Author Archives: Mares & Dow Construction

Exciting Backyard Home Remodeling Projects

In the summertime, backyards become outdoor havens that are worth cultivating and considering as the site for your next home remodeling project. By partnering with skilled home remodeling contractors, backyard projects can amplify the functionality and beauty of your little piece of the outdoors. 

Backyard structures

One of the classic, though often underappreciated, backyard structures is the backyard shed. As a home remodeling project, the shed can offer a vast amount of possibilities for its (relatively small) size. What it lacks in square footage, sheds can make up for in design targeted at their function. More than a place to store your lawnmower, the shed can also be where you grow your garden starts. A shed built for this purpose should maximize natural light exposure with its position relative to the path of the sun and have ample windows. Sheds can also function as quiet home offices or maker spaces that can be outfitted with the requisite work surfaces, storage, and utilities that make a comfortable place to be for hours at a time.  

Backyard surfaces

Transformative backyard home remodeling projects don’t have to be built vertically, they can also be constructed horizontally. A beautiful deck or patio is a great addition to any backyard that immediately changes how family and friends gather in the outdoors. These backyard surfaces can use a variety of materials and a multitude of designs that can fit any space and any budget. Stone or concrete pavers are a durable and visually striking option that can also be installed so any runoff from summer storms is channeled to the ground below. Wood-hewn decks and patios are another classic option where the beams and planks can be arranged and finished to create stunning patterns. 

Backyard landscaping

The backyard landscape itself can be thought of as a home remodeling project, with the yard almost turning into a type of sculpture. One way homeowners achieve this is by working with retaining wall contractors who literally carve and create dimensions in the landscape to create lovely tiers in backyards. These multi-level spaces can accommodate not only the previously mentioned backyard structures and surfaces but also assets like gardens and water features. And while retaining walls can make the most of a small or sloped landscape, they are not required to undertake a high-quality garden design or incorporate a pond or stream into the landscape of your backyard. 

 

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  Our general contractors are home remodeling experts and enjoy working with homeowners as they start the process with their next project.  Contact us today to get started on your home remodel!

 

9 Key Skylight Terms To Know

When you work with commercial skylight contractors, you may be introduced to new vocabulary for skylights and skylight installation. As your project gets underway, here are a few key terms you will hear tossed around and are helpful to know as you find the right commercial skylights solution for your building. 

Curb

The curb of a skylight refers to the raised frame that is fixed to the deck of the roof and on which curb-mounted skylights are placed. Curbs of typically made of wood and built on site or made of metal and are pre-manufactured and delivered with the skylight.

Fixed skylight

This term refers to skylights that are non-operable, as in they do not open for venting purposes.

Flashing

Flashing is a weatherproofing system that imperviously integrates skylights into the surrounding roofing material. There are multiple types of flashing systems for skylights, such as self-flashing and step flashing, and they are meant to shed exterior water without relying on sealants, which can degrade over time.

Glazing

Glazing is the glass or acrylic portion of the skylight. Typically commercial skylights have multiple layers of glazing, which is referred to as insulated glazing, such as the Velux Acrylic Double Dome. The space between the glazing can also be filled with argon gas to enhance insulation further.

Laminated glass

Laminated glass is made from two panes of glass that are bonded together by a vinyl layer between them. The vinyl layer prevents the glass from breaking apart in dangerous shards when damaged.

Low-E coating

Low-E, or low emissivity, coating refers to a metallic layer that is chemically bonded to skylight glass and works to prevent heat gain and minimize UV rays that can fade interior surfaces. Sometimes notated as LoE, LoE2, or LoE3 which indicates single, double, and triple layers of coating, respectively. 

Tempered glass

A type of glass that is hardened to shatter into small pieces when broken.

Venting skylight

As opposed to fixed skylights, venting skylights are operable. They can be opened manually with a long arm crank or can be remotely operated. Additionally, some venting skylights are outfitted with moisture sensors that automatically close the skylight in the event of precipitation. 

Wrapping

Wrapping a skylight is the process of using roofing underlayment or felt to wrap the skylight curb or frame. Wrapping skylights reduce the risk of condensation forming on the interior skylight surfaces and is additional protection from exterior water penetration in extreme weather scenarios.

 

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  Our general contractors are home remodeling experts and enjoy working with homeowners as they start the process with their next project.  Contact us today to get started on your home remodel!

