The Manuel Builders Blog

 


A Guide for Dirt Pads and Compaction Tests

Categories: Building Process, FAQs | Posted: December 8, 2017

In this video with Haleigh, our Permit Specialist, we talk about the importance of dirt pads for your home, how tall it needs to be and the explanation of compaction tests.

Why might I need a dirt pad?

There are four basic reasons why you may consider building a dirt pad for your new home.

  • The first and most common reason is that your property is in a flood zone.  If so, building your home up above the Base Flood Elevation, or BFE, is REQUIRED in all parishes in order to begin construction.
  • The second motivation would be if your property is not in a flood zone, but you’re still concerned about flooding.  At this point, no dirt pad is required, but it is MOST OFTEN the least expensive and most effective way to ensure your home will remain above any rising water in the case of flooding.
  • Another possibility would be if the ground where you want to build your home is not level.  A dirt pad can be used to level the property to ensure positive drainage away from the house.
  • Finally, a dirt pad can be built to achieve a certain home appearance.  If you want a “raised” look or brick steps leading up to your front porch, a dirt pad can be a great way to accomplish that.

How tall does my pad need to be?

The height of your pad will depend heavily on your property location and conditions.  Due to various parish and slab requirements, the minimum height for any dirt pad is 18” above undisturbed ground.  If you’re in a flood zone, most parishes require you to be at least 1’ above Base Flood Elevation.  Once you reach that minimum height, if you want your pad to be taller for either peace-of-mind or visual appeal, that’s entirely up to you!

What is a compaction test and why is it recommended?

A compaction test is used to verify that the pad upon which your home will be built is stable enough to bear the weight of your foundation.

It is mainly made up of three soil samples, one from the center and two from opposite corners of your pad. The soil samples are tested to determine the density, moisture and compaction levels.

A passing compaction test is 95% or greater on all three samples.  You will also want to have a compaction test completed for every 12” of dirt you build up.  This guarantees that each level of your dirt pad has been properly compacted to give your home the stability it needs.

Remember, the foundation may not be the prettiest part of your home, but it is the most important.

5 Holiday Hot Spots in Your Home

Categories: Home Safety, Other | Posted: November 23, 2017
It’s easy to forget about or even brush off fire safety during the busy and stressful holiday months whilst shopping, cooking and spending time with family. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires occur most often during the winter months so before baking the pecan pie and rocking around the Christmas tree, take some time to check out these fire safety tips.

 

Know The Facts

One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. A heat source that is too close to the tree causes one in every four of Christmas tree fires. December is the peak time for home candle fires and one-third of all candle fires start in the bedroom.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Natural trees should be cut at a 45-degree angle at the base then placed in water. Tree stands should be filled with water at all times and when the tree becomes dry, discard it right away because once your Christmas tree becomes dry, it’s chances of catching fire increases greatly. It’s also important to place the tree away from any heat source including fires, candles, and space heaters.

Smart Decorations

When hanging lights either on your Christmas tree or on the exterior of your house, make sure to check the strings for wear and tear, throwing away any with frayed wires, broken bulbs or faulty sockets. Remember not to pile on a lot of plugs onto one power strip or extension cord, this includes stringing three or more strands of lights together. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples as it could damage the integrity of the lights. Also, only use non-flammable or flame-retardant decorations as it can prevent a fire from growing rapidly should one break out.

Kitchen Time

The heart of your home can get pretty wild around the holidays when you’re preparing the perfect dinner for your family and it’s easy to become distracted and forget about a certain dish on the stove. The NFPA says that unattended cooking is the #1 cause of kitchen fires. Be certain to stay present while you’re cooking and keep distractions to a minimum. If you must leave the room, take a pot-holder with you so you don’t forget that you have a dish in the oven. Also, keep kitchen clutter off the counter, especially flammables like towels, paper, plastic containers and cooking utensils, away from the stove.

Watch Your Wicks

During the Holiday months, candles set the atmosphere and give a sweet aroma that just makes it feel like Christmas time but the incidence of candle fires is four times higher during December than during other months. To reduce the risk of fire, keep candles at least a foot away from anything that can burn and make sure it’s placed on a sturdy base. Try to remember and remind your family to only have candles burning in a common room like the living room or kitchen (away from flammables) so the flame is never left unattended. It’s a good practice to walk through each room before bed and before leaving home to make sure there’s no candles still burning. Also, consider battery-operated and LED lights as they can look & smell like real candles.

