Granite Remnants: A Less Expensive Update for a Small Space

Granite Remnants Are Often Cheaper

If you've tried to replace a small counter with a piece of granite, you probably ran into a common problem: granite fabricators don't want to sell a little piece, they want to sell the whole slab. Or, they want to charge you an arm and a leg for the piece you need. Fortunately, HGTV has popularized the use of granite remnants for small counter tops and has encouraged people to call around to local granite companies asking for remnants. Smart companies sell what people want to buy, right?

Call Your Local Granite Company and Ask About Small Pieces

I had a listing last spring that needed a small counter top to replace some seriously ugly brown tile in the bathroom. Fortunately, the owner's niece runs Toluca Granite here in Austin and was able to cut a few counters from her supply of granite remnants left over from other jobs. I know the owner of Toluca Granite personally, and have picked through her selection on many occasions, looking for small tabletops, or the occasional piece of marble for a cheese board.

Before and After: A Granite Remnant on a Small Bathroom Counter

Granite Remnant in a Small Bathroom - BeforeA Granite Remnant on a Small Bathroom Counter - After You can see that the update to this bathroom was pretty much paint and the piece of granite. The little fabric skirt covered up the whole under the sink because the doors were missing.

Questions to Ask When You Call for Remnants

If you know the particular type of granite or marble you want, ask for it by name Ask if you can come see the selection to pick out your counter top If they don't have what you want, ask to be put on a list to be called when a suitable piece comes in If you need two or more small pieces, ask if they have remnants that match - pieces left over from different slabs might be called the same name but might not actually look the same due to variations in the natural stone Ask if they charge extra for fancy edges, or for the sink cutout Ask if they sell sinks to go with with your new counter - you might get a discount for buying the sink and the counter from the same company and some of the new counter-mounted vessel sinks are very very interesting Ask what the turn around time is, after they come out to measure the space for your new counter Make sure you select the actual piece they will use - because pieces of the same name as what you saw somewhere else may very well not look the same - some have large patterns, swirls or splotches that can either be lovely and interesting or just plain ugly

Austin Metal: You Can Make What You Can Imagine

Austin Metal Companies Can Fabricate Stuff For Your Crazy Project

Have you ever wanted to do something really cool but couldn't find the right metal thingy at Home Depot or Lowe's? Maybe something for your yard, like some yard art for an Austin classic funky landscaping twist, or maybe a neat cut-metal sign with the numbers of your house that isn't just like all of the others on the street? Sheets of Metal in Austin TX Orlando at the Austin Metal Shop

Sheet Metal: The Artist's Friend or Foe

If you've tried to cut sheet metal yourself, maybe you got a nice smooth cut. Maybe, though, you got a ratty-tatty raggedy edge that snagged on your hands and clothes and just didn't look very artistic or professional? Yeah - you know - those tin snips didn't work as well as you thought, did they? I have a whole pile of copper toe kicks on the garage floor because I thought they would be cool under the kitchen cabinets. Five, yes 5, years later, I haven't figured out how to cut them to the right size without messing them up, so they're still developing their patina as they sit collecting dust and cobwebs. Some things are better left to a pro.

Get Your Metal Cut by an Austin Metal Pro

Orlando has a project. He's going to make a steady-cam for shooting video, because the ready-made ones are seriously expensive. He's been watching YouTube videos, drawing out plans and having a blast. We've been making most of our real estate appraisal videos in our home studio, but it would be better if we could shoot some in the field without too much camera shake. The main part of his project is a curved piece of metal that he's having cut by H.J. Lockhart Metal Service on Hydro Drive in Austin. H.J Lockhart is a custom metal fabricator - they have the machines to cut, bend, punch and do all sorts of stuff to metal sheets, bars, rods and so on. We dropped the plans off on Thursday and will pick up the pieces on Monday. This round may end up just being a prototype for the one that actually works, but hey, we've had a blast since we realized we could find some of the parts ready-made and have the rest cut by a local metal fabricator here in Austin.

Photos from the Austin Metal Shop We Visited This Week

Circle cutters for cutting metal A Machine at an Austin Custom Metal Shop Punching Machine at an Austin Custom Metal Fabricator Machine at an Austin Metal Fabricator Punch Dies for punching metal (photos shots with either a Canon 24-70mmL or the Canon TS-E 24mmL Tilt + Shift on a 5D Mark II, so yes, the blurry parts are intentional!)

HOA Rules: Where Can You Park Your Truck in Austin TX?

HOA Rules Limit What You Can Do With Your Property

You love your truck, your boat, your RV, or maybe the airstream trailer you use for selling food down on South Congress. Your HOA might have a different view of those vehicles and where you can, or can't park them. HOAs (Home Owner's Associations) can restrict what you do with your own property, including what you can do with stuff you own. Stuff like the truck you drive to work every day, or the one you use to haul your RV to camp grounds on the weekends.

