A homeowner can hire a general contractor to oversee a home improvement project that involves multiple trades. A general contractor acts as project manager, providing access to the site, removing debris, coordinating work schedules, and performing some aspects of the work. Sometimes homeowners bypass the general contractor, and hire tradesmen themselves, including plumbers, electricians and roofers. Another strategy is to "do it yourself" (DIY). Several major retailers, such as Home Depot and Lowe's, specialize in selling materials and tools for DIY home improvement. These stores even host classes to educate customers how to do the work themselves.
A fireplace is an architectural element consisting of a space designed to contain a fire, generally for heating but sometimes also for cooking. The space where the fire is contained is called a firebox or firepit; a chimney or other flue allows gas and particulate exhaust to escape the building. While most fireplaces are constructed in building interiors, sometimes outdoor fireplaces are created for evening warmth, outdoor cooking or decorative purposes.
In colderclimates throughout the world, the fireplace or hearth has traditionally been a central feature of the household, as it gives warmth to aid survival through an extended winter. The sensation of direct heat, and the mesmerizing leaps and flickers of a wood fire, make its use enjoyable in cold conditions even today. Fireplace mantels are the focus of custom interior decoration. A mantel traditionally offers a unique opportunity for the architect/designer to create a personal statement unique to the room they are creating.
The Xanadu Houses were notable for being built with polyurethane insulation foam rather than concrete, for easy, fast, and cost-effective construction. They were ergonomically designed, and contained some of the earliest home automation systems.