What does “green remodeling” entail?

 

Over the past decade, there has been a significant push in residential construction to achieve LEED certification and “green building” status in design and construction, and homeowners are reaping the substantial benefits. Many homeowners, however, are also realizing that the benefits of green buildings no longer need to be reserved for newly constructed homes. On the contrary, those who live in the millions of older homes across the US are partnering with home remodeling contractors to improve their houses with “green remodeling” projects.

Green remodeling concepts

Like the principles that underlie the residential LEED Certification guidelines, green remodeling focuses on energy efficiency, healthy indoor air, durability, and resource efficiency. Improving homes in these four areas and thinking about the house less as a collection of spaces and more as an interdependent system has immediate and resonant results: decreased utility bills, increased occupant comfort and wellbeing, and redirecting home maintenance cost savings into spending that benefits local communities. These are goals that every homeowner can get behind and can achieve with their next remodeling project.

Green remodeling project ideas

There are several green remodeling projects a homeowner can undertake, with varying degrees of complexity and costs, but with a guaranteed return on investment in the long term.

Roofs

Roof repair or replacement is an excellent green remodel. Not only can this project immediately improve a home’s energy efficiency, but it can also greatly enhance it with modern solar cell roofing materials which can provide off-grid electricity to the home.

Windows

Many older homes also use energy inefficiently due to leaky windows. Window replacement is an opportunity to recapture those lost utility costs while updating the look of the home and increase curb appeal.

Retaining walls

Working with retaining wall contractors to optimize the landscape around the home is also an ideal green project. Retaining walls can protect the foundation of the home from soil erosion and water damage, which can eventually lead to costly and resource-heavy repairs in the worst case scenarios. Additionally, retaining walls can be made of recycled materials and can function as a component of a water catchment system, managing and collecting groundwater for reuse in the yard or the home.

Skylights

One of the simplest green remodel projects can be installing venting skylights. In addition to the incorporation of natural light and reduction in electricity use that skylights are known for, venting skylights allow homeowners to remotely-control or automate their open/close functions, allowing healthier outdoor air to circulate throughout the home.

3 Common Myths about Commercial Skylights

Most building occupants can agree, skylights can transform commercial buildings and suffuse interior spaces with all the benefits of warm, natural illumination. Despite the many benefits of commercial skylights, misperceptions about their durability and performance persist. Some myths founded initially in the realities of early iterations of skylights are quickly debunked by modern commercial skylights that boast new technologies and materials. Here are three common myths about commercial skylights and how today’s skylights prove them wrong.

They are leaky

A common refrain about commercial skylights is that they either lack a proper seal to the surrounding roof or curb or that the seal quickly deteriorates to allow water to leak into the interior of buildings. In the first place, often these “leaky” skylights were dripping condensation that had formed on the inside surface of the skylight due to the moist interior air reacting with surfaces subject to external temperatures. However, modern commercial skylights have been designed to confront this problem and utilize insulated glass, multiple domes isolating interior domes from external-facing domes, and encapsulating frames that can include condensation wicking systems and create a reliable barrier keeping outside precipitation from coming in. Additionally, frame varieties made from long-lasting material such as silicone that has a life-cycle of fifty years.

They are energy inefficient

Many building owners will opt out of commercial skylights due to the belief that they would exacerbate already sizeable HVAC utility costs. Certainly, some older skylights were subject to undesirable heat transfer, but the advancements in skylight technology have worked to mitigate this issue. Skylights have several glazing options that can manage heat transfer, while Low-E coatings help to reflect heat to its source, keeping buildings cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Simple structural innovations also increase the energy efficiency of skylights: venting skylights can let fresh air in and regulate internal temperatures in the same fashion as windows, and remote-operated blinds with reflective exterior-facing surfaces can also be used to minimize heat transfer.

They are easily damaged

After investing in the capital expense of commercial skylight installation, the last thing a building owner wants to have to do is replace or repair them due to damage. For buildings in areas prone to extreme weather such as hail and high winds, skylights can seem like an unnecessary risk. For this reason, modern skylights use materials engineered to withstand these types of forces. For example, the Velux Dynamic Dome skylight utilizes a geometric design and thermoplastic materials that have been factory tested to hold up to two-inch hail propelled at 88 miles per hour without scratching its surface.

