Curb Appeal: Garage Doors

Curb appeal is your home’s first chance to impress your friends, neighbors, family, and potential buyers (remember that you should always consider your home to be one of your most important investments).  With up to 30% of homes in the US having a garage door that is a prominent feature of the front façade for easy drive-in, your garage door will likely be seen by not only your visitors but by everyone who drives by.

Before you think that choosing a garage door is an easy matter, remember that you are not just choosing a color, but also a window pattern and design.  There are literally thousands of combinations that are offered by some garage door manufacturers.

Thankfully, this is something that garage door manufacturers understand, and they have created a solution to keep you from becoming overwhelmed.  We like Wayne-Dalton’s Garage Door Design Center  which allows you to overlay a photo of your house with garage door designs.  Overhead Door Corp offers a similar option with DoorView.  If you have a particular brand of garage door in mind, it’s a good idea to get with your custom home builder or to call the brand directly to see what sort of tools they offer to assist you when choosing a garage door.

Types of Garage Door Construction

Single-layer garage doors are a lightweight and low cost option.  They are made of a single outer layer of fiberglass, engineered wood, or steel and have little insulating value.

Double-layer garage doors have an outer and inner skin with an interior of polystyrene board and an insulating value of R-4 to R-7.

Premium garage doors have an outer and inner layer of wood, fiberglass, or higher quality steel and an interior of polyurethane or polystyrene with insulating values over R-15.

The next thing consideration to be made is what is the best material for a garage door.  There are many from which you can choose but the pros and cons of each is important.  Your house’s location and the climate is important.  We will go over the types of materials for garage doors in our next post.

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.

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.

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.