Zoning Regulations and HOA Restrictions

Towns and cities like Austin have zoning regulations that describe the approved uses of a property. For example, zoning regulations specify which land can be used for single-family homes, for public works (schools, libraries) and which land can be used for commercial purposes. HOAs for individual subdivisions can further restrict the use of the property within a subdivision, and many do. Things that are often restricted:
Sizes, numbers and types of vehicles (trucks, campers, jet skis, trailers, etc.) Satellite dishes Exterior paint colors Height, type and location of fencing Materials used in landscaping Architectural details on the exterior of the homes Solar panels Clothes lines And so on

The Big Green Truck

1994 F250 Truck in Austin Texas Our home owners association hates my truck, the one I love so much that I turned it into digital art for this article. They say it is too big (it isn't), they say it isn't registered (it is), they say I need to park it in the garage (I don't). We go a round or two on this every few years. Bottom line: they just don't like an old truck in a neighborhood full of nice new cars. It looks like a work truck (it is) and I've only seen one other like it anywhere near where we live in NW Austin. So although I am annoyed that my truck is frequently targeted for attention, I also know that the reason why my neighborhood is so nice and clean and neat is because the HOA really keeps on the homeowners about keeping up with property maintenance and things that might otherwise lead to a trashier-looking neighborhood. Sometimes, however, I wish I lived somewhere where I could have an ATV track in the backyard, a huge out building for working on old cars and a great big chicken coop or a little barn for some goats. Oh, and someplace to park a trailer to haul behind the big green truck for our weekend tours around Texas.

Know The HOA Restrictions Before You Buy

If you live here, you know that Austin has a very diverse set of neighborhoods. Old, new, big lots, small lots, small homes, gigantic homes. Some neighborhoods, like mine, are very restrictive and some aren't. Some have home owners associations that don't enforce the HOA rules, and others are completely gung-ho about enforcing every line-item of the restrictions. If you already own a home in Austin, did you know for sure what the HOA restrictions were for the neighborhood before you bought your home? Did you read that piece of paper in the giant pile of paperwork you received during your home buying process? Did your real estate agent go over it with you? Have you had any trouble keeping your property in-line with the rules? If you're looking to buy - is HOA-free living something you need? Do you need to park a big, ugly vehicle in your side-yard so you don't have to go haul it in from out of town when you need to use it? It might be a nuisance to have to think about it when you just want to buy that cute home NOW, but it's a much bigger nuisance to discover a restrictions you don't want to live with later on.

HOAs and Green Living Trends

One last thought - green living trends are encouraging city dwellers to do things that may run afoul of many HOA rules. Things like hanging laundry on a backyard clothes line to dry, replacing water-hogging grass with drought-tolerant plantings or crushed stone, or raising chickens for fresh eggs instead of buying ones that have been hauled half-way across the state to the grocery store. All are forbidden in my neighborhood, and all are on my list of things I really want to do. The HOA rules may force us out of the suburbs and up into Leander or Liberty Hill, to get back a little of the freedom we signed away when we bought our current home. So tell me, what do you think about HOA rules - love 'em? Hate 'em? Love some and hate others? Do you see any trends towards greener living in your area that are bucking some of the rules? I'd love to hear what you think - good, bad or ugly!

Austin Backyard Salvage and Garden: Stuff Your Yard Might Like

detail of a rusty screen door in Austin TX

Do You Have The Eye for Architectural Salvage?

You know, the eye that can spot the treasure in the trash at a flea market? Or the one that spies the really good piece of furniture covered in dust at an antique store that never seems to change inventory? If so, you're going to love Austin's own Backyard Salvage and Garden (BYSG), located at the old Howard's Nursery on the corner of Avenue F and Koenig (2222). We spied this lot full of reclaimed materials while lost, looking for the next house on the chicken coop tour this past weekend, then doubled back later in the afternoon to really dig through the piles.

You Gotta Dig

If you want shiny, new, matchy-matchy baubles for your home and garden, architectural salvage yards full of reclaimed materials are not the place for you. But if you really like digging through piles, studying the offerings, and contemplating how marvelous some old rusty thing might look in your yard, then an architectural salvage yard can be a fantastic way to spend a few hours on a pretty afternoon. To be clear, we probably wouldn't call this a "true" architectural salvage yard, meaning the kind that has old gargoyles from pre-war buildings and plaster medallions from razed Victorian mansions. The most famous of those is probably Urban Archeology in NYC - or was 20 years ago when I stumbled into it and had to be dragged out by friends who didn't relish the thought of spending the way digging through 100 year-old hand-carved, glass-front store displays.

Where to Find Austin Backyard Savlage and Garden:

[512] 537-BYSG(2974) only answered during business hours, any other time please leave a voicemail with contact info
Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat - Sun: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Cut to the Chase: What Did We Find?

