisitive DIYers is how much money can be saved by not using a contractor to build an outdoor fireplace.  With this question, there is no “one” answer and the savings, albeit a guarantee, cannot be exactly quantified.  There are costs that will be a surety, such as labor, but each contractor bills a little bit different.  There is no exact savings amount, other than saying a lot, unless you have an itemized quote from a contractor that you then compare to what you will spend.

Now let’s break this down a step further.  Most contractors do an excellent job and I believe you will get your fireplace built if you choose to go the route of a contractor to get it done.  I can’t step on the back-breaking work that they perform day in and day out.  It’s a tiring business for sure and they definitely deserve a pat on the back and some kudos.

Backyard Renovation Pricing

Having said that, you may be wondering about how contractors bill for jobs.  If you have elicited the work of a contractor for anything in the past, you will notice that some will give you a written estimate and others will come over and throw a monetary figure at you after looking at the building area for a few minutes.

A written estimate is better for you, provided it is broken down into independent materials and labor costs.  This will tell you roughly what they think the materials will cost with their slight mark up.  Most contractors will make a few dollars on materials as well, with the understanding that they had to go load them, deliver them, and then unload them at your worksite.  It’s a lot of work so it’s an okay upcharge, I guess.

Tactics and More Tactics

The contractors that throw out a price with no explanation of materials and labor make me smile.  These contractors are betting that you will jump at the offer and that you won’t throw up any objection.  Long and short, they don’t want you to know the breakdown of the profit they are making. It’s okay to haggle and negotiate too.  Remember, this is your backyard, and they will be working for you.  You dictate whether they leave each day with trash all over the place and you will be watching them while they finish the build.

These two quotation methods from contractors drastically differ but both are widely used.  Some that don’t write the job estimate are good at what they do and will provide a breakdown if asked to.  Just remember that you will probably be a bit shocked at how much contractors will charge for labor. It will make up the majority of the quote.  It’s a good living for company owners, believe me on that one.

So What Do You Do?

So, you have an option.  Either go with a contractor or elect to try to build the fireplace with your own two hands.  This is where the music is queued, and we emerge at the top of a hill with a DIY construction plan.  We swoop down to your backyard and hand it to you, and then we stand off to the side, waiting for questions while you build.  The trailer for the movie seems so awesome, but deep down we know that the movie will probably never be made. I guess we’ll stick to creating the construction plans and to our design work.

We Think DIY is the Best Build Decision

Enough already… we have more explanation to get back to.  When you build yourself, the labor that contractors charge won’t be an issue. There won’t be a subtraction from your bank account for labor as you’ll be the labor force behind the entire build.  This shouldn’t scare you either.  We have had a lot of customers who have done amazing at building their own fireplaces and they have never worked with mortar or block.

DIY Pima II Outdoor Fireplace with Stucco Mantel Firewood l
Jason’s DIY Pima II outdoor fireplace is built and ready to go.

One such customer, Jason, sent us pictures of his DIY Pima II outdoor fireplace to share.  After sharing them on our Instagram page, we asked him some pricing questions about his DIY build.  Jason replied, “I got quotes for $7k-$9k to build this exact plan and I built it for $1,600-$1,800.  Two easy weekends with my dad.  It was super easy with your step by step guide.  I’m a banker by trade so I’ve never done concrete block work ever.”

We’re so happy that Jason had a great experience and that’s an amazing savings of at least $5,200.  That’s a lot of money still in Jason’s bank account and the best part is it sounds like he really had a good time with his dad while building the fireplace.  Backyard renovation pricing wasn’t a big deal to Jason because he opted to save the money and pay sweat equity instead.

We’re Here to Help

DIY Pima II Outdoor Fireplace with Stucco Mantel Firewood and Lighting
Jason’s DIY Pima II outdoor fireplace is so inviting with a gorgeous fire.

Think about that when you contemplate your options.  Building your own DIY outdoor fireplace doesn’t have to be stressful or worrisome.  We have what you need to walk you through the process of a DIY outdoor fireplace.  Visit us at www.backyardflare.com for great design ideas and information.  We can help you with a great layout and will work with you personally to ensure you have the information you need to comfortably move forward in the DIY construction world.  Build with one of our DIY construction plans and let us worry about the logistics of the design.  You simply have fun and marvel at what your hard work.  Thank you so much for reading and as always… happy building.

-Dan

DIY Outdoor Fireplace Update – Tucson

Our DIY Fireplace Customers Rock!

