Home Improvements – Deck Building And Finishing

Deck Building

What to use when building a deck is always the question!

Decks can be built to be maintenance friendly or sweat equity not so friendly… Let’s deal with the first one “maintenance friendly”.

Consider using one of the composite products, they can be up to 70 % wood fibre and 30 % polymer plastic. Looks like wood, feels like wood, greys like wood in the sunshine; but requires no staining or painting and screws down using deck screws. Some are tongue and groove and allow water to drain through its unique drain-hole system. Sound interesting… You bet! Ask at your local building supply centre for further information.

Now for the 2nd, not so friendly; real wood. No, I am not anti-natural wood fibre, but it does have to be maintained every 2 to 4 years depending on exposure to the natural elements. If you insist on real wood, use Western Red Cedar or 5/4 X 4 Rocky Mountain treated pine applied to pressure treated joists.

For best results, use the Deckster galvanized strips to give a nail less face to the deck surface. Finish with a natural deck oil after preparing the surface with mill glaze remover.


Wood drip through decks are the type normally built, if 2 X 4 or 2 X 6, or treated radiused edged decking, laying flat over a joist system allowing the water to drip through to the ground below. No matter what kind of lumber you use to build your deck, red or yellow cedar, pine, spruce, hemlock, redwood or fir, you must prepare the surface properly so that it will accept the deck finish. When lumber goes through the milling process, the knives polish the face leaving what is called mill glazing on the surface. This glazing prevents proper penetration of quality deck stain.

First scrub the deck with a mill glaze remover available at your local building supply store or paint store, or sand the face of the deck with 60 grit sandpaper.

Apply natural oil or semi transparent deck finishes for best results. Apply to all 4 sides and ends before nailing or screwing down.

NOTE: Make sure you select the best side to be up. When applying finish, use a stain brush and scrub into the wood with a polyester scrub pad. Second coat should be applied when the deck is in place.

2nd NOTE: This should not be done in bright/direct sunlight.

It’s just that easy!

Why It’s Important to Choose Only the Best Cement for Construction

Cement is supposed to be the most important element of any construction as it is essential in holding the structure together firmly. That is the reason why it is essential to choose high quality cement that can guarantee the durability of a construction project.

On the quality of cement depends the strength of the concrete, the base of any construction project. A high quality concrete can efficiently resist environmental degradation and protect the building from harsh weather and bugs. So what all does a builder look for before getting into a construction project.

Is your supplier reliable?

A builder must meticulously plan and look at the precise requirement of your project.Only then will he be able to zero in on a good building material supplier who can bring him the best cement for construction. A supplier who is really dedicated to providing excellence when it comes to quality of cement and service will certainly be able to back his claims with genuine knowledge. His previous clients’ testimonials will also serve to be useful in knowing his reputation as a supplier, as well as his experience in supplying high quality cement. Such a supplier can be a reliable bet in building a durable structure. The builder can also measure his performance so far from the quality of his marketing and branding.

If a building material supplier is renowned,it is mostly because he has been consistently supplying appropriate material. There is a practice among ordinary suppliers to supply cement mixed with external elements. This mixing dilutes the quality of the cement and is risky for construction. Therefore it is always safe to look for a reputed supplier before and invest only when you are sure that the cement you are buying is of high quality and the best cement for construction.

It is recommended that the builder puts in a little effort in researching to find out where a reliable supplier with guaranteed quality service can be found.Proper research, that includes meticulous inspection of a supplier’s work, ensures that you do not get dazed by just a flashy branding exercise.

Cement types

Some of the main varieties of cement, besides ordinary portland cement, are:

1. White: This is formed when it is freed of colouring oxides such as manganese, iron, and chlorium. This is manufactured using oil, and not coal, as fuel. This is mostly used for plastering, finishing and decorating such as marbles or glazed tiles’ fixing.

2. Coloured: Ordinary cement is given colours by intimately mixing pigments with it. Chlorium oxide, for instance makes it green, Cobalt makes blue, Iron oxide makes it brown, red or yellow depending upon the proportion used. Their use is to give desired colours to walls, floors, and window sills.

3. Low Heat: This is made especially for huge concrete works. While constructing dams, for instance, the heat created due to hydration of cement can damage the construction. Low heat cement, which contains only 5% of tricalcium aluminate and 46% dicalcium silicate, can manage to keep the construction intact.

