Sunday, June 12, 2011

So You Want To Remodel Your Home: Part 1

As a Custom Home Builder and Remodeler in the current market place, I find myself looking at more and more remodeling projects these days as compared to new custom homes. Working in the older urban neighborhoods in Austin, I have always done remodeling work for my neighbors, friends, and any referrals, but now find that remodeling is becoming a much larger part of my annual revenue. In an effort to address this growing part of my company, I am embarking on an effort to help educate home owners on the remodeling process. Among the topics to come will be How to Choose a Remodeling Contractor, Energy Efficient Retrofits, Cost Effective Green Remodeling Strategies, Do's and Don'ts of the McMansion and Heritage Tree Ordinances, Facts on Energy Efficiency Tax Credits, Energy Testing, Crawl Spaces, and Water Conservation. If you are interested in these topics, or have other ideas or questions that you would like to see addressed, please follow my blog and feel free to contact me at You can also visit our website at

So You Want to Remodel Your Home

When thinking about remodeling the biggest investment you own, there are several things to take into consideration before beginning the project. The first thing to consider is whether you are going to add value to your home by investing in a remodel project. If you want to change your home, your other option besides remodeling is to find a new one. But more and more American families are deciding to stay put and improve their existing home. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Remodeling allows you to customize your home to meet your needs and desires. The only similar, but much more costly alternative, is to have a brand new custom home designed and built.
  • Remodeling means that you don't have to give up a familiar neighborhood and schools.
  • Remodeling is a more efficient use of your financial resources. According to the American Homeowner Foundation, selling your home and moving typically costs about 8-10% of the value of your current home. And much of this goes into moving expenses, closing costs, and broker commissions - items that have no direct impact on your home's quality.
  • Remodeling can be stressful, but few experiences are more stressful than moving.

While there are many reasons that people choose to remodel, the bottom line is that remodeling makes your home a more enjoyable place to live. The intangible value of this pleasure needs to be considered, along with any resale value you hope to gain.

But there is no doubt that, as far as improving the sale of your home, all remodeling projects are not created equal. The general rule of thumb is that any remodeling project that brings your home up to the level of your neighbors' is a worthy investment. But it doesn't pay to be the most expensive house on the block - real estate experts recommend that a remodeling investment should not raise the value of your house to more than 10-15% above the median sales price in your neighborhood.

Remember that potential buyers will compare your home to ones newly built. Therefore, you'll want to look at the design trends and amenities being built into new homes. Great rooms (open kitchen/family room arrangements), master bed and bath suites, and higher ceilings are a few of the features sought by today's home buyers. Be sure to follow along as the next installment will discuss "Where to Begin" on your remodeling project.

Excerpts from NAHB website: Remodeling>Remodeling vs Moving

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adopt a Contractor and Protect Your Assets by Chattanooga Remodeler

If you are sitting on a million dollars or half a million dollars or even $200,000, you might consider getting advice from a financial advisor. With that kind of money, you'd want the best advice on how to grow your investment. During your first session with him you are going to go over your goals and ambitions, what assets you have, and when and how you plan to retire. With this information, your advisor will put together a plan to help you achieve your goals. You may put some of the money in stocks, some in bonds and some in annuities. At certain milestones you'll change the funds from one place to another to maximize your return. Most of you will stick with your advisor for life, if he does a good job for you. Having a good financial advisor turns out to be a good move for you and your family.

We've all heard that most people's homes are their largest assets. This is repeated in many ways, and in many circumstances. We've heard it so many times that it is rather a cliché of sorts, and we don't give it that much thought. All we know is that when the time comes to sell our homes, we hope to get a good return on our investment.

So, how many of you have hired a financial advisor to protect your home, your largest asset in most cases? I'm guessing that very few have. Most live by the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule. When you think about this philosophy, as far as your house goes, it's plain dumb. Take a look at car maintenance for instance. Do you perform routine preventative maintenance on it? Sure you do. You don't want to be stranded on the side of the road somewhere. What if the airlines adopted that philosophy? Now that's scary. Nobody would want to fly anymore. So why let your house rot, and then fix it. Why have your furnace fail on a cold night, and then fix it. Why let your home decrease in value when it could be increasing in value with routine maintenance.

