The Manuel Builders Blog


Pet-Friendly Features

Categories: Other | Posted: September 20, 2019

When considering building a new home, normally a list is made of “wants” and “needs” for everyone in the family that will be a part of the new home construction experience. Maybe your son wants his room to be upstairs, or your daughter wants her own vanity space in the bathroom. Maybe mom wants a huge closet with a door that locks (moms, we’ve got you!), or dad wants a man cave. Maybe we need a special suite for maw-maw or paw-paw to feel like they still have some independence.  But who are we forgetting?

To some people, pets are pets. But to the rest of us, they’re are so much more! Whether you call them “the roommates”, “Fur-Babies”, or how my parents choose to call them “grand-dogs,” they aren’t just pets, they’re family! And as family, why wouldn’t we consider them when building as well? Did you know it’s possible to get them their own space AND keep things functional for you?

But how? Let’s look at some options.

Built-In Food and Water Bowls











This is an option that can get fancy, quickly! While you can choose tile surround, a granite countertop, and even a pot filler, the option also remains to have the food and water bowls built into the base cabinetry in your kitchen or living room. Is this option a necessity? No, but will it keep you from tripping over food bowls or kids splashing around in the water? Absolutely!

Built-In Kennel











Maybe you’re like us and your pet beds are just in the corner of a room. It works, but if we could give Annie (our Lab) her own space without taking away from our usable space, you better believe we would! It’s not always the case, but sometimes there is wasted space inside of walls of your home. The most common place is under the stairs. This option can be drawn with or without a kennel door and can be completely customized just like the rest of your home. It’s cheap and maybe (if you’re lucky) get them out of your feet in the kitchen!

Hidden Gate










I’m sure you’re thinking even if your dog had their own space, they would still be at your feet in the kitchen. They’re just that persistent! Well, persistent…and they love cheese! So how do we keep them out of the kitchen? Put up a few of those ugly plastic baby gates that you must be an Olympic athlete to climb over? No! A hidden gate is the answer. This classy gate would match your cabinets and give you the option of when to use it, as well as a built-in storage location.

Here at Manuel Builders, our pets are family and when you build with us, you become family too! We strive to make your home functional and enjoyable to every member of the household, which is why we’ve begun to incorporate ideas such as these. Have other ideas that you don’t see here? Bring them to us and let’s make them happen!

-Written by our Building Consultant Taylor Burner, with the help of his own pup, Annie

Lighting Sizes for Your Space

Categories: Home Design | Posted: August 21, 2019

When planning for your new home, one feature that usually comes to mind are the lighting fixtures. It’s easy to spend hours scouring books and the web for inspiration. While the finishes and style of your lights are very important, something else to consider is the size of your lighting fixtures. You want your lighting choices to enhance the room not overshadow it or be overpowered by it. Below are two simple tips that will help you determine how to choose the correct size lights for your home. This will ensure your choices will not only beautifully complement the style of your home but also best serve the area they are in.


To determine the diameter of a light fixture that’s best for your space:

First, measure the length and width of the room in feet. Then, add the two lengths together. Next, you will swap that value in feet for inches (for example, 20 feet would become 20 inches). This is the ideal diameter for a light fixture in that room.


To determine the height of a light fixture that’s best for your space:

Start by measuring the height of the room (floor to ceiling) in feet. Next, multiply the height by 2.5 to 3 per foot. Just like you did above, you will once again swap that value for inches. This is the ideal height for a light fixture in that room.

– Written by our Building Coordinator, Suzanah Hajrula

Outdoor Living Options

Categories: Home Design | Posted: July 23, 2019

Summer is upon us and with it comes spending more time in the great outdoors. When designing your new home, you should consider how you and your family spend those summer nights. The best-designed outdoor spaces serve as extensions of our home, family, and lifestyle. Let’s explore a few outdoor living options below.

Outdoor Kitchen

If you’re all about cooking for the ones you love then an outdoor kitchen might be the option for you. This option is ideal for the reigning BBQ king or queen. With options like a built-in grill, outdoor cabinet space and a sink to avoid all those messy trips in and out of the house, your summer entertaining will be smooth sailing.

