Watching the Night Sky in Brazos Valley

Watching the Night Sky in Brazos Valley

On August 21, the whole country will be able to view the first solar eclipse in 99 years. The eclipse won’t reach complete cover over Texas even at the maximum view, but it will still be a beautiful thing to witness (provided you have the right glasses). You can view this once-in-a-lifetime wonder from your own deck between the hours of 11am and 2pm. But even after the eclipse, you can still find beautiful night sky views in Brazos Valley, if you know where to look.

Lake Bryan

One tip for getting the best view of the stars is to get as far away from the bustle of the city as possible. Streetlights, bright signs, and even house lights, all contribute to light pollution, which distorts our view of the stars. Simply put, the further you are from manmade lights, the more stars you’ll be able to see. For this reason, Lake Bryan is a favorite spot for stargazers. It has a relaxing atmosphere, perfect for driving the RV up and camping out for the night. Just spread out a blanket and enjoy the sky full of beautiful stars. You may have to wait until late at night, however, as Lake Bryan has the Lakeside Icehouse & Grill which can cause some commotion and light pollution.

Attend a Star Party

This is the perk of living in or near a college town: Mitchell Institute and the Texas A&M Astronomy Club frequently host star parties for stargazing enthusiasts. These events are held in Simpson Drill Field Review Stands, so you can still see the stars as we see them from the ground, but the astronomy groups also provide computerized telescopes for a closer view. These parties offer a chance not only to look at far away galaxies, but also a view of our moon’s craters and Jupiter and its 67 moons. “This gives people an opportunity to look up and appreciate the sky because everyone takes it for granted,” says physics major, Caitlin Campbell.

Your Own Deck

You don’t have to leave home and find high-tech gadgets to appreciate the stars. Sometimes the best view is the one from your own backyard. Just dim the lights of your home and step outside with a glass of wine or beer and look up. You can familiarize yourself with the constellations that you see every night, have friends over to stargaze with you, or just enjoy a quiet moment between yourself and the much larger universe.  There’s no pay to view, there’s no waiting for the perfect time or place. The perfect time or place is your deck at the back of your own home.

When you’re ready to have a deck installed, find a local construction group who are experts in the area that you can count on to create the perfect deck for outdoor relaxation. Take a look at some of the decks constructed or renovated by Windham Construction. If you like what you see, call them for an estimate of the cost and the time it will take to construct.

Can You Handle a Fixer Upper?

Can You Handle a Fixer Upper?

Fixer uppers are all the rage, at least on home improvement shows. There are multiple shows centered around the same premise: instead of buying an expensive, move-in ready home, save money by buying a home that needs a little love and fixing it up. And surely, renovating a fixer upper can be a great way to put your personal stamp on your new home. However, the intimidation towards buying a home that needs renovations is not without cause. It can be a daunting task that leaves many home buyers wondering, “Is it even worth it?”

The answer is...sometimes. In many cases, buying a cheap fixer upper that just needs cosmetic renovations can be much cheaper than buying a move-in ready home. In other cases, though, the home needs to be gutted to be functional or is in such bad shape that the cost to renovate is far more than the cost of a move-in ready house. Know the difference. Hire a home inspector before buying so they can give you a clear picture of everything you’ll be getting into with this house. If the cost of the house and the cost of the renovations combined is still cheaper than move-in ready houses on the market, a fixer upper could be a good opportunity for you.

The other thing to take into consideration is time. Renovating a home can be disruptive and stressful and can last for weeks or months, depending on the work that needs to be done. If you’re in no hurry to move into your new home, you won’t have to worry about living with it. If you need to move sooner rather than later, you might find yourself in a home that feels more like a disaster zone. It’s a good idea to get an estimate from a construction professional before making any major decisions so you know how much time renovations will take and whether you have that time.

Some homeowners choose to do their own renovations to save money. However, not all homeowners have the skill or the time to put into that work. In most cases, it’s best to hire a local professional. You can know that your renovations are being done by someone who knows what to look for and what best to do, and you can be relieved from the stress of having to do the work yourself. Some construction groups even include design services, so you can get a jump-start on your interior design, as well.

Renovating a fixer upper is never easy. If you decide to take on the task, you have to be prepared for a good amount of cost and chaos. A local construction group who knows Brazos Valley well and has a dedication to quality can help take some of the edge off. And sometimes, the good outweighs the stress and all of that mess of a renovation can lead to your new life in the house of your dreams.

