Going Green 101

Summer is here, and with that the weekly lawn maintenance days have arrived! When we built our house, we decided to add as many smart home features as we could and since we were doing this to the inside of our house, I realized I wanted to do this to the outside of our house too! So the version of “going smart” with the outside of our home  was “going green.”

In our previous home I was tired of going to mow the lawn and not having gas in the mower, or oil in the trimmer. I wanted to Go Green for convenience and so I no longer had to deal with the oil and gasses involved in the typical lawn maintenance products. I had never thought of it before, but realized I love my Green Ryobi power tools, why not look into their Ryobi Outdoors collection as well.

Here’s the number one coolest thing about Ryobi Outdoor Tools. ONE battery can power over 25 tools. This concept was both appealing and worrisome for me. I had heard from other corded electric mower users that gas had more power and electric didn’t perform as well as gas or oil lawn equipment. To be fair, these electric mowers were not cordless tho, like the Ryobi Outdoor Product Line. As I read reviews and looked at specs I came across a lot of “gas like power” type comments, so I decided to put my trust in a brand I love.

We started with the essentials, a lawn mower and trimmer. I decided to go with the 40 volt 20 inch brushless self-propelled mower and 40 Volt X Attachment Capable String Trimmer, I also went with the EXPAND-IT Edger Attachment. We purchased our mower, and my friends at Ryobi sent me the trimmer and EXPAND-IT attachment.

Before getting into the weeds with each item, I’ll start with overall first impressions. Each item came well packaged and opened easily. Parts were well marked and assembly was east, fast, and minimal. Almost ready to go right out of the box. The longest part was getting a full charge on the batteries before putting these bad boys to work.


So let’s first talk about the 40V 20IN. BRUSHLESS SELF-PROPELLED MOWER.

First thing I noticed was the weight; this lawn Mower is significantly lighter than a gas lawn mower, which should make for easier pushing, right? It weighs in just over 50 pounds. A quick google search of a top rated gas mower showed that they claim their mower is “easy to operate and weighing in at just 103 pounds”. So Ryobi is half the weight? One tally for the Ryobi!

Grass is long and ready to mow, after getting the lawn mower into “mowing ready” status in all of about 1 minute (the lawn mower basically folds up for easy storage) it was time for the much anticipated start up. OMG! Hold the bar down push the button and the mower is started, one hand and 3 seconds and its time to mow. With the lawn mower started it was time to mow. One thing was missing though, the loud roar of an engine. This had me worried; with gas you can hear the power. This Ryobi mower is just a gentle purr. As you can see in the pictures, the grass was in need of more than a small trim. I pulled the levers for the self-drive and charged ahead, it didn’t get any louder but it cut the grass clean and at a very comfortable pace. Gas like power, yes. Gas like sound, no. I got about 1/3 of the way through my lawn before having to empty the bag. I would say about average with a gas mower. One thing to note here, this mower is lighter than a gas mower, as the bag filled up the front wheels were hard to keep on the ground. Not a big deal but something to be aware of. I finished my back lawn in about 20 minutes and moved to the front. 15 minutes later, mowing was done and all on one battery charge. No adding gas to finish the front lawn? Another tally for Ryobi!


I’m a wood worker, not a gardener. Maybe I should trim first, then edge, and then mow? Or maybe it doesn’t matter. For round one of my new Ryobi products, I mowed first and decided to edge second. Our house was brand new when we moved in, as was the lawn. It had never been mowed or edged. After easily attaching the X-PAND IT Edger Head, I picked my starting point and was ready to start the edger. Perhaps even easier than the mower, was starting the edger. It took about as much effort as starting my Keurig. Again absent from this experience was the frustration of pulling that string, priming an engine and hoping it starts. As I started to edge, I noticed the blade was getting bogged down some. In fact a few times, it stopped and I had to pause and then restart the edger. Again, I’m a wood worker, not a gardener, so this could have been because I had the blade depth too deep or because the lawn had never been edged and it had more to chop through to establish that nice clean edge. Due to the stopping here and there the whole edging process took about 5-8 minutes longer than a gas powered would have. However, the final product looked great.

Next up, lets trim. I disconnected the edger head and attached the string trimmer head. Super simple, and fast. You guessed it, getting the trimmer started was painless. While I noticed a difference in a gas powered edged vs the Ryobi Electric, the trimmer felt equal to the gas powered trimmers I have used. All except the sound, just like the mower, the sound from the trimmer and edger was a quiet purr. Trimming was fast; it trimmed as fast as I could move it.

I could not be happier with my new Ryobi Outdoors products. Gone is the frustration of getting a gas engine started. Gone is the storage of gas and oil, mixing the two if needed, trying not to spill it, and GONE is the smell of gas and oil in my garage. The smell of sawdust is sweet, old gas and oil not so much. Perhaps the best part of my purchase is getting to “GO Green” by reducing my carbon foot print, and I don’t feel like I sacrificed performance in the least. Having a Smart Home and an Eco Friendly lawn care system really makes me feel like we are investing in the right things to make our house the home of our dreams.


