The Dangers of Heating Elements

 Image credit: Goodhousekeeping.com

Image credit: Goodhousekeeping.com

Recently, Remodeling Magazine wrote a piece on how to build a drawer with a built in plug so that hair dryers could stay plugged in.  They received a storm of responses from good contractors letting them know how unsafe it is to leave appliances with heating elements plugged in.  Here is just one.

Just read your email about the idea of putting a hair dryer in a drawer and you don’t even have to unplug it. As a Fire Damage Restoration contractor I have done many restorations, if the house was restorable at all, where the fire was caused by a heat producing appliance that its electrical circuit has somehow failed.

I use a toaster as an example when I suggest to people to unplug when not in use. You can buy a toaster on sale for $14.99. It consists of a cabinet, feet, cord with plug, heating element, thermostat, and many other items. A quality thermostat alone would probably cost $100.00. Now, would you trust the quality of this thing to not start when it shouldn’t?

A hair dryer is in the same category. This also applies to battery chargers that home owners and contractors use. A heat producing appliance of any type, left plugged in, cannot be trusted with the safety of your home.

“Plug it in, turn it on, turn it off, unplug it.” That is the motto that should be used with any electrical device. Period!”

We hope that you keep your home safe from fire by unplugging appliances with heating elements.  In most cases this will also save money by reducing phantom loads.

Eight Steps to New Years Resolutions Project Management

Note: I wrote this last week but our site had been hacked and I could not post it. Our good friends at AgniTEK have come to the rescue.

Okay, it is January 2 and I just can’t help myself. I swore, as I do every year, that I would not do resolutions. But I just can’t help myself.

Here’s the thing, Resolutions are an issue of project management, which is something that I know a little bit about. The reason that most people’s resolutions fail is that they do not approach them from this perspective. Together let’s create a resolution project that will work for you.

  1. Mission

The first part of project management is to understand the intention of the project. Step back and think about it; what are the big issues that you want to get focused on this year? Is it personal, which most resolutions tend to be? You know, losing weight, exercising, saving money etc. How about relationship issues? Do you need to do a better job of communicating with your spouse, being more appreciative and supportive of your kids, a better helpmate? These are great resolutions to have because others are usually motivated to help you with them. How about work or productivity issues? Do you need to increase billable hours, spend less time online, do a better job with email…?

  1. Goal Setting

One of the keys to good project management is not to take on too many projects at one time. In the resolution department three is probably a stretch. The goal here is to do a good job and have success. Taking on too many will not only stretch you thin, it will also demotivate you as you fall short. These resolutions are important goals.

  1. Set quantifiable measurement

Now that you have your list narrowed to just a couple or, at most, a few things that you are going to feel good about accomplishing, let’s determine what success looks like. It is not good enough to say, “I’m going to be a better helpmate,” or “I’m going to get into better shape.” These vague declarations are the undoing of many a fine resolution. How will you measure being a better helper? What does being in better shape look like? Be realistic; don’t commit to doing all of the housework or winning the Tour de France.

  1. Set resources

Great! Project Resolution is coming along nicely. We have determined what is really important and set up a limited number of achievable goals. We have established a quantifiable definition of success. Now let’s think about resources. What are you going to need to accomplish your goal? How much time are you going to need to devote to accomplishing your goal on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? Is there going to be an investment? Maybe a gym membership or some sort of tool is needed. What people are you going to need to enlist? Are you going to need a personal trainer, an instructor of some sort or just someone to help keep you on task?

  1. Scope of work

Now we need to break the project into its component parts. If the goal is to loss 30 pounds, how are we going to achieve that? It will probably involve both diet and exercise.   What type of exercise? You probably will not start out by running a marathon, but running a half marathon may be part of how you are going to do to get to your goal and provide a long-range plan. What steps are necessary to get there?

