Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beautify Your Austin Home with Stamped Concrete

One of the best ways to beautify your home is to add some landscaping detail. There are many different things you can do. Projects may include adding shrubs, plants, trees, flowers; however you can also add paths, a patio, a pool deck or a new driveway. One of the new ways of adding these is by using stamped concrete. Why consider this material? Well, first let's define and understand what stamped concrete is, then, you can decide for yourself.

What Is It?

This product is pretty much what it sounds like. Concrete that is poured into a mold or fiber frame and then stamped as it begins to harden. It's a relatively simple process for contractors who specialize in this material. Because it is concrete, this product is relatively inexpensive, however, the results are quite impressive.. I actually a lot of different stamp patterns, and the designs often give you a very elegant look. If you're an artist, then you know the process works similarly to a fault paint finish, except in this case, concrete is used. With this stamped process you can pretty much create any design you want and have the look and feel of an English walkway, a cobblestone path, hand laid brick path, a stone walkway and much more. Stamped concrete offers you a great deal of flexibility and a large variety of landscaped options.

What Do Other People Choose?

Obviously, different homes require different landscaping needs, and owners also have their own personal taste to consider. However, some of the most popular stamps include:
         Ashlar stone
         Vermont Slate
         English cobblestones
         Canyon Stone
         Fractured stone

A Wide Variety of Colors

Stamped concrete also offers a large selection of different colors. You can use concrete stains color hardeners, integrated color into the concrete and many different concrete dyes. This is an option you should really ask the contractor about as these concrete colors can add that wow factor to the overall design.


One of the reasons why stamped concrete has become so popular is because it is very cost efficient. It is inexpensive to install and is easily maintained.

How to Choose the Right Concrete Stamp?

Before calling in the contractor, you'll want to look through several different concrete stamp pictures. Analyze these against the type of home and landscaping you have. Note that the more complex a concrete stamp is and the more colors used, the more expensive the process will be.

Bottom Line

Stamped concrete is relatively inexpensive, so even when you choose one of the more elaborate designs, usually costs substantially less than any other paving option. But besides costs, you should also consider this is a beautiful option and one that can be more environmentally friendly than other options.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

4 Tips to Buy Real Estate

Purchasing real estate is something that is a big deal for anyone, but especially for first time buyers. And more importantly, it can be overwhelming. After all, this is a big commitment. However, we’ve put together a few interesting tips to help the process be a smooth one. 


Make a List

Decide on the features you want the home to have. Think of location, size, luxury features you might want, etc. Think of the amount of money you can afford. You can even use mortgage calculators on mortgage websites, or ask to get prequalified for a mortgage. 


Don’t Get Discouraged

Try not to be discouraged if the seller of a home you want to purchase does not accept your offer, often times sellers are willing to negotiate different aspects of the sale with you, to make the sale still possible. The seller might be able to reduce the price, repair things or share the closing cost. 

When you are looking to purchase a new house, think about the long-term picture. Even if you currently do not have children, if you are planning to have kids in the future, you’ll want to find out about local schools. 


Get a Checklist

See if your Realtor can provide a checklist. Get a home buyers checklist from your real estate agent to keep track of all the tasks you need to complete when purchasing a home. This checklist will help make sure that everything that needs to be taken care of is accomplished in time for settlement. 

Create a Home Repair Budget

Make sure that you have a little bit of extra money put away in case any unexpected costs pop up when you’re buying a home. You can get a good idea of the closing costs if you add the down payment, taxes and what the bank charges. But there can be even more costs at closing. These may include property taxes and assessments. 

When you interview your real estate agent, plan on asking the right questions. You should ask them specific questions about their track record. The agent’s responses to these questions will provide you with the information you need to reach a decision

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Importance of a Real Estate Agent with Networking Skills

Years before the internet home buyers and sellers needed to contact a real estate agent if they wanted property information. The agent was the connection and knew how to find a buyer for a home and a home for a buyer. You met them at their real estate office, café or local luncheonette. This was the way you got the skinny on the latest homes for sale or new buyers in the market.

Obviously things have changed. Now most home buyers (around 90%) shop for their next home online. Many home sellers can get a pretty good idea of what their home may be worth by studying information provided by web sites like, and, which means you still need a real estate agent, but one that is now connected in one way or another.

So, do home buyers and sellers even need a real estate agent anymore? Thankfully, the answer is “More Than Ever”!