Rusty porch support at a salvage yard in Austin What we found instead at Austin's Backyard Salvage and Garden was . . . stuff, and lots of it:
Piles of old wood flooring Row after row of interior and exterior doors, some old, some not so old Two very very cool rounded-top doors like you might see on an old bungalow in Hyde Park Things that cover the bottoms of old street lamps - rusted, gloriously rusted things Rusty bathtubs - perfect for a backyard planter Lots of rusty porch railings and wrought iron railings - perhaps for trellises for those tomato vines that keep overgrowing the cheapy, short, galvanized metal ones you got from Home Depot Battered screen doors, the kind that slam shut when the kids run out to the backyard to chase butterflies Old Windows - but didn't get a chance to really see the offerings, so see for yourself And all sorts of stuff you could use to spiff up your backyard and patio area, so you can spend more time outside enjoying the Texas sunshine this summer.
blue corrugated roofing from the salvage yard Rusty metal rings at a salvage yard in Austin TX

How To Make Salvaged Stuff Work For You

If you're thinking it would be waaay cool to get some of this stuff and spiff up your back yard, we have some advice for you: keep an open mind.
Survey your backyard with a critical eye: how much space do you really have and what do you really want? We love how so many of the homes on the chicken tour in Central Austin have homemade water fountains, vegetable gardens, fire pits with brick pavers for the patio, surrounded by old rusty chairs. The yards on the tour are used and used hard, not just admired from inside. Is that the kind you want? Rip out ideas from magazines and stick them in a binder to remind you of what is possible for using reclaimed materials or architectural salvage Visit Backyard Salvage and Garden in Central Austin and see what they have. Really look deep and take your time to walk around. Bring a friend to help you "see" the possibilities. Go home and plan out your spaces, measure, weigh, photograph, etc. Yeah, "weigh" was a joke to see if you're actually paying attention.
If you've got the eye, you may be able to put your backyard retreat together with stuff solely from the salvage yard. You might need to supplement with a few things from Home Depot, but maybe not.

Then Give Us a Call

If you're serious about using salvaged materials for your yard and you live anywhere near Austin, give me, Alison, a call at (512) 585-4758. I'd love to come out and photograph the before-during-and-after of your project and if you're game, to write about it on this blog. I am a Realtor, photographer and insatiable home renovation and decorating junkie and would love to share your joy!

Happy Hunting

If you've already done the salvage thing, we'd love to hear about your experiences - good and bad. If you have other favorite haunts for finding salvaged or reclaimed materials, please drop me an email and I'll go visit them as well. Mantle detail from a salvage yard in Austin

Where to Find Austin Backyard Salvage and Garden

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[512] 537-BYSG(2974) only answered during business hours, any other time please leave a voicemail with contact info
Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat - Sun: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

House Appraisal: How to Find the Value of a Home

A House Appraisal: Find the Value of a Home

How do people find the value of a home? Meaning, what a home (usually their home) is worth? Of the most common ways to find the value of a home, a formal house appraisal is the most accurate. If you REALLY want to know what a property is worth, you need to know why most (cheap and easy) ways to find a home value aren't accurate. If the value you find for a property isn't right, then what good is that?

Ways to Find Home Value

A House in Texas
On-line (Internet) "instant" home values websites These are probably the worst way to find the home values - they rely on incomplete information, and the data is often out of date. Yeah - they're fast but what good is fast if it's wrong? What a neighbor's house sold for last year Another unreliable source of information - unless the neighbor's house is exactly like yours and the sales price has been confirmed by someone with access to the real numbers for the sale. Even then, the market TODAY might not be what it was when the neighbor's house sold and we all know that timing matters a lot in real estate. The tax records Although these should be a good source of home values information, tax records are frequently wrong since the tax district doesn't usually know about updates or renovations to a home unless the updates required a permit. Tax records also don't show that the homes sales prices in an area are going up or going down. Tax values also rely on huge databases of information that may not be up to date. A local real estate agent An experienced real estate agent can give you information about other homes that have sold in your area, which can give you an idea of what your home might sell for if you are planning to sell it. Unless you really are planning to sell, though, and are looking for an agent to list your home, a local agent might not want to spend the several hours that it takes to pull the best sales data for homes like yours that sold in the last few months. A house appraisal Otherwise known as a real estate appraisal, a house appraisal is the formal way to find the value of a home. Real estate appraisers have to have formal training, pass difficult exams and use very well-defined ways (approaches to value) to figure out the actual, current market value of a home. Read the article Appraisal Steps: Determining Market Value of Property to understand what an appraiser does to figure of the value of a property.

Which Way Will Work For You?

Sometimes, you just want an idea of what the value of a home is. In that case, check out the on-line home value sites. Or, check out the tax records just for fun. If you're planning to sell your home, call a local real estate agent who knows your area well. If your home is unusual (really big, really small, on a huge lot, heavily upgraded . . .) or you want the most accurate market value opinion for your home, you should bite the bullet and call a local real estate appraiser to do the job.