The Skinny on Butcher Block Countertops

One of the latest fads to take hold of our kitchens: the butcher block counter top. Whether edge grain, face grain, or end grain, it can be an awesome additional to your home with a range of colors and patterns from woods like oak, to birch, to cherry, to even bamboo.

butcher block countertops

Besides being highly desirable for their looks, wooden counters have a range of features:

  • Lasts a long time and absorbs dings and scratches.
  • Plays well with other materials like metal, plastic, or rock.
  • Less noise than harder surfaces with dishes and utensils.
  • Wood tends to be antimicrobial and antibacterial.

A few properties to keep in mind are:

  • Wood is prone to shrinking, growing, or cracking due to humidity or dry weather.
  • If not sealed properly, the wood may rot or change color.
  • Heat or spills can burn or change the color of the wood, though this could be sanded out.

I hope this inspires your kitchen creativity and let us know if you pick a wooden countertop or have one currently!

What is the difference between a landscape designer, landscape architect, or a landscaper?

Each of these landscaping professionals has their own specialties and knowing who to hire for your particular project or home can be difficult if you don’t know how to differentiate between them.  You want your yard to compliment your home and curb appeal is something to consider for homes and for investment properties.

A savvy homebuyer knows that the landscaping of a yard is a huge part of their property value; mature trees, a beautiful lawn, a cute patio, and well-placed shrubs can all add to your home’s value.

Here’s the lowdown on what each professional can do well and which one is right for your home’s needs.

Landscape Designer

This professional is typically one with a nursery or horticultural background and specializes in designing landscapes for renovated or new home areas.  They’ll work with a computer program to provide you with a blueprint of your yard that includes the optimal placement for plants and yard features such as sculptures, paths, patios, and more.

Hiring a landscape designer is a smart move to save you money and time in the end.  They typically specialize in the balance of color, size, texture, and proportion of yards to help you use the parts to make a whole picture that comes together as your garden.

Landscaper

Landscapers are the right choice for a simple job: taking out old trees, planting new ones, modifying existing plants, garden beds, or lawns.  They can also offer help with regular maintenance of your lawn.

Landscape Architect

These professionals usually have a more advanced education or formal training; they often work on complex commercial or residential projects.  If you’re thinking of adding a water feature, or large sculpture to your garden, this is the choice for you.  They specialize in collaborating with architects, surveyors, and engineers to bring unity and complimentary features to your home and garden.

Your custom home builder probably has a unique connection with someone in each of the professions listed above, be sure to speak with them about which is the right choice for you and ask for recommendations.  Often they can point you in the right direction and give you a name and number of someone that they have worked with in the past.

Most Popular Housing Trends for 2017

The past few years have seen a rise in several housing trends that we predict will continue on through this year and even 2018.  Many millennials are buying and building homes and they are looking to make a smaller footprint and simplify.  The architectural features that were important to older generations are no longer needed or are out of place in the modern home.

Green Living

Energy efficient appliances and windows are a must for any new homes, long-term savings and the environmental implications are something that most people consider now.  With the onset of low-flow faucets, solar heating, tankless water heaters, and duel-flush toilets, it’s becoming easier to make every aspect of a home save time, money, and resources.

Disappearing Living Rooms

Livings rooms as a separate room are becoming less and less common, instead what homebuyers or homebuilders are looking for is a “great room”.  This is an open floor plan that combines that family, kitchen, and dining rooms into one huge common room.  This room has space for homework to be done, meals to be eaten, parties to be had, and more.

Kitchens

Walk-in pantries and huge islands are on their way out while recessed lighting and large farmhouse style sinks are becoming increasingly popular.  Resell value is a big thing with the more transient millennials, and therefore the modern sleek kitchen is making way for the cozy and comfortable kitchen which has proved itself popular through many different kitchen trends. 

Copper

Copper is the new hot metal for fixtures, and mixing copper or gold with wood is becoming even more popular, though gold and bronze are also becoming more sought after.  Grays and blacks are making their way up to the top of most desirable neutrals as well.  All of these colors work well together or separately, and also mix well in many different mediums, shades, and materials.

Raw Materials

Materials such as stone and wood are making their way back into homes in place of stainless steel and tile.  Featuring the raw organic beauty of nature (whether manufactured to look like nature or truly from nature) is the way to go; everything in its natural form.

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 Top 5 Things to Look for When House Shopping with Kids

Whether you are building a custom dream home or shopping for an already built home, these are our top 5 things that you should look for to make your life with kids run smoothly and efficiently.

Location

This seems like a no-brainer, but have you considered which school district your potential home falls into?  The distance from the school?  These good considerations too take into account when purchasing a home.

Laundry Room

While it may not be your first thought when you are looking for a house, with kids, a fully functional laundry room is a must.  Look for a laundry room on the first floor of the house, does it double as a mudroom?  Even better.

Built-In Storage Options

Top heavy furniture can be a problem for small children and circumventing that problem, while saving yourself a bit of money (by not spending it on unneeded furniture) is entirely possible with built-ins in living spaces.  Also look for built-in storage in closets, the mudroom or laundry room, as well as the entry way which will all help cut down on clutter and keep spaces neat and tidy.

Bathrooms

A kid-friendly bathroom is another important feature to look for in a home.  Kids usually need a large tub with plenty of room for an adult to be around to supervise.  Consider how much storage space you will need for toiletries, toys, and plenty of towels.  The master bathroom is also something to consider as a private space with no kids can be a wonderful retreat to call your own when you need a break.

Stairs that have room for a safety gate

Beyond a safety gate, think about the railings and steps themselves.  Can a child get their head stuck between the railings?  Or slip through them?  If your children are past the stage of bumbling around and exploring on their own, this is not something you necessarily need to consider, but if you have a child who is learning to crawl or walk, this is a good area to carefully consider.

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.

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.

Safety

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.

Warranties

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.

Farmhouse Style Tips

With the rise in popularity of shows such as Fixer Upper with Joanna and Chip Gaines, and more people realizing the value of antiques and styles of days past, so the farmhouse has begun to see a comeback as the preferred architectural style of many people.  This style of house is an all-American classic which can be found sitting alone upon acres and acres of land, or in the suburbs surrounded by other houses, cars, and people.

Curb appeal is an important aspect of every home.  If you’re trying to sell a house, this is the first thing that potential home buyers will notice about the property.  If you have no plans to go anywhere, this is what your neighbors and friends see, a first impression of your home, style, and life.

Here are a few of our favorite tips for maximizing the curb appeal of your farmhouse:

  1. Classic doorknobs and hardware.

Dark, heavy, quality hardware is something that all farmhouses usually have for their doors, mailboxes, and other odd bits of metal.

  1. Front porch seating area.

Rocking chairs are a staple of farmhouse front porches, a porch swing can also be used in lieu of or in addition to rockers.

  1. Front porch.

Speaking of front porch seating options, does your house have a front porch, or does that front porch need a bit of repair?  Adding on a porch to your home isn’t as difficult as it may sound.  A wraparound porch is an especially classic look.

  1. Consider a fresh coat of paint in a gorgeous farmhouse appropriate shade.

Paint can dress up any home and some of the best colors that we’ve found are: barn red, or buttermilk both of which are classic with white trim.  Or try classic white with a dark trim.

  1. Standing-seam metal roof.

This will give you a classic but modern look for your farmhouse and will last quite a bit longer than the traditional shingle.

  1. New fence.

Consider adding or updating your house with a new fence.  A white picket or split-rail fence are both appropriate for a farmhouse.

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.