Equation for Value in Remodeling

Do you want value?  Of course, you do. But what does that mean?  Value is not a fixed point. It is an equation. And that equation is different for everyone.  An often-used example in discussions of value is the fine Italian shoes that cost five times more than a regular pair of shoes but last ten times longer.  The Italian shoes are an excellent value… if you can afford them.

Homes provide a much more complex equation than shoes.  Like shoes, durability, fashion and design are key issues but with many more variables within each category. Additionally, the cost of maintenance and utilities are also at issue.

Unfortunately, the single variable for home buying is cost per square foot, which throws all of these variables of value out the cheap, builder grade window.  Price per square foot is not a good benchmark for value and cheap per square foot is a near perfect equation for bad value.  But that is what sells homes.

To get their price per square foot down, builders are encouraged to provide the most space possible for the lowest price possible.  This has given birth to a whole line of building products called “builder grade.”  This means the lowest possible quality that will get through the short warranty period. 


The average American home is built with around 2500 various parts. With everything from the baseboards to the roofing provided at builder grade, the home can be built at a very low price.  The lower the price, the quicker the home will sell.

As a remodeler, we are the beneficiaries of this approach.  Not only are corners cut on materials but design as well.  Though poor-quality materials are an often-mentioned complaint as families consider remodeling, poor quality space is the most common reason for remodeling.

What most homeowners don’t see is the unnecessary energy loss due to corners cut in order to reduce the price per square foot.  But just like you pay a mortgage payment every month, you also pay your utility bill every month. Unlike your mortgage payment, as long as you are buying energy rather than producing your own, you will never pay it off. 

So, what is your equation for value in remodeling?  If you are in a position of needing to get a project done with as little money as possible, we may not be the right company for you. Our crews are trained not to cut corners.  Nonetheless, we are happy to put our expertise to work for you. If you are doing work yourself and have a question, don’t hesitate to email or call us. We will do our best to get you the information that you need.

A Caring Culture

A Caring Culture

Stearns Design Build has four core values: 1) Quality, 2) Caring, 3) Honesty and 4) Relationship.  This quarter we focus our attentions to our core value CARING.  Some may ask why a business cares about being caring.  Oxforddictionary.com says that the definition of caring is “displaying kindness and concern for others”.  At Stearns, we feel like caring goes much further than that. We believe in our core values and it is apparent through the Team we have at Stearns Design Build.  Not only does our team care about our clients, they care about one another.  This authentic caring culture is evident throughout the office and out in the field. While they all serve separate functions to the organization as a whole, the Stearns Design Build team works together as a cohesive team.

This caring culture at Stearns Design Build has a positive effect on our clients, vendors/suppliers and anyone else that the staff come in contact with.  Fortunate for us, this does not go unnoticed by our clients. One client says, “The SDB staff is its strongest asset. They are knowledgeable and courteous. They have a way of making you feel like their most important customer. They know their jobs and they perform them well. “Do you think it’s important to have a caring culture in the workplace?

Stearns Design Build Participates in No-Shave November

Many of the employees of the Stearns Design Build Team has been affected by cancer in some form. For this reason, Stearns Design Build will be participating in No-Shave November.

As the team, Stearns Design Build A Beard, our goal is to raise money and create awareness.  As part of our fundraising efforts, Stearns Design will be matching the total donations received up to $1,000. According to No-Shave.org, “Every dollar raised brings us one step closer in our efforts to fund cancer research and education, help prevent the disease, and aid those fighting the battle”.

Throughout the month of November, our staff will be sharing their testimony of why this fundraising effort means so much to them. How has cancer touched your life?

Let it Grow and Join the Fight Against Cancer!

My step-dad of 26 years became very ill suddenly after being one of the strongest men I had ever known. I watched him suffer and be put through countless, often painful tests at the hospital; to no avail. After several weeks of no answers and watching his health deteriorate, the family was brought in. We made the very difficult decision to take him home and call Hospice in. Consequently, he was gone within a week. It wasn’t until after he passed away, a year ago in April, that it was determined that he had cancer. With more money available for research, education and prevention there could possibly have been the answers that we all so desperately wanted.  No-shave November reminds me of this very difficult time in my family’s life but it also gives me hope for answers for someone else’s loved one.  –   Sheila Lukes, Sales & Marketing Director of Stearns Design Build

