Our Cabinet Shop

Our Cabinet Shop

Whether in the kitchen bathroom or elsewhere, cabinets are a focal point of craftsmanship. This is why we maintain our own cabinet shop.  To be totally honest, we are cabinet snobs.  We demand 100% solid wood cabinets, built to exacting specifications, we use the very best hardware to ensure durability and functionality and we build each piece custom fit to its exact location. .

A well-built cabinet is a piece of furniture that will last more than a life time. A poorly built cabinet is a liability that will find its way to the landfill.

The first sign of a quality cabinet is the materials used to build it. A favorite low-cost material for many cabinet manufacturers is Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF.) This material does not hold a fastener well and it swells with minimal moisture contact. Over time MDF got a bad reputation. Rather than giving up on an inferior low-cost material many manufactures simply renamed it “furniture board.”

Another sign of inferior quality is thin plywood. Where ¾” plywood should be used, many manufacturers use 5/8” and even ½” plywood. And locally the most common method of building cabinets is to build them right to the wall without a plywood box. Any movement due to an unstable foundation or changes in humidity will cause the doors and drawers to become misaligned.

Many builders will further cut corners by using plywood face frames. The face frame is the front of the cabinet that the doors and drawers fit to.  Rather than using solid wood which is more expensive plywood is used. Opening the door on a cabinet will reveal if it is plywood or solid wood. You will see the laminated layers of plywood if this has been done. Though some manufacturers will put a thin veneer band on the plywood to mask it. The disadvantage of plywood is that it will delaminate over time and sanding can expose the underlayers of veneer.

Hinges and drawer slides are other places where costs are often cut at the expense of durability and function. A well-made cabinet will close gently and will hold an adequate load over the years. The drawers will slide out far enough to reach everything in them.  The majority of hardware used in today’s homes will not function well and/or endure well. Well-made drawer slides cost more.  This is an unseen cost that can easily be cut without most homebuyers realizing the added cost and frustration over time.

Nine Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel

Nine Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Remodel

Unfortunately, kitchens are expensive. Everything is either high end finish, appliances, or fixtures. Regardless of the scale of your project, whether you are just looking to make some minor changes or rip everything out, there are strategies for saving money.

Have a Plan

Having a plan is a good idea both in terms of an approach and a physical set of plans.  If you are doing more than the most minor project, it is important to have a clear set of plans that communicates at the smallest details what your expectations are. Pointing and saying, “I want a sink over there,” is a recipe for disaster.  A quality project is dependent on quality detailed instructions, which is what a set of plans provides. A haphazard approach, or the idea that you will ‘figure it out along the way,’ can lead to costly mistakes.

Be Prepared

Do not start construction before every selection has been decided. This is a great way to lose track of how much you are spending and end up in trouble.  It is also important to have scheduled every phase of the work so that you stay on time and do not end up waiting three weeks for the plumber and then a month for the electrician.  In construction time is literally money.

Use A Design/Build Firm

Well, as a design/build firm, of course we are going to say this.  But it also happens to be true.  Making sure that you have a single point of accountability saves money by not getting stuck between a designer and a contractor blaming each other for whatever goes wrong. In that situation the homeowner always gets stuck with the bill.  When the company that does design also builds the project, there is more sharing of information to create a complete project that starts and stays on budget.

Keep the Cabinets

Cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen. Saving all or part of the cabinets can really help the budget.  If the cabinets are in decent shape but dated, consider painting them. These days the trend is white.  If they are too dated, consider changing the doors and drawer fronts for a more dramatic change.  Because we have a custom cabinet shop, we can build and modify cabinets inhouse.

Focus on Lighting

This is true for all design.  Lighting is a crucial and often overlooked element. Often a kitchen can be made to feel new simply by improving the lighting.  A small amount of accent lighting can provide a good return.  Kitchens are task areas that need a lot of light, up to 80 foot-candles. Make sure your kitchen designer understands lighting. This is also a function of aging in place as we need considerably lighter to see well as we age.

Stay with The Basic Layout

Moving the basic infrastructure such as plumbing, electrical, and ducting can add a lot of cost to a project. If you can avoid moving these elements you will save a good deal of money. Though it is easy to reimagine the whole space in a completely different way, avoid this if the budget is tight.

Counter Tops

The best way to save money on countertops is to use remnants. These are smaller pieces of stone from a slab that has already had some removed from it.  In a kitchen with a lot of counter space, this can be hard to do.  One way to make this more of a possibility is to consider using two different materials. For example, you can make an island stand out by using a more dramatic granite on it and something simpler on the rest of the kitchen. Another good approach for some is to include butcher block in cutting and chopping areas.


Appliance are another expensive item in a kitchen.  Find a scratch and dent sale. Often the blemish is an area that will not even show. Appliances are not unlike cars in that newer models are a frequent occurrence. Often the difference is small from a previous model.  Slightly outdated models will be discounted.

Let Little Features Add a Lot of Pizzazz

If your budget is especially tight, consider a small impactful change such as painting the cabinets, changing the backsplash, or adding some accent lighting. These small and relatively inexpensive changes can have a significant impact.

Do You Need A Remodeling  General Contractor for Your Remodeling Job?

Do You Need A Remodeling General Contractor for Your Remodeling Job?

Of course, you do! Well, I’m a general contractor, what did you expect. Now let me convince you with five key reasons why you need a remodeling general contractor.

1.       Knowledge Base –  People who have been successful at a few home repairs often get overconfident about what they know and what they can do. A remodeling general contractor who is working all day every day on a multitude of projects will avoid many of the mistakes that a less knowledgeable person will make. Often these mistakes are catastrophic causing extensive damage.