Interior Paint 101


Goodness who knew picking paint was so much more than just picking paint! When we were picking paint for our house I knew


I wanted to go with grey and white as our two main colors. Having a general idea of the palette you want to go with is key before picking a hue in the palette. This is a good rule of thumb if you are painting your entire house and even if you are painting just one room. A home should flow and each room compliment each other, rather than each room standing on it’s own. Pinterest has some great ideas on Farmhouse/Craftsman color palettes. It’s important to pick a color scheme and to carry this scheme throughout your entire home. Keeping your two main colors neutral and then having a palette you can use for the other rooms in the house

Before even deciding on color, there is the matter of choosing oil base paint or water base paint. I have used both and can say that I prefer water base. Oil base did apply smoother and it also was more durable on our kid friendly home. But, Oil base was harder to clean up, it can crack or yellow over time and its a pain to dispose of when we finished. Water base has come such a long way in durability and ease in use, the majority of big box stores carry water base.

Choosing a paint brand depends on budget and life of the paint you are going for. If you aren’t planning on leaving the room the color you chose for very long, I would pick something cheap like a gallon from Walmart. I have used Walmart paint for several projects and rooms. The problem is that it always takes more than one coat before getting proper coverage and it also wears and shows dirt easily. In my opinion, when using “one coat” paints, I often have to do more than one coat to get proper coverage as well. The higher the quality of paint you use, the more likely it will be that you do only have to do one coat on your walls, and even have the one coat include your primer as well. More expensive paints are also more washable and offer a great scrub resistance. A cheap paint drives me bananas when I try to scrub crayon off the wall and the paint comes with it.

Paints come in a variety of finishes, including flat, eggshell, semigloss/satin and high gloss. Flat paint is more forgiving and hides flaws well, but it doesn’t stand up well to scrubbing. High-gloss paint is washable and easier to maintain, but it reveals surface imperfections and painting errors. For my home we decided to go with a satin paint on the walls and ceiling, a satin on the kitchen doors, and a semi-gloss on the trim and craftsman moldings.

The brand our builder recommended was PPG. We looked up their color palette and saw they have a color scheme that is actually named modern farmhouse, which was kinda of the theme of our home. We are incorporating a lot of the craftsman wood features, but wanted to go with all of the farmhouse color trends.



These are the top 5 rated paints with Better Homes and Gardens. They were rated 1-5 based on Coverage, Finish, Value, VOC, and Stain Resistance. Once we looked online at PPG in regard to ratings and reviews it seemed a great choice for us.

Our main color for the home is called Fog and as I said above will be in a satin sheen. The trim and craftsman moldings were painted in Semi-Gloss Delicate White. I am not fond of shiny walls and I absolutely hate the way flat looks on a wall, so satin was a basic choice from process of elimination. Here’s a swatch of Fog and Delicate White:


Here are some picture of these colors on the walls:



The thing about choosing a grey is to pick one in the right hue that goes with the rest of the tone of your home. This goes the same for you white. The white we picked was a tone that complimented the grey tones because this was our main color of the walls and ceiling. These pictures I hope show that even tho we picked a grey color for the walls, it doesn’t darken the house or add too much color but rather compliments the white molding.

In the kitchen we picked the same color white for the above cupboards, but for the bottom half of the colors and every bathroom but the master, we picked Gray Stone. You can see a swatch of the Gray Stone above. Here is the color on our cupboards:

Remember, we kept in our Modern Farmhouse color pallet when choosing these colors, and we made sure to pick the right hues to compliment each color. We chose sheen in the right places to have a more durable and stain resistant effect and we picked a paint that was a four star in Coverage, Finish, Value, VOC, and Stain Resistance. I hope this helps you when you’re picking colors and paints for your space.

More updates will be added to this page as we work toward completing our home!


Windows 101

Lets have a quick chat about windows! This sounds like an easy subject right? I quickly learned there are lots of choices when it comes to picking your windows for a home. I’m gonna try to cliff notes version it for you.

First let’s go with style of window:

Here’s the top 5:

1)Sliding Window:Gliding along a track, sliding windows have at least one operating window that slides horizontally over or past the other window. They are most often used in modern- or contemporary-style houses. Photo courtesy of Jeld Wen Windows and Doors

2)These hinged windows operate by a turn of a crank in an operating mechanism. They can be hinged on the left or the right to open outward. Photo courtesy of Marvin Windows

3)Generally, bay or bow windows give you more interior space, as they protrude out from the exterior of the siding of the house. They are a combination of windows often with a stationary window in the middle flanked by either double-hung windows or casements.

