Houston Custom Home Builders Podcast Transcript:

Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home builders podcast series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morning Star Home Builders. I’m Greg your host, and for today’s episode we are joined by one of Houston’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builders, Ted Cummins, Ted, good to talk to you this morning how are you?

Ted: Good Morning Greg, how are you doing?

Greg: I am doing very well, but I am quite curious to talk to you since a couple of weeks ago, you went to the International Builders Show and I want to know what you found out.

Ted: Well, actually, it was just last week that we got there and spent a little time in Orlando, Florida. They kind go back and forth between Las Vegas and Orlando. This trade show has gotten to be so large, that there’s only two venues that can handle the amount of people that come in. Both from traffic and hotel and restaurants, venues and that’s Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Greg: Wow, I didn’t know it was that big.

Ted: It is, I think I was looking at kind of a wrap up online talking about how many people, and I think they estimated about 80,000 attendees that came in literally for three days.

Greg: Wow.

Ted: Typically the show is for three days and then just a couple years ago, they added the kitchen and bath show. Which was a separate show in the industry, it was traditionally held in Chicago. A couple years ago they decided to combine with the International Builders Show. Now the International Builders Show includes KBIZ, which is a kitchen and bath show. A lot of interior designers, kitchen and bath people are now part of that same show as well.

Greg: That’s what I was going to ask, so this isn’t geared towards just builders. Sounds like there are going to be people from almost every industry that has anything remotely close to do with building.

Ted: Absolutely, we’re talking architects, we’re talking maybe even some engineers that maybe want to come see the latest, greatest, stuff out there. Obviously interior designers, decorators, contractors, suppliers, vendors, everybody that touches anything to do with homes, is there, and it’s the place to be. It’s exciting to go to, I think we figured out this was either our 11th or 12th year straight that we’ve been attending, and we really enjoy going to it every year.

Greg: You go every year, there must be something worthwhile bringing you back?

Ted: Our core belief is, understand and meeting needs of our clients, and we feel like it’s our responsibility to be informed of what’s going on in the industry. How would you feel if you turned around and you built, we designed and built a house and we didn’t bring any fun stuff to the table, and tell you about things, and then your neighbor down the street built about the same time as you, and you went into his house, and you saw some really cool products that you didn’t even know existed?

It’s what pushes us continually to thrive in this business, and to continue to be up on our game of what are the latest greatest products. The fun thing is, not always are they really very expensive. That’s the thing that I enjoy myself.

Greg: Is the biggest take away from this event, the people you meet, in the context you meet, and figure out how people are using products? Do you get to go and see booths where they have a new product for, we talked about ceilings on your last one, on your last podcast episode, so maybe, a new ceiling treatment or a new beam treatment, is it the people or is it the product, or is it everything that comes out of that all together?

Ted: It’s kind of a combination, Yvonne and I usually kind of divide and conquer. Traditionally she’ll go up to the educational classes, there’s I don’t know how many different classes were available from design, to best practices, to everything that you can image. Often times she’ll spend a fair amount of her time going to the educational course, and I’ll walk the floor. It is an opportunity to see different things.

We talked about beams on our last episode. I looked at a company that actually came up with some manufactured beams that were actually kind of a resin material that were done, stamped by real wood, so they had the texture but they were composite. You can paint them or your can stain them. Now you can have different size, whether it’s an 8×8 or a 10×10 or a 12×12 column on a porch that looks, you’d go up and swore it with cedar, or fir beam even though it’s a composite material. That’s full structural.

Greg: Oh wow.

Ted: There’s always something to go see that we’re always going to like, this might be a great application for the Jones’ who I’m in design with right now.

Greg: Do the vendors there, also, are they capable of telling you how to actually use it, so not only does it look great, these beams that you’re talking about, but do you need to know how to install them, or is it pretty straight forward?

Ted: That’s a good question, it’s a kind of a mix. Most of the time, they’re pretty straight forward, sometimes what’s fun is when you get into more the electronic side of the house, the engineer who developed it, who may have worked on the patent for that company, who worked on that product specifically is there to answer any questions. That’s really neat to be able to go to a show, where the main source of that design and the brain power that came up with that is actually standing there talking to you.

It’s not just a pretty face, answering questions, or being able to provide information about it. They know it, because they actually were the ones that designed the product from the start.

Greg: Okay, and when you head off to the International Builders Show, do you find that you’re, do you sort of have an area that you’re looking for that you want to learn about, or do you go blindly and you walk the floor. You just sort of see what jumps out at you?

