House Siding 101

The siding that you choose for your house is not often talking about but is an important element in your dream home’s design.  Your siding choice should take into account your home’s curb appeal, your budget, and much more and once you make the choice, it’s not something that can be easily replaced so it’s important to choose something timeless and durable.  This guide to house siding choices will help explain house siding options.


This siding option can be found in wood and fiber cement, vinyl, and shakes.  Shingles are great for traditional style homes but be prepared for quite a bit of upkeep as well as a larger upfront cost.

Horizontal Lap Siding

Made from aluminum, vinyl, fiber cement, or wood, this siding option can be almost any color.  It works well with a traditional or colonial style home with symmetrical forms. The cost is about $3-7 per square foot.

Wood Strip Siding

This type of siding is made from wood and typically has a tongue-in-groove formation.  A continuous waterproof membrane is crucial for this type of siding because if water gets behind the siding it will damage your home’s interior.  This is an expensive choice for siding and the cost will depend upon the type of wood.

Board and Batten

Made from fiber or wood cement, this type of siding creates vertical lines and can help your house appear taller.  It was first used on farm buildings and is a low-cost siding choice that would be beautiful for a farm-style or country home

Fiber Cement Panels

This type of siding is made of cement fibers and comes in panels of 4×8 feet.  The cost (including installation) is about $6-$10 per square foot.

Stone & Brick

One of the most durable materials to choose for your home’s siding, both materials come in an array of textures, sizes, and colors.  But when something is built to last, the price tag is much higher.  Brick costs about $16-$22 per square foot while stone will cost about $30-$55 per square foot.


This material is available in a synthetic or natural form.  It works well for large surfaces with a simple design.  If you choose to use synthetic stucco, you will need to have a vapor barrier installed to avoid moisture buildup within the walls. It costs about $10-$14 per square foot.

Home Building 101: Major Phases of Construction Part III

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been walking you through what building a home entails, from the initial pouring, to explaining all of the inspections that take place, we’ve put it all together for you to quickly understand.  Today, we’ll continue to talk about this topic, here’s you can find part one and part two.

Drywall & Interior Textures

After the insulation is installed, the drywall and interior textures are begun.  After this is completed, the interior can be painted with primer to prepare it for the interior paint.

Exterior Textures

The exterior of the house will begin to be installed, this includes finished such as stucco, stone, brick, and siding.

Interior Trim & Paint

The decorative trim for interior doors, window sills, moldings, baseboards, and stair balusters are next installed as well as bathroom vanities, cabinets, fireplace surrounds and mantels.  Interior walls will then be painted or wallpapered.

Exterior Work

At this stage, any walkways, patios, and driveways that you have planned will be poured, though some contractors will wait until the house is completed to pour the driveway.

Floor, Counter tops, Exterior Grading

All vinyl, hardwood, and ceramic tile flooring is now installed along with kitchen and bathroom counter tops (we have a post comparing Corian and granite counter tops which might be helpful to you).  Any carpeting will be installed later in order to prevent any damage.  Not sure which kind of flooring to choose for your home?  You might want read our posts comparing hardwood and carpet, hardwood and laminate, as well as some general information on bamboo flooring.  Exterior grading is complete to make sure that water drains properly away from the home to prevent any foundation issues.

We hope that you’re enjoying reading this series of posts as much as we’re enjoying writing them.  If you’re looking for some home building ideas, it might be helpful to visit our post about luxuries to consider for your custom home, or how to build an energy efficient home on a budget.  Any suggestions?  Drop us a comment below.  See you next week when we wrap up this topic.

Home Building 101: Major Phases of Construction Part II

Today we’ll continue our conversation that we started last week when we began to go through the process of home construction.  We’ve already covered steps one and two, you can find that post here.


Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC

When the frame of the house is finished and the initial inspection is passed, then the roofing and siding installation can installed and the contractors for plumbing and electrical can begin installing pipes and wires.  At this time, single piece shower and tub units are installed as well since it is easier to maneuver them into place before the interior walls and doors are finished.  Sewer lines, vents, water supply lines, and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are put into place after which insulation is installed in the ceilings, floors, and walls.  This is the perfect time for installing radiant floor heating.

Once the roof has been installed, the house is “dried in”.  This means that it is safe for the electrician to install the lights, light switches, electrical outlets, and run the wires from each of these to the breaker box.  Cable TV, music system cables, and telephone cables and also run at this time.