New Technologies in Skylights

Over the past several years skylights have come a long way from their initial conception as a single glass pane on a rooftop. Now, both residential and commercial applications of skylights benefit from recent advances in skylight technology, from new materials to smart home automation software. Commercial skylight contractors, home remodeling contractors, as well as building tenants and homeowners alike now have the opportunity to explore all that modern skylights have to offer.

New materials in skylights

Though in the past skylights may have been considered inefficient in terms of home energy use or sources of pesky condensation “leaks,” the newer materials used in manufacturing skylights have worked to confront and negate these issues. Modern skylights are often composed of argon-insulated double-paned glass, which works to maintain internal building temperatures. Argon is a colorless, odorless, inert gas that is vacuum sealed between panes of glass to create an insulating barrier. In the case of skylights, this structure also helps to minimize condensation as it keeps the colder outdoor air from reacting with the moist, warmer air in contact with the interior surface of the glass, which is what leads to water droplets (condensation) forming on the inside of skylights. Another material in new skylights that works to inhibit condensation is Low-E coatings. Low-E refers to the metal coating that is chemically bonded to skylight glass, which can be reapplied a second or third time resulting in Low-E2 and Low-E3 coatings respectively, and which protects against sharp temperature shifts. Low-E glass coatings work by reflecting heat back to its source, keeping spaces cool in summer and warm in winter.

Automated features of skylights

Modern skylights also boast an impressive array of new automated features ideal for any smart home. On the simpler side of technological advancements, today’s skylights can be operated by remote control in order to open or vent them on command or a preset schedule. This remote control can also be used for reflective blinds on the skylights. In addition, many of these automated venting skylights have moisture sensors which are programmed to close when they sense precipitation and can be powered by solar panels to avoid the need for additional wiring installation to enable remote-control capabilities. On the more sophisticated end of skylight technology, there are solar tracking skylights. These combine solar power and GPS technology to track the sun and reflect its light with an array of mirrors into the building for over ten hours of natural light. Like the work of skilled retaining wall contractors, a commercial skylight contractor who knows their skylights can offer lasting improvements to the way structures work with the natural environment around them.

Retaining Walls 101

As summer approaches you may be thinking about reaching out to your local home remodeling contractors to explore options for your next project. For some homeowners, their summer project will include the addition of a retaining wall or two on their property. Retaining walls can be beneficial to a home in both form and function, and have several options for the material they utilize and how they are designed.

Retaining Wall Uses

If your home sits on a slope or incline, or you are looking to add striking landscape features like a sunken patio or walkout basement, a retaining wall will likely be necessary. These structures work to hold back soil and material that would otherwise slide or erode over time and potentially jeopardize whatever sits downhill. Retaining walls can help preserve the integrity of a home’s foundation by managing soil settlement and groundwater flow or can add new dimensions to yards by maximizing surface area.

Basic Parts and Material Options

Depending on the purpose of the retaining wall, there are multiple materials that can be used in their construction. For smaller walls that homeowners install themselves, they can use retaining wall bricks found at most hardware stores. For larger or more complex projects, retaining walls can also be made of stones, poured concrete, recycled concrete pieces called urbanite, or bricks. The walls have three basic parts: the vertical wall structure, the foundation or footing, and backfill. Much of the variation in material tends to pertain to the vertical structure, while footing and backfill is more typically constituted of concrete and gravel.

Structural Design

Because retaining walls are meant to withstand a great deal of lateral force, they are designed to counterbalance the immense weight of the soil they support. A simple retaining wall design that accomplishes this is called step-back construction, which means the wall is sloped toward the soil it is containing. Other retaining wall designs incorporate additional support structures such as steel reinforcement, cantilever systems, or tie-backs that are anchored deep into the soil behind the wall. For all of these designs, the retaining walls must utilize a porous backfill like gravel or sand to prevent heavy, water-sodden soil from pressing against the wall. The backfill mitigates water damage and allows water to drain and flow downhill. Some retaining walls may also include additional drainage features like a french drain.

While some homeowners may choose to undertake a DIY retaining wall, it is advised to work with professionals for walls greater than 3 ft high. Skilled retaining wall contractors can help ensure your wall is structurally sound, manage any permit or zoning requirements the project may be subject to, and deliver a finished product that improves the curb appeal of your home.