4. Quick Setting: This is formed by adding a little aluminium sulphate after reducing the amount of its gypsum. It is further finely grinded to enhance its quick setting property. Living up to its name, it starts setting within 5 minutes, literally, once you start adding water. By half n hour, it is quite hard. This is used to block hold water that is static or slowly running.

5. Rapid Hardening: This is manufactured by burning at a high temperature with increased lime content. This apparently helps in enhancing strength and speeding up construction activity.

Do a quick field test of the cement you are going to use by checking:

– the date printed on the cement bag for freshness

– its smoothness by rubbing it between fingers

– whether it floats in water for some time before sinking

– uniformity of its colour

– whether there are any lumps due to moisture

– its strength by slowing submerging a cake of the cement in water (it should retain its shape even after 24 hours).

Making sure that the cement used is the best cement for construction is a builder’s responsibility, not his prerogative. He is morally and legally obliged to use high quality cement, for it is going to determine the safety of the people who are going to live and work in the building.

Benefits of Hiring a Custom Home Builder

A custom home builder can make things very easy for home buyers. Instead of having to run around looking at different types of homes, these home builders can construct a home as per your specifications at their desired location. They are particularly in demand for people looking for a permanent home for their families and want it to be as per their specifications. Today’s article will focus on some of the benefits of hiring home builders. Prospective buyers will find the information below particularly interesting.

Creating Your Own Design

A typical home builder usually has its own designers who create entire layout of the house. They try to be versatile and accommodate as many buyers as possible however they simply cannot anticipate beforehand what a buyer wants. A custom home builder can construct a house from the ground up as per the buyer’s specifications.

No Compromise Whatsoever

Hiring a custom house builder eliminates the need to compromise. Buyers don’t have to accept anything just because nothing can be done about it. They have the complete freedom to include whatever they want in a home and omit anything they regard as unnecessary. This makes custom homes a very popular and attractive prospect to home buyers. It eliminates a lot of needless frustration.

Affordable Service

Many people are of the opinion that constructing a house through a custom house builder will end up costing an individual more. In point of fact, the correct answer is that it depends. Some people just want a simple home design without added luxuries. In such circumstances, it ends up costing them less. Others want more luxurious features such as a large swimming pool or more bedrooms. While this increases the price tag significantly, it still comes out cheaper than purchasing homes with all the amenities already included. To be sure, inquire the price of a newly built model home with all the features you want and then get a separate estimate from a custom house builder. The different will be significant.

Flexible Financing Options

Customer made homes also enjoy flexible financing options. They may require a larger down payment upfront in some cases however buyers typically manage to negotiate a comfortable mortgage rate with the customer house builder’s financing company. Many companies actually offer great cash incentives or vouchers in order to attract new home buyers.

These are just a few benefits of hiring home builders. They are well aware that having a place to class home is everyone’s dream and desire. By constructing custom made homes, they are not just building a house, they are ensuring that these dreams become a reality for a family. So if you are inclined towards custom homes, be sure to visit your local custom home builder. They will have a detailed discussion with you and get you started on the right track.

Building Your Own Home in Shreveport Bossier City Louisiana Areas

What does it take to build your own home, to be your own contractor, to save money? In Louisiana an individual has the right to build their own home once per year. I’ve built several homes in the past, and each time was a learning experience. With this experience I have prepared for YOU a step by step guide to building a home from my point of view. This article is specifically taylored to building slab-on-grade homes in the Shreveport Bossier City area.

  1. Choose your home. Make a decision about which will be your next home. Once you decide what to build you’ll need to purchase house plans. One of my favorite places to look for house plans is W.L. Martin Home Designs. These guys have the most well constructed house plans I’ve ever seen, not to mention beautiful designs. Look above and check out the WL Martin home completed in 2005. If your framing crew ever complains about a WL Martin house plan, consider firing them for incompetency.
  2. Find some land. Now you have your house plans and you know what footprint your house will have the property. Shop around and find some land to build your new house on. Drive around, look in the newspaper, look on the internet. Find out what the restrictions are on the property. Many subdivisions have covenants (restrictions) describing what type of homes are allowed. If your house fits then great! If not, pick another house or another piece of land.

    Caution! Be on the lookout for contractors selling land requiring that you let them build the house for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with this; as a matter of fact I would require people let me build the house too. However, the focus of this article is building your OWN home.