I think you get my point by now. Routine maintenance on your home is very important, not only financially, but also in terms of your comfort and convenience. You need a trusted advisor to look over your entire home and see when certain parts of the home need to be replaced or serviced. You need to know when the repairs or maintenance will be needed and how much it will cost. It's time to —– Adopt a contractor!

Just as you hired your financial advisor, you need to interview a few contractors and get references. She or he need to be experienced with all facets of your home. I would suggest a full service remodeler, possibly with design-then-build experience. They need to know what products are best, and how they should be installed and who should install them. A good contractor should be surrounded by experts in all fields. She or he should have built relations with the best in the business, so you get the best advice and service when it is needed.

Your home is a system. Everything in your home has to work together. Your home's function is to keep you warm and dry, safe and comfortable at all times. It is an envelope that protects you from the outside world. Find a contractor that understands this; one that can see the big picture, and will guide you toward the best possible return on your investment. This should be a long term relation, so that your contractor becomes familiar with your home and your lifestyle and you know what to expect from your contractor. When you find such a person, life will be so much better. Now you can set up an annual budget for the future maintenance needs of your home and schedule them at your convenience.

Your contractor may not wear a suit and tie, but he may well be the most important financial advisor you've ever hired.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cool House Tour 2009

Sunday, June 28, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Below are pictures of the home constructed by Bill Taute Homes in 2008 that is included in the tour. The architect was Ben Obregon of Sustainable Design Center, Please check out the link to the Cool House Tour below and come out to see our Austin Energy 5 Star Rated Green Building Techniques and Features.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 Parade of Homes Video

The link below is a short video about my home in the 2009 HBA Austin Parade of Homes at Mueller. There are four other builder videos on You Tube describing all five homes in the Parade. Visit the web site at to find out more about this year's Urban Green Parade.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Roof Garden

 The first step to installing a garden roof is to make sure that the roof structure is designed to accommodate the extra weight of the soil, plants, sod, and water necessary to successfully establish the landscaping you have designed for your roof. Our structural engineer designed a roof system taking these considerations into account, and our truss manufacturer produced trusses based on this design. Then we installed a TPO roof, an ethylene propylene rubber product that combines the durability of rubber with the proven performance of hot-air weldable seams. The roof is pitched to facilitate drainage, and has scuppers, or thru wall drains, to allow excess water or rain to drain to the ground below. The entire garden then sits on top of a layered drainage mat system that incorporates a protective fabric over the roof, a root barrier to keep plant roots from penetrating the roof, a drainage mat that allows water to find its way through the system, and a filter fabric that retains the soil while allowing the water to enter into the drainage mat. The drainage mat and filter fabric are both extended over the scuppers to retain the soil and filter the runoff.

A light weight soil medium is installed to a minimum of 4" to give sod and plants a base for growth and to help retain moisture. We are using a lightweight landscaping mix for the top 2-4" to facilitate plant and sod growth. We are installing a rock walk, planter boxes for larger plants, an herb garden, ground cover, and sod. We have installed an irrigation system to help get the garden established, and have a rain barrel to harvest rainwater to help with future irrigation needs.

Herbs in the garden will include rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, and parsley. Plants will include ice plant, aloe vera, autumn joy, bicolor iris, santolina, upright juniper, bamboo muhly, and dwarf oleander, with Zoysia grass as the sod. I have included a link to our roof garden component manufacturer's Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009 HBA Parade of Homes

Parade of Homes™

The original Parade of Homes™, where "Dream Homes Become Reality," is an annual tour of homes presented by the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Greater Austin. The HBA has presented the Parade of Homes™ in the greater Austin area for the last 56 years. Tours allow visitors to check out the latest in architecture design, interior decorating, pool design and landscape design. Remember, if it doesn't say "Parade of Homes™ presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin" it's not the real thing.

2009 Tour Information

First ever HBA 5-Star
Parade of Homes™.