Tips for Staying Cool this Summer

Tips for Staying Cool this Summer

The long-range forecast shows that we’re going to have a lovely summer. There will be plenty of sun and a few clouds to cool things down just a touch.  There are some great ways to keep cool and have fun outdoors this summer.

Find some shade

One way to enjoy the outdoors without overheating is to stay in the shade. If you don’t have mature trees in your yard, don’t worry. There are other options.

  • A sunroom/screened porch: If you have a screened in porch or a sunroom, you can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while being protected from the sun and mosquitos. They’re a fun and safe place for your kids to play as well.
  • A pergola: A simple structure that adds shade and beauty to your yard and is great for family cookouts. While many pergolas are open at the top, you can have a roof added to it. Otherwise, there are many vining plants that will fill in the top of the pergola to provide shade.
MedicineNet.com lists several ways to keep cool during the summer. These include:
  1. Switch up your workout routine by going out early in the morning. If it’s hard for you to get out of bed extra early, you can try going in the evening. It tends to be a little warmer in the evening than the morning, but at least you won’t be in direct sunlight. MedicineNet.com also says that if you can’t workout at a cooler time of day, you should lower your level of exertion. Maybe take a brisk walk instead of a run.
  2. Wear loose fitting, light colored, cotton clothing. Cotton will often keep you cooler than synthetics, loose fitting clothes allow air flow, and light colors reflect some of that heat away from you.
  3. Put a spray bottle of water in the fridge and some bottled water in the freezer. The spray of cold water can keep you cooled down, and if you take a bottle of frozen water with you when you’re going out, you’ll have nice cool water when the weather is at its hottest.
  4. Remember that alcohol can lead to dehydration. Don’t drink alcohol when you’re out in the heat and if your friends do, make sure they drink water as well. Alcohol can leave a person feeling like they aren’t thirsty when they are getting dehydrated. That’s why it’s dangerous to drink alcohol in hot weather.
  5. Be reasonable. If it’s too hot, you should probably stay indoors. That doesn’t mean you have to stay home. There are a lot of activities around Bryan-College Station that don’t involve staying out in the heat.

I hope this was helpful for you. Our weather here in College Station is always beautiful and that’s why so many of us want to spend time outdoors. Just remember to stay hydrated and use some common sense when you’re out in the heat this summer. Have fun this summer!

How to Have an Amazing Home Renovation in College Station, TX

How to Have an Amazing Home Renovation in College Station, TX

If you’re looking to do a renovation on your house or even doing a bath and kitchen remodel, it’s good to know what steps you need to take to make it all work out perfectly. Whether your home remodel is in Brazos Valley or in the Bryan-College Station area, there are some things you need to consider before having your home remodeled.

If You Have a Strict Budget

Sometimes your eyes can be a little bigger than your bank account. You see a beautiful home in a magazine and you want your home to look like that. However, you may not be able to afford to make all of the changes at once. At the same time, there’s no point in living in a home that doesn’t make you happy. If you want to have a wonderful home, but you are on a budget, you have options.

Get a contractor to give you an estimate on everything you want to be done, but also ask the contractor how much each part of the project will cost. You may only be able to afford a kitchen remodel now, but later you may be able to add a bathroom remodel and other work around the house.

Finding the Right Contractor in Brazos Valley

If you live in Brazos Valley you should be concerned with finding a local contractor that really knows the area. While other cities may have many building contractors that will meet your expectations, Brazos Valley doesn’t have a big city like Dallas with a lot of contractors. Since your choices are limited, you need to do your research.

Questions to ask a contractor:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you live around here?
  • Can I see pictures of previous jobs you’ve done?

Each of these questions is important. You don’t want to put your money in the hands of a newbie. Yes, we all want people that are just starting out to succeed, but no one wants to be one of the first customers of a construction company that hasn’t constructed anything. Don’t feel sorry for them. They can have family hire them at first. You go and find an experienced contractor.

A local contractor is important as well. If he lives and works in the area, he has connections in the community. He can get things done right, with eh right materials and people, faster than someone that isn’t from around here.

Hiring a builder to do work around your home requires trust. You have to trust them with your home and your money. Make sure to only hire someone that you know will do the best work. When you’re hiring a construction company to work for you, ask yourself one question: Do I trust this team to do the work the right way?  If you hire someone out of sympathy because their business doesn’t seem to be working well, you’ll soon see why their business isn’t working well. You need an excellent builder to work for you.