After each of the above is installed, they will require an inspection to make sure that they meet the building code.  These are typically three separate inspections split into framing, plumbing and electrical, and mechanical systems.

Drywall Installation

After the inspections are successfully passed, drywall (also known as Sheetrock) will be installed.

Insulation Installation

Insulation is a critical part of home building especially for home owners in South Texas as we need to keep the heat out and the cool air from escaping; this can lead to some confusion since there are many types from which to choose.  We’ve gone over a few of these types in previous posts; you can read about fiberglass and foam insulation, cotton and cellulose insulation, or home insulation FAQ.  The majority of homes will need insulation in all exterior walls, the attic, and some floors that are above basements or crawl spaces.

Check back next week as we continue to explore the process of building a home.  Have a question about this process?  Drop us a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Home Building 101: Major Phases of Construction

Every step of building your dream home is fresh, new, and exciting, but what exactly are those steps?  What happens when and how does it happen?  The actual home building process will vary according to your home builder’s particular way of doing things, but this is a general guide that will help you understand the building stages of your South Texas custom home.

Site Prep & Foundation Pouring

The initial stage of your home building is to prepare the area will your home will be built.  Rocks, trees, and other debris will have to be removed before the area can be leveled.  After this, a wooden form is laid as a template, then holes and trenches are dug and footings are installed.  Footings are what connects your house to the ground.

If your house is slab directly on the ground, after the footings are complete then the space between the footings is level and utility runs (such as electrical chases and plumbing drains) are fitted, then the slab is poured.  If your house has a basement or needs a septic tank, it is dug at this point, and the walls of the foundation are then poured.

After the concrete slab is poured, it needs to cure.  This takes time, up to 6 to 8 weeks depending on the thickness of the slab and the weather.  Nothing else can happen at the construction site while waiting for this to happen.

When the concrete has finished curing, the construction team will use a waterproofing membrane to coat the foundation walls before installing the drains, water taps, sewer lines and any other plumbing for the first floor or basement floor.  The hole around the foundation wall is then filled back up with dirt.

First Inspection

A city inspector will need to visit the construction site to check that the foundation fully cured, is up to code, and that everything is properly installed.  After the inspection has been passed, the forms around the foundation are removed.


The skeleton of the house is the next important step.  In this step, the builders will complete framing for the floor, wall, and roof systems.  Plywood is then fixed to the roof and exterior walls, while exterior doors and windows are also installed.  The plywood is then covered in house wrap which is a protective barrier against water and reduces the likelihood of wood rot or mold.

Check back next week for the continuation of Major Stages of Construction.

Cost Effective Energy Efficiency Part II

Last week we began talking about the misconception that an eco-friendly house automatically equals a more expensive house, we’ll continue the discussion of ways to make your house more eco-friendly while taking into account your budget and even saving money on your custom home construction.

Identifying Design Details

You and your custom home builder can go through your home design together and work to pinpoint areas in which you can focus.  Here are a few to get you started:

Using manufacturer specifications is an area of importance as actual in-field practices and manufacturer’s suggested practices can differ widely.  Installing appliances correctly can go a long way to saving you money.

Framed wall cavities should have all six sides enclosed in order to stop air flow through them.

Another area where a little to no extra effort will save you money is your AC and heating ducts, seal them properly instead of using duct tape.  Doing this doesn’t take more time, and if you tape them then the duct tape will deteriorate over time causing air leaks to occur.

Speaking of air leaks, you should make sure that all penetrations in exterior walls are sealed with caulk.  This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes these things can be forgotten or overlooked.

Insulation around your windows isn’t necessary, instead use low-expanding foam which will fill every crack to ensure that there are no leaks.

Insulation has a few things of which to be aware: Make sure that behind your bathtubs are insulated, it’s usually required but not always carried out in actual construction.  Your fire place’s firebox should also be insulated and checked for any leaks.  Finally, check that your insulation is extended through all exterior walls and that your exterior plates are sealed with caulk.

Though this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the ways you can save money in your custom home construction while keeping it eco-friendly, it is a start and can spark some important conversation between you and the experts you are consulting.  Your custom home builder can walk you through many more options specific to your needs regarding having a home in south Texas.

Green Wall & Green Roof 101

House building technology is ever growing and changing, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the new methods and options available to the custom home builder.  Two terms that have been thrown around lately are “green wall” and “green roof”.  Today, we’ll take a quick look at what exactly is a green wall and if there any notable benefits for home owners in South Texas.