Screened-in Back Porch

A screened-in porch could be the right fit for you if you’d rather do your relaxing outdoors. You can enjoy the perks of outdoor living without the critters and weather that come along with it. Add in a rocking chair and a glass of iced tea or lemonade and you’re all set.

Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

This outdoor feature may be associated more so with the fall and winter months but it does have its place in the summer months as well.  You may not be able to prepare a feast like you would with the outdoor kitchen but you can still feel that summer camp nostalgia while firing up some of your summertime favorites. Because what’s summer without s’mores?

– Written by our Building Coordinator, Suzanah Hajrula

Retention Pond vs. Detention Pond

Categories: Community | Posted: July 10, 2019

In Louisiana, we are no stranger to the dangers of excessive rain and flooding. Over the past few years, we have experienced tumultuous storms and many families have lost homes because of it. For this reason, it is important to understand what stormwater basins are as well as how they affect your community.

As a builder, we are constantly looking for new areas to build communities in but as communities grow the need for diverting water becomes urgent. Developers do so by adding basins. These basins are meant to collect stormwater and release it at a rate that prevents flooding and erosion. This safety measure is to not only to protect the subdivision you’re developing from flooding but also to protect nearby and adjacent existing communities.

There are two types of basins, dry detention ponds and wet detention ponds, also known as retention ponds. The biggest difference between the two is that a detention pond will remain dry until a storm occurs, and a retention pond will have a constant pool of water. Both dry detention and wet detention can be planned in a good way to provide an added amenity to your community so that they are not just a protection to flooding. For instance, dry detention can act as a grassed soccer park that kids play in under normal conditions and only during heavy rain events will it hold water. In both cases using a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 slope will impede erosion on the embankments of both and allow the banks to easily be maintained long term by mechanical mowing.

Detention Ponds

Detention ponds are best used in areas with plenty of land and usually use a very small slope to divert the water. Water is accumulated in a large collection area and then slowly drains through the outlet. In some cases, concrete blocks are put in place to slow water flow and collect debris. Dry detention basins are great for the surrounding areas because they have a vegetative buffer that can deal with dry or wet conditions. These basins are usually more cost-effective but they also require a large amount of space that could take away property value and attract mosquitoes.

Retention Ponds

Retention ponds are stormwater control structures that help retain the water and treat contaminated storm runoff. Retention ponds remove pollutants and should be surrounded by natural vegetation to improve stability and essentially improve the overall look of the basin. Water is sent to the pool using an underground network of pipes and released through outlets to maintain the desired water level. The biggest advantages to using a retention pond are that they are simple to put in, the water quality is improved, and new habitats are created. On the other hand, these pools can be a drowning hazard and if not designed properly can have a negative effect on the water quality.

Regardless of the basin type, the systems should be maintained and should never become blocked or clogged. Both ponds have their positive and negative attributes but with these helpful hints, you should be a retention/detention pro in no time!

– Written by our Marketing Director, Krista Toussant

Hurricane Preparation

Categories: Home Safety | Posted: June 21, 2019

Hurricane season is once again upon us. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30 but we see the peak of the season from mid-August to late October. We cannot control the weather, however, we can take the time and effort to prepare for it. What we all want to avoid is scrambling last minute to get supplies and making arrangements for a hurricane that’s already headed our way. In this month’s blog, we will discuss some helpful tips to best prepare homeowners for the 2019 hurricane season.

  • Plan your evacuation route. Although you will most likely receive instructions from your local government, it’s smart to have an evacuation plan long before a disaster strikes.
  • Have an emergency kit. This kit should include but is not limited to a three day supply of water, non-perishable food, any prescription drugs you or your loved ones may need, first aid supplies, a portable radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Protect your home. This includes home maintenance such as replacing old garage doors and tracks, cleaning out gutters, caulking doors and windows, and installing storm shutters or precutting plywood panels for windows. This also includes landscaping maintenance like cutting down any weak branches or trees and keeping shrubbery around your home trimmed.
  • Review your insurance policies. Take the time to review your homeowner’s policy limit, hurricane/windstorm deductible and which disasters your policy covers and which ones it does not.