The Best Material for Deck Building in Central Texas

The Best Material for Deck Building in Central Texas

Have you ever left something brightly colored out in the sun like a throw pillow on a lawn chair?  It probably didn’t take long to fade. In Texas, we get a lot of sunshine.  College Station often has hot and sunny summers that seem to start early and end late. That’s a consideration for when you’re going to start an outdoor project. The materials you use need to stand up to the sun and heat, but then also to times when the rain decides to fall and temperatures drop.

Wood loses its color and even treated wood will eventually give in to the elements. There is another option. Resin provides the look of wood, but it lasts much longer. With a polyresin deck, there’s less maintenance because you don’t have to stain it or sand down splinters.

The benefits of resin decks

Resin decks are gaining popularity because they last. They also look like wood. Instead of just having a wood colored coating, the color goes through the entire board. That means that you don’t have to worry about scratches on the surface being noticeable.

While wood is beautiful, it has its downfalls. It can rot, lose color, and splinter. While the gray color of faded wood has its charms, it often comes with damage. Wood decks require regular maintenance if they’re going to last.

Polyresin decks and handrails are able to stand up to the weather. They don’t rot and they keep their color. For a deck that will stand the test of time, resin is an excellent choice.

Wooden decks - the industry standard

Natural wood has its benefits as well. When well cared for, it can last a long time. Using the right kind of wood is important for a long-lasting deck.

An article on Bob Villa.com has some great advice for maintaining your wooden deck. Natural materials require extra care. Wooden decks may require a lot more maintenance than polyresin, but they can last a long time if treated properly. The Bob Villa article give great details for the do’s and don’ts of caring for a wooden deck. By following advice like what you’ll find in that article, you’ll ensure a longer lasting wooden deck.

If you’re not sure which material is best for you, looking at samples and pictures of both kinds of decks might be the right move.  When looking at polyresin decks, make sure to find pictures of the exact material you’re going to use because there are multiple kinds. Ask your builder for more details about resin decks.

A deck is a beautiful way to add value and functionality to your home and outdoor space. When looking for a deck builder, make sure they know about all available products like resin. An experienced professional will be able to help you make the right decision for your home. Not only do you want a beautiful deck, you want one that lasts. Resin is lower maintenance and will last a long time, but with enough effort, you can make wooden decks last as well.

Father’s Day Gift Idea

Father’s Day Gift Idea

Father’s Day is coming soon and that got me thinking about unique Father’s Day gifts. With all that dads tend to do around the house, even if they aren’t so handy, it’s nice to give them a break from time to time. Why not give your dad the gift of checking off some of the work on his “honey do” list?

You can volunteer to do some of the work for him, or you could hire a professional. Here are some services that will take some of the load off of your dad.

Painting

While your dad is probably fully capable of buying paint and using a paintbrush, painting is time consuming. Also, what if the color he buys isn’t exactly what he pictured for the room?  If you hire professional painters, they can bring samples so you see what the actual color will be.

Hiring professionals to do the painting for you is especially helpful if there are high walls or if there’s wallpaper that needs to be removed first.

Deck Building

Building a deck looks easy enough. The problem is that it’s a lot of work for one person and getting it right may be more complicated than it seems. If your dad has been wanting to build a deck, you could surprise him with a crew of professionals willing to do the work for him. Your dad can sit back and relax while they do all the work. When they’re done, you’ll have a delightful place for family barbeques.

We’re located in College Station, Texas. Out here, our summers can be a bit harsh. If you hire a professional builder, he can tell you your options for building a deck that can endure the worst weather Texas can throw at it.

Arbors/Pergolas

An arbor is another job your dad may be considering, but just hasn’t gotten around to doing yet. While an arbor may look even easier to build than a deck, it requires precision to get it right. Also, it requires some climbing on ladders and a lot of lifting. Save your dad’s back by hiring professionals to do the work for him.

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodels

If your dad is handy, he may be able to remodel a kitchen on his own. However, there’s a lot of heavy lifting involved. Also, a lot of different skill sets are needed. How much easier and faster would it be for a professional crew to handle?  Your dad’s new kitchen will be ready a lot sooner if you send in some help.

Bathroom remodels may seem easier than kitchens, but there’s still a lot of time consuming work. If you hire professionals to do the work for your dad, he’ll have a functioning and beautiful new bathroom in no time.

Sure, your dad may be able to do the work himself, but doesn’t he deserve a little time off?  Hiring a service to take some of the work load could be the perfect Father’s Day gift for your dad.

What Not to Do When Remodeling

What Not to Do When Remodeling

When you’re spending your hard-earned money on remodeling, it’s normal to want to make sure everything is going well. You may even have second thoughts at times and want to change things around. There are things you might be tempted to do that will actually delay the process and cost you more money. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.

