Pros and Cons of Concrete Countertops

Concrete countertops are quickly becoming more popular; whether they are DYI concrete counters or you pay a professional, they can be arguably cheaper and more durable than other countertop material choices.

Pros of Concrete Countertops

Durability Concrete countertops are very durable; they are not only heat resistant but also scratch resistant as well. Cost The ability of concrete to be molded into any shape and dyed or stained almost any color as well as endlessly customizable with colors, designs, embedded objects such as fossils, tiles (whole or pieces), recycled glass, rocks, and much much more.  The organic look and feel of concrete draws most people to it, when you can’t find the perfect shade of granite, or right pattern for Corian, you can create it in concrete.  Whatever shape, whatever color, and whatever size you want, concrete can be that for you.

Cons of Concrete Countertops

Maintenance Applying a sealer is the key to maintaining a concrete countertop, because concrete is naturally porous and when is a lighter color, it will readily show blemishes when not properly sealed. Don’t wait until there is a problem with your counter to start taking care of it, you should be sealing the countertop regularly and caring for it in order to prevent problems from occcuring It is also important to clean concrete counters right away when there is a spill on them, this will help prevent staining.  Make sure that the cleaner and sealer that you are using are made for cleaning concrete countertops as using other types of cleaning products can end up damaging your counters in the end. Imperfections It is very difficult to pour a perfect concrete countertop, stains or other imperfections are usually present in any concrete whether it is a do it yourself project or a professional job. Hairline Cracks Concrete countertops that are poured in place instead of precast may develop hairline cracks as a result of your house shifting or settling, or other issues such as your kitchen faucet being screwed in too tightly.  Larger cracks are easier to fill and fix, hairline cracks are not so easy to fix and may require a professional.

The Best 5 Things to Raise Home Value

Raising your home’s value, whether you are in it to stay or are looking to sell, is always a great idea.  Here are our top 5 improvements that will raise the value of your home.

  1. Insulation

One of the easiest and quickest things you can do yourself (it will probably take you a weekend or two), insulation can save you money on utilities while you’re in the home, and be a nice asset for homebuyers.  Attic insulation is the best place to start and can prevent up to 30% of your cool or heated air from literally flying out the roof, but even just caulking around windows and doors will help insulate your house.

  1. Lighting

Recessed lighting has been getting a lot of attention lately and for good reason; kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces can all benefit from good lighting.  Track lighting is another good solution to really brighten up rooms and show off the home’s character.  Good lighting is always a sure investment to spring for when improving your home.

  1. Lawn Care

Updating your walkway with pavers or buying some grass seed/sod for your front yard adds great curb appeal.  Opinions are formed from the second a person drives up to your home and your lawn is one of the first things that they will see.  Be sure to keep up with edging and mowing your lawn and consider investing in a few large planters with some cheery flowers.  A little goes a long way and you don’t have to spend very much to make a difference.

  1. Remove popcorn from the ceilings.

This is the major thing that dates most homes, no one likes popcorn anymore and though it can be a pain to DIY or a bit pricey to have it done, this is one improvement that is worth paying to have done.

  1. Kitchen

The number one thing to consider in your kitchen is the layout; most people refer to the most important area in your kitchen as “the triangle”.  This is the place where your stove, dishwasher, and sink are located ideally allowing for a seamless workspace.  Before making any surface adjustments, consider if you should make a major overhaul of your kitchen space to remove any obstacles in this area.  Appliances, colors, even countertops will all go in and out of style, but the layout of a kitchen, good or bad, will last a lifetime.

Advantages of Buying a New Home

Are you trying to decide between buying a used home and a new custom built home?  The choice between buying a newly built, never lived in home instead of a used home definitely has some advantages.  Here are the top 5 advantages of buying a new home instead of a used home.

A Layout Just for You

A new custom built home will have a floor plan that is designed with your needs in mind.  Want a master bedroom with a second living room attached?  A master bath with a sauna?  This is where it happens without the majoring remodeling that an existing home would require to add these perks on.

Energy Savings

The energy efficiency of new homes is phenomenal even when compared with houses built just 10 years ago.  There are many new improvements in areas such as windows, roofs, and siding that are not only better but cheaper than the options available when older houses were built.  This also goes for all of the new appliances that you will be buying for your new home instead of the broken down, older appliances that you often get with older homes.