Check the Basics

Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, outside of sleeping areas and inside the bedrooms. Make sure your smoke detectors are up-to-date and have working batteries by testing each one monthly. In addition to the kitchen, you should have a fire extinguisher next to the front and rear exits of the house, in the hallway and on every level of your home. It’s also important to develop and practice a house fire escape plan with your family.

Get Your Kids Involved

It’s important that children know the importance of fire safety. Get them involved by printing out fire-safety coloring pages and explain things that they should and should not do around fire. Organize a fire evacuation plan with your family – make sure they know the fastest way to escape, helping younger siblings if they’re in the same room, and instructing them how to move around the house. If they’re in the bedroom with no way to get out the door, make sure they know how to open their own window and other windows around the house. Designate a specific meeting spot where the entire family can meet up to ensure everyone is safe.

For more information about house fires around the holidays visit, www.usfa.fema.gov
Source: National Fire Protection Association

Bi-Annual Maintenance

Categories: FAQs, Maintenance | Posted: November 10, 2017

Part of being a new homeowner means having to learn the basics of maintaining your home to prevent larger problems in the future. Below are some of the basic homeowner maintenance items that we encourage all of our new homeowners to perform on a bi annual basis.

  • Clean out your gutters and downspouts from all debris build up. Water will always find a path to trickle down.. If your gutters and downspouts remain clogged with leaves or twigs, the water will eventually back up and could potentially begin seeping into your home.
  • Maintain exposed wood with a clear sealant i.e. exterior beams, posts and doors. The harsh weather here in Louisiana can quickly break down any exposed wood if not properly sealed.
  • Inspect outside of home for the condition of siding, paint, masonry, stucco and wood trim. Take a step back and look at your home from afar. We can sometimes miss the bigger picture by trying to dig in too deep. Look for chips, cracks, and fading of paint. Touching these up continuously can be much easier and cost effective than trying to do many touch ups or repairs all at one time when they pile up.
  • Check A/C pan and hot water pan for signs of water then flush the drain lines. Simply pouring a bit of bleach through these lines to break down any debris that could potentially cause a clog. This can be a huge factor in preventing more costly damages.
  • Make sure to check your smoke detectors and replace the battery, if necessary. Your detectors will notify you when it is time to change the battery. Just listen for the beep!

To check out the items needed to maintain on a monthly and annual basis, check out our full maintenance video here.

Hosting the Perfect Autumn Gathering

Categories: Lifestyle, Other | Posted: October 24, 2017

 

When you’re planning to host a gathering with your friends, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to create the perfect atmosphere and set the mood for the evening. Use these simple tricks to leave your guests saying “WOW!” when they visit this fall season.

 

Color Me Happy

Decorating your home for the season is the perfect place to start! Did you know that certain colors in your home can promote different moods in you and your guests? Encourage a happy mood with green and yellow colors. Jewel tones such as red or deep purples/violet promote liveliness & energy whereas blue colors promote calmness. Use this to your advantage in your living room by incorporating these colors through velvet throw pillows, footstools or even an accent chair. Also, to make your guests more comfortable – we recommend hanging your favorite blankets on a rustic ladder in-reach from the couch – It’s a good way to store your cozy fall throws while still giving your room style a cohesive look.

Social Hour

When your guests begin to arrive, greet them at the door with a smile and lead them to the living room where a small appetizer is displayed on a coffee table – We suggest a cheese platter featuring different kinds of cheeses, crackers, pepper jelly, prosciutto, salami, olives, and fresh fruit. Easy, simple, and delicious plus this dish pairs quite nicely with wine. Don’t hesitate to move furniture around in a way that encourages conversation amongst the group, creating more Feng shui in the space. This takes the main focus away from the fireplace or television.

Dining with Purpose

Prep your dining table with the perfect fall centerpiece by setting a few different heighted candles then placing a green garland around them. Choose to accent the centerpiece with different fall items like autumn leaves, pinecones or even apples and pears, if you wish. Another nice touch would be to set the table with mini pumpkins on each place setting, tying burlap string around the stem with their name card and a nicely scripted menu for the evening’s dinner.