Going with the lowest bid and ending up with someone you don’t trust.

If you want something done right you need to hire the right professionals not the lowest price. If you don’t trust the people doing the work on your house, there will be problems. For example, when they tell you they found a problem and there will be a delay, you might not believe them. Also, you may feel the need to look over their shoulder and question them constantly, which will slow the work down.  This can all be avoided if you start by hiring someone you trust.

If you hire someone you trust, a lot of other problems can be avoided.

Not planning for contingencies.

No home is perfect. A qualified contractor will make whatever adjustments are needed to make sure everything they work on is structurally sound and up to code. If there’s a problem, they’ll fix it. That adds to the price of the job, but it’s worth it to have it done right. Make sure you have more than enough money set aside to finish the remodel.

Changing your mind.

If you have a plan, it’s cheaper and faster to stick with it. Every time you make a change, it will cost time and money. If you hired a contractor you trust, you’re less likely to panic halfway through the job and want to change everything around. The more you can relax and let your contractor work, the faster the job will go.

Being a distraction.

You have every right to look at what’s going on in your home and to ask questions. It is your money and your home, after all. However, if you’re always standing around and talking to the workers, you will slow the work down. Ask all of the questions you need to ask, but don’t linger if you don’t need to. If you trust the professionals you hired, this won’t be as much of a problem.

Working without a design.

A qualified professional won’t start a job without a design.  Your contractor will need a detailed floor plan and sometimes even an architect depending on the kind of job. You can’t expect them to go in blind.

Fixing aesthetics without fixing the structure.

One of the benefits of a remodel is that it improves the appearance of your home. Another benefit is that when work is done well, your home will be even more structurally sound than when the work started. Don’t expect your contractor to overlook structural problems.  If they can fix it, let them. You’ll be better off in the long run.

The most important thing is to hire someone you can trust. Thankfully, in College Station you have a local builder with experience.

Uncovering the Hidden Problems in Your Home

Uncovering the Hidden Problems in Your Home

When you plan a kitchen remodel, you probably focus on utility and aesthetics. There is an added benefit that you may not consider. Your contractor can find hidden issues with your house that may have otherwise caused you trouble down the line. Most contractors will factor some contingencies in their bid so that you aren’t overwhelmed when problems arise.

No house is perfect. Even new houses have their flaws. An older home, however, may have more problems. In order to properly update the appearance of your home, you may have to update some of the structure. That’s why you should always have a contingency fund in case your contractor finds something that needs fixing or updating to meet the building code.

No matter how experienced the professionals you hire are, they can’t know what’s going on inside a wall without taking a look. While they may be able to give you an idea of the types of problems a home often has, they can’t know for sure until the work starts. Once a drill goes into a wall, a lot can be revealed.

If you’re having your bathroom remodeled, for example, your contractor might find water leaks. Because leaks can cause structural damage and lead to mold growth, you can be thankful they found the problem. While it may cost a little money to fix it now, it could save you the expense of more costly repairs later on.

Another issue that your contractor may run into in your walls is faulty wiring. That’s not something that can be ignored. It’s a fire hazard. So, even though it may cost you extra, it’s worth the expense. Replacing faulty wiring will help bring your house up to code and make it a safer place to live.

Walls may also have inadequate insulation. If you’ve noticed that your kitchen or bathroom is unusually cold in the winter or hot in the summer it may be because you need more insulation. Your contractor can fix the problem and that will save you money on heating and cooling in the long run.

Windows can also have their hidden problems. Dry rot around a window might not be apparent at first. Only when the work has started will your contractor find the dry rot in the wall. Fixing it will make your home more structurally sound.

Also, keep in mind that your subfloor is hidden until the flooring is removed. Your contractor has no way of knowing whether it’s in good condition until he sees it. Hopefully, only minor repairs will be needed if any. Having a good subfloor will help the rest of your remodel go more smoothly so it’s important that any issues are fixed properly.

When you have a contractor bid on your project, make sure he’s planning for contingencies.  A really low bid may not include any wiggle room for unexpected problems. Also, set aside more money than you think is needed for the project. At least 5% extra on hand could be helpful. While no one likes having to pay more than expected, it’s worth it to have your home fixed properly.

Replace Your Old Windows When Remodeling Your Kitchen or Bathroom

Replace Your Old Windows When Remodeling Your Kitchen or BathroomWindows are one of the four key factors that should be taken into account when rating your home as a shelter against the outdoors. (The roof, siding, and foundation are the other three.) They not only affect the appearance and cost of running your home, but good, modern windows can increase its appeal and its value if you are looking to sell. If you live in College Station, Texas, Windham Construction has professionals that can help you get the job done right.