Low Maintenance

Just like a new car, a new home comes with many less problems and upkeep than an older existing home.  High ceilings and open floor plans mean that your home will stay cooler in the south Texas heat, not to mention that home design elements are now made to work with each other and are designed to have less care over the years.


Just as homes are now designed to better have less maintenance, they are also designed to be safer.  Breathe easier in a home that has less chemicals, use a garage door that has infrared beams that will detect if your child is too close, and install a built-in security system that will work better than a system that you slap on the surface of a used home.


Everything, absolutely everything in your new home is under warranty: your roof, appliances, water heater, counter tops.  All of these and more are under warranty in a new home, and should not need to be repaired or replaced for years.

Is the Cost of Gutter Guards Worth the Money?

Practically every home is now built with gutters; these gutters must be cleaned out frequently in order to be sure that they are functioning properly.  Most homeowners clean out their gutters twice each year: once in the spring to clear out debris such as flower petals, flower buds, seed pods, animal feces, and small leaves, and once in the fall to clear out larger dead leaves, animal feces, and other debris.  If you live in a place with a lot of trees or debris, you’ll need to clean out your gutters even more often.

Many homeowners either don’t know or forget about regularly cleaning their gutters (whether they do it themselves or hire a professional) and that’s why the option of a gutter guard is so attractive.

What is a gutter guard?

A gutter guard is metal or plastic mesh that is designed to fit over your gutter in order to keep it free of debris.

How much does a gutter guard cost?

The cost of a gutter guard and installation depends largely on your house.  The more curves in your roofline, the area in which your house is located, the types of trees on your property, and your personal tastes will all determine the cost of a gutter guard.  On average, a homeowner can expect to pay between $7-$10 for every lineal foot (including installation); with the average home having 200 feet of gutter and this would mean that the project would cost about $1500-$2000.

Are gutter guards worth the cost?

Though the upfront cost of gutter guards seems like a large investment, remember that they are actually saving you money if you hire a professional twice a year which usually runs about $200-400 per cleaning, or can save you time if you are cleaning the gutters yourself.  It should be noted that even with gutter guards, your home’s gutters should still be cleaned once every two or three years and the gutter guards will need to be removed in order to clean them properly.  Because of this, be sure to choose gutter guards that are easy to remove, most designs will click in and out of place.

Best Stair Designs for a Custom Home

A great use of space for custom homes is to have a second story, there are several reasons for this:

  1. Roofing per square foot is going to be one of larger expenses that you pay for your custom home.
  2. It’s easier and cheaper to cool and heat a two story house than a one story.
  3. Some experts say that a two story house can be up to 33% cheaper per square foot to build than a one story house.

Because of these benefits, many people choose a two story house design instead of a one story, which means that unless you plan on using a ladder to access your second floor, you’ll need to consider stair designs and how they will fit into your custom house design.

Stairs have two main types: plain and elaborate.  Less expensive smaller houses designs typically include the plainer stairs while more expensive larger houses have the fancier ones.


A grand staircase can be a main design element of the character of your home, it can have a circular shape, less steep of a step, and be as wide as you’d like.  A plainer staircase will be a standard size and shape, twelve inches deep and six inches high.  While an elaborate staircase may be featured near the front entrance, a plainer staircase is usually found nearer the back of the house.  A plain staircase is likely to involve a turn or two, this is because a straight flight of steps takes up a lot of space while a 90 or 180 degree turn will save space for other rooms.  More extravagant staircases usually feature a gentle turn that is easy on the eyes.


Though many people choose carpeting for their stairs because it is a cheaper option and tends to muffle any sounds as one moves from one floor to another, hardwood, stone, or laminate will last longer and make your home look and feel more expensive.  It will cost you more to install, but this is one part of your home that will see a lot of traffic and it’s best to choose something that will stand the test of time.  Another more modern option is to choose open metal stairs, this works well in a minimalist home design.

Is Vinyl Flooring a Good Option?

Why should you choose vinyl flooring for your home?  On the outside, it may appear that wood or tile would be a better choice but here are four questions to ask yourself that might lead you to deciding on vinyl.

