The Manuel Builders Blog

Keep Warm Wisely: How to Safely Heat Your Home

Categories: Home Safety, Lifestyle | Posted: November 13, 2015

Haylei SmithHaylei SmithHaylei Smith

With the fall season slowly rolling in, the time of year to start preparing your home for the winter months is here. This means taking the right steps to properly and safely heat your home. To ensure that you and your family don’t fall victim to a house fire during this season, here are some suggestions below on how to safely heat your home.

The Chimney:

Chimney fires are the most common type of house fire during the winter months. It is important to have your chimney professionally cleaned before lighting the first fire of the year. Removing all debris from the chimney and opening the flue will ensure that your home remains free of dangerous smoke. The type of wood used is also very important. You want to use only a seasoned hardwood such as ash, oak, or maple in your fireplace.  Do not burn trash or cardboard boxes.  To keep embers off of rugs and carpets, employ the use of fireplace screens or glass fireplace doors. Clean it properly before using so that you and your family can enjoy it the best way you know how in the winter…with S’mores!

Haylei SmithHaylei SmithHaylei Smith

Gas Heating Systems:

If you have a gas heating system, place carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. It is important to test your detectors annually. If you ever smell gas, immediately extinguish all flames in your home. Do not operate electrical appliances because they may create sparks. Turn off all gas appliances and make sure pilot lights are extinguished. If you still smell gas, turn off your home’s main gas tap, evacuate immediately and call the gas company from a remote location. If your pilot light produces a red or yellow flame make sure you call for service. Your pilot light flame should be blue in color.  If your pilot light goes out, turn off the gas at that heat source and wait several minutes before re-lighting.

Other Heat Sources:

Fires started by the use of space heaters are the second most common type of house fires during the winter months. These heaters certainly come in handy on chilly mornings when all you want to do is bury deep into the warm covers; however, they can also lead to hazardous moments if not used correctly. To ensure your safety, never leave electric space heaters on if they are unattended, and always position them away from flammable objects. Make sure to unplug them when they are not in use, and keeping them away from children and pets is always a wise decision.

Haylei SmithHaylei SmithHaylei Smith

Home Maintenance:

It is important to check that all of your heat sources are well maintained. Have a professional examine and clean your home’s heating unit annually. This can ensure that all potentially harmful leaks are repaired. Also, have your chimney professionally cleaned before the first use of the winter season. Most importantly, inspect your smoke alarms to see they are all functioning properly. They should be tested every month, and batteries should be replaced at least twice a year.

Keep these few tips in mind as you move into the colder months and you’re sure to keep cozy until the spring arrives!

What Does a First-Time Homebuyer’s Tool kit look like?

Categories: Lifestyle | Posted: October 28, 2015

Do you have the “tools” to tackle your new home?


Becoming a first-time homeowner is one of the most exciting milestones in a person’s life. Gone are the days of renting, roommates, landlords and such— Welcome the days of truly having a living space that is all your own. However, owning a home also means that the crutch of calling the landlord every time something needs to be fixed is no longer there. Now, everything is your responsibility, which means preparedness is key.

We’ve put together a list of some basic essentials that every home owner should have available at all times for those common needs you’ll be liable to encounter.  It’s a smart idea to slowly start collecting these items for you to own, as they are the most essential when it comes to home maintenance.

  1. Ladder. There’s really no way around it- everyone is going to need a ladder at some point. From cleaning gutters, hanging decor, or tacking up lights at Christmas time, a ladder is a must have.  Prices range depending on the height and material, but expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $400 for an extension ladder.
  2. Cordless Drill. This is another power tool that comes in handy every time something is being assembled, or for heavy items you’ll need to hang on a wall. Drills can be purchased from anywhere between $20 and $300.
  3. Hammer. Get a hammer. No toolbox is complete without one. You can grab one for as cheap as $5.00.
  4. Garden hose.  Get started on your curb appeal by watering your plants. Grab a hose for anywhere between $8 to $100 depending on the length. You’ll also want to pick up a nozzle and a reel for storage.
  5. Tape measure. These are useful in just about any situation, from measuring furniture placement, finding the right height for the TV mount on the wall to other tasks around the home. You can grab one for as little as $4.00.
  6. Level. Levels are a big help when it comes to hanging pictures and wall art, because sometimes “eyeing it” just isn’t enough. A 4-foot level costs as little as $10, or you can choose to go more high tech by purchasing a digital level with an LCD screen for around $175.00.
  7. Screwdrivers. This is a necessity, because even if you’ve got a drill, something in your home is going to need a battery which will call for a handy screwdriver to replace. You’ll need both flathead and Phillips head varieties. A 4-in1 screwdriver set with both heads in different sizes costs as little as $4.00.
  8. Pliers. A five-piece plier set should take care of almost anything you’ve got to pull, grasp, or cut. A five piece set includes an adjustment wrench, slip joint, long-nose, diagonal, and groove joint pliers costing as little as $11.00.
  9. Stud finder. These come in handy when hanging heavy items on your walls such as TV mounts, shelves, large art pieces and etc. If you choose to hang these pieces without finding a stud first, you’ll be patching up holes in no time because sheetrock alone cannot hold that much weight. You can find a magnetic stud finder for around $3.50 or up to around $80 for a digital one.