Take It Outdoors

If the Louisiana weather permits, plan to take your friends outside for dessert to cap off the night. Have a s’mores platter ready to take out after dinner, complete with graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and a few unexpected treats like peanut butter or even pumpkin spice Kisses or marshmallows as a way to say “Cheers” to the season! Arrange chairs around a fire pit, warm blankets within reach, and string lights over-head for an extra touch.

Fall time is all about family and friends! Take advantage of this season to open your home for an eventful gathering. Use this article as inspiration, but make it your own with your personal touches!

Path to Your Manuel Builders Presold Home

Categories: Building Process, FAQs, Other | Posted: October 7, 2017

One of the options we offer when building your home in one of our developments is a Presold Home, also known as “Pick Your Lot, Pick Your Plan.” You’re able to find a community in the area you’re looking to live in, select an available lot, then choose your favorite plan from our options on our website. Since you’re starting from scratch, you have the opportunity to make your future space unique to you by selecting paint colors, floors, lighting, granite, and many more finishes. It has many of the perks of a customized home without the hassle of finding and purchasing your own property!

It the flow chart above, we break down the steps of the building process from start to finish. We categorize these steps into 3 main phases: Pre-Construction, Construction and Almost Home.

In Pre-Construction, there are many tasks to complete before construction on your new home can begin. We work together during this stage to ensure that the building process goes smoothly once it starts. Now that selections have been made and paperwork has been finalized, you move into the construction phase, where your home begins to take shape. At this point, no additional changes can be made to your home. Once the plumbing fixtures and appliances are installed, you are moving into the final stretch! After your final orientation, where your project manager walks you through your home to familiarize yourself with the operations of the space, you’ll close on your loan and get the keys to your new home!

Are you interested in the Presold Home Process with Manuel Builders? We invite to take a look at the communities we build in to find the perfect lot and plan that will suit your family’s lifestyle! Shop our communities here.

Fall Backyard Makeover!

Categories: Home Design, Lifestyle, Other | Posted: September 29, 2017

You might be ready for Fall but is your backyard? The weather is cooling down and that makes us all want to enjoy the crisp, fall outdoors by a warm fire. But is your patio in need of a face-lift? Use a few of these ideas to enhance the outside of your Manuel Builder’s home for Autumn!

Being Basic is Old News

First, let’s start with an unexpected color palette – Instead of the typical color scheme of orange and brown, try out modern Autumn colors that will stand out and make a lasting impression on your guests! Let your backyard POP with colors like Cranberry, Mustard, & Sage Green – These trendy colors are not expected for fall yet they can be completely fitting for the season. As for decoration and incorporating your new fall color palette, add some glam to your traditional pumpkins by painting them white with chalk paint and metallic gold for an accent color! Along with gourds, wooden fall signs and fall blooms like chrysanthemums, your backyard will easily become an Autumn escape you’ll love this season.

Light It Up

Create a stunning landscape that you can enjoy during the day and at night with a few of these outdoor lighting ideas. Make your next gathering even more magical with the inviting glow of string lights, which are perfect for spending nights outside in the cool weather. You can find vintage bulbs, globe bulbs or whatever shape that fits your style. Want more of a statement piece? Find a unique chandelier to hang over your table for an elegant focal point or even hook it up in one of your trees to give a nice contrast between glam and garden.  Another option would be to add torches that repel mosquitos because us southerners know the struggle, right?! This helps having family, fun outside more bearable!

Add “Cozy” Texture

Make your outside living space more cozy by adding textured blankets, pillows and rugs to create a comfortable space that makes you forget you’re outside! You can store blankets in a wooden crate or wicker baskets next to the furniture so they’re easy to grab on a chilly fall night. Want to make your guests feel extra comfortable? Add a few outdoor pillows! The good thing about throw pillows is that they allow you to play with colors and patterns that can change with your style without doing an entire patio renovation. Adding an accent rug that complements your outdoor furniture is just another way to enhance your outdoor living space. It will tie everything in together and bring the inside out on your back porch!

Whatever you do, fall in love it. Make it a place that’s not additional, yet an extension to your living areas inside your home. Guests can visit your home for dinner gatherings or football watch parties and feel welcome throughout your entire home!

How much does a set of blueprints cost?

Categories: FAQs, Home Design, Other | Posted: September 15, 2017

That’s a great question!  Blueprints, house plans, floor plans, home designs, and construction documents are all terms that can all be used interchangeably when referring to the set of drawings used to construct your home. Are you willing to begin with an existing plan and make modifications, or are you hoping to design a custom home to meet very specific design requirements?
 