Spring Home Refresh: Adding a Front Porch

Why should you consider a front porch addition this season? There are several good reasons, primarily that front porches freshen curb appeal, offer a connection to your neighbors and community, and they provide a warm welcome for your guests. This type of remodel/addition project can be relatively straightforward, and with the help of a local general contractor, it can be a project that stretches your creativity and your dollar.

Explore styles and design options

As you consider undertaking a new front porch addition on your home, be sure to take time to explore the many porch options that will suit your style and budget. Front porches can be quaint, simple affairs, using poured or decorative concrete for the base and steps with a small portico over the front door, or they can be elaborate wraparounds with separate areas for seating, dining, and even outdoor fireplaces. Small or large, it’s important to give enough depth to your porch and it’s recommended to make it at least 6 feet deep. Other porch designs include a raised wooden base with posts supporting a roof, or a screened-in porch with fiberglass or aluminum mesh or sun-blocking screens. Some of these types of porches even have remote-controlled screens, lifting and lowering depending on the homeowner’s needs.

Prep the site

After you’ve decided on your design, work with your general contractor to finalize your budget and outline the construction schedule. Naturally, the front door is a high traffic area and access to your home will need to be ironed out while the project is underway. Construction teams may be able to flex their schedule to only work on site when you are out of the home, but many homeowners will opt to utilize a back door or garage entrance for the duration of construction anyway. Once you and your family have determined how to adjust your day-to-day routines to accommodate your exciting porch addition project, you can help clear the areas of the yard and home interior that will be impacted. This might include relocating plants or raised beds, moving outdoor furniture, or taking pictures or paintings from the walls that might experience shuddering from the exterior construction.

Sit back and relax

Now that you’ve done all you can to ease the beginning of your project for all involved, you can take a step back and enjoy the fruits of your planning efforts. With an experienced general or Home Remodeling Contractors, you can expect your porch addition and any adjacent updates or remodel projects you’ve included to proceed according to the design and schedule you worked out. If there are any hiccups, your
contractor will communicate and troubleshoot with you promptly. So sit back and relax, soon you will be enjoying the summer breeze from the swing on your new porch.

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  Our team of general contractors are home remodeling experts and can help you with your next project. Contact us today to get started!

Home Remodel Spotlight: Adding a Home Theater

Adding a Home Theater

Nothing increases the value of your home or enhances your family’s entertainment experience like the addition of a home theater. Previously associated as a luxury amenity only available in the homes of film company executives, today’s home theaters are a popular option for any homeowner with a room to spare and a subscription to an online streaming service. If you are thinking about bringing the movie theater experience into your home, here are some ideas to think about and contact your local home remodeling contractor to consult on what goes into completing your new remodel project.  

Determine your home theater space 

Home theaters can be a great option for an unfinished basement or attic, but can also be achieved in smaller spaces, such as an extra bedroom. The main dimensional requirement is to have enough room for your desired amount of seating. If two rows of theater-style seating will accommodate your family and friends for a movie night, you may only need a space of approximately 10 x 16 feet. As you consider where you would like to install your home theater, create a list of your ideal specifications and compare it with the opportunities and limitations of the space you have available. If it seems you don’t have a room that is suitable, another option is to construct an addition on your home for your theater, and this option comes with the benefit of designing and creating the space specifically for that purpose.  

Remodeling the room 

One of the most important considerations when it comes to adding a home theater is to mind the acoustics. The theater experience is not just about a large screen, it’s also about big sound, and you’ll need to use specific materials to achieve it. The ideal material for the ceiling and walls is zero-sound drywall, which is engineered to control absorption, diffusion, and reflection of sound. This means your movie-going activities won’t disturb your neighbors, and their barking dog won’t disrupt your film. And because zero-sound drywall does all the soundproofing for you, you can paint or decorate your theater with any additional materials you desire. The type of flooring you choose is also pivotal, as hard surfaces like hardwood, tile, and concrete will distort the acoustics. Carpet is best and has ratings for sound dampening, so look for carpet that is geared toward soundproofing rooms.  

Geek out 

A home theater is a blank canvas for your technological creativity. There are the options of a projector or a flat screen, a wide array of sound systems, and myriad home automation systems to integrate your lighting scheme and give you total control from a remote or phone app. Sleek, minimalist lighting is best suited for home theaters, and there are several styles to choose from, such as dimmable recessed lighting or wall sconces, and additional lighting details like LED or fiber optic lighting