Of course, you may already have these items or have others that suit your home needs more precisely. Either way, it’s smart to have some type of “tool kit” handy for when emergencies take place around the house. Save yourself the trip to the nearest Lowe’s or Home Depot by grabbing these tools today, and you are sure to be set for the common maintenance tasks every homeowner experiences.

How Can I Protect My Home From Inclement Weather?

Categories: Lifestyle | Posted: September 21, 2015

With the winding down of summer days comes the dreaded little season that keeps us all on the edge of our seats: hurricane season. During the departure of summer, right before the arrival of real fall weather, we are always greeted with a few disturbances in our gulf, some of which turn into full on hurricanes that could easily threaten each home on our block. Hurricanes bring tons of damage to homes every year, and sometimes the damage you see after the gusts have left could have been prevented. After all, our homes are meant to protect us from harsh weather while keeping us safe and comfortable. To do this, they need to be in tip top shape in order to deliver maximum results.

Leave No Stone Unturned


Get your home in tip-top shape for this hurricane season moving our way!

First, it’s best to inspect the status of your whole house. When seeking to prepare your house for inclement weather, it’s best to do a round-up check of the whole house. Scrutinize the house from top to bottom and take note of the areas that are in good shape, areas that need improvement, repairs and complete replacement. This will help you budget your money and time properly before the onset of harsh weather.

The Top:

The roof should always be your first priority to check out when anticipating harsh weather of any kind. With hurricanes and other wind-heavy disasters, the last thing you would want is for your roof to blow off or to have leakage. Make sure the shingles are securely attached to avoid removal by the wind or leakage of water into the house. Also, your gutters should be completely cleaned out of all debris to avoid possible flooding.

The Middle:

antoinette plan

Windows and doors are another likely victim to any form of bad weather. The most important thing to remember when preparing them is to make sure everything is properly sealed. We all know that unprotected windows are like catnip to the winds of a hurricane.

With hurricanes, tornadoes, and any other wind-heavy weather, the often most common type of damage is concerning windows. The sudden change in pressure, the heavy rain, and biting wind can do a number on any structure, and windows are usually the first thing to go. Anyone can go through the trouble of nailing wood over each and every window every time a storm is on its way; however, a more efficient suggestion is to install hurricane shutters on your home. Hurricane shutters are designed to protect against wind, debris picked up by the wind, and the sudden changes in pressure that are common during a hurricane. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, if a door or window gives out during a hurricane the resulting pressure shift in the house can cause the roof of your home to fail, blow out of your windows and more; this is essentially the equivalent of getting your house “totaled” in an accident. Because of the level of damage the loss of a single window can cause, hurricane shutters aren’t just a worthwhile investment—they’re a necessary one.  

The Bottom:


Secure all “easily moved” items such as swings, potted plants, BBQ pits and etc when bad weather rolls in to prevent any further damage to your home.

The bottom of your home consists of everything from downspouts to foundation, and to outdoor attachments such as decking. Consider replacing rusty downspouts to prevent leakage of water to your home’s foundation. It’s also a good idea to extend their length making sure they direct water away from the house to prevent flooding. Decks receive all the blows when it comes to strong winds and water. They should be properly designed to stay strong, and make sure all wood is sealed with a sealing agent to repel water.

The Aftermath…

Custom homes will give you maximum benefit and protection against hurricanes and other harsh inclement weather that may have otherwise destroyed your house severely. In most cases of hurricanes and such, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Having year round protection and getting a head start on preparing your home for the best tolerance will definitely pay off in the long run. 

What Makes a Home “Easy to Live In”?

