Bring Remodeling Outdoors with an Outdoor kitchen

Bring Remodeling Outdoors with an Outdoor kitchen

Spring is here in College Station and Bryan and summer is just around the corner. Everyone already wants to spend more time enjoying the outdoors! It’s a perfect time to start planning and building your outdoor kitchen.

A great outdoor kitchen is at least a couple of notches above a nice patio furniture set and your portable barbecue grill. We all love that picnic feel, but if you are going to spend your evenings entertaining or just relaxing and enjoying the cooler evening temperatures outside, you may want more amenities. Plus, an outdoor kitchen is a great way to keep your home cooler by avoiding the use of your oven and other appliances inside.

You can start your unique outdoor kitchen by placing a grill into stonework and creating custom-built counter-tops on either side.  This gives you easy-to-navigate areas for food preparation, cooking, and serving.

Next, you can add lights so that you won’t be limited to enjoying your outdoor kitchen during daylight hours. You may either choose to run electricity or install battery- or solar-powered lights. Since you want to enjoy the natural light as much as possible, you really just need enough light to be able to prepare, cook and serve safely. If you choose to run electricity to your outdoor kitchen, you can also add a small refrigerator to keep your favorite beverages and condiments handy.

Here are a few other ideas:


For shade during the summer, you can build your kitchen under an existing covered porch, add a pergola, or buy a large patio umbrella.


Adding a water line to your outdoor kitchen will allow you to install a small sink for food preparation and clean up.


Add a fireplace or portable fire pit if you want to keep using your great outdoor space when the weather turns cold or just to add a little ambiance for the adults and a way to make s’mores with the kids!


A gas line will allow you the option of barbeque fuels and adding a small cook top or oven can stretch your outdoor culinary choices even further.

The possibilities for your outdoor kitchen are numerous and really depend on the frequency that you intend to use your kitchen and your budget. You can always start small, building around your existing home’s features and your existing barbecue, and add on next year.

The key is to make it cool, keep it classy, and enjoy our wonderful spring and summer climate here in Bryan and College Station.

We also love Screened in Porches

Sense (and Science) of Place: Healing Spaces

 A home remodel can home can give your home a new sense of place.

A home remodel can home can give your home a new sense of place.

You can feel the difference when you walk into a home designed with a connection to nature in mind. It just feels warm and welcoming. Some people call that a “sense of place,” but it is more than just a feeling—there’s science behind creating healthier, happier homes.

How your home can stimulate healing

A well-designed home can literally help heal the sick. The scourge of cancer continues to claim more than 1,500 Americans every day. In the battle to save lives, science continues to research promising treatments from aggressive medical interventions to gentle home design approaches.

One encouraging study concluded that well-designed spaces can aid in cancer patients’ healing. Dr. Ellen Fisher, Dean of the New York School of Interior Design, points to one key factor in creating healthy, healing spaces: a link to the outside world.

Connecting to nature and community

Human beings are drawn to the company of others and to nature. Those connections reduce the stress of an increasingly harried modern life. Research has shown that scenes with natural elements reduce stress significantly more than urban scenes. Instead of cutting people off from each other, a home’s design should create a sense of connection to community and nature. Bringing the outside inside can be simple. Try these easy design tips to improve your health at home:

  • When you are remodeling, design living spaces with plentiful windows. Position windows to take advantage of sunlight and scenery without making the mercury rise inside your home.
  • Remove heavy drapes to allow more natural light into your home. Control the light with blinds or shades.
  •  Design small outside seating areas for enjoying sunsets and temperate days.
  • Use natural materials for your flooring and counter-tops. Natural materials have the added benefit of being less apt to go out of style than man-made materials.
  • Incorporate house plants into your decorations. You can also sprinkle photographs or artwork of nature scenes throughout your home.

Health and happiness at home

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 87 percent of his or her time indoors. Bringing more of the outside in can increase your feeling of connectedness to the outside world and improve your health. It can also increase your happiness. Learn more about maximizing the positive emotional effects of your home here.

Relationships for Your Home

 There are tons of good relationships to make in College Station. We'd be happy to help start some!

