Expanding Living Quarters to the Outdoors

Outdoor Living spaces have become just as essential as the interior rooms in a house.  Particularly in Austin where there are over 300 sunny days, enjoying time outside is part of our lifestyle and can become more than a just a place to BBQ or swim.

In this article Forbes has compiled a gallery of homes that have done some unique features with the exterior spaces of a home Homes Sporting the Most Outrageous Outdoor Amenities.   Some of them include having a lazy river in your pool area to installing fireplaces and T.V.s outside.  The Britannia Manor II, located here in Austin, home of video game developer Richard Garriott  added a telescope-bedecked rooftop observatory, an outdoor track with lighting as well as a water slide that begins at the second floor of the home.

Luxury homes’ transition from the inside to the outside are becoming seamless.  With the amount of detail that is being put into outdoor living spaces, you can fully entertain outdoors with all the needed amenities.  Masters Touch Custom Homes has created many inviting outdoor living spaces that capture relaxation, comfort, quality as well as a design that capitalizes on the property’s views.

Masters Touch Custom Homes Outdoor Living Spaces 

Thank you for reading.

Visit our website: www.masterstch.com


It’s Time To Clean Up Lake Travis! The 18th Annual Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup is near!

If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in community projects to improve Lake Travis now is the time.  It’s unfortunate the lake is so terribly low.  However if there is one positive,  the low levels will allow for a much bigger trash cleanup.  It’s like being able to clean your house without anything in it!  It’s win-win for everyone involved.

This year will be the 18th Annual Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup.  If you are willing and able they are asking for local volunteers;  divers, shoreline cleanup, and event coordinators.   The event is set to take place September 23rd, 2012 , click here to register and for more details.   This event rids Lake Travis of tons of debris each year.  Volunteers collect an average of 5 tons of trash from different dive sites around Lake Travis while also helping to raise public awareness of the importance of Lake Travis and the Highland Lakes.

photo courtesy of Colorado River Foundation

Cleanup Times Include:

  • Cleanup Shoreline: 9:00AM – 11:00AM
  • Cleanup Dive Teams: 8:00 AM- 11:00 AM
  • Volunteer Party: 11:30 AM – 1:00PM

If you enjoy walking the areas of Lake Travis these are the areas they will need Shoreline Volunteers:

Divers, and party volunteers:

  • Dive Volunteers Sites, divers must be provide their own dive gear and tanks 
    • Big & Little Devil’s Cove
    • Arkansas Bend Park
    • Bob Wentz at Windy Point
    • Cypress Creek Wall
    • Starnes Island
    • Mansfield Dam
    • West Point (Sandy Creek)
    • Hippie Hollow (18 and older only)
  • Party Volunteers – make the party happen! Get a free t-shirt, lunch, and the chance to win some great door prizes by volunteering at Carlos’ N Charlie’s.

Get all the info at: Keep Austin Beautiful.com

Then when it’s all said and done  volunteers are invited to enjoy food and fun at the thank-you party at Carlos n Charlie’s, complete with door prizes from our generous sponsors.

I think it’s a great time to cleanup the lake, meet some new, people, and have some awesome food.  I know I’ll be there and I hope to see you there too!

Thank you for reading.

Visit our website at www.masterstch.com

Hazardous Waste Collection In Lakeway Without The Lines! The First Steps To Lakeways Own Hazardous Waste Facility!

After reading over numerous articles about hazardous waste collection in Lakeway, TX;  I can see why the city has decided to make some changes.   It’s been a long time coming for so many residents that have been living in the Lakeway area.  Here’s to hoping that waiting in lines are in the past!

Starting with the earliest development in Lakeway in 1971;  when there were 300 homes, and 1,000 acres had been developed.   Now with the population at 11,830 (taken from Census 2011) it is clear there is an eminent  need for hazardous waste collection in Lakeway.   The City began providing local collection of household hazardous waste (HHW) in 2003.  Each year, the City of Lakeway plans a special event for their residents who have hazardous waste to dispose of.  If you are unable to wait for their local annual Household Hazardous Waste Event, you would have to drop off your items at the City of Austin & Travis County Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

In the past the city has been able to handle the collection; well not this year  in May lines of vehicles was overwhelming.  They had to immediately take notice of the rising demand, and  Lakeway officials  turned cars away at an increasingly cost-prohibitive annual event. The event served 677 vehicles this year, 545 in 2011, 730 vehicles in 2010.