Why You Want New Windows in Your Remodeled Kitchen

In terms of investment return, window replacement is one of the best home remodeling projects you can do. You can recoup up to 80% of the project cost in added home value according to Remodeling Impact Report. That doesn’t include the energy savings.

If your windows are more than fifteen years old, your home would almost certainly benefit from the installation of new, energy-efficient windows. And you won’t have to put up with drafts, stuck windows, and increasing energy bills any longer if the job is done right.

Windows that can be cleaned from the inside are available these days too, and that is a big perk if you live in a home that is more than one story tall. Some recommend that you install new windows early in your home renovation project rather than later to start seeing savings right away.

What are the Best Energy Efficient Windows to Buy for your Kitchen or Bath Remodel?

There are basically three types: aluminum, wood, and vinyl. Vinyl windows are usually the most energy efficient and are often preferred due to several other factors. However, wood can be more attractive so it’s worth considering.  Also, think about what windows will match the rest of the windows in your home. Talking to a design expert or viewing samples can help.

No matter what type of new window you end up with, it’s most likely going to save you money on energy costs in the future.

How Much Better are Modern Energy Efficient Windows over Older Windows?

If you currently have older, double-pane windows in a 2,600-square-foot house, then on average, you can expect to see about a 15% savings per year on heating bills after you install energy efficient windows with low-E coatings. That’s according to the Efficient Windows Collaborative, which is a coalition of government agencies, manufacturers, and research organizations that promote efficient window technologies.

Your savings can vary depending on the weather, but here in Brazos Valley, you should see significant savings once you make the switch. Energy Star labels can tell you how well a window will perform in your climate based on ratings from the National Fenestration Rating Council.

Of course, the most energy efficient windows are typically going to be the most expensive, but you don’t have to buy the highest-end products to see real savings and to improve the appearance of your home. Talk with a professional to see what the best option is for your home.

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodels – Which kind is best for you?

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodels – Which kind is best for you?

You may want a remodel for a number of reasons. Maybe your kitchen or bathroom just looks dated, but often there are more functional reasons to make a change. You might want to make room for new technology that the builders of your kitchen never considered. Space might be a serious issue with a poorly designed kitchen. Whatever your reason, here’s some information on choosing the right remodel for you.

DIY Cosmetic Makeover

If your kitchen or bath has everything it needs except the right color, you have cheap options. You can refinish the old cabinets and add new hardware yourself. There are even kits for refinishing your cabinets. This option is great for newer kitchens.

This option is cheap and tempting for handy homeowners, but they may not give you all of the change you really want. If all it really needs is a new finish, you’re fine, but if your kitchen or bathroom needs a lot of updating, this isn’t the option for you. You’ll put forth a lot of effort and end up disappointed.

Professional Cosmetic Makeover

Even the simplest makeover can turn complex. You can hire professionals to take care of it for you. Some kits to refinish your cabinets cost less than $100. That might seem like a good deal until you mess it up. Then you have thousands of dollars’ worth of cabinets looking less than beautiful. If you’re afraid of that happening, you can ask a professional what they can do to make your kitchen look and feel better.

Simple Replacement

If you don’t like your current cabinets and countertops, you can simply have them removed and replaced. This is a good option if you already have the layout you want, but you aren’t happy with the style of your current cabinetry. This can be the case if you have the cheapest cabinetry that the original homeowner could find.  Newer cabinets can improve your kitchen or bath drastically.

Replacing fixtures can also help. A new tub or sink can add a lot of utility. While it’s just replacing what’s already there, be careful. Your kitchen or bath may not be up to current building codes that are there to keep you safe. If you hire a professional builder, they can help you get your kitchen and bath up to code and safer.

Custom Renovation

Do you hate your kitchen or bathroom?  Is it difficult to use because of its poor design?  If so, this is your best option. Pulling out everything and maybe even claiming space from a nearby room can help you upgrade your kitchen or bath and make it usable.

A custom renovation is your chance to make your home more modern.  Small kitchens and baths are a thing of the past.

Hire a Professional

It cannot be emphasized enough that a major kitchen and bath remodel isn’t something that most homeowners can do on their own. Permits and building codes have to be considered. Then, there’s dealing with the electrical and plumbing issues that come with updating a kitchen or bathroom. If you want a custom renovation, hire an experienced builder that you can trust.