4)Stationary and Picture windows. These windows do not open, but they can be customized in nearly any angle or shape you desire. They are often found in modern- or contemporary-style houses in conjunction with operating windows.

5)A narrow window that can be either operating to let in air or non-operating (stationary) and mounted above a door or window to let in more light. This is the window above the single hung window. On a single-hung window, only the bottom part of the window operates while the top part remains stationary. A double hung window is a type of window has two sashes that slide vertically up and down in the frame. They can open wide from either the top or the bottom, but they remain inside the frame so they don’t protrude out to the exterior or interior of the house.


Okay next topic is choosing a window grid. We chose Prairie so lets talk about this first . As you can see from above the Prairie windows embrace the belief that a building should appear to grow organically from its site. It uses long horizontal bands of windows and trim to evoke the prairie landscape.  For us, even tho these were not craftsman style, we loved the lines and elongated feel when looking at these windows. It added a perfect simplistic touch to the windows.



These Craftsman-style homes sport a mix of full-pane windows on the bottom accented with divided panes on the top of their double-hung window. The divided lights are generally elongated, meaning they might have just three long panes on the upper sash and no cross pieces.


Typically, these types of homes simply have divided light, double-hung windows with six individual panes of glass separated by muntins in both the top and bottom panels of the windows.


With their brick, stucco and exposed timber accents, many of these homes had diamond-pattern grids on their windows to add an Old World, European look


Happy Window Hunting! To see where I found the photos of the windows not in my home and for more ideas on window styles and grids you can always visit: www.hgtv.com

Brick 101

There are hundreds beyond hundreds of different color bricks made in Central Texas. Texas produces more brick than any other state and the reason for this is geography. There is a large vein of clay that stretches across the United States from Central Texas, across Oklahoma and Arkansas, and up into Virginia and Maryland. It has, in varying degrees, the right combination of clay, sand and silt for brick making. Within the belt is an ideal band called the Wilcox formation that has no iron in it, making it even better for brickmaking. It runs from San Antonio up to Arkansas and North Texas sits right in the middle of the largest amount of brickmaking clay.

The clay is removed with strip mining. Strip mining is when heavy equipment, such as earthmovers, first remove the overburden. Overburden is the grass, trees, and any greenery that grow above the clay. Next, huge machines, such as excavators remove the minerals. Clay is removed with strip mining. Strip mining is only practical when the ore body to be excavated is relatively near the surface. This type of mining uses some of the largest machines on earth, including bucket-wheel excavators which can move as much as 12,000 cubic meters of earth per hour. Once all of the clay has been excavated the pit is then filled with water, making a lake, but there are some clay pits that are still being mined 100 years later.


That being said because brick is so abundant in the North Texas, what is often over looked is the amazing masonry work in these homes. The Star Telegram wrote the best article about Texas brick and they included this about the Texas Masons. “The bricklayers came from Mexico in the mid-1900s, when the post-World War II housing boom began. As the building of both commercial and residential structures increased over the second half of the century, more Hispanic construction workers were lured by amount of work available. The Hispanic masons who came from Mexico were often quite skilled. It was an old building tradition and an honored one in Mexico. The masons who came north often brought skills that they used on residential buildings — putting intricate details along roof lines or on facades.These details were not on the architectural drawings or builder’s plans; they were added by the masons. They had a skill level that they flexed, and the results can be seen as you walk the local neighborhoods.”


So how did we choose our brick? For us it was based the most on color. We wanted to steer away from the typical red brick. Typically most builders add stone with their brick as an accent, but we are not fans of the stone at all so we also wanted to pick a brick that could stand by itself and look good doing it! When looking at several brick samples, for us it was about which brick had the most grey and white in it. This lead to the Union City Collection. More specifically from this collection we picked Flint Ranch.

Foundation 101


Several methods exist for pre-stressing concrete, with post-tensioning being a very common one. Before a post-tension slab is poured, high-strength steel strands or cables, called tendons, are laid in a tight grid. These help support and give strength to the slab once it has cured. The tendons are sheathed in plastic so that they do not directly touch the concrete. After the grid is made, the concrete is poured, with extra care taken to make sure that the tendons remain at the correct depth.

The concrete is allowed to cure to about 75% of the way, at which point post-tensioning occurs. Each of the tendons in the post-tension slab is pulled tight, using a hydraulic jack. The tensing of the cables occurs after the concrete has mostly cured, hence the term “post-tension.” The tendons are usually pulled to a tension of 25,000 pounds per square inch (4503 kg per square cm). Once the cables have reached the designated tension, they are anchored in the concrete, and the slab is allowed to fully cure.

Many modern homes are built on a post-tension slab, which serves as an excellent foundation. This method of pre-stressing concrete is especially useful in areas where the soil expands and contracts relative to weather conditions. Apart from residential applications, post-tension concrete opens up the possibility of many construction techniques that otherwise would be impossible.