Green Wall

A green wall (also known as a living wall) is a wall that is covered first in a growing material such as soil that then seeded or planted with plants that either fully or partially cover it.  Green walls are typically built with a watering system integrated into the design.  Found outdoors and indoors, green walls can be attached to existing walls or can stand on their own and come in all shapes and sizes.  Green walls are popular for public spaces, but are also becoming an attractive and eco-friendly home feature.

Green Roof

A green roof (also known as a living roof) may just look like a rooftop garden but it is actually specially engineered to be able to support the weight, life, and growth of plants.  Coming in three categories: intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive, green roofs come on a scale of difficult to maintain to self-sustaining and practically maintenance free.


Green walls and roofs are a way to replace lost greenery in urban settings.  This can reduce air pollution, and help keep cities cooler.  Dense urban areas tend to be hotter than rural areas and green walls and roofs absorb heat from the sun instead of re-emitting it.  Green roofs and walls also absorb and filter rainwater, this decreases surface runoff which reduces flooding and helps to keep pollutants out of water reservoirs.  A green roof is a great insulator because it keeps a house warm in the winter and cool in the summer, this means that your house won’t require as much energy to heat and cool it.

If you’re interested in learning more about green walls and roofs, talk to your custom home builder.  They’ll know how to strengthen your home’s structure to support the additional weight of a green roof, or where a green wall would work well in your home.

Cotton Insulation & Cellulose Insulation Explained

Insulation is a part of your home that is rarely seen or discussed, but in actuality is vastly important.  Properly insulating your South Texas home can keep your utility bill low which is great for your wallet and the environment.  Modern insulation can be made from just about anything including newspaper, cotton, wool, and artificial materials such as chemical foams.  More environmentally friendly options are on the market too, recycled-content insulation and formaldehyde-free are just a few of those available.  This post is part of a series about insulation, if you haven’t read our previous posts on insulation, you can read about general insulation FAQs here and about foam and fiberglass insulation here.

Cotton Insulation

Cotton insulation is another material used for home insulation, it has an R-Value of 3.4 per inch.  It typically is made up of about 85% recycled cotton with 15% made of plastic fibers.  This material has been treated with borate which is issued to repel insects and as a flame retardant.  Some companies use recycled blue jean or other textile material leftover from the production of blue jeans which means that less energy goes into production of the cotton insulation.  It can be made into batts or used as loose filling.  Cotton insulation is non-toxic and can be installed without any extra protection gear.  It typically runs about 15-20% more expensive than the more common fiberglass insulation.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation is made of 80-90% recycled newspaper and cardboard, it has an R-Value of 3.6-3.8 per inch.  It can be sprayed as a wet material into open wall cavities and allowed to dry, or dry shredded and used as loose fill with netting.  It is typically treated with boric acid as a flame retardant and insect repellant.  Though cellulose insulation is considered eco-friendly, some people are experience adverse effects caused by the newsprint ink outgassing.  If you live in a humid environment, the cellulose is prone to absorbing moisture which can lead to the growth of mold.

As always, when considering what material to use as insulation in your home, it’s important to bring your custom home builder into the conversation.  They will have years of experience to help guide you as to the best choice for your area.

Fiberglass Insulation vs Foam Insulation

Insulation is a part of your home that is rarely seen or discussed, but in actuality is vastly important.  Properly insulating your South Texas home can keep your utility bill low which is great for your wallet and the environment.  Modern insulation can be made from just about anything including newspaper, cotton, wool, and artificial materials such as chemical foams.  More environmentally friendly options are on the market too, recycled-content insulation and formaldehyde-free are just a few of those available.  If you haven’t read our general information about insulation installation, you can read it here.


Practically everyone can recognize fiberglass insulation, it’s that pink stuff your parents told you to never touch and were paranoid about you breathing around it without a mask.  They weren’t wrong!  Fiberglass installation is best left to the professional as the glass fibers of which it is made, can be broken off and inhaled which can lead to lung damage.  The traditional form of fiberglass insulation is made with phenol-formaldehyde which is toxic, but recently, manufacturers have begun to make fiberglass without formaldehyde as well as using 30-40 percent recycled glass.

