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Habitat for Humanity School Construction Projects—A True Win-Win Situation

Jul 1, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter


In 2020, Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter worked with The Villages Charter High School Construction Management Academy and the Leesburg High School Construction Academy in the construction of two Habitat for Humanity Homes in Lake County. The home built by The Villages Charter High School Construction Management Academy students is in the Carlton Village area of Lady Lake while the home built by the Leesburg High School Construction Academy students is on North 12th Street in Leesburg. Both projects were a complete success—with the new homeowners having a home for a lifetime built by students who developed skill sets in construction for a lifetime.

The only disappointment was the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented both high schools from following the projects all the way to the end. The students missed the opportunity to finish their Habitat homes, participate in the dedication ceremonies, and receive accolades from a grateful community for a job well done, which resulted in the enhancement of each school’s program. Students in both programs have paved the way for future students and Habitat homeowners.

The 2020-2021 school year promises to be even bigger for the Habitat for Humanity Projects in Lake and Sumter Counties, as these projects are being planned for The Villages Charter High School, Leesburg High School, and South Lake High School. These projects merge public education with private partnerships to help train students for good paying jobs and careers while providing a needed home for a working family. They teach the young people in our community the important of benevolence. Honestly, these programs work because everyone wins.

Thanks to the participation of the community, school district, and private partnerships, these programs a true success. Many people want to get involved and here is how you can participate in one of these great projects.

Each high school has an Advisory Board, which bridges the partnership between the public and private sectors. These Advisory Boards are made up of educators and businesspeople in the construction community that meet monthly to address the needs of their high school’s program and coordinate community participation. If you would like to participate on one of the Advisory Boards, contact Lynnea Weissman at the Lake County School District at 352-988-4876, or Rob Grant, the Principal at The Villages Charter High School at 352-259-3777.

You can help each of these school related projects by volunteering or donating to Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. If you or your group would like to spend time on the jobsite helping or would like to assist with furnishing the home that would be welcomed. Plus, your monetary donations to this wonderful program helps sustain it for the future.

For those in the construction industry, your donation of time and materials are integral to the success of these programs. Without the partnership from the construction industry, students cannot gain the skills and expertise needed for a career in this field. Skilled craftspeople can mentor students on the jobsite and train them in the correct ways of working on construction projects and implementing best practices. The donation of supplies allows Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter to keep costs down and expand this program to train more students and help more families.

Very few times are there programs wherein everyone enjoys a win. The construction build programs through the local high schools and Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter will not only bridge a partnership between the public and private sectors this next year but help bring the community together. This is a true win-win situation for everyone.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and Host to Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Wood Framing Benefits for Affordable Housing

Jun 24, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply


There is this notion in Florida that concrete block homes are better and stronger than wood frame homes. For most residential homes, that is simply not the case. If the concrete home is a poured solid or tilt-wall concrete home there are some strength advantages. However, there are some moisture and design disadvantages. Most homeowners do not realize that on a typical concrete block home, the inner-core of blocks are hollow—there is not solid concrete between them and the outside. That is why you see collapsed concrete walls during a major hurricane.

The other myth is that concrete block homes are termite resistant. While termites do not feast on concrete, cracks in cement walls and foundations are easy paths for termites to enter your home and munch on everything else that is wood such as doors, windows, mouldings, and furniture. That is the reason why new concrete block homes require termite treatment just like wood framed homes.

Cracks that form in concrete create moisture penetration points. According to many local builders, during the 2004 hurricanes, concrete block homes suffered more water intrusion problems than wood frame homes. Moisture intrusion in the long-term can create mold issues behind drywall and around windows and doors.

Blocking a home typically costs 10 to 20 percent more than wood frame construction. This column is not to disparage concrete construction, because it is a great method. However, in this time of great affordable housing needs, wood frame construction is a better alternative and its durability is unquestioned because of engineering and new strapping technology.