Photo Credit: Statesman.com

In early July the Lakeway Municipal Utility District agreed to lease a half-acre of its cedar tract on Stewart Road to Lakeway for a recycling center.  Lakeway put $40,000 into the pot and secured a $45,000 Capital Area Council of Governments grant and $50,000 in funding from Water Control Improvement District No. 17 and $10,000 from The Hills and Hurst Creek MUD. Bee Cave and the Lower Colorado River Authority may contribute funds for the construction cost that is estimated at $180,000 for a 1,800 square foot building.

LMUD board member Jerry Hietpas advocated for a full-service collection facility that would allow residents to make one drop off rather than traveling to multiple locations to recycle their household goods.

“Lakeway is about first class, and your plan is not first class,” Hietpas declared to Lakeway finance director Julie Oakley during her presentation to the LMUD board. “Is there any reason why you are backsliding here on the amount of service that’s been provided in the past? What does it take to do a full-service?”

Under the proposed plan, the collection events would accept household cleaning, paint and auto products from residents and customers who live in the partnership’s service areas, but would not take electronics or paper products and would not shred paper.

The city is still open to other ideas but at the moment this is where it sits, Lakeway should finally have one local place to dump their hazardous materials.

Visit our website on how to Recycle Construction Materials!

Research from this article taken from: City of Lakeway , Lake Travis View, and  Travis County agenda notes.

Masters Touch Custom Homes – Recycling Building Materials

Brought to you by Masters Touch Custom Homes. Masters Touch Custom Homes has a new approach to waste recycling on the job-site. Here Matt Bailey of Masters Touch Custom Homes tell you how they recycle.

A New Approach to Recycling Building Materials

There is almost nothing that can’t be recycled these days including building materials.  Matthew Bailey VP of Masters Touch Custom Homes has found a new approach to

waste recycling on a job site.

The green building movement is changing the way custom home builders think about what they should do with leftover materials.  And thanks to the green building movement, home renovation, building, and restoring gets greener everyday.

In this short video Matt describes how to recycle leftover building materials.  Recently they hired a construction waste recycle r here in Central Texas.  All of the scraps or construction remnants are ground into a bark.  The nails are then separated out of the pile, and the bark is ready for use. The bark can be used for erosion control; it can also be used for soil amendment for composting.  With other debris like rock and stone, it is chipped and used for road base.

Trash is also a big part of the recycling.  It is first put all together, and then separated into what can be recycled.  This saves approximately 4 tons of trash from the landfill from each job-site.

Recovery of building materials for reuse, as well as incorporation of reused materials in a new design, both help to close the loop of materials use. Millions of tons of building materials from demolition and remodels are currently dumped in landfills every year, not serving any further purpose. Salvage of materials preserves much of their embodied energy, the energy invested in extracting the materials and producing an item.

How The Lacey Act Affects Home Builders

All around the United States, builders of all trades  are in limbo awaiting the final judgement.   The Lacey Act, first passed in 1900, was amended in 2008 to bar importing wood that is illegally exported under another country’s laws.  Lawmakers are now discussing revisions to the Lacey Act, while the buyers of such materials are on both sides of the fence.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has called on Congress to amend the Lacey Act so that individuals and businesses that unknowingly purchase illegal wood products from overseas do not have their property seized and are not exposed to civil and criminal liability.

Barry Rutenberg of the National Association of Home-builders said that the provisions of the Lacey Act that allow for the forfeiture of improperly sourced woods would have devastating consequences for the housing market. He stated that if innocent owners, builders, and resellers of wood products used in housing were not immune to prosecution and forfeiture, banks would be reluctant to provide construction loans or mortgages.  Testifying before the House Natural Resources  Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, Barry Rutenberg, chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., said that NAHB supports the goals of the Lacey Act and the prevention of trade in illegally harvested plant and wood products.

“Unequivocally, we do not support illegal logging in any place at any time,” Rutenberg added. “However, honest business owners, including home builders who exercise due care and had no knowledge that a seized product contains illegal wood, should have the right to seek the return of those goods.”