Ted: Well, I try not to walk the floor blindly. There’s a lot of people there, so you’d probably bump into about 80,000 people if you were blind. I get your point, you know again, I try to be somewhat organized and look at products, highlight the ones I want to go see, but it’s stuff that you didn’t even know existed when you come around the corner and you go, oh my gosh, I mean this is really cool.

I want to talk about those, I also was just reading on something you’ll find this interesting, I mentioned educational sessions. This just last week, they had 160 different educational sessions, and 8 different tracks that were covered about the building industry.

Greg: Wow.

Ted: The amount of net square feet that was exhibited was over almost 500,070 square feet, representing 1500 different manufacturers and suppliers. If you want to know if the show is alive and well, there’s the answer.

Greg: That’s huge, I’m actually having trouble, I can’t figure out what 500,000 square feet looks like. That’s just gigantic.

Ted: It really is overwhelming, I remember the first time we went, it was like oh my gosh. You’re just so overwhelmed, now that we’ve done it this many times, obviously it’s gotten a little bit better.

How about let’s jump to some products I’m anxious to tell you about.

Greg: Yeah, some highlights let’s hear it.

Ted: One of the things that Delta, Delta Faucets came out with, I thought was kind of unique was, imagine something a little bit bigger than a hockey puck. Maybe not quite as tall, and it is, in fact it’s not on their website yet, it’s not even out. But they’re doing WiFi enable leak detectors. They put in lithium batteries, they last 2 to 3 years, they’re WiFi enabled, so they’re tied into your router. You can put them in multiple places within your home.

Say traditionally around by your washer machine, maybe on the floor around the washing machine, or maybe right underneath where the connection hoses go to the wall, because that’s traditionally a leak area. If that, obviously if that starts to get wet, the sensor goes off and sends a message through the WiFi to your phone to let you know that you have a water or leak issue.

Think of your hot water heater, maybe under your dishwasher, anything, an ice machine. Anything water related, you can stick these little detectors around, and you can put as many as you want, and what’s cool is when the battery gets down to about 10%, it lets you know that you need to change the batteries. How about that?

Greg: You keep the same disk? You just put a different battery in or do you have to get a new disk?

Ted: Yes, no, you open it up and put new batteries in it, stick it back. Retail’s probably going to be in the $50 $60 range, so it’s very affordable, what’s the price of knowing that you have a leak? Think of the money that would save you. That’s one of those little devices, that’s easy to kind of miss unless you really pay attention and walk the floor like I do. It’s a great opportunity to really prevent something big from happening with spending a very little money.

Greg: Yeah, funny I can actually put a price on having a water leak, having had one in my house before, so the drywall, it’s a mess right… Even if you get 5 or 10 of them to put around your house in different locations, I would do that all day compared to what we had to go through.

Ted: That was one, as far as the list of kind of inexpensive things, that’s one I saw that I got kind of excited about, and tell people about. I spent a fair amount of time, we put a lot of Bosch and Thermidor appliances in our homes. I actually had a tour by one of our reps there, at the builders show. A group of us from Houston, there was probably about 5 of us in that group.

It was very interesting in seeing some of the stuff that Bosch and Thermidor has come out with. Specifically one of the things that I was kind of enchanted by was a stackable washer and dryer. You’re probably asking me, what’s so enchanting about stackable washer and dryer. It was not only the size of it, because they had them literally 24 inches wide, so they’re smaller, application that we do a fair amount of is secondary washer dryer, maybe in the master closet.

Some of these bigger homes, whether it’s a big one story, or a larger two story. Often times the laundry room might be more centrally located, but yet because of where the kids are at, maybe they even put one upstairs, this is kind of interesting, and what really intrigued me about this washer machine was that it was vent-less. The dryer was vent-less. Basically you provide a drain, and water supply and then you can put these stackable, or they can by side by side, or on top of each other, and you don’t have to worry about venting it out. A great application for a remodel, where you don’t have access to, maybe it’s an interior space.

You might have a drain, you might have power available, but getting it to vent outside would be a challenge.

Greg: I’m really confused, that sounds awesome, how do you have a dryer without a vent?

Ted: Well, it simply captures the humidity and goes down a drain. It has the heating side of it, but it allows it to somehow capture that and repurpose that and then as the humidity that comes out of that drying side, goes into a drain and drains out.

Greg: Must have a heat exchanger or something.

Ted: Yeah, I don’t know all the technical things about it. I just thought it was kind of cool.

Greg: That’s very cool.

Ted: Yeah, also Bosch has come out with a 24 inch wide little refrigerator, that’s almost full size in height, but obviously it’s only 2 feet wide. The application we do a fair amount of guest quarters, or casitas in our homes. Think of not needing a full size fridge, but something smaller for an apartment or a condo, or a room over the garage, that kind of application. I thought that was kind of unique as well.