If you answered ‘yes’ to starting from a predesigned set of floor plans, your costs could come from online/ magazine-order plan houses, local design firms, and design/build contractors.  With information at your fingertips, you can easily begin your search on the web or pick up the latest home design magazine at the checkout aisle.  Southern Living, ePlans.com, and many others offer various prices for their designs.  Prices can start as low as a few hundred dollars for a single non-reproducible ‘study’ set, which would give you enough detail to get a construction estimate, and up to $1500-$3000 for a set that can be reproduced and customized multiple times to meet your needs for construction.  Customization is usually offered as an additional service.  If you prefer, you can start with local designers.  Madden Home Design offers home designs for $600-$1000 for a set that cannot be modified.  Or you can go to a homebuilder that offers in-house design services, some with varying degrees of customization.  Manuel Builders charges nothing for a full set of construction drawings and allows you to make as many custom changes as you want.
 
If you answered ‘yes’ to the custom home, you are going to look for an architect or designer who can best listen to your needs and bring your ideas to life.  There are many quality local design firms, and each can charge differently for their services. The most popular method is based from construction square footage.  You can expect to pay as little as $0.50/sf to an architecture student doing business on the side to well over $2/sf to an established design firm.  Michael Campbell Design offers custom plan services starting at $1.95/ square foot on the total area under roof (not just living area).  A 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath house could easily cost more than $5,000.  Again, some homebuilders charge nothing for floor plans, even custom ones.  Before investing in design services, it is a good idea to consult your builder first to see what options they offer.
 
Regardless of whom you get the drawings from, remember that the design is the copyright of the creator of the floor plan.  Intellectual property laws protect house plans, so work with your builder to make sure you are following copyright guidelines.
 
And remember, what appears on paper today will become your lived-in reality in a few months.  I hope you consider all the options and choose the best blueprint to achieve the home of your dreams!

Monthly Maintenance

Categories: FAQs, Warranty | Posted: September 5, 2017

Part of being a new homeowner means having to learn the basics of maintaining your home to prevent larger problems in the future. Below are some of the basic homeowner maintenance items that we encourage all of our new homeowners to perform on a monthly basis.

Monthly tasks:

  • Replacing A/C filters is the most basic, preventative maintenance for your A/C unit, and can be considered one of the most important. When your A/C filter gets clogged, dust and dirt begin to find its way into the air conditioner itself, causing wear and tear on the parts. You probably know what that means.. the more wear and tear on the parts, the sooner they wear out and then you’re dealing with a breakdown. The clogged filter also prevents enough air from flowing through the system to keep it working properly.
  • Clean or replace the dirty filter in your range hood. The same principal applies here as with the A/C filters, except this part doesn’t need to be replaced, simply cleaned. A basic household degreaser and some hot water will do the trick.
  • Freshen and clean sink drains by flushing with hot water and baking soda. No one likes a smelly kitchen! This will also help keep debris from clogging up your drain lines, which could cause water to back up into your fixtures.
  • Check for evidence of leaks around toilets, under sinks and around dishwasher, basically all your wet areas. It is always a good practice to do a quick sweep of all of the water supply areas of your home to check for signs of a leak. Doing so can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in repairs by catching a leak before it is too late.
  • Clean aerators on faucets regularly, depending upon water hardness.  You may need to use a rust or scale remover to return them to normal condition. Check any water filters and softeners regularly.

To check out the items needed to maintain on a bi-annual and annual basis, check out our main video here.

How to Create an Inviting Dining Room

Categories: Home Design, Lifestyle | Posted: August 24, 2017
Any Louisianan understands the importance of food, where it’s prepared and most importantly, where it disappears – the Dining Room, the place where friends and family come together and fellowship. Our favorite holidays are closer than you know it and it never hurts to get a head-start on setting up the perfect dining area to impress your guests!

 

Play with Seating

Do you have a lot of people coming over that you may not have enough chairs for at the table? Add a rustic bench to your table so you can make a few extra seats and it can also be tucked under the table when not in use. Another option would be to grab a few different chairs from around your house or from an antique market for something fresh. As long as your table decor looks like you did it on purpose, there’s nothing wrong with using an unexpected assortment of chairs. Tired of your seating but need a quicker fix than searching the stores for new chairs? Slipcovers may be the simple solution for changing the look of your upholstered chairs, as well as your entire dining room and can be easily removed to launder.