– Written by our Building Coordinator, Suzanah Hajrula

Does an Open Floor Plan Suit Your Family’s Lifestyle?

Categories: Home Design | Posted: May 20, 2019

When choosing the floor plan best suited for you and your needs, there are many options to consider. As trends change, so do the options to choose from. Since the ’90s, open floor plans, whether achieved through new construction or remodeling, have become the trend. Open and airy floor plans are very popular and you’ll have a hard time finding a home built in recent years that isn’t an open concept floor plan.  That being said, it seems some homebuyers are having second thoughts on whether this is the ideal way to live and are considering going back to more traditional floor plans. Let’s explore the pros and cons of open concept plans below and why they may or may not work for you.


  • Spaces can be multifunctional.
    • With an open floor plan, each space can serve many purposes. It can be used for entertaining as well as a home office.
  • Easier accessibility.
    • Open concept plans are much more flexible when it comes to furniture layout, traffic flow, and room design. This accessibility is also advantageous to caregivers and parents of small children as their loved ones are always in their line of sight, which typically wouldn’t be the case in a more traditional floor plan.
  • Improved socialization.
    • Open floor plans make entertaining much easier by not breaking up rooms as a traditional floor plan would. When the holidays roll around, you can cook and socialize at the same time which makes playing host or hostess a breeze.


  • Lack of privacy.
    • While an open floor plan can be ideal for socializing, the lack of doors and walls can make quiet or private activities such as reading or studying more difficult due to poor sound control.
  • Spaces can appear cluttered.
    • Hiding clutter behind a closed door is simply not an option in an open floor plan. Homeowners with busy lives or small children may find the constant maintenance a little overwhelming.
  • Heating and cooling costs.
    • Although high ceilings and large windows are beautiful, they often contribute to higher bills due to the energy drains that may accompany those features.

– Written by our Building Coordinator, Suzanah Hajrula


Spring Cleaning Tips for Flooring, Tile, and Grout

Categories: Other | Posted: April 10, 2019

Spring is finally here, which means it’s time for spring cleaning! Is your home under construction with Manuel Builders or soon to be? Below we have provided the do’s and don’ts prior to moving into your dream home. If you’ve built with us in the past, we’ve also included some tips to simply freshen up your home the correct way.

Wood Flooring

For those looking to move into your dream home soon, we recommend several everyday products, which are safe and warranted with your hard surface selections. Whether you’ve chosen wood, laminate, or vinyl plank flooring for your home, the BONA® Professional Series floor care system can not only help to maintain a healthy and warranted product, but also a healthy home. This professional strength series is a non-toxic water-based cleaner so it is equally safe for everyday life with children and pets. Additionally, this product contains zero wax in the finish, which leaves no residue or dullness to your floors. Wax based cleaners, refreshers, and/or polishers are NOT recommended for any engineered woods, laminates, or vinyl products. Over time, wax based products will create major dullness and extra residue on your floors. It will also require more maintenance for you long term. Manuel Builders loves the new BONA® Pro Series Hardwood Floor Mop kit, which comes with a washable cleaning and dusting pad, hardwood cleaner refill cartridge, and the mop itself. The cartridge connects to the mop for an easy spray application with a quick and thorough clean!

Tile & Stone

New homeowners also need to be aware of the appropriate products to use as an everyday tile, stone, and grout cleaner. This is not limited to only floors, but also tubs, showers, and any wall surfaces, too! Stonetech® Surface Care offers everyday cleaners, heavy duty cleaners, sealers, and much more. It is extremely important to use a cleaner that is specially formulated for the correct surface in which you are cleaning. Most general purpose household cleaners contain acidic and alkaline ingredients, ammonia, or abrasives. Why do we like them? Mainly, because they “smell so good!” However, using these will break down any sealers and can actually harm many stone surfaces. Once your sealer has been broken down, mold and mildew can begin to inhabit grouts and natural stones. Stonetech® everyday cleaners are the great choice to use in your new or existing home! We recommend using the Stonetech® Stone & Tile Cleaner, which is an everyday pH neutral cleaner and comes in the concentrate as well as the pre-mixed spray.