  3. Finance the land. If you don’t have cash on hand find someone that will loan money for the land. If you are building the home immediately most mortgage companies have programs available. If it is months or years before you plan to build the home then contact David Ogletree at the Louisiana Land Bank. The Louisiana Land Bank has a program for future homesites which enables them to loan money for raw land. Their rates are competitive, and their service is fast.
  4. Get your costs together. There’s no skipping this step! Before you get a loan for building a home the bank will make you submit your cost estimate. I have provided a list for you which includes everything I bought for my last home project in 2005. I also provide you with names of people in the area who did a good job for me. Feel welcome to contact them and tell them I sent you. Please note that the purpose of this list is to provide you with a starting point and remind you of things that are often forgotten. You will need to edit this list to make it fit your requirements. These items are listed in the order I encountered them.

    • Land Cost – How much you pay for the land.
    • Land Clearing – You’ll need to hire a good dozer man to prepare your property for your home. For this task I recommend Roy McDowell from Webster Trucking. He has a laser level on his bull dozer that puts a nice grade on your site. His phone number is 318.949.4915.
    • House Plans – How much you paid for the house plans.
    • Permits – Be sure to obtain all required permits. These can be culvert permits, parish building permits, city permits, and more.
    • Builder’s Risk Insurance – Protect yourself against fires, theft, and a host of other unfortunate circumstances. Call Bobbie Smarr for Builder’s Risk Insurance at ICT Insurance Agencies 318.797.7400.
    • Portable Toilet service – When you gotta go, you gotta go. Keep your workers relieved at your job site.
    • Temporary Water Service – Contact the water service in your area and have them put a water meter in. There are several phases of construction that require water (ie. masonry).
    • House Pad – Find someone that can sell dirt and build the house pad for you. Don’t go too cheap here, or you’ll have a house sitting in a mud hole. For this task I recommend Roy McDowell from Webster Trucking. He has a laser level on his bull dozer that puts a nice grade on your site. His phone number is 318.949.4915.
    • Slab, Post Tension – Contact Drew Paschall with TBG, Inc. His phone number is 214.616.4841.
    • Driveway and sidewalks – Contact Drew Paschall with TBG, Inc. His phone number is 214.616.4841.
    • Temporary Electricity – Contact Bo Wilkinson at BW Electric at 318.949.8711. They have electric poles and will help you coordinate getting the temporary power on your job site.
    • Interim Loan interest – Be sure to remember this one. While it takes 3-12 months to build your home you’ll be paying interim loan interest on the money you have borrowed. I like to use 5% of the final borrowed amount to estimate how much interest I’ll pay over the life of the interim loan.
    • Framing & Lumber – Contact Drew Paschall with TBC, Inc. His phone number is 214.616.4841. Even if you use someone else for the construction of the slab make sure you don’t miss the pleasure of working with these people in framing your house. Their speed will save you money on your interim loan interest. They work in large crews and focus on YOU until they are finished with the job.
    • tape/float/texture/paint/stain – This process involves hanging sheetrock inside your home, preparing the sheetrock for texture, texturing the sheetrock, painting the house, and staining the cabinetry. For this task I have a strong preference for Mark Villarreal at Aim To Please. His home phone number is 318.949.8871. His cell phone number is 318.458.0079. Since this step in building a home is time consuming, Aim To Please’s painters work in large crews to complete your job in a shorter amount of time. This saves you money on interim loan interest.
    • Cabinets – Get your order in for cabinets at the same time you pour your slab. Doing it this way will prevent delays when it’s time to install them. Randy Peters and Tim Taylor build some beautiful cabinets. Contact them at 318.272.4598.
    • Cabinet knobs – Steer clear of fancy prices here. Get the cabinet knobs and stuff on Ebay! That’s what I did.
    • Countertops – Will it be formica, corian, granite, marble? Make the choice now. You need to know how much it will cost you.
    • Wood, tile, and carpet material and labor – Decide how the flooring will be laid out in your new home. For fair pricing and top notch workmanship contact BJ’s Flooring at 318.371.6823.
    • Electric/ethernet/security – Nobody does my electric work except BW Electric. Give them a call at 318.949.8711.
    • Air conditioning / Heating – Don’t cheap out here. Get a unit with a high seer rating and enjoy reduced electric bills. Look at the pictures above. The house completed in 2002 was 1,400 square feet with an average electric bill of $250/month. The house completed in 2005 is 4,000 square feet with an average electric bill of $160/month. Contacted Fertitta’s Air & Heat and let John come out and work his magic. Their phone number is 318.687.5966.