Under the current statute, innocent companies are left without legal standing to challenge a government taking in court. As a result, both builders and consumers who buy products that encompass the entire supply chain dealing with imported wood products (lumber, cabinets, guitars, etc.) are held personally liable to certify that the timber product did not come from plant material that was taken, transported, possessed or sold in violation of any foreign law.

The environmental impact of revising the act has many concerned.  ”  Eileen Sobeck, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, said the RELIEF Act would weaken environmental protections.

“Limiting prosecutions to only those who knowingly violate the law would provide an incentive for importers to be ignorant or claim ignorance of the contents of his or her shipments and undermine the administration’s efforts to combat the trafficking of protected wildlife,” said Sobeck.

A prominent group of scientists have published a report that claims the Lacey Act legislation curbs deforestation and enhances the competitiveness of US logging and wood processing industries. The new report urges Congress to leave the law alone and provide enough money to enforce it.

A report was released on April 16, by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), it is titled “Logging and the Law: How the U.S. Lacey Act Helps Reduce Illegal Logging in the Tropics. ” The report outlines how illegal logging poses a significant threat to the US economy and endangers tropical ecosystems around the world.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper testified before the  House subcommittee  about his bill to clarify a broad federal law so that musicians, instrument retailers and resellers would no longer be subject to penalties for unknowingly possessing illegal woods. Cooper introduced the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act in Oct. 2011 with Reps. Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) to clarify the Lacey Act. The RELIEF Act (H.R. 3210) has drawn support from music, hardwood, business, retail and environmental groups; a full list of supporters.

In addition to protecting innocent people from the government’s confiscation of their property, the RELIEF Act also requires the federal government to create an Internet database of forbidden wood sources, thus providing a fair warning that currently does not exist.

Another bill discussed at the hearing, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, both Republicans, would repeal the requirement that U.S. companies comply with foreign environmental laws. Paul said forcing U.S. companies to comply with foreign laws is “absurd on its face” and may not be constitutional.

So no matter the side you are on this is going to take some time to resolve itself.   They have made some amendments to the Lacey Act in February http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/lacey_act/downloads/faq.pdf. 

It’s unfortunate that some builders have had property  seized by the Lacey Act. Perhaps the industry should consider paying more attention to the NAHB’s concerns and consider following its lead in supporting the RELIEF Act.

The information in this article provided by: NAHB , USA Today , and Mortgage Orb.com

How To Protect Your Homes Foundation through a Drought

Most people in Central Texas are constantly hearing news about our still current struggle with the droughts.  While most are thinking about the lake levels, overall water supply, and how to try and keep your lawn green, they left out what it can do to your homes foundation.

For homes already built the most common cause for foundation issues is expansive soil.  Because foundation soils are expansive, they will “heave” which can move the structure up when there is a high amount of moisture, causing it to “float”. On the other hand, when there are long periods of drought, the expansive soil will “break down”, causing settlement.  Common signs that there is foundation movement are cracks down interior or exterior walls, cracks in ceilings, or cracks on the concrete floor.

If you are purchasing some land consult with your builder about how the drought will affect your new foundation.  With the current drought that we are having, the soil underneath a home’s foundation can become dry and lose which can make it difficult for a house to be level.

Photo by LCRA

Photo by LCRA

So if your thinking of buying land, or already own an existing home here are some tips to help keep your foundation intact:

1. Water your foundation.
Run a soaker hose around the exterior of your home and let it run for a few hours each week (REMINDER TO OBSERVE WATER RESTRICTIONS). This will help you maintain the moisture levels in the soil around your home, keeping it from pulling away from your foundation.

2. Clean out or install guttering.
Maintaining moist soil around your foundation is important, but occasional downpours from a Austin thunderstorm can provide too much moisture too quickly. This causes soil to erode away from your foundation and creates problems.

3. Install Root Barriers.
Beware of large tree roots which can absorb a lot of moisture in the ground near the tree. If you have very large trees near your home, a drought can force tree root systems to reach further underneath your foundation in search of moisture. You may be able to install root barriers to prevent the roots from causing problems with your foundation.

Remember prevention is always better than a cure!

A Story of a Retirement-Ready House

When Ronald Knecht began house hunting two years ago, he had a promise to keep. Before his wife passed away from a battle with cancer, she had asked him to move to Nokesville, Va., to be close to their daughter so that the two could look after each other. But at 73 years old and having just watched his wife go from healthy to a walker to a wheelchair, he wasn’t looking for just anything.