Backyard Flare DIY fireplace customers are everywhere.  We don’t just cater to the Tucson, Arizona area for our customer base.  Our amazing customers are in warm, cool, and even frigid areas.    In fact, they are all over the country and even abroad.

Cold is Upon Us

But, the cold weather is here and the country in a lot of places is already under a blanket of white.  Oh my gosh, and it’s only just November, so there are a few months of cold left.  Because of the weather, a good portion of the U.S. is unable to build in their backyards.  There is no possibility of digging into the frozen rock-hard ground for the concrete slab foundation.  There is no way to add water to mortar to lay blocks because it would be so unbearable to work with icy hands in that environment.  You get the point.  Some of you will have to wait, sorry.

It is great that we have a customer right down the street from Backyard Flare headquarters.  Rob in Tucson found Backyard Flare online and contacted us for help building his outdoor DIY fireplace.  When Rob realized we were right down the street, he asked for design help.  I spoke with Rob and he introduced me to his backyard.  He wanted a corner fireplace with gas and together we brainstormed some cool outdoor fireplace layouts.  Rob decided to use the Douglas Mini design and morph it a bit to match his and his wife’s vision.

And the Process BEGAN

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Rob’s DIY fireplace is visible from the driveway.

Rob started with his DIY fireplace and he had a lot of questions.  All in all, he has done a fantastic job and I have visited his work site a few times to check in with him.  As a husband, father of two small tykes, and a professional from Monday through Friday, Rob doesn’t have a lot of time during the week to work.  He has spent the weekends building and has rocked the progress.  It has taken him a couple months, but he can see that completion is close.

DIY Rob is Doing Great

diy outdoor fireplace douglas mini propane gas lighting cinderblock fire mountain arizona
Dusk has arrived and the fireplace is lit.

I went to see Rob’s DIY fireplace the other day again and it looks great.  Rob is ready for firebrick, horizontal material, and his veneer.  At that point he will be done.  We hope you love it as much as we do with the gas setup, arched firebox, and the LED lighting he added.  He told us he has never built with mortar and was skeptical as to his abilities, but he was happy he did it.  He learned a lot and he realized that he was a lot more capable than he thought, especially with his construction plan from Backyard Flare.

diy outdoor fireplace douglas mini propane gas lighting cinderblock fire mountain arizona
The DIY fireplace is burning bright. The LED lighting is on adding that special look.

We will continue to bring you photos of his progress and we will definitely feature Rob and his finished fireplace in an upcoming blog post.  If you think you are ready to step into a DIY outdoor fireplace build, like Rob, and are ready to transform your backyard, visit Backyard Flare and we can help.  We know that you can do it, and, just like Rob, you just need a DIY construction plan to follow.

We Are Here For You Too

If you have any questions about anything, please let me know.  I am always excited to hear from a fellow DIYer, or someone wanting to learn more about how to beautify their backyard space with a DIY fireplace.  I can be reached at dan@backyardflare.com and as I always say, “Happy Building”.

Dan

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS

Baby It’s Cold Outside… In Some Places, Outdoor Fireplace Time

DIY outdoor fireplace snow pima trees
Gotta dig a path to enjoy a fire!

Hey all you DIYer’s, are you looking forward to Christmas and the colder temps?  We sure are down here in Arizona.  We know we’re a bit spoiled though with the highs in the 60s still.  So much of the country is getting blanketed in snow and ice already, which makes us cringe at the thought of power losses and snow shoveling.  We came from that sort of weather so we know what some of you are experiencing.  You’ll get through it though, we’re confident of that.  Enter the DIY outdoor fireplace and outdoor kitchen possibility.  These are great Christmas ideas.

Douglas DIY outdoor fireplace snow pine patio backyard
Is this snow blanket going to keep the fireplace warm?

Your Christmas Ideas Wish List?

Christmas and the season of giving always brings about the challenges of traffic, shopping, and figuring out what to tell your loved ones to buy for you.  This year, when you sit on Santa’s lap at the mall, tell him you want to build your own DIY outdoor fireplace or outdoor kitchen.  He’ll know what to do.

Pima DIY outdoor fireplace fire christmas decorate wreath vase
What a warm feeling we get from this fireplace. Crackling fire and warm toes.

Santa will go online and he’ll visit www.backyardflare.com for great outdoor fireplace and outdoor kitchen design ideas.  He’ll pick out the perfect design for your backyard and he’ll surprise you with your very own DIY construction plan.  You’ll be able to get started on your backyard renovation.