    • Masonry, labor, sand, mortar, lentils – Get with Jim Thomas at 318.377.3856 or Toby Whaley at 318.218.4803. Both of these guys have an excellent reputation in this area.
    • Plumbing, plumbing fixtures, tubs, faucets, toilets – Tommy Adkins’ phone number is 318.470.3490. He can provide you with a quote on your plumbing. I approve of their work, and I think you will too.
    • Trim Materials and Labor – This includes crown moulding, mantels, and anything else that might be fancy. Let Drew Paschall set you up. His phone number is 214.616.4841.
    • Insulation – Who else but Charles at AAA Insulators. His phone number is 318.949.3719.
    • Fireplace – Try Mike Cox at Bradley Brick. His phone number is 318.752.9933.
    • Garage doors – Whether your looking for the regular ones or the fancy insulated ones give Benny Cash a call at Overhead Door. His phone number is 318.865.7666.
    • Lighting fixtures and ceiling fans – No recommendations. Just find a place known for on-time delivery.
    • Dishwasher/stove/vent/microwave – No recommendations. Just find a place known for on-time delivery.
    • Refrigerator – No recommendations. Just find a place known for on-time delivery.
    • Exterior doors, interior doors – Contact Drew Paschall at 214.616.4841.
    • Stairway materials and labor – Contact Drew Paschall at 214.616.4841.
    • Windows – Contact Drew Paschall at 214.616.4841.
    • Roofing materials and labor – No recommendations.
    • Lawn Preparation for Grass – James San Angelo and his tractor can work wonders. Cell: 318.393.4923
      Home: 318.746.9985.
    • Grass, mulch and labor – Now is the best time to add a layer of compost to compliment your lawn installation. Eco Mulch & Sod can make all this happen for you. Their phone number is 318.865.5200.
    • Landscaping -Richard Matthews at Avant Garde-ner has a love for landscaping and it certainly shows. Let him help you design your landscape, and you’ll feel he’s as interested in your project as you are. His phone number is 318.797.7183.
    • Mirrors and shower doors – Glass Doctor can make anything your heart desires. Give them a call at 318.221.3503.
    • Gutters – Harmon & Sons installed the gutters on the house completed in 2005. No matter how much of a handyman you think you are, you’re not going to equal the quality of this work with stuff you bought from the store. Their phone number is 318.671.9668.
    • Appraisal Fee – Don’t forget the appraisal fee. Once you finish the house the bank will want an appraisal so plan on paying one more time before you move into your house.
  1. Get Approved for a Mortgage. Contact your mortgage company and get preapproved for the amount calculated in your costs in Step 4. If your credit is good enough, try adding a 10-15% contingency on top of your total value. You can have this amount for “cushion” in case you run into unforeseen circumstances. Also it might come in handy if you see something you might want to upgrade along the way. Remember though, it’s much better to complete your project under budget rather than over budget.
  2. Get an Interim Loan. Commonly referred to as a “Construction Loan”, an Interim Loan allows you to build your home and only pay interest on the money you have borrowed to date. For example, if you are approved for $100,000 to build your home on a 7% interim loan and you spend no money during the first month of construction then your loan payment would be $0 for that month. However, if you spent $20,000 during your first month of construction then you’d pay $117. To arrive at this number all you need to do is multiply $20,000 by 0.07 (your APR, or interest rate). The result should be $1,400. Then divide $1,400 by 12 (because their are 12 months in the year).
    Bring your house plans from Step 1 of this article, your costs from Step 4, and your mortgage approval from Step 5. If you have done Step 4 completely then the bank is going to be impressed and give you consideration for thinking everything through so carefully. Keep in mind that while it is your right in the state of Louisiana to build your own home once per year, it is also the bank’s right not to loan you the money because you don’t have a licensed contractor building your home. It’s their money and their rules. Many of the banks have discontinued loans to owner construction because so many have found theirselves in cost overrun. You’ll need to find a bank that will finance to owner construction. One bank that I know of that still does this is Minden Building & Loan in Minden, LA. Give Greg Lee a call at 318.377.0523.
  3. Get Your Permits. For building my last home out of the city limits I had to get a culvert permit and a parish building permit. Go to your Assessor’s office in Bossier or Caddo Parish and tell them the address of your new construction. They should be able to set you up with all the permits you need. Nothing like good ‘ol taxation from the government.
  4. Get Builder’s Risk Insurance. Call Bobbie Smarr for Builder’s Risk Insurance at ICT Insurance Agencies 318.797.7400. Protect your investment.