Categories: Lifestyle | Posted: March 4, 2015

There are so many things that make a home easy to live in. I call them “ease of living” features, and some are more obvious than others. These are the items and spaces that I find most important when designing and planning your home. Different features can drastically affect your mood, efficiency, and sense of peace in a busy lifestyle; when attention is given to specific areas, life can be a lot more enjoyable and less hectic! Most of these features do add some cost, but in the long run it is well worth it once you are able to access the benefits of a quality of life. I would say most are categorized as storage items, but layout and custom features are also very important.

Storage is one of the most important features that can add to a sense of peace and order in your home. Think about the moment you arrive at home — whether that is with a couple of kids, book sacks, and groceries or just purses, keys and briefcases. It is really nice to have a place to deposit these items. We often recommend a built in unit with just a few cabinets, drawers and a place possibly to hang and set things down; nothing too large. This area is a convenient place to put cell phone and iPad chargers hidden away in a cabinet, as well as plug-ins for an answering machine and cordless phone, hooks for purses and bags, drawers for phone books, pens, and cabinets for shoes — all these things help tremendously.

Another invaluable storage feature is a slightly larger pantry with lots of shelving to be able to accommodate baskets and bins that can help with organization and make it easy to find items. This is also a good area for storing large pots that we often use for gumbo, as well as large appliances, etc.

Custom features in the laundry room can also make life much easier. Things like: a folding table, cabinets for items like detergents and fabric softeners, as well as cubbies or shelves for laundry baskets are wonderful. A laundry sink is also quite useful; this does not have to be an expensive sink, but with the addition of this feature you can have the benefits of a combination mudroom and laundry room. Washing dirty shoes or pets, soaking items, and washing muddy little hands can all be done as soon as they hit the door (given you position your room near the back entrance).

The garage is another area that is useful to have access to additional storage. The addition of a few features such as shelving for items like sporting equipment bins, infrequently used seasonal items, and a small space to stack bikes and scooters can all make life much easier!

Closets are another area to pay attention to detail. By enlarging the space slightly to add a few racks for shoes, purses, bins, and things like sweaters/folded items, we can add to our sense of calm and help us stay organized and efficient.
Another space for useful storage space is in our bathrooms. This is an area that seems to accumulate products and extra household items; having a place for these types of things helps to make life flow, lending to a positive feel. Any kind of storage units with cabinets and drawers for things like towels, personal care items, styling tools, toothbrushes, etc., can all help keep the bath free of clutter and useful items handy. Cabinets over toilets for storage of toilet paper, bathroom spray and personal items also help tremendously.

Regarding layout, open floor plans are not only on trend but they also really fit the way we live. People can move about without interrupting kitchen activities and can participate in conversation and visit with the cooks. Islands with space for homework, plugs and seating are a great addition in this area. If budget allows, an area for seating and visiting right off the kitchen is great; this allows family or guests to continue to visit and move around the activity of the kitchen easily.

As you can see, just a few intentional and well-thought-out features added to your home can help you stay more peaceful, organized and lend to a less chaotic lifestyle. These small things add big value that we can enjoy daily and that means a lot in today’s culture!

What is Design Build?

Categories: Home Design | Posted: March 4, 2015

Many people wonder, What is design build? Design Build is essentially one stop shopping.  The concept is very effective and simple.  The most attractive aspect of a design build arrangement is that you make only one agreement–with the company.  You do not need a separate architect, an interior designer, or anybody else.  In some design build companies you may be forced to choose from their existing plans with little to no modifications.  You may get an individual to help with color selections and interior finishes. What you usually cannot get is a truly custom home.   This is somewhat of a stock house with your choice of colors and finishes.  In actuality, this is not a true custom but a semi-custom design build.  With Manuel Builders you can truly get a custom design build experience.  We have an in house architect that will assist you in developing a custom design for your house.  You then will have the help of our degreed interior design consultant to assist you in obtaining the interior style and finishes that are suited to you and your family perfectly.

Doing Your “Homework”

Categories: Home Design | Posted: March 4, 2015


Building a home can be an overwhelming and scary process. We recommend that you definitely do your “homework” before beginning this journey. Just like you would research before any sizeable endeavor, whether that be where to vacation or what automobile to purchase, it is even more important to do the necessary research prior to building so that you may get the ultimate result. We call this discovery process doing your “homework”.