  1. Do you need something versatile?

Vinyl is both nonporous and scratch resistant, this means that you can use it for high traffic areas such as family rooms and living spaces as well as in wet rooms such as your bathrooms, mudroom, and kitchen. Its durability means that it is able to bear up against snow, rain, sand, and dirt alike.  Though vinyl can show imperfections in your subfloor, its malleability can also help to mask problems such as the shifting foundation that we face here in South Texas.

  1. Do you need something water resistant?

Because vinyl is nonporous and doesn’t absorb moisture like laminates and woods, it is perfect for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.  Most vinyl comes with waterproof backing which means that it is 100% resistant to water.

  1. Do you need something easy to install?

The beauty of vinyl is not only that a pro can easily install it for a much cheaper price than hardwood or tiles, but also that it makes for a DIY-friendly project.  There are typically two types of vinyl: peel & stick and click & lock.  Peel & stick will stick directly to the concrete or whatever subfloor you currently have while click & lock is a floating floor.

  1. Do you need something easy on your joints?

While wood and tile floors may seem like better choices at first, many people are beginning to choose vinyl.  This is because vinyl has a more comfortable surface that is conducive to areas where you will be standing for a long time such as bathrooms or kitchens.

If you’re looking for more information to assist you with choosing a floor material, check out a few of our other articles on the subject:

Hardwood VS Laminate

Hardwood VS Carpet

Bamboo Flooring

Have some thoughts about vinyl as a flooring option?  Comment below, we would love to hear from you.


The Average Cost of Replacing a Roof

As a homeowner, replacing the roof on your home can be one of the most expensive upgrades that you will make over the course of your owning a home.

What determines the price of a roof?

The type of roofing material is a large part of the cost of your roof, but the size, accessibility, pitch, roof height, removal of the old roof, as well as other factors are also used when calculating the cost.

On average, the price of a new roof can run anywhere from $4500 all the way up to $50,000 or more for high end roofs.

Most roofers charge by the roofing square, this is equal to 100 square feet (a 10 by 10 foot area).

Why does the roof pitch affect the price of a new roof?

The slope or pitch of your roof affects the price because this dictates how easy it is for the roofers to work on your roof.  Will they need a harness because of the steep pitch?  Or does your roof have a gentle slope which allows for them stack materials directly on the roof and work without a lot of safety equipment.

Why does accessibility matter?

This is a part of labor costs that many people don’t think about, if roofers can drive a truck loaded with materials directly beside the house, then loading and unloading just got a lot easier.  But if a lot of their time is spent carrying materials, supplies, and tools back and forth from the truck, you will see this reflected in the cost of the roof.

Roofing materials also determine the price

We have a couple of articles that you might want to read about the different types of roofs to consider:

Tile Roofing

Metal Roofing

Shingle Roofing

Green Roofs

Other costs to keep in mind

If you’re replacing a roof with damage from hail, water, or other things, remember that the damage might go further than you think.  After the old roof has come off, the roofers might find other damage that will need to be addressed before the new roof can go on.  Plan your budget accordingly.

What Should I Ask Before Building a Home?

If you’re thinking of building a new home, it can be a daunting decision to make.  It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and details, but it’s important to remember that designing your dream home is not something that you can approach without being prepared to embark on a journey of discovery.  This is the place where you will rest, dream, live, eat, work, and much more.  Whether you’re sharing the space or living solo, you will have to consider every possible angle.  Before you toss away your computer in frustration, we’ve put together a few questions to consider which will help you to better understand the choices that you’ll need to make.

Where do you want your house to be located?

Considering where to purchase land for your house is a complicated decision, you’ll need to consider your budget, the value of the land, and the projected value in the coming years.

What is your budget?

The budget for building a house must include things such as: land, constructing a house, architect, engineer, running plumbing and electricity (if your land is outside of a city, this could be a bit complicated… or not), taxes, landscaping, decorating, and furniture.  Be sure to keep little extra “emergency” money in your budget so that when (not if!) things cost more than you budgeted, you’ll have enough money set aside to keep the project going.

Discuss your budget thoroughly with your custom home builder so that they understand exactly how to help you.