What he found was a whole lot of old mansions, “99% of which were junk,” he says. With too many stairs and maintenance issues that would have been unthinkable. Beyond that, he was looking for efficiency. “The Realtors wanted to show you the granite in the kitchen. I wanted to go to the basement, and when you’re looking at daylight through the band boards, there’s no way you can possibly heat that house.”

After months of searching, Knecht decided to have one built. Working with  a local green builder that had experience with universal design, Knecht spent the next few months extensively researching accessible design. Together, what he and the builders came up with is the equivalent of a super-house. Ultra efficient, universally designed to a T, and virtually maintenance free, evidence of careful research and planning is everywhere.

Driving in, the garage is extra wide, with a 9-foot door to accommodate lift-equipped vehicles. The bumped-out walls provide enough space on either side for someone in a wheelchair to get out comfortably. “That was something my wife always hated,” Knecht says, “when I would have to make her get out in the rain and wheel her inside because the garage was too small.”

Paths leading up to the home are 6-feet across, allowing enough room for a wheelchair and another person to approach the home side-by-side. At the front entry, the plan includes a small shelf for packages, so that it isn’t necessary to bend over to pick parcels up from the ground—one of the many features Knecht insists would be useful to anyone, whether or not they have full mobility. “Who wouldn’t want a shelf by the door when you’re coming home with groceries and kids and you got a purse and keys to deal with?”

And then there is the door itself. “A lot of builders will throw in a 32-inch door and call themselves universal design, but that’s useless if you can’t operate the door handle,” says  the building designer . Beyond using levered handles or specialized knobs, he says, a home’s design needs to include at least 18 inches of clear space on the pull side of the door to ensure that a wheelchair or a person on crutches can get up to the side of the door and make it through comfortably. “I was working with [a universal design specialist], and you wouldn’t believe how many mothers call her saying that their kids with sports injuries can’t get through the front door,” Knecht says.

Inside, the entire kitchen is tailored with accessibility features that encourage mobility without looking institutional. Counters sit at 34 inches, with space underneath so they can be accessed from a seated position. Space is also cutout underneath the cooktop, which features knobs at the front of the unit covered by a panel that prevents children from accessing them. Kickspaces are 9 inches high and 6 inches deep, to accommodate wheelchairs. And all light switches, outlets, and thermostats sit at a 44-inch height.

Bathrooms are fitted with out-turning doors and low-in showers. Counters, set at 34 inches, have free space underneath to make them wheelchair accessible. To make up for the lack of undercounter cabinetry, each bathroom is fitted with a closet accessed through bi-fold doors.

In the bedrooms, closet bars can be set at multiple heights, not only to adjust for someone in a wheelchair, but also so that they can be made available to a child and then adjusted for height as the child grows.

And everywhere in the home, lighting was a top priority. “Shadows cause falls,” Knecht says. So his plan meticulously eliminates them by flooding the home with natural light through windows and sun tunnels, including a sun tunnel in every shower. Path lights illuminate the hallway, and the kitchen is outfitted with undercounter lighting.

Often overlooked as an aspect of universal design, home maintenance was a big priority for Knecht, who not only wants to avoid having to deal with home upkeep as he ages, but also doesn’t want the home to be a bother for his daughter, who will take it over after he’s gone.

“Someone tried to talk me into a black shingled roof,” he says. “They look good, but I said no because of all the heat they absorb. I wanted to use white shingles, but those only had a 30-year warranty. So what, in 30 years I’m dead and my daughter is 70 years old and has to worry about putting in a new roof? I don’t think so.” Instead, the home is outfitted with a white metal roof with a 55-year guarantee.

The windows and doors are all done in maintenance-free fiberglass, and the home itself is clad in cement board, “so it will never rot,” Knecht says.

While the home is 4,000 square feet, Knecht estimates that less than 200 of that was added because of universal design features. And while the home hits a higher price range, Palladino says that is due to the extra energy-efficiency features that are included, such as the geothermal system and top-of-the-line insulation. The universal design features, he says, are accessible at just about any price point. “When you compare the cost difference between a standard door and a 36-inch door, you’re talking a difference of $24.”

The information is this article is from http://www.builderonline.com