There are tons of good relationships to make in College Station. We’d be happy to help start some!

Professional relationships are important. Most of us have a doctor that we trust. There are relationships that are important for your home as well.
At Stearns Design Build we are committed to maintaining long term relationships with our clients. That is why, once we have done a remodeling project for a family, we make ourselves available to do small jobs for them.  That is a service that we only extend to our existing client base because we think that it is important to have a building professional in your corner. It is also why we work to make the Happy Homes Newsletter as informational as possible and why we write blog posts.
Another relationship that is a good idea to maintain for your home is with a realtor. These folks are a world of knowledge. Likely, your home is your biggest investment. That is why you need a relationship with a contractor. It is also why it is wise to maintain a relationship with a realtor. They know about the market for your home investment. While we will work to help you age in place and stay happy in your home, we know that eventually you will sell your house. Your relator can help guide you to wise investment decisions. Most people wait until they are in a hurry to sell a home to develop this relationship.  That is like cramming for an exam. It is better than doing nothing, but it is not the best approach.
If you had a good experience when you bought your home, make a point to refer your friends to that realtor. Periodically invite your realtor friend over for coffee to advise you on investments you might be considering for your home such as a remodeled kitchen or bathroom.   If you don’t currently have a realtor friend, ask around to get recommendations. Realtors do not make money from these kinds of visits, so be sure that they know you are recommending them to friends.  We are fortunate to have a great community of realtors in College Station and Bryan.
Note: Realtors often have a different perspective than a remodeling professional does. Our goal is to make sure that your home makes you happy. Your realtor will help make sure that you get as much return on your home investment as possible. But, just as a good contractor understands the need to protect an investment, most realtor understand the importance a home plays in creating happiness for a family. Getting well balanced advice on your largest investment is just the smart thing to do.

Investing in Your Home Part 1: Protecting and Growing Your Asset

For most folks, their home is their biggest investment. But few people think of their home that way, which can be a costly mistake.

That is not to say that you should only look at your home as an investment.  Your home is many things, including a sanctuary and an expression of who you are.  We encourage you to keep those priorities front and center as they bring meaning and happiness to your life.

Luckily, these purposes are not mutually exclusive. You can have a home that is a safe and comfortable refuge, an expression of your unique identity, and a well-maintained investment.

Tending to the investment variable in this value equation involves some straightforward strategies. To do so, it is first helpful to separate the investment in your home into three broad categories.

First, your home is an asset that will be depreciated for taxes yet, in most cases, increase in value.  For most Americans, their home is part of how they fund their later, non-income producing years and provide an inheritance to their heirs.  Protecting and growing this asset requires maintenance and development through home remodeling.

The second investment category of home investment is the monthly costs paid to keep your home. This can be further divided into operational and maintenance costs.

A third and more complicated category that all homeowners would be wise to consider is lifecycle or how long you plan to stay in the home. This becomes especially important if we are thinking of aging in place.

Below are a few tips for how to make the most out of your home as an asset. Please also see (link to other blog, Investing in Your Home Part 2: Daily Savings and Aging in Place)

Fix It First: Protecting Your Home Asset

Your home is like your car and most other physical assets; the better you take care of it, the better it will take care of you.  Taking good care of your home requires a plan, diligence, and—for most of us—outside help. Here are some suggestions for good home care:

  •          Regularly schedule mechanical maintenance: Having your air conditioning and heater serviced twice a year will reduce utility bills, increase the life of your equipment, and avoid the frustration unexpected failures. It is also important to change your filters.
  •          Fix things as soon as you notice they need to be fixed: Letting things go can lead to worse damage.  Getting it taken care of will avoid added cost and give you peace of mind.
  •          Check the envelope of your house twice a year: The envelope of your house is the outside surfaces. This is where unattended repairs can lead to big costs. Don’t wait until you are getting water in your home to fix your roof. Don’t wait until rot has reached the frame of your house to have the wood replaced, and don’t wait until the paint has peeled to paint your home. Here is a home envelope inspection checklist