Let’s see I’m looking at my list, here’s one for you. We saw that several manufacturers are coming out, manufacture stone, that’s done in molds. Traditionally El Dorado stone is one that we use a lot of. El Dorado stone came out with this new stone look, but it was actually too look like old barn wood. Barn wood is one of those things that is kind of trendy right now, it’s very popular, and this barn wood comes in planks, that looks like old barn wood. They literally do molds off of old barn, wood that comes off of a barn. You see the knots and the deep grooves in it, and these planks are utilized in areas that you couldn’t use them before, like maybe like around a fireplace.

You wouldn’t be able to put that kind of wood next to the fireplace because it’s combustible, and would not pass code and it would be dangerous. I found a company, a competitor to El Dorado, by the name of Magra Hearth, and they literally took a barn down that was 150 years old, and made molds of those planks, and they come anywhere for up to six feet long which is kind of… industry standard they’re three, but it looks like old barn wood. I’ve got pictures, we’ll put on the site, of this fireplace surround that’s got, looks like it’s got barn wood wrapped around it. It’s pretty neat.

Greg: I’m just constantly amazed at how quickly some of these things change. The flooring options and the wall options, and just the materials. I just remember growing up and there was nothing remotely like any of this stuff, and it’s really quite a bit of fun to follow along and watch some of the pictures that you’re able to put out, or that you see builders doing. If people are interested in homes, there’s a lot going on.

Ted: It’s constantly changing and you know these are vendors and suppliers that constantly have to come up with new products to get people’s attention and find a reason to want to do that. Both in a remodel home or a new construction home. The same company even came up with, and I hadn’t seen this before, but when I did see the planks, they actually have posts that you can use as a mantle, that’s usually 4 or 6 inches, maybe it’s a 6×4, or a 6×8. They’ve got, envision the mantle going across, and then the two legs coming down that are underneath of that, it’s kind of a fireplace surround, and again when you see the pictures, you would think it was wood.

It’s got the chinking and the splitting in it, and it’s lightweight concrete. Again, you could use that in a fireplace application, where before you have to be very careful on how close you could get that to the fire.

Greg: I assume that these aren’t going to twist and dry out, the same way that some wood does. You end up with sort of a –

Ted: Nope. With it being concrete, no, it’s non combustible and you could never hurt it. It’s a great durability.

Greg: Yeah. Wow so this sounds like it was a really cool show.

Ted: Yeah, Yvonne found one thing that was kind of interesting by Nutone, who traditionally does more bath fans, and venting and that kind of stuff. They’ve actually come out with an LED landscape lighting. Think of how popular landscape lighting is today, but it’s actually combined with a mosquito repellent.

It actually has controls on it, and so those light fixtures have a little nozzle, kind of underneath, that sprays out a mosquito repellent. It’s all done in one housing. You don’t see multiple nozzles for that thing in the yard, in fact you won’t even see it, because it’s got a combination of mosquito repellent built into the LED landscape light.

Greg: That’s very clever.

Ted: Very interesting, very interesting. How are we doing on time?

Greg: This will be a longer one, but it sounds like there’s plenty to talk about.

Ted: I’ll wrap up with this one. I mentioned going to CEDIA on a previous blog that we did. It’s definitely, we’re definitely headed to the areas of being able to control things, via voice. There’s more and more of the door manufacturers, as far as door hardware. I looked at one by Brink. B-R-I-N-K-S Home security, that has a WiFi enabled, what they’re calling a smart lock. The face of it, actually can even handle solar, depending on how much light, to keep the battery charged.

It’s compatible with both Amazon Echo, and I’m surely around the corner Google Home. You’ll be able to unlock, I’m not sure exactly when this is coming, but eventually you’ll be able to lock and unlock your front door, by just speaking. Voice controls is the wave of the future, and the future is here.

Greg: Wow, and you got a front row seat to go check it out early. I’m a little jealous, that sounds like a really cool show. All right, if someones listening, and I know we do this every time, but maybe this is the first time someone tuned into your podcast. If someone’s listening and they want to talk about some of these new items you can put into a custom home for them, where do they find you?

Ted: Yes, you can find us on the internet, at HomesByMorningsStar.com , and you can also find us on Houzz, H-O-U-Z-Z.com, we’re one of the pro advisors on Houzz and have hundreds of pictures to look at, you can contact us for new construction or for remodeling, just let us know how we can help you.

Greg: Ted, thank you very much, I look forward to talking to you in a couple weeks.

Ted: Okay, thank you Greg for your time.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast series. If you have any questions, or would like to contact us at MorningStar Builders, you can find us on Facebook, and you can always visit our website, at HomesByMorningStar.Com. We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.