Multiples Equal Magic

Looking for simple yet effective ways to spruce up your dining table? Purchase affordable sets of placemats and have fun with it! Find a style you like most and get a couple different color options to set on your table in a pattern or change them up by the season. Mirrors double the visual size of a space and reflect light sources. Mount a mirror (or a few) around your dining room to make it feel larger. Bonus:  if you place it on the opposite wall of a window, it doubles the light source for a brighter, larger looking room!

Bring the Outside in

It’s no doubt that “earthy” is on trend this year. That has us calling for plenty of wood, plants, and natural elements to bring the outside— in. Create a warm and homey feel to your dining area with houseplants. You can try an easy to care for plant like succulents which will last all year long. Do you love the rustic look? Tree slices with candles on top make a beautiful focal point for your table. If you prefer florals, try placing three different vases of floral arrangements to give a more sophisticated and dressier look to your dining room. You can also add to the rustic centerpieces by decorating each place setting with a bamboo charger plate then pair it with greenery, tied with twine to place in the center of each plate. This will have your table always company ready!

Lay, Wash and Re-use

You may have your centerpiece, table settings and chairs all looking the way you imagined it, yet something is still missing. Try searching for a colorful and unique tablecloth or runner! If your room is plain in color, then finding a cloth with a loud, bright print could be just the pop it needs to complete your space. Or you may need more texture to your table where a burlap, lace or crocheted runner could do the trick! Tablecloths and runners can be another piece that’s not permanent to your space. Change them out as the seasons or your mood change! ;0

Warranty Software

Categories: FAQs, Warranty | Posted: July 31, 2017

Your experience with our team at Manuel Builders does not end when you close on your home. We offer warranty services and a helpful online warranty software to aid in this process. Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to login to your homeowner portal and submit a new request.

  • First, open your internet browser and enter manuelbuilders.punchlistmanager.net
  • Here, you will be asked for a username and password. Your username will be the email address you have submitted to Manuel Builders.
    1. Homeowners logging in for the first time will need to create a password. To do this, enter your username, and then click the “Forgot your password” button located under the “Sign In” button.
    2. You will again be asked to enter your username, then click “Email reset link”. You will then need to open your email, find the reset password link sent to you, and follow the instructions on resetting your password.
    3. Once reset, use this new password in combination with your username to log into your homeowner portal.
  • This is the Dashboard of your homeowner service software portal. From here, you can do several things such as submit new warranty requests, view old requests, or even change your personal contact information.
  • To submit a new request, click the “Add New Request” to the left of the page.
  • Next, click the “Add new record” button.
    1. This will open up several drop down menus, in which you can pinpoint the area of your home, and category in which your problem lies.
    2. After selecting your drop down options, there is a text box in which you can add a brief description of your problem.
    3. After adding a brief description, you also have the option to attach a photo to your request. This button is located directly beneath the text box. This can be especially helpful if your request includes any physical damage to your home.
  • Once you have entered all of the necessary information, you will need to click “Save” in order to create this record of your warranty request.
  • The final step, once your warranty request is saved, is to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Submit your requests to be processed.” **If you forget this final step, your warranty request will stay saved in your portal, but not be sent to a Manuel Builders warranty representative.**
  • After you click submit, it may take several minutes to process your submission. There is no need to click submit again. Once clicked, simply let the software process for a few minutes, and your submission will be sent.
  • Once you have successfully submitted your request, you will be contacted by a Manuel Builders representative either by phone or email, within 48 hours of your request.

Every builder warrants the following to the owner (exclusions can apply):

  1. One year following the warranty commencement date, the home will be free from any defect due to noncompliance with the building standards or due to other defects in materials or workmanship not regulated by building standards.
  2.  Two years following the warranty commencement date, the plumbing, electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilating systems exclusive of any appliance, fixture, and equipment will be free from any defect due to noncompliance with the building standards or due to other defects in materials or workmanship not regulated by building standards.
  3. Five years following the warranty commencement date, the home will be free from major structural defects due to noncompliance with the building

If you have any further questions about how to use your warranty software or specific concerns of the warranty details listed in your New Home Warranty Act, please contact us so that we can better assist you!