Make It Work: Home Remodeling

While it is true that home remodeling seldom returns 100% of the financial investment, it is nonetheless a primary way that families create their desired sanctuary and expression of themselves.  Home remodeling returns an increasing value with age.  Here is a good resource for the return on investment for home remodeling projects. Here are some guidelines to help get the most out of your remodeling investments:

  •         Pay attention to design: A poorly designed addition that looks like an add-on rather than an integrated part of the home could even devalue a home asset.  Also, make sure that the new space is wisely configured to complement the existing floorplan, creating flow and continuity.
  •          Mind your budget: If your budget is too tight to get what you want, consider waiting until you can afford to do it right. Cutting corners to fit a budget is a good way to create long-lasting regrets. This does not mean that you need to get your every wish or that you should be overly extravagant, but make sure that you don’t have to make so many sacrifices along the way that you are unhappy with the outcome.
  •          Avoid trends: This is harder to do than it sounds.  Home design tends to be very trendy. You can usually date a house by its finishes. Colors, countertops, and floor coverings are fashion elements that change with each season. Imagine walking into your remodeled home 10 years from now. Will it seem classic or dated?  To keep your home classic, consider reflecting today’s trends in easily changed elements such as paint. Also, use natural materials whenever possible. Carpet fashion changes over time but hardwood stays stylish.  It’s the same with countertops. Artificial countertop materials have come and gone but granite has remained a solid choice.
  •          Hire quality professionals: Quality remodeling professionals will be able to help you articulate and achieve your goals.  While remodeling is expensive and you may be inclined to go with a less experienced company that offers a lower price, think twice. Most of the savings will come at the cost of quality and durability, both of which will diminish your home investment.

Biting the bullet to take preventative measures to protect your asset and to get a quality remodeling job done by professionals may feel hard at the time, but you will reap the benefits of your decisions for years to come.

Home Envelope Inspection Checklist

   Home inspection for College Station, Texas to be done regularly and before home remodeling.

 Home inspection for College Station, Texas to be done regularly and before home remodeling.

We recommend that you check the envelope of your house at least twice a year or before starting any home remodeling projects. The envelope includes all your home’s exterior surfaces. Failure in the envelope can lead to big costs so it is a good idea to be very comprehensive and methodical in your check. It is also important to keep your specific climate in mind. Please use this inspection checklist if your home is in a climate similar to College Station and Bryan, Texas, but much of this is relevant to all environments.


  •        No places where water can pool.
  •        No vegetation is touching the house or can touch it in a high wind.
  •        Soil is below floor level (we recommend 10” or more of foundation slab showing).
  •        No large cracks in foundation or brick veneer.
  •        No signs of animal access, birds’ nests, or mud daubers.
  •        Gutters and downspouts are free of debris and are free flowing.
  •        Gutters and downspouts are attached securely and are not crushed.
  •        Downspouts direct water away from the house in a logical manner.
  •        Window screens are in good shape and are secured well.
  •        Doors and windows are properly caulked, operable, and have no breaks in the glass.
  •        Weather stripping is intact and tight.
  •        No flaking, cracking, or peeling paint.
  •        No mold is growing.
  •        Spigots are all easily operable.
  •        Wires and cables are all secure and neat.
  •        No loose or damaged siding or trim.
  •        No rot in siding or trim.
  •        Ridge, gable and soffit vents unbent and open.
  •        Turbines turn quietly.
  •        No debris on the roof.
  •        No loose or missing shingles.


  •        Attic access is safe and secure.
  •        Attic access in conditioned space is insulated and seals tightly.
  •        Light is working.
  •        No crushed or leaking ductwork (best to run the fan and use your hand to feel for leaks.)
  •        No signs of water on rafters, underside of roof decking or insulation.
  •        Drain pans for air conditioning and water heater drain water (pour water in them to test).
  •        No voids or matting in insulation.
  •        Insulation is not blocking airways from soffit.
  •        No signs of animal access.
  •        Vents are unblocked.
  •        No venting into the attic from bathroom, kitchen stove hood, or heater vents.