Sellers want to work with an agent that can get them a buyer for their home. But there is more to the request. They also want a qualified buyer who is reasonable about the conditions of the sale, offers them a fair price and is easy to work with.

Buyers want to work with an agent who can find them a house. And yes, there is more here too. The home buyers desire guidance relating to home inspections, mortgage financing, Etc… They also want a home at a fair price, minimal risk of principal during the transaction (a way out if things do not go as planned), and yes, a reasonable home seller.

Find the Right Real Estate Agent 

In the pre-internet days, the connection was based on knowledge as it related to home and buyer availability. Now it is related to the real estate agent who is connected to the public, a professional network and a crack staff.

A Professional Network

Look for someone with professional network connections. Real estate agents that are professionally connected can refer professionals in the fields of finance, title & home inspection. You may also want someone who is connected to Handy people, cleaning services, moving companies, Etc… It is handy to have a list of professionals your agent can recommend.

An Efficient Staff

Many times a customer will hire an agent without considering their support staff. You not only want to be connected to your real estate agent but to the staff as well. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Create a Relaxing Getaway on Your Outdoor Patio

People like to enjoy the favorable weather during spring, summer and fall seasons, by spending quality time at outdoor living spaces of their homes. There are several ways to turn your porch, front yard, back yard, or other outdoor living space into a more functional and comfortable area. With a few small adjustments, you can easily make your outdoor living spaces appealing and inviting, and can spend more time in sunlight and fresh air. You can also host events, get-together or parties for your friends and family in your well-decorated outdoor living spaces.

Ideas to Decorate Outdoor Places:

People may try several techniques and methods to decorate their outdoor living spaces, but the most easiest and reasonable one is through garden crafting. Garden crafts can greatly enhance the beauty of your outdoor living spaces. Let’s have a look at some of the commonly practiced methods of doing garden crafting:

1. Paint Your Clay Pots

One of the most eye-catching garden craft ideas to decorate your outdoor living spaces is the usage of paint on your clay pots. You can use any bright color scheme, as bright colors always look good in sunlight and outdoor living spaces. You can also add bright flowers and plants to them to make your garden shine. Besides painting, you can also wrap your pots with decorative ribbons and fancy materials to make your outdoor living spaces more striking and mesmerizing.

2. Stones & Marbles Decor

Your outdoor living spaces can be decorated beautifully with the usage of stones and marbles. A wide variety of colored and textured stones can be used to enhance the natural beauty of your garden and outdoor living spaces. Concrete step stones embedded with mosaic patterns or shiny glass marble tiles can be a valuable addition to your front yard or back yard. Alternatively, you can also use stone and marble sculptures to decorate your outdoor living spaces.

3. Wind Chimes or Door Bells

Another creative idea to decorate your outdoor living spaces is the usage of wind chimes and door bells. The beautiful melodious sound of a wind chime or a door bell can leave a pleasing effect on mind and could further enhance the splendor of your outdoor living spaces remarkably. Wind chimes could be of metal, wood or customized materials. For a more natural look, you can use wind chimes and door bells having parrots, butterflies, birds and other shapes to beautify outdoor living spaces.

4. Bird Houses & Cages

Fresh garden craft ideas for outdoor living spaces also include the decoration of your garden trees with colorful bird houses and small cages. Natural environment always creates a healthy and strong impact on human personality. Outdoor living spaces make the best place to combine these nature loving elements and make your garden look spectacular. You can also create self-customized bird houses and can style them the way you want. Be it a specific garden theme, or multicolored approach, your outdoor living spaces could be decorated beautifully with these bird houses and cages.

5. Wooden Furniture

Outdoor living spaces are incomplete without proper setup and sitting arrangement. Make sure to choose the right kind of furniture to meet your need. It totally depends on your space availability and personal taste. Usually, people prefer furniture made of redwood, western red cedar, teak and white oak for their outdoor living spaces. The outdoor furniture made of these types of wood is considered to be long lasting and durable.

You can also decorate your outdoor walls with bamboo sticks. Either make a custom-built frame by putting and overlapping several bamboo sticks together, or buy a ready made bamboo stand to be placed at the back of your outdoor furniture wall.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Landscaping with Stones

Landscaping your yard can be a fantastic way of adding beauty and color to your home. When you add plants and stones to your yard you increase the beauty of your home and could increase its value. You might want to landscape the entire yard, make a quiet garden area or just a small area. Regardless, one of the best ways to make your plants stand out is to use interesting stones of all sizes. The following are just a few ways of integrating the plants, shrubs and trees with beautiful rocks.  