“Home-Work” is the process of searching out and uncovering the details regarding the kind of house that fits you and your family. It is the process of determining the style of home you desire, in addition to determining special features and characteristics. You want your home to be a reflection of you and your family with regard to style/tastes, lifestyle, budget and dreams. There are many steps you can take to achieve this goal. Once you identify and document things that you want you can begin to lay out specifics and hire a team of professionals to pull all these things together to build your personal home.
Let this be your guide as you begin by taking the following steps:

1. Make a list of rooms and spaces desired? Create a paragraph or a series of notes about the characteristics of those rooms. (ex. storage possibilities/needs, design details you like, closets, bay windows, built in seating, closets, wainscoting, specialty rooms, etc.).
Keep these things in mind when listing rooms and detailing needs for rooms:

  • How many people will be living in the home?
  • Do you have children? If so how many? How many rooms and which ones/features will they require? Do you have elderly living with you or frequently visiting? What needs do they have or will have?
  • Do you have pets and do you need anything special for them? (Pets may change flooring considerations, add pet doors, laundry sink for bathing, fences, etc.)
  • Do you entertain? If so, how often? Is it casual, formal, or what special features do you need to make entertaining easier?
  • How many computers do you have? TV’s?
  • How often do you eat meals as a family?
  • How often would you like to eat meals together as a family?
  • Should the kitchen overlook the playroom/pool/yard so that you can cook or work while keeping an eye on the children?
  • Do two or more people work in the kitchen at the same time?
  • Where will televisions be located? Will sound be an issue?
  • Do you want your kids to be able to have computer bays in a children’s work/play area that can be monitored from the kitchen? This is an increasingly popular alternative to having the kids be alone in their rooms doing homework with or without their computers.
  • Do you need work spaces, private offices, or project rooms/spaces?
  • How many bedrooms will you need and will that be contained in one story or two? What about the bathrooms? Does the master have two sinks, separate vanity spots? How much closet space do you want?

In addition, I would ask that you think of all the places you have ever been–your house growing up, houses you have lived in, other houses you have visited, places you have dreamed of, etc. What was the most wonderful and memorable spaces you can recall? Think of details in those spaces. What worked and what did not work for you? What have you wished you had? What could have been better?

Be as thorough as you can but accept the fact that you cannot answer all questions that will be necessary. This preliminary work is simply to lay a good foundation for capturing a large portion of what you would like to see in your new home. Once you have done your “homework” or at least made some headway, you should sit down with your sales person, your architect or builder. In our case, Manuel Builders has all this under one roof to assist you in putting together your dream home. So relax, let your mind and creativity flow. Sometimes “homework” can be fun, enjoy the process!!

Hiring the Right Builder

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 4, 2015

How to find and hire the “right” builder.

Hiring the right builder is the most important step you will take in building the perfect home for you and your family. A great way to begin your search is checking with your local Homebuilders’ Association by clicking on to determine those that are listed, licensed and are active in the association. Family, friends and co-workers are another great resource for recommendations on their experience with the building process.

You will be in a relationship with your builder for several months to years depending on the size of your project. You want to make sure your builder is a fit for you, has a good reputation, is licensed and is knowledgeable and personable. A builder’s reputation can be checked by logging in at the Better Business Bureau: The first step in determining if the builder is a fit is doing your homework regarding the company and setting up a meeting with the builder or a representative of the company. Checking out the website before and assembling a list of questions that you may have or things you are interested in knowing is a great preparation for your meeting.

A key question to add to your list is whether or not he has worker’s compensation and general liability insurance to cover construction related accidents while on your premises. After you have done your homework set up your first face to face meeting. In this meeting look for high levels of communication, professionalism and a desire to serve you–not just sell you. Also, find out how long they have been in business and ask for projects to check out and previous clients that you can talk to. You want to make sure your builder has been in business for at least 4 years as it takes several years to establish a financially sound business and ensure you will be have them around when warranty and service of your new home comes into play. Remind him that you would also like a couple of names where things did not go perfectly and make sure you ask previous clients if they would hire this builder again. Check out jobs that are under way to check for quality of workmanship and materials.

Choose your builder carefully, it is a long term relationship that you want to take the time to think through and be pro-active. Communication is key and if you are having difficulty before the build you will definitely have issues as communication becomes more and more crucial, in addition to life after move in. Communication is not only verbal but should be clear and in contract form. Contracts will benefit you and set clear expectations for the path forward. Be cautious of unusually low priced bids or bids that are way off from other estimates that you receive.

Keep in mind that less expensive does not necessarily mean better! Choosing to build a new home is exciting but a serious undertaking. Choosing a builder is the first step you take in making sure you have a great experience and an investment that you will enjoy for years to come!!