Looking to spruce up that shower or clean up those grout joints in the kitchen of your existing home? Stonetech® offers a heavy duty option such as pre-mixed spray bottles of the Mold & Mildew Stain Remover or the Soap Scum Remover. Do you need something even stronger? Stonetech® KlenzAll™ Cleaner! The KlenzAll™ comes in a quart concentrate and can be mixed at different strengths depending on how tough your job is! It can power through stubborn grease and soils, is safe on stone, and is a water-based alkaline formula. It is recommended to use a synthetic white bristle brush when cleaning with the concentrate and to follow all instructions on the bottle. Once cleaned to desire, the KlenzAll™ actually has prepared your surface for resealing. Both the BulletProof® and Heavy Duty Sealers from Stonetech® are great sealers to use and are available in pints, quarts, 1 gallon and even 5 gallons for larger jobs. Once you’ve given your grout and tile a heavy duty cleaning and have resealed, you can now begin to use the everyday cleaners!

– Written by our sponsor, the Flooring Department at Doug Ashy

Home Loan Interest Rates

Categories: Other | Posted: March 21, 2019

“What are interest rates right now?” It may be the most commonly asked question by people looking to build or buy a home.

While at any given time there is an average value for home loan interest rates, it is important to understand that there are three big factors that will determine YOUR interest rate. Your credit score, which loan program you ultimately go with for your loan, and the loan to value ratio all influence your final rate. I want to break those three down for you so you can better understand your interest rate

Credit Score – There are different interest rate tiers based on a range of credit scores. Typically, the higher your score, the better your interest rate. I find that our clients usually get the best rates if their credit scores are a 740 or higher.

Loan Programs – There are many loan programs available to homebuyers. We determine your best fit loan program after we take your full loan application. Programs available to home buyers are conventional loans, FHA loans, rural development loans, VA loans, and construction loans. Interest rates vary across loan programs, and your loan officer should be able to go over all options available to you.

Loan to Value – The size of your down payment can influence your interest rate. As with credit scores, there are different tiers for your interest rate based on the amount of money you are able to put down on your loan. The formula used for loan to value is AMOUNT OF MONEY BORROWED/ACTUAL APPRAISED VALUE = LOAN TO VALUE.
As for how rates will trend in 2019, that is largely dependent on the overall economy. The Mortgage Reports is a great online resource for up to date information on interest rates, and below are a few mortgage rate forecast charts I’ve rounded up from their website.









To truly have a realistic idea of what your interest rate would be if you were to build or buy soon, the best course of action is to reach out to your lender who can review your unique situation based on the 3 big factors!

– Written by our Lending Partner, Brigitte LaCour
Assurance Financial
NMLS #858933

Assurance Financial, NMLS  ID #70876, is an Equal Housing Lender. Branch located at 1215 Camellia Blvd, Lafayette, LA 70508.

Choosing an Exterior Veneer

Categories: Home Design | Posted: February 18, 2019

What’s in an exterior? Would brick by any other name smell as sweet? In this month’s blog, we’ll be discussing different exterior veneers. The material on the exterior of your home makes all the difference since it’s the first impression when it comes to curb appeal. When perusing not only our homes but pictures of homes in general, you’ll notice they feature a variety of exterior veneers such as brick, hardie, vinyl, stucco, and stone. There are definitely pros and cons to each veneer. Let’s delve a little deeper.

Brick Veneer

Brick is a great choice for a long lasting exterior veneer since it should last well over 100 years. Another perk is the variety of brick styles and colors you can choose from. These can range from your classic red to something more intricate and patterned.  As far as maintenance, using a garden hose with a spray nozzle once a year will typically suffice unless there is mildew. In that case, you would want to use a brush and bleach.

Hardie Board

This exterior siding product should provide protection for your home for a lifetime. Due to the fact that the hardie can be painted any exterior paint color, there are endless possibilities when it comes to color options. Keep in mind that this veneer does require some upkeep. It is recommended to pull out the garden hose and wash your hardie siding every 6-12 months to avoid mildew, grease and dirt build up. Similarly, you will likely have to repaint your siding after 10-12 years due to fading and paint chipping.