Douglas DIY outdoor fireplace fire Adirondack log wreath patio backyard
Anyone care for a blanket and a beverage?

If you are not planning on sitting on Santa’s lap, just tell that special someone in your life that you want a DIY outdoor fireplace or outdoor kitchen in your backyard.  Tell them about Backyard Flare and that they are the only place to go for DIY construction plans.  What a gift for someone you love or to yourself for that matter!  Christmas ideas are everywhere but most don’t last a lifetime like an outdoor fireplace or outdoor kitchen will.

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How welcoming is this fireplace? They are so pretty when they are decorated for the holidays.

Call Us

And did we say that you can always call and talk to Dan from Backyard Flare for FREE?  Yep, he loves to talk “masonry” and “backyards”.  He spends time each day talking with homeowners about design ideas for their outdoor space, and he helps them manage their masonry fears.

Thanks for making Backyard Flare the one stop shop for the best DIY outdoor fireplace and kitchen construction plans.  It’s DIYer’s like you that make us feel special.  Have a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas.

We hope to hear from you and as always… happy building.

 

DIY Outdoor Fireplace Review – PA

We Love DIY Outdoor Fireplaces

Hello again all you fellow DIY’ers and welcome to this edition of, “That Awesome DIY Fireplace” where we introduce a DIY homeowner, tell you what state they reside in, and show you how awesome they were at building their own DIY outdoor fireplace.

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Finished backyard party area complete with a DIY outdoor fireplace and outdoor pavilion, kitchen and bar.

Let’s go to the northeast, beautiful Pennsylvania, to introduce homeowner Mike.  Mike had a very cool outdoor pavilion space with a long entertainment bar, bar stools, outdoor kitchen; and it was party central.  To the side of that space, Mike had a bare corner concrete spot that begged for something like a fire structure.  In April 2018, Mike visited www.backyardflare.com, and picked his favorite design, the Phoenix fireplace.  He wanted a smaller footprint for the fireplace structure but something big enough to not feel dwarfed by the surrounding features, which were trees and a wrought iron fence just outside the corner of the concrete slab.

Construction Starts

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Rough build of Phoenix design DIY outdoor fireplace is done.

Mike started laying block, paying attention to the block layout and instructions of the construction plan. Before he knew it, Mike was a DIY mason who had never really tried to do a project of this caliber.  Mike stated that he just needed a little bit of help and that the construction plan was what he needed to give him the confidence to start.

Mike kept a super clean work site and made sure he didn’t let the mortar remain on his concrete pad for very long.  This made the final cleanup easier than it would have been, saving time and aggravation in the end.

Adding the Final Touches – Detail Work

When Mike was finished with the rough build, he started the lining of the firebox with firebrick.  This process was pretty quick and before he knew it, Mike was ready for the final veneer material.

diy outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick metal art firebrick
Mike finished his DIY outdoor Phoenix design fireplace. Getting ready for a party.

Mike chose to cover his outdoor fireplace with a stucco finish.  Mike’s technique was to go with a smoother final finish.  The seating was covered with dark stone material giving a great contrast to the white color of the structure.

Mike added a smoke arrestor to the top of the chimney to catch and extinguish embers that tried to escape from the top.  With the fireplace facing right into the entryway of the outdoor pavilion, Mike’s party central area became even more stunning.

Mike added a very cool fire grate in the firebox and a piece of chain suspended metal art to the front of the fireplace.  With a raging fire, behind the fire screen, it is just gorgeous.

metal art fire screen DIY outdoor fireplace kits phoenix backyard masonry firebrick
Nighttime fire in Mike’s outdoor fireplace.

We Know Mike is Now a Mason

Mike told Backyard Flare, “your plans were fantastic”, and that he wasn’t a mason.  We beg to differ and debate that last statement.  We see what Mike did and with no previous masonry experience.  Mike, you’re a mason now and we’re very proud to include you into the Backyard Flare DIY family.

We sure hope you like Mike’s fireplace and that it inspires you to think about one of these fireplaces in your backyard as well.  It’s really not out of reach to achieve a stunning outdoor living space.  Mike said he wasn’t a mason, but we know it’s just the unknown.  We’ll help you through it.  If you have the DIY mindset, we can help you achieve greatness.  We have assisted hundreds of homeowners who are weekend DIY’ers, realize their potential to build fireplaces just like Mike’s.  You can do it too.

Thanks so much for reading about another great DIY fireplace build.   We’ll bring you more soon, and as always …happy building.

Dan Heston
520-269-9740