What is your plan A?

In a perfect world, what do you plan to have happen and when?

What is your plan B?

Plan A may or may not work out, but a plan B is a must so that if plan A does fall through, you have a back-up strategy in place.

Who is going to help you?

Sure, you’ll need a custom home builder, and they can help suggest experts in their network to assist you, but you’ll also want to do some personal research to see if you find a home designer or architect whose work you just love, or a landscaper that you can’t live without.

What questions have you asked yourself before beginning to design a home?  Drop us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Is Home Automation for Me?

We’ve spent quite some time talking about windows these past few weeks, we’re going to head in a completely different direction now and dive into modern houses: the smart home.  Home automation is a system that allows homeowners to directly connect and control their home through their tablet, smartphone, and control panel installed in their home.  The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University has predicted that the number two trend for residential remodeling in the next 5-10 years will be home automation.  This will include but is not limited to heating and air conditioning, lighting, and security.



Affordability is a concern of many homeowners, but if you look at the trends from five years ago, home automation was only for million-dollar homes, now less expensive homes are also tapping into home automation because it is becoming more practical and affordable.

Why Should I Choose Home Automation?

A smart home can take over many of the functions of your other smart and dumb devices: it can wake you up in the morning, turn on the TV with your morning viewing choices, turn electronics off and security systems on when you leave the house.  When you return home, the security will deactivate itself and lights and AC or heating will turn to their normal temperatures.  It’s convenient for everyone, saving on your personal energy, utility bills, and protecting your home.  When you go out of town, you can monitor your home from your computer, smartphone, or tablet.  This can be had for under $10,000 and work with over 6,000 different electronic devices.

Can I DIY Home Automation?

DIY smart home options exist with companies such as Nest who make smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, thermostat climate controls that are based on your personal schedule and can save 15-25% on your utility bills.  These products are easy to install and cost under $260.

What is the Cost of Home Automation?

A smart home system can cost anywhere from $200 to $200,000, it all depends on your desires and needs.  Some people simply want smart lights and thermostat climate control, others want all of the shades in their home to be automated as well as lighting scenes and surveillance cameras.  The installation of a smart home system doesn’t have to be for your entire house, you can install it one room at a time and add on rooms as your budget allows.  It is also not an intensive installation which means that a lot of digging into your walls and foundation is not required, no matter the age of your home.

What to Look For When Choosing a Window

Last week we touched on four factors to know about when choosing new windows for your home – either as replacements or for your custom home.  These four factors are: Glass, Design, Frame, and Installation.  Let’s take a closer look at what to know about these four essential parts of a window.


When it comes to window glass, there are a lot of buzzwords that get tossed around, what is really necessary for a good window that is going to last and be worth the money that you put into it without breaking the bank?  Double-pane windows with a vacuum-sealed argon fill and low-E glass.  It will probably cost you an additional $30-50 per window but you will see a difference reflected in your energy bill.  We have talked in depth about the differences in single, double, and triple pane glass in previous posts.

When looking at windows, you can usually find a sticker directly on the glass that will tell you exactly what the window’s efficiency features are.  If the window has an Energy Star sticker on it then it means that it has met the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)’s standards.  These standards are measured in two ways: Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – measuring the amount of heat entering a house through the glass, and U-Value – measuring a window’s ability to resist heat loss.  For each of these factors, the lower the number, the better energy rating it will receive.

South Texas home owners often choose UV-repellent film as a tint for their windows, it’s practically invisible but it will preserve textiles and paint as well as keeping the interior of a house cooler and save money on utility bills.


The design of a window can have huge effects when it comes to energy efficiency, but that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for something utilitarian or boring.  In the past, custom home builders focused on aesthetics rather than function, but now the modern approach is functionality and beauty in one.  A window can be both décor and an inlet for fresh air, this is especially applicable for transoms (the window above a door or another window).

Decorative windows that are also functional require a deeper casing which can contribute a lot to the aesthetics of your house as “active” transoms.  If you’re looking for further benefits to be reflected in your utility bill, don’t choose a semi-circle or half-moon window as these are not as energy efficient.

Come back next week as we explore the last two of our four important window factors: Frame and Installation.