Everyone has seen the videos of high winds lifting the roof off a home and that frightens those located in a hurricane zone as it concerns wood construction. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things to consider. New steel strapping technology and engineering makes that virtually impossible today. From the concrete foundation to the rooftop, new homes in Florida are strapped with a metal hanger and strapping system, which makes the house one unit. Simpson Strong-Tie is a manufacturer and engineering company that has developed these systems, which keeps the home strong and together. That is why you see a house on the coast that is hit with a direct impact from a major hurricane survive with little structural damage.

Engineers and wood mills have improved grading techniques in lumber, which provides stronger products that can be used in structural parts of the building, which prevents failures. The advent of the engineered wood industry has been a game changer for unparalleled strength and durability. Engineered wood is the process of compressing strands and fibers of wood to form wood structural members that are straight, longer, and stronger than ever before. Beams and posts are now able to carry building loads once suitable only for steel. In fact, there are multi-story buildings being constructed out of all wood, especially in earthquake zones.

Technology improvements in borate treated lumber has solved the termite problem without using dangerous chemicals. Borate is a natural occurring salt that is lethal to termites and most insects. Treaters like Great Southern Wood Products have developed a technique of infusing borate into the lumber and providing a long-term solution to termites, including Formosan. Just a note, if you ever have to repair termite damage in your home, demand your repair person use borate treated lumber to solve the problem permanently.

The final advantage to a wood frame home is the ease in which it can be remodeled or have an addition made to it. Block construction is a nightmare and messy to change—just ask any builder who has ever set a block wall incorrectly.

Once again, this is not a column that is negative on block construction. Rather, it points out that wood construction, engineering, and treating processes have evolved to help reduce the cost of housing. Cutting costs is a major hurdle in developing a new affordable housing standard these days.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply, and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Television Show which is hosted weekly on Lake Sumter Television. 

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Six Tips for Selecting the Right Patio Furniture

Jun 17, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in patio furniture


The COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) pandemic has made outside spaces special as the likelihood of being infected is greatly reduced in the open air and warm sunlight. Never has outdoor recreation space been so important around the house and many people are taking seriously the purchase of patio furniture. For most patio furniture buyers, the price is the biggest part of the decision-making process, but that was before you needed furniture that would have to last longer, endure more wear and tear, and be comfortable. If more of the family’s social events are to be held in open spaces, the lowest priced patio furniture in an end-of-summer clearance sale might not be the best option.

Here are six tips to consider when buying new patio furniture.

First, price remains number one; however, let me put this in perspective. Instead of looking for the lowest price, you should determine how much you can afford. Think long and hard about the importance of good patio furniture, then go to the internet and set a realistic budget on the options you desire. Do not go for cheap at the expense of comfort and durability.

Tip number two is purchasing the right patio furniture for your space. Having patio furniture that is too small or too large is a bad thing as well as having metal furniture around a salt or chlorinated pool. If direct sunlight is going to be in play, buying furniture with ultraviolet protection for cushions is a good thing. Be sure to consider who will be using the furniture. A group of teenage boys can tear up a concrete block with a rubber hammer. So, buy something that will last for the group who is going to use it the most. Pretty does not always equal durability.

Tip number three is beware of glass, especially around pools. Glass tables add real beauty and are easy to wipe off. However, a gust of wind from a thunderstorm can blow the table over, shatter the glass, and send shards of glass everywhere. Unfortunately, many patio furniture buyers put looks over safety. Glass and breakable items around a pool are a no-no.

Tip number four is weighty. Yes, Americans are eating good in the neighborhood. We all have uncles, aunts, and friends who have put on a few extra pounds. Less expensive patio furniture is built with smaller legs and backs, which probably cannot support 250 pounds. This could be a health/safety risk for a larger, older relative. If you realistically expect larger-sized guests to use your patio furniture, you should buy patio furniture that can support the load.

Tip number five—whether you choose plastic, metal, synthetic wood, or real wood—each type of patio furniture has its own pro and cons. For example, real wood teak furniture is beautiful, but unless you are prepared to keep it oiled and clean, it will look rough within a year. Although metal furniture is less expensive, rust around pools can mar pool areas. Plastic furniture struggles with durability and bearing weight.