Decide on What You Want 

Look for landscaping ideas using natural stones online. You’ll find a large number of ideas here. But before you start, think about what you want. Smaller rocks and stones might be used to line the edge of a private drive, flower bed or even a little pond. Larger stones can be added to the center of planted areas or an area planted with natural herbs. You can use a very big decorative landscape rock as the focal point of your gardening project. Glance through publications, travel all-around your town and take a look at other people’s yards and rock gardens to get an idea of what you want.

Do Some Research

Local rocks and stones are probably what you should use in your design. Check out local home building sites for suggestions on the types of stones available in your area. Visit a local home improvement store or nursery to find different options.  When you know what you want and the type of stones available, you can draw up your rock landscaping designs and get started.

Options for a Layout Designed with Natural Rocks

 One creative and interesting way of adding beautiful stone to your landscaping is to create a rock wall. A mail box foundation or a rock wall as a backdrop for a backyard garden offers interest to your yard.  You could even use polished flat stones as stepping stones that create a meandering path through your flower garden.

Don't Want to Do It Yourself?

Not everyone likes to do things themselves and if you're not a do-it-yourself type of person, no problem. You can always hire someone to do the job for you. There are plenty of local landscaping companies specialized in rock design  prepared to do the work for you - but remember rock landscaping prices can differ based on where you live. Another advantage is that a contractor could have access to specialized stones that you can’t find.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Strangest Homes You've Ever Seen

In event of the season, I’ve decided to stray a little from the norm, and instead of writing about interesting décor ideas, real estate, or the comings and goings of Austin folk, I’ve decided to take on something different. Today, I want to share with you some of the strangest and weirdest homes ever built. 

1-     Everingham Rotating House in Taree, Australia

This is an octagonal house that actually rotates a full 30 degrees with a few mechanical buttons. The rotating device consists of 32 outrigger wheels powered by two 500 watt electric motors, allowing the owner to spin the house whenever he wants. The process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

2-     The Nautilus

This is a seashell shaped home that was finished in 2006.  It is a prime example of the new bio-architecture trend, a style that immitates animals and creatures. The Nautilus  is made like a crustacean Shell and filled with lots of vegetation and small trees. 

3-     The Montesilo in Woodland Utah

This is an award-winning home that was created when two corrugated grain silos where joined together. This is a neat way of repurposing an existing product. 

4- The Steel House in Lubbock Texas

This Steel home was built around 1974 but what makes it so interesting is that the structure is more like a sculpture than a home. The owner makes constant changes and the overall weight is about 110 tons. 

5- The Mushroom House in Cincinnati, Ohio

What makes this home unique is the undulating wood work and the strange shapes.  This is a home made of many different materials, which is what makes it so different and strange. The interior is just as oddly shaped as the exterior, yet very artistic.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What makes a kitchen remodel work?

It’s important that you know what you should and more importantly, what you shouldn't do when it comes to remodeling your kitchen. Almost everyone has that terrible “kitchen remodel” story to share. They often go on to tell you what they would have done differently. It doesn't matter whether this is a neighbor with his never ending remodel or the story told and retold of a friend of a friend who couldn't get a contractor to get along with the architect.  To prevent yourself from falling into the kitchen remodel trap, you can protect yourself from falling into these first-timer kitchen remodel mistakes.

Look at the Big Picture First

While it may be fun shopping for appliances or looking at new counter tops, you need to stop for a minute; you first need to focus on the big picture. Think of your lifestyle and what use you’ll give your kitchen before you start the design process. Your lifestyle can determine the types of materials, appliances and design elements you need.

Forget about Fad

Be careful when looking at what is in style. A kitchen design should last between 10 to 15 years, so you don’t want to go with something that is in style now, but later out of fashion. Be careful with trendy colors and short lived shapes. Remember, what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

DIY Projects Are not Always Cheap

Most people think that doing the renovation project themselves is the best way to save money but this isn't necessarily so. Many aspects of a kitchen remodel require professionals with specific experience.  Hire licensed and skilled professionals to complete certain parts of the work. Design service can often be just as affordable as the big-box retailer.

 Bottom Line

When it comes to designing your kitchen you need to take the time to do it right, plan it out. It’s not all about shopping. You need to think about functionality and use first, and then hire professionals that will give you exactly what you want, not tell you what you need.