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to tour 5-Star Green Homes by five award winning builders. The 2009 event will be an "urban" tour of homes located in the new Mueller development - the site of Austin's old Mueller Airport. Located just three miles from downtown Austin and the Texas State Capitol and two miles from The University of Texas at Austin, Mueller is perfectly positioned to become an energetic new hub for central Austin. Come have a look!

Preview Party for HBA and Real Estate Industry Members


Dates and Hours

  • May 23, 2009 - June 7, 2009
  • 10:00am - 8:00pm, Thursday through Tuesday (closed Wednesdays) 


  • Purchase at the gate
  • Ticket price: $15; $12 for seniors and kids 5-17; kids under 5 are free
  • Sorry, NO credit cards accepted
  • Tickets only valid for entry on day of purchase

Inclement Weather

Homes are open when weather permits. Call (512) 454-5588 to see if homes are open for tours during bad weather.

The Builders

  • Bill Taute Homes / website / (512) 441-0699
  • Cool River Custom Homes / website / (512) 294-5212
  • Durrett Interests LLC / website / (512) 472-3100
  • The Muskin Company / website / (512) 371-0037
  • Streetman Homes / website / (512) 473-3725

The Homes

To view artist renderings and descriptions for each home, click on the address below.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Construction Waste Management

Our waste management plan utilizes the services of Construction Waste Recyclers of Texas, and we try to recycle at least 80% of our construction waste. We accomplish this by educating our subcontractors and site cleaning crews about our program, with the help of Fred Thornhill, who owns the recycling and waste management company. We establish waste areas, recycled content areas, and have large barrels with trash bags on site, all labeled bilingually. By utilizing Optimum Value Engineering practices, we use less lumber, and therefore are able to create less waste in the framing stages. By separating the waste and recyclable materials, it is easier to determine how much waste is being created, as opposed to simply throwing all waste into a dumpster. The average 2000 square foot home typically produces approximately 8000 pounds of waste, so by recycling diligently, we are able to diver 6000-7000 pounds of trash from every home we build away from our landfills. While we still have issues with off site waste being brought onto the job site, the lack of a large dumpster has minimized the impact of neighborhood trash on our job sites.

What is recyclable and what is waste? We are able to recycle on site all brush, trees, and land clearing debris, lumber scraps, drywall, rock or brick waste, concrete and plaster spoils, tile cuts, wood flooring scraps, and composite shingles. The scraps and leftovers from all of these products are ground up on site and are available for immediate use on site. Lumber scraps create mulch which is used for soil erosion control, for walkways around the site to minimize the tracking of mud onto the slab, and to build up low spots on the site. Drywall is ground into dust that can be tilled into the soil on site similar to adding lime to the sub grade. All of the other hardscape spoils and the composite shingles are ground into a base type material that is used to stabilize driveway and sidewalk sub grades. In the event that we have no place or no more use for the recycled content on a particular site, we will work with other contractors to distribute the materials on other sites. Any materials that have no other place to go are delivered to a composting site. Fred and his crew recycle all aluminum, metal, cardboard, insulation, plastic, and vinyl at locations around town, and document the tonnage of what is ground, what is recycled off site, and what actually has to go to the landfill. Any leftover building materials that we can't use on other projects are recycled through Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, Goodwill, and other similar facilities. We typically leave at least a quart of every paint used on the home for the home owner to use for any touch up jobs, and store most paint in our off site warehouse facility for up to a year. After a year, we take the leftover paints to the City of Austin Hazardous Waste Facility.

As the City of Austin moves towards implementing a Zero Waste Initiative over the coming years, it will be incumbent on builders and remodelers to realize how much waste they create, and how they can divert as much waste as possible into something other than our landfills. It will also become the responsibility of home owners and investors to require their contractors to conform to these more stringent Construction Waste Management standards. After the initial education of subcontractors that are not use to this type of program, and re-tooling take off and engineering processes to eliminate waste before materials are delivered t the site, a good contractor will realize that a program like this makes sense both from and environmental and economical viewpoint.