The new synthetic wood technology being used in patio furniture has extended lifespans and made it more durable. The Trex® line of patio furniture is stylish, durable, heavy, and easy to clean. Yes, it costs more, but its longevity and durability make it a great long-term investment.

The final tip is the most obvious—shop around and do not be afraid to buy furniture from an online retailer. There are huge price variations in patio furniture. Many times, the only difference is delivery and assembly. You can save a lot of money if you assemble your furniture and put it in place. Many times, with a little more shopping you can buy higher-grade patio furniture at a lower price.

Before you buy patio furniture, go shopping. Unlike prior years, you may be spending a lot of time outside on your patio.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply, and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Television Show which is hosted weekly on Lake Sumter Television. 

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National Housing Starts Plummet during Pandemic

Jun 10, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in COVID-19


The Monthly New Residential Construction report for April released by the United States Census Bureau in mid-May was ugly, and the numbers reflect a country that is amid a pandemic and economic upheaval. The real challenge for the national housing market will be—when will buyers and sellers be prepared to start engaging the housing market and what will be the overall effect from the economic turndown? Unlike 2008, this economic turndown is not a housing and financial crisis driven event. Rather, it is a health crisis with economic consequences on travel, leisure, retail, and jobs. The overall impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) will determine if this morphs into a housing crisis.

In April, new home starts dropped 30.2 percent from the prior month to 891,000 units, which is 29.7 percent below the prior year. In terms of April in the current historical cycle, housing starts have gone back to 2014-2015 levels in one month. Within these housing starts are single-family homes and multi-family homes, which generally represent apartments and condominiums. Single-family homes were down 25.4 percent and multi-family starts fell 40.3 percent from the prior month. It is probably too early to predict, but this could suggest that the interest in building apartments and condominiums is waning, which could push rental costs higher.

Within this report, the government reported new home building permits dropped 20.8 percent from March, but new home completions only dropped 8.1 percent. This suggests that builders continued to work despite the stay-at-home orders issued by many states, but it may come at a price later as backlogs in work could be thinning. It is apparent builders want to work.

The real test for the national housing market is the recovery over a 6 to 12 month trend instead of the first couple of months after the states reopen. Although there will be a bounce in homebuilding, it may not be as strong as other sectors may experience because construction sites did not completely close. For example, most construction sites in Florida remained open and did not miss a day of work on the jobsite. Plus, there is the time factor—it takes longer to build and sell homes than it did 30 years ago.

Expect the housing market to bounce up from its April’s lows, but the weight of high unemployment coupled with a general economic slowdown could push buyers away, creating a slower overall national market. Because this economic turndown is not a housing or financial crisis, the national housing market could bust up into the have and have-nots.

There is little doubt, the huge urban cities will see huge exoduses as companies allow more employees to work for home. Less populated areas that are warm and sunny will be very appealing to potential buyers who faced months of quarantines and lockdowns in a 700 square-foot apartment. Many larger metropolitan areas will probably have housing depressions with plummeting home values while rural or small cities located in warmer climates could see a housing boom.

The problem for middle-class and low-income workers is that people moving to their area will dramatically increase housing costs and exacerbate the problem of workforce housing. This will be especially true in the state of Florida. Before this happens, state and local governments must enact meaningful policies to protect and encourage workforce housing or the state could turn into a land of only the rich.

National housing numbers will be interesting to gauge the total United States housing market. Chances are there will be huge disparities between markets as people seek safety from future pandemics.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply, and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Television Show which is hosted weekly on Lake Sumter Television. For more information, go to www.Aroundthehouse.TV.

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Top Five Home Preparations during Hurricane Watch

Jun 3, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply


Just imagine—it is September 2, 2020, and Central Florida has just been put under a hurricane watch. What are the top five things you need to do to prepare your home for a possible hurricane?

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