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.


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.


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.

What is Glass Block?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talking about single, double and triple hung windows, double hung windows, the U-factor, and the R-value.  Continuing in the same vein, today, we’ll talk about glass block windows.

What is glass block?

Glass block windows are a unique option for homeowners in that they offer benefits such as security, design, and privacy that more traditional windows can’t provide.  These are literally blocks of glass that require installation that is more similar to masonry than window installation; they cannot be opened and are permanently closed.   They are available as custom made for whatever size window opening that you may need, or as prefabricated pieces in vinyl frames.  They are typically used in bathrooms or basements, but can be installed anywhere.

Energy Efficient

Glass block windows are equivalent to double pane windows as insulation.  They have little to no air infiltration as they are sealed with mortar and caulk, and as they admit natural light, there is less need for the usage of artificial light during the day.

Security and Privacy

Because of the way glass block windows are designed, they are the perfect solution for areas of your house where you want natural light but do not want people to be able to see into that part of your house.  Ideal for bathrooms, glass block windows are available in many designs that can be made to fit perfectly with your preferred décor.  You can also choose to replace a few of the blocks with a ventilation opening that will help bring in fresh air from outside or expel moisture.

Homeowners generally loved glass block windows as a security precaution in more vulnerable areas such as windows in the basement.  Glass block windows are usually about 3 inches thick and are difficult to remove because of the way in which they are installed.

Where to install glass block

Besides basement and bathroom windows, glass block can also be used as:

  • Showers
  • Water features such as ponds, pools, and water fountains
  • Kitchen islands
  • Walls
  • Deck privacy walls

Have you used glass block in your custom home design?  Where and how did you use it?  Drop us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Home Building 101: Major Phases of Construction Part IV

We’ve spent the last few weeks walking you through the process of home building, from foundation to the final inspection, if you haven’t read our blog posts from the previous weeks, you can find them here: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Mechanical Trims Finished & Bathroom Fixtures Installation

After your flooring is installed, your contractor will finish the mechanical trims and complete installation of the light fixtures, power outlets, light switches, and if the electrical panel hasn’t already been installed, it will be installed now.  Equipment for the HVAC is installed and faucets, sinks, and toilets in the kitchen and bathrooms are installed as well.

Miscellaneous Installation & Flooring

Shower doors and mirrors are installed next, they are installed at this point in the construction phase in order to keep them from being damaged during the actual construction and painting of the house.  Carpet is also installed now for the same reason and the house is cleaned of all debris and construction material leftovers.

Exterior Landscaping

At this point, the exterior of the house is also cleaned up and shrubs, grass, and trees are planted as well as any other exterior items that are left.

Final Inspection

An official will come to do the final inspection to check that everything follows your area’s building code.  If any issues come up during inspection that need to be addressed, the building-code official will have to conduct a follow-up inspection to ensure these have been addressed.  When everything has successfully passed inspection, the official will then issue a certificate of occupancy (C.O.) which means that you can legally live in the domicile.

Final Walkthrough/Pre-Settlement Walkthrough

Now that everything has successfully passed inspection, your builder will walk through the entire house with you to show off all of the house’s features, explain how to best maintain your home.  This is the time for you to look for any problems, mistakes, or areas requiring adjustment.  Your builder will be able to help you decide how to handle or fix these areas, she or he should also help you look for them but it’s important to be observant yourself.  Some areas to watch out for are: floors, walls, countertops, fixtures, and any glass such as mirrors, windows, etc. these parts are more prone to damage from construction.  It’s imperative to point these things out before you move in because after you move in there’s no way to prove that the damage was pre-existing before the movers came through.

That’s it!  Your home is built and ready to move-in!  Do you have any questions or comments about the process of building a home from the ground up?  If so, drop us a line below!

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.

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.

Corian vs Granite Counter Tops

When choosing the material for a countertop, the choices may seem overwhelming; we have so many options available to and the pros and cons of each choice might not be immediately obvious.  Let’s take a look at a two popular choices and learn about their differences.


Corian is a synthetic nonporous and homogenous surface that is stain resistant and available in over a hundred color options including ones made to look like natural materials.  DuPont, the same company that brought us products such as nylon, starting making Corian in the 1960s.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Corian

Because Corian is nonporous, it can be made without seams, this means that there are no cracks or holes where food or liquid can be caught and trapped.  For this reason, Corian is very hygienic, extremely easy to keep clean as well as durable and easy to repair. Thorough cleaning and drying is necessary to prevent water stains which will otherwise cause your counters to become dull.  Minor scratches and nicks can be removed with a scouring pad, and Corian can also withstand heat up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit though sustained contact with high temperatures can cause discoloring.


