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.

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.

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.


For those who have storm damage, we would like to issue a few warnings:

  1. The goal of insurance companies is to make a profit, which they do by limiting the amount they pay out in claims. They usually say “no” first. Unless you are a very good existing client or family member, we will not take insurance work because, in our experience, most insurance companies are unscrupulous. We are honest and life is too short to deal with companies who, in our opinion, tend not to be.
  2. In our experience, companies who do a lot of insurance claims work for the benefit of the insurance companies more than for you. There is an undeniable conflict of interest if a home repair company is recommended by an insurance company.
  3. If your home was hit by a tornado or very high winds, you probably have structural damage that is very easy to overlook. Chances are your roof was lifted up and loosened from the rest of the house; even if it did not come off. This is not always easy to recognize but needs to be repaired. If you are in doubt, hire a structural engineer.
  4. Most materials that have gotten wet need to be replaced due to mold. This includes but is not limited to insulation, drywall and carpet. If the insurance company is encouraging you to keep these things, request a mold test when the work is completed.
  5. If there was a lift on the roof (see #3) or if you had significant roof leakage, your AC ducts may need to be replaced. If the insurance company does not allow this, request a duct test and a mold test of the ducts.
  6. If you have any questions, we will offer free phone consultations for the next two weeks. Please call our office at 979-696-0524.

Pruning Bushes and Trees

                      Here are some limbs to look for when pruning your trees or bushes.

                     Here are some limbs to look for when pruning your trees or bushes.

As a general practice, we do not include yard work in our maintenance list but this is one that impacts the health and durability of your house.  Tree branches rubbing or falling on the house can do a tree-mendous amount of damage. Vines growing on the house can also do damage.  It is a good idea to do this chore early in February before spring starts to set in but once the worst of winter has passed.  Prune branches far enough back so that wind does not blow them against the roof or walls.  It is a good idea to go outside when there is a high wind and watch.  You will probably be surprised how far the branches will bend in a high wind.  And don’t forget that they will grow before you prune them again, so cut them back a little further.  Plant material built up on the house provides a good means for insects and rodents to get in.  Also, if you have an overhead power, telephone or cable line coming to your house, keep it clear of blowing branches. Be especially careful with ladders and other tools around power lines.