2.       Relationships – Most remodeling projects require various trades such as plumbers, electricians and heating and cooling subcontractor. While anyone can hire these people, they are much more easily managed and scheduled by someone who has an ongoing relationship with them. A general contractor gives his/her trades a good deal of work every year making them more beholden to the General Contractor than they are to a do-it -yourselfer. This duration of relationship allows the General Contractor to know the strengths and weaknesses for their subcontractors allowing them to know where extra oversight is needed and where to ask for more input for an improved job.

3.       Frustration – It looks easy on TV, but the finesse of craft is honed over time. Tasks that look simple on TV can quickly become frustrating and end up looking less impressive than the vision had been. What takes a skilled craftsman an hour may take many hours for a hobbyist.
Business handshake of two men closing a deal - remodeling general contractor

4.       Oversight – Any one can hire a mason. Not everyone knows what is required to get a beautiful job that will last a long time or how long it should take.  Managing the various trades while making sure that the right material is on the job at the right time, and managing quality control takes a lot of knowledge, experience, good systems and skill.

5.       Cost – Certainly, if you don’t calculate your labor you can reduce the cost of remodeling. Our best clients are those who have done remodeling projects themselves because they understand the value of skilled tradespeople. A good general contractor will not only have volume discounts on both materials and subcontractors, they are also able to get things done much quicker, which reduces cost and frustration.

>>Learn Why We Have a Mission Haiku Not a Mission Statement

In Texas, there is no license require to be a remodeling general contractor. So, it is more than possible to hire a less than professional general contractor. But if you follow some simple rules for hiring a general contractor, you will be able to find a great value.

Stearns Design Build Opens Custom Cabinet Shop

Stearns Design Build Opens Custom Cabinet Shop


College Station, TX, Stearns Design Build, a local residential remodeling company, has announced that they are now offering furniture grade cabinets to the general public. For some time, Stearns Design Build has built high-quality custom cabinet for their remodeling clients.

In a desire to better control quality in cabinetry Stearns Design Build started building their own cabinets rather than subcontracting this work as is done by most general contractors. Owner, Hugh Stearns said, “This was a significant commitment in staffing and equipment investment, but it was worth it in the level of quality that we can provide.”

custom cabinet

Stearns Design Build recently hired David Oddo to manage their cabinet shop. Oddo is a third-generation woodworker and journeyman carpenter. He previously owned his own woodworking shop in Houston.  In addition to managing the cabinet shop, Oddo also assists in the design of custom cabinet. “I look at each project as an opportunity to build a relationship through creativity,” said Oddo.

>>Learn Nine Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel

In addition to custom cabinet, Stearns Design Build also provides custom entertainment centers and built-in furniture as well as a full line of residential remodeling including kitchens, bathrooms, and additions. “Often clients want a custom entertainment center or built-in without doing a full remodel. Now we offer that as an option. We will work with the client to design a piece that fits exactly what they need,” said Stearns.

Stearns Design Build has served the Brazos Valley for 25 years. Twice the recipient of the Newman Ten award, last year the company achieved national acclaim by being named to the Remodeling Big50, an award for remodeling excellence that goes to fifty of the top companies in America and Canada every year.  Stearns Design Build also received the GuildQuality Service Excellence Award, which goes to the five companies of the Big50 class that had the highest customer satisfaction ratings. For more information Stearns Design Build can be found on the web at www.stearnsdesignbuild.com or reached at 979.696.0524.

Reimagining the Bath

Reimagining the Bath

24 years ago, when I was starting out, the conventional wisdom for those remodeling a bathroom was that one had to have both a shower and bathtub in every full bathroom.  This was a shame because the thought of many seeking a bathroom remodel was to forego the awkward tub/shower combo for the convenience and luxury of a stand-alone shower.  But for fear of resell value, most opted to forego the bathroom they wanted for the bathroom they thought they needed.

Slowly, sentiment evolved and the mandate became for at least one tub in the home.  Many still hold to this premise. But, I’m glad to announce, many have let go of the myth of the mandatory tub. To

be sure, there is some wisdom in the legend of the tub. It has to do with bathing small children.  But many who do not have small children are reasoning that, should a family with small children buy the home in the future, there are options, including adding a tub back to the bathroom or using a temporary tub. The number of years in which the average family is bathing small children is relatively small.

Let’s face it, bathroom space is at such a premium that even the 13.35 square feet taken up by the average five-foot tub is worth harvesting for more effective use in a shower, for a larger vanity, or in storage.

>>Do You Need A Remodeling General Contractor for Your Remodeling Job?


But the tubs that we most frequently remove take up a good deal more space. They are the space-hogging garden or spa tubs that continue to be seemingly mandatory in every new home’s master suite, even though they are used on average less than once a year.  The tubs with jets tend to break down and their infrequent use causes unpleasant build up in the lines. Most of the time the water heating capacity in the home does not match the requirement for these tubs.


Not to overlook those who enjoy the relaxation of bathing. There are few things as stress abating as a warm bath.  Sadly, those who seek this escape are not often well suited by the typical builder grade tub.  Many would prefer a hot tub in a well-designed outdoor setting. And for those who prefer a solitary quiet escape, we recommend consideration of something more luxurious than the 5’ tub/shower combo or the oversized and too cool garden tub.

Is there a bathtub in your home that is not frequently used or one that does not fit your bathing needs? Can you imagine a better experience or use of space?

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