Granite is one of the most popular choices for kitchen and bathroom counters, it will always be in style and is a great choice when it comes to durability.  Granite is a rock formed from cooled molten lava, it is cut from quarries and then cut into slabs and polished for use as countertops.  It is available in many different and beautiful colors and because it is a natural stone, each piece of granite will be unique.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Granite

Granite is a porous rock which means that it will absorb any liquids that are spilled on it, despite this, damaging granite is not very easy.  Granite is heat resistant and scratch resistant.  Over time, with hard usage, granite is likely to crack or chip and replacement can be expensive.  Because granite is porous, that means that it should be cleaned well daily or else it can lead to mold or bacteria growth.  Any cleaning solutions containing acidic ingredients (such as citrus or vinegar) should not be used as they can dull the surface of the granite.  For granite countertops that are in regular use, it is recommended that you reseal them at least every two years to keep your countertops stain free.

Corian and Granite are both beautiful choices for any home and the perfect fit for your South Texas home should be discussed in more depth with your interior designer who will know just how to help you choose.

Radiant Floor Heating 101

Radiant floor heating, or underfloor heating is an energy efficient and practically invisible method of heating your home. If you’re remodeling an existing home, adding the finishing touches to your new home’s plans, or just dreaming a little, radiant floor heating is worth knowing about.

What is it?

This type of flooring can be found as far back as the Romans who invented this method of heating their marble floors. With this method, heat is conducted through the surface of the floor instead of through the air.

How does it work?

Most radiant flooring falls under two types: hydronic, heating through hot water pipes, and electric, heating through electric wires. Both types of underfloor heating are buried under the floor. An electric radiant floor heating system is more cost-effective and easier to install, but tends to be more expensive in the long run while the hydronic radiant floor heating system is more expensive and difficult at installation and less expensive to operate. How to choose? The rule of thumb is that electric works better for smaller areas while hydronic is more efficient for larger areas or the entire house.

Pros and Cons

Because heat rises, radiant floor heating is an energy efficient way to make certain that you stay warm. With more traditional Western heating methods, heat often gets trapped near the ceiling, or in houses that aren’t sealed well the heat escapes outside. Underfloor heating systems can be tricky to install in an existing floor, you will need to tear up the entire floor to install it. There are a few other options if you want the benefits of radiant floor heating but don’t want to go through the pains of installation in an existing house. Electric radiant pads are one of these options and worth exploring a bit more.

Stone, ceramic tiles, and concrete all work very well with radiant floor heating. Wood floors might not work so well, but talk to your custom home builder about your options if you just can’t live without a hardwood floor and radiant floor heating, there are still some ways to make this work. Vinyl and laminate flooring, as well as carpeting do not work very well with the necessary heat flow.

More Custom Home Luxuries

Building a custom home comes with many perks, one of which is being able to incorporate what are considered “luxuries” into the design and many times paying considerably less than if you installed the luxury into your existing home.  We posted another blog post a few weeks back about our favorite luxuries to consider for your South Texas home, here are a few more that we also love.

Self-Closing Drawers and Cabinets

Your dream kitchen and bathrooms will be all the better with this tiny improvement; not expensive to add, you will love how softly everything closes and how tidy this makes your home.

Underfloor or Radiant Heat Flooring

A subtle addition to your dream home, you’ll definitely notice the difference in the winter months.  Imagine stepping out of your shower, or poking your feet out of bed and being met by a soft warmth instead of ice cold.  Now that would be a luxury worth paying a bit extra to obtain.  The great thing is that radiant heat flooring can be energy efficient as well.  You can read more about radiant heat flooring here.

Double Dishwashers

We’ve all heard the hype about double ovens, but have you considered double dishwashers?  They’re just the thing for entertaining or large family gatherings.  You can install the second one in a bar or in your island, or just about anywhere you find convenient.

Pullout Cabinet Shelving

Pantries and cabinets can benefit from having pullout shelves that help you access those difficult to reach spots in the back.  This way you won’t be losing cans of soup, or buying two hand mixers because you can find one.  These are easy to install and won’t cost you much more, but we guarantee that you’ll love the convenience of them.

Light Switch Dimmers

Whether you’re installing lights in your new custom home, switching out existing lights, or just want something to combat the harsh lighting in your home, dimmers might be an excellent option for you.

What are your top dream home luxuries?  Drop us a line in the comment section, we’d love to hear from you!