In 2003… her first mammogram, at the age of 40, my Mom was diagnosed with stage 3B Breast Cancer.  She did several months of chemo treatment and several weeks of radiation. The one thing that was always amazing to me was that she found a way to keep a smile on her face throughout all of it…she’s my hero!  This diagnosis was a shock to my family, as we had no family history of breast cancer.  About a year later, my grandmother was diagnosed with rectal cancer.  Another 2 years went by and my mom’s little sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer…we went from no family history to a lot of family history! Watching all of these women in my family suffer as they went through treatment was one of the hardest things I’ve done!  After my aunt was diagnosed, we decided to have the BRCA1 genetic testing done and found out that my family does carry the gene that causes breast cancer.  I now have 2 daughters of my own and my family is fighting to help find a cure so that my baby girls don’t have to suffer! No Shave November is a great reminder that there are so many types of cancer for us to be fighting for…..can’t wait for the day they find a cure!! Many of us at Stearns Design Build have been effected by different cancers, personally I’m fighting to SAVE SECOND BASE!!  – Channing Chernosky –Chaos Calmer at Stearns Design Build

What Does Home Mean to You?

home builders in college station tx

Stearns Design Build has a big vision. As our tag line says, “we design and build happiness.” Specifically we do this within the context of the home. The home is the space that each person identifies as her/his own. It is not public. Home is where we go to find solace, familiarity, safety and hopefully happiness. At Stearns Design Build we think of ourselves as a home and happiness company. Today I am thinking about the home part of this equation. What are the essential elements of home for you? As a home company most people think that we deal with the structure of the home. While that is certainly true, we don’t wish to be contained by just that. We have created an articulation of design that emphasizes connection beyond the home to natural and community contexts. We know that these connections can help create happiness but what inside the home creates happiness? How do we best accentuate these elements in design?

This is pretty philosophical and esoteric but it can be brought into a more tangible context by thinking about the times and places in your home, or homes of your past, that make you the happiest. We have found that there is often a strong correlation between one’s childhood experiences with spaces and her/his adult concepts of spatial aesthetics. What were your favorite childhood spaces? Do they correlate to what you like in design as an adult?

Nine Company Values

Nine Company Values

Hugh Stearns

Hugh Stearns

The gurus of company culture often say that a company should limit the number of values that it focuses on to three. There is wisdom in that advice. It is much easier to keep three things in mind than it is more. But culture is a complicated fabric woven of many threads. While it is impossible to articulate all of the threads that go into creating a complex culture, in order to capture the hue and texture of this rich fabric, it is necessary to have a wider sampling than just three.

  • Caring – Caring is a large part of what drives connection in life. We connect to things that we care about. This can be family, design, clients, building science or almost anything else. Indifference is uninteresting and disconnected. A culture can help encourage and sustain caring. We have a caring culture.
  • Honesty – There are very few people who would characterize themselves as dishonest, yet there is a wide spectrum among people in this category, which means that we all tend to define honesty a little differently. We seek a common, well defined and high standard of honesty. To achieve this we view honesty more as a verb than a noun. It is something that we do more so than something that we are. Often honesty gets set at the low bar of ‘not telling falsehoods.’ This low bar allows for the withholding of information or providing misleading information. We do not consider this to be honest. But it is all too easy to unintentionally provide misleading information. This is why we must take an active role in looking hard at everything that we do from the perspective of others.   It is not uncommon for us to have an “ethics check” that is a group discussion on the fine line that sometimes exists between too much information and being misleading. We have a culture of actively engaged honesty.
  • Learning – Constant learning is essential in our ever changing world. If learning is seen as a burden this can encumber a company. There is a stereotype that the construction industry is rough around the edges and benighted.   All too often that stereotype is born out with statements like, “that’s the way we have always done it,” as a reason to resist change. We have a culture that relishes learning.
  • Engagement – Some may see this expression as redundant. I mean, isn’t being engaged a synonym for being active? Not necessarily. As an example, listening is a very important kind of engagement. But it is what we actively do with what we hear that determines our ability. We are a team that is actively engaged with each other, with our clients and other stakeholders.
  • Quality – We differentiate ourselves to the degree that we provide quality. Through all of these values we seek to provide quality in everything we do. This includes quality of life.
  • Connection – Our company is about building connections on many levels. We week to form lasting relationships with our clients. Our approach to design, which we all Transition, is focused on creating connection beyond the building into the natural and community environment. We know from replicated studies that people who have these connections are happier than those who do not. It is this idea that gives rise to our tag line: “We Design and Build Happiness.”
  • Empathy – The golden rule says to “do to other as you would have them do to you.” This is a basic concept of many religions, but we take exception to it. We have the platinum rule, which says, “do to others, as they would have you do to them.” We are each unique and we deserve to be treated as such. Perhaps we do not take our shoes off at the front door of our own house but if our clients do, then that is what we should do when we are at their home. We work for people with many different ethnic, religious and life style backgrounds. And we work to treat them all with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
  • Stewardship – We are stewards of many things including our selves, each other, this company, client relationships, our community and the environment.
  • Fun– Life should be fun.