Fiberglass works as insulation because the tiny glass fibers trap bubbles of air that slow the transfer of heat.  Because it is widely used across the USA, installation is cheap and it can be easily purchased.  It is prone to air leakage, which makes the R-Value lower and it is also flammable.

Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is one of the most effective insulations that you can choose for your home, it’s a liquid that is poured or sprayed into a wall cavity where it will expand and harden.  The R-Value of spray foam depends on the type that you choose; the traditional form uses polyurethane (a type of plastic) as well as chlorofluorocarbons which has been shown to damage the ozone.  This type of spray foam has an R-Value of 6-7 because of its density.

The newer forms of spray foam are made from vegetable-bases such as corn fructose and soy and use water, hydrofluorocarbons, or carbon dioxide in place of chlorofluorocarbons.  Greener foam comes with a decrease in R-Value: 3.2 – 4.5 per inch.  Spray foam must be installed by professionals, and some types are made only for new wall construction.

Home Insulation FAQ

Insulation is a part of your home that is rarely seen or discussed, but in actuality is vastly important.  Properly insulating your South Texas home can keep your utility bill low which is great for your wallet and the environment.  Modern insulation can be made from just about anything including newspaper, cotton, wool, and artificial materials such as chemical foams.  More environmentally friendly options are on the market too, recycled-content insulation and formaldehyde-free are just a few of those available.  Next week, we’ll talk about some specific types of insulation, but here is some initial general information about insulation.


When talking about insulation, the R-Value is often the most discussed.  The R-Value simply measures the resistance to heat flow, therefore, a higher R-Value means a greater reduction in energy consumption.


Where you install your insulation is just as important as the type of insulation.  Your home’s attic is the first place that should be insulated; it’s the easiest and best place to use insulation to save your on your energy bill.  You should also seal any large air leaks and your basement.

Insulation Installation Tips

Having an expert install your insulation is key to guaranteeing that you get the highest R-Value possible, incorrect insulation installation can lead to a lower R-Value than advertised by the manufacturer.

Vents and vapor barriers are a good idea to help keep moisture out of your insulation.  Discuss your home’s particular needs with your custom home builder to make sure that your insulation doesn’t get wet or stay damp during rain storms.

If you choose to install foam insulation, the R-Value is typically held for the first two years, but after that time, the gases from the foam will begin to escape the insulation causing the R-Value to fall.  You can stop this by also installing a foil radiant barrier.

If you’ve installed a loose insulation such as blown-in cotton fibers or cellulose, you should be aware that it will settle over time and your R-Value will drop.

If you’ve chosen fiberglass insulation and live in a cold climate, you should know that fiberglass can lose up to 50 percent in R-Value when temperatures fall below -20 degrees Fahrenheit (not really a problem for South Texas homeowners).  Colder climate home owners will find that cellulose insulation will serve them better as the R-Value actually rise in lower temperatures.

The Aesthetics of a 2×6 Wall

Last week, we took a look at the energy savings and practicality of 2×4 versus 2×6 walls and this week we will dive a bit deeper into the more abstract differences between them.

After the end of World War II, American soldiers returned home and began to use the GI Bill to buy homes across America.  The construction of these homes, while creating much needed jobs and providing a place for a newly come-of-age generation, were also built quickly and not made to fit individual needs or desires.  That has all changed now, Americans are utilizing custom builders to help them create their own personal castle; a home where they can raise families and live out their lives in comfort in their own unique way.

Here in Texas, we love our high ceilings and using 2×6 walls is ideal.  You won’t just have more structural stability (2x4s are prone to twisting under heavier loads while the 2x6s are steady as a rock), they also just look better.  Even the untrained eye can pick out the subtle difference between a cookie cutter home and a home with 2×6 exterior walls.  The thick walls add to the feeling of your home, the place where you can kick off your shoes at the end of a long day at work and feel as though you are in a luxurious environment that is built for the sole purpose of providing you with shelter and comfort.  Thicker walls also come with deeper window wells, which can add charm to your home and make it feel less utilitarian.

Some clients have elected to go with even thicker walls to add to the sophistication and refinement of their homes.  When you walk in, you can really feel the difference in a tangible way; a home with thicker walls is quieter which only brings you back more and more to the feeling that you are truly in your own castle.  Choosing 2×6 walls also helps to create the illusion of an older home with character, one that was built with quality and long-life in mind, as opposed to a new home that has been quickly thrown up and will not pass the test of time.