This material should last for over 100 years, however, it has the price tag to match. The grandeur of a stone exterior is hard to beat and you will see many homeowners choosing this veneer for larger homes. Stone veneer needs to be treated much more delicately than other veneers. Stone should be cleaned with water and mild soap twice a year. It’s very important to avoid harsh cleaning products and pressure washing. When cleaning this veneer twice a year, you’ll also want to take this time to inspect for loose stones so you can have them repointed as soon as possible.


You can expect a stucco finish to last for 50 or more years. Some sources estimate the material may complement your home for up to 100 years. Similar to how hardie gives you the option to really let your personal style shine, you will find your stucco paint color options to be overwhelmingly abundant. Due to its porous nature, stucco will collect dirt and absorb stains. Using a brush to scrub the area and then a moistened microfiber or cotton cloth should clear most stains and dirt. Another matter to take into consideration is repairing stucco. This can be very difficult and costly if not done in a timely matter.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding will protect your home for 60-100 years. This non-porous material is easy to clean and dries quickly. Additionally, it is the most cost effective option for your home. Regarding upkeep, vinyl siding will be your most low maintenance option. Pressure washing your vinyl once a year is more than enough to keep it looking new.

With so many options on the market, there is no one veneer that will work for everyone. When making the choice for your home, you’ll want to take not just the points above into consideration but also what you want the overall feel and look of your home to be. You want your home to reflect you and your family so choose wisely.

– Written by our Building Coordinator, Suzanah Hajrula

“Serving at Manuel Builders for over 4 years now, Suzanah’s extensive product knowledge of every option in each of our Design Centers, combined with her exceptionally calm demeanor and ability to bring focus and clarity in the midst of a multitude of choices ensures that the homeowners she guides are able to select their finishes and styles with confidence and peace in knowing they’re cared for.   With a detailed comprehensive understanding of the entire pre-production process, she is well-versed in guiding her homeowners through the smoothest possible experience.”

New Year, New Updated Space

Categories: Home Design | Posted: January 18, 2019

With the new year in full swing, it’s the perfect time to refresh the look of your home! As time consuming and expensive as this could sound, below are 4 simple ways to transform your space without breaking your budget.

Tidy up à la Marie Kondo

The first step to freshening up your new home this year starts in the closets. If you haven’t used it in three or four years, chances are you won’t use it this year. I find that organizing the unseen spaces in my home, donating unwanted clothing and doing a little spring cleaning helps me to feel like I’m getting the year started off on the right foot.

Mix it up

Mix it up a little! Re-arrange the furniture in your bedrooms. This forces you to pull furniture away from the walls and discover the dust that you miss with everyday cleaning. You may even find that “other” sock or favorite long-lost sweater that you thought your (insert name) borrowed.

Fresh Paint, Fresh Home

A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in reinventing a room. Below are a few of my favorite neutral colors that will match any decor. Keep in mind, LED lighting can affect the way a color looks on your walls. If you are making a color change, paint a few sample spots on the wall before investing in a gallon. You may find that you don’t like the color as much on that wall as you did on the paint chip. When picking a paint finish, my preference is eggshell. It has decent clean-ability without the high sheen of a satin paint. Going neutral allows you to easily accessorize with colors. Below are a few of my favorites from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore.

Colors with Slight Gray Undertones

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter





Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray (7029)

Colors with Slight Warm Undertones

Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan





Sherwin-Williams Extra White (7006)


Light up Your Spaces

Finally, explore with accent lighting. You will be amazed how accent lighting can change a space. For kitchens, adding under cabinet lighting can dramatically change the space. Puck lights can be purchased at your local hardware store for under $100. Show off that backsplash! For living rooms, floor lamps are gaining popularity this year. Arc lamps that hover over your sofa not only dress up the space but create a perfect spot to read your favorite book or magazine.

Image via Amazon


– Written by our Building Consultant, Wendi Ritz

“With more than 13 years of experience in new home construction, Wendi is our most seasoned consultant.  She first began working with families to design and style their dream homes while living in Katy, Texas, but – after having three beautiful children – decided to move home to Louisiana to be closer to family.  She specializes in walking homeowners through their options and helping them weigh the pros and cons of each decision and plan customization. “