  5. Prepare your Land. Call Roy McDowell at 318.949.4915. You’ll need to discuss with him where your house will be located on the property and where your driveway(s) will be. Roy has an excellent knack for determining house elevations. He’ll make sure your house is high and dry. He’s knowledgeable of soil compaction properties and will use only the highest quality material. His bull dozer with the integrated laser levelling system will make sure your home is sitting on a perfect foundation.
  6. Portable Toilet. Time to get the potty for all the workers!
  7. Temporary Electricity. Call Bo Wilkinson at BW Electric and tell him it’s time to install the electric pole. 318.949.8711.
  8. Foundation Preparation. Contact Drew Paschall with TBG, Inc. His phone number is 214.616.4841. They’ll set the foundation and dig all the beams for your home.
  9. Plumbing Rough-In. Call Tommy Adkins at 318.470.3490 so they can bring the Ditch Witch out and install water and sewer lines.
  10. Order cabinets. Don’t find yourself waiting later. Get those cabinets ordered now so you’ll have them when you need them.
  11. Pour Slab & Install Post Tension. Drew Paschall comes back again to install the post tension cabling and pour the concrete for your slab. Just after the slab dries they should do a “partial pull” of the cabling. This helps prevent premature cracking of the concrete.
  12. Framing. A day or two after the concrete dries Drew’s crew is back out again to build the frame for the house. This process will take several weeks. Once they are finished your house will have tar paper on the roof, windows and doors on the exterior, and any applicable siding. You can now brag to your friends using the lingo, “my house is in the dry” or “I got my home blacked in”.
  13. Put the Roof on. Bring out the roofers and put the shingles on so the house won’t leak. Remember the cheap shingles don’t last as long as the expensive ones!
  14. More Rough-in. It’s now time to rough-in your air conditioning, electricity, insulation and plumbing. Now is your chance to make any special requests for location of sockets, installation of surround sound, or anything else your heart desires.
  15. Install the Fireplace. Now is the best time to install the fireplace an all associated duct work.
  16. Install Cabinets. The painters are going to need to stain the cabinets while they’re painting the house so get them installed just before the guys show up with their paint brushes.
  17. Paint the house. This part takes the longest and quite frankly it is the most boring in my opinion. However, rest assured that lots of work is happening. At this stage you’ll get your sheetrock hung, your walls texturized, and your whole house painted! This stage could take well over a month if not two or three months.
  18. Masonry. Brick? How about some stucco? Bring that brick man out and let him put the brick on.
  19. Trim Work. All moulding, doorways, stairs, and other fancy stuff should be installed at this point.
  20. Install Fixtures. Bring the guys back again for final trim out of air conditioning vents and controls, electrical fixtures and switches, sinks, faucets, etc.
  21. Appliances. Time for the dishwasher, stove, range vent, and microwave.
  22. Insulation trim-out. Bring on the pump truck. The insulators will come out one last time. They’ll run hoses throughout the house and up to the attic to blow a nice coat of insulation to keep your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  23. Contact your loan officers. You’re now about 1 month away from moving into your new home. Contact your loan officers and decide upon a target move-in date for your new home. Put your interim loan officer in touch with your mortgage officer and let them coordinate how they will handle the roll-over of your interim loan into a mortgage. Now is the time to lock in your mortgage interest rate.
  24. Flooring. Just when you thought you were almost through it’s now time to install the flooring. Expect another period of slow, intensive labor. This process takes a few weeks, but the end result is fabulous! After the flooring is done it’s okay to move in your refrigerator, washing machine and dryer.
  25. Install garage doors. This process only takes about a day. If you’re getting standard doors then the delivery time is fairly rapid. If you plan to have insulated doors you should order them about one month prior to the expected installation date.
  26. Mirrors and shower doors. All mirrors and shower doors are ready for installation around this date. Just make sure this is done AFTER the electrical trim-out or you could run into problems.
  27. Driveways and sidewalks. Bring Drew out for one last time. The installation of the driveways and sidewalks will only take a couple of days.
  28. You’re not finished, but Move In! At this point you have completed your house to the point where you can order an appraisal, close on your mortgage, and move in!
  29. Install grass, landscaping, and gutters. Now that you’re all moved in you’ll be ready to just enjoy your new house. Make one final push and get your lawn, landscaping, and gutters installed.

Thank you for reading Building your own home in Shreveport Louisiana. I hope you have found this article both informative and interesting. It takes a great deal of planning and effort to build a home, but the rewards are money savings and satisfaction through piece of mind. I welcome any of your comments or suggestions.