  1. Schedule

Now lets think about the schedule. Start slow, you have a whole year to accomplish your goal. And, as you agreed to make it a manageable goal, there should be room for contingencies. Life will happen. There will be times that you fall off the diet, fail to get the distance in you had hoped for, had to be out of town and couldn’t get all the work done that you had originally planned on. If you have created a manageable plan, you will be able to get back on the path. Your plan should include monthly or quarterly benchmarks. If your goal requires establishing new habits you will want to start with more frequent benchmarks – maybe weekly or even daily as you get started. Task habits take between 30 and 70 reputations to form.

  1. Oversight

You cannot expect to reach your goal without the right amount of oversight. For most of us this means something other than just self-discipline but that is certainly where it must start. Enlist the help of a friend, spouse or paid consultant to help with this.

  1. Assessment

How often are you going to assess your progress and how are you going to make that assessment? As mentioned above, there needs to be more assessment early in the process. Are you achieving your intermediate goals? If not, why? Is the goal realistic? Is there something that you need to adjust elsewhere in your life to be able to dedicate the time or resources necessary to accomplish this goal? Do you need to dedicate more time, get more help or reassess the goal? This is the point of derailment for many people. They wanted to loss 30 pounds but the fact is they do not have time to train for the half marathon that was part of the plan. Defeated, they abandon the plan, feel bad about themselves and put on 10 pounds. The New Year’s resolution was not accomplished and it made the problem even worse. This is why it is so important to make sure that the project is reasonable and to have a process for readjustment along the way. Okay, you don’t have time to train for a half marathon, but you do have time to walk for half an hour three times a week. So downsize your goal to losing 20 pounds. And then after a month of your regiment you find that you are not losing as much weight as you thought you would. That is okay; you have reassessment as part of your plan. In the end you may have only lost 10 pounds but, by sticking to your plan, you accomplished something and you stuck with it. Next year you will only set your goal at 15 pounds and having established a workable plan, you will be in much better shape to accomplish your goal.

What are your new years resolutions? Keep in mind sharing resolutions is a step toward committing to them. If your New Years resolution includes something about your home, be sure to give us a call.

New Years Resolutions for Your home

What are your New Years resolutions for your home? Is there a bathroom or a kitchen you are ready to remodel?  Maybe things are tight and you will not be able to do anything major this year. You can alwaysstart planning so that you have things are in order when you are ready.  Even if it is something very small, it is a good time to bring the spirit of new and fresh to your home. There is probably some closet or corner that you have been hoping to  organize, a wall that needs a fresh coat of paint or a chair that could use a new cushion.  Start the year with a little  focus on the home and it will help create comfort and emotional centering that can last all year long. At my house we are looking forward to a complete redesign of our vegetable garden and I hope to finally  get around to installing a standing seam metal roof.  Don’t let the resolutions for your home go unfulfilled.  Let us know if we can help.  

Recent Project: Master Bathroom Remodel

We’re excited to share some pictures of this recently completed project! We’ve coupled the photos of the finished bathroom with before pictures so you can see the transformation. Our client’s choice of oil-rubbed bronze fixtures really set the tone for their new bathroom. And boy, were they ready to say good-bye to their old carpeting and hello to new tile flooring!


The vanity and medicine cabinets were painted a dark brown and topped with a new granite counter top and undermount sinks. Widespread faucets, a new light fixture, and a new framed mirror complete this area of the bathroom.


Our client’s old fiberglass shower was removed and replaced with a new tiled shower. A foot rest for shaving and a built in shampoo caddie added some necessary function to the shower while a new frameless shower door and recessed light made the space feel more open. Matching tile also replaced the old splash around the tub. New single handle plumbing fixtures were added in both areas.

At Stearns Design-Build we design and build happiness. Serving College Station, Bryan and the Brazos Valley since 1993.

Current Projects: Bathroom Vanity

We are in the beginning stages of three bathroom remodels at the Lewis home. Joe has been hard at work building new vanities for the hall bath and the master bath, and they look great! The picture below shows the master bath vanity. Due to the space constraints in this bathroom, a majority of the vanity needed to be kept shallow. By pulling the center sink area forward and up, we add more storage and counter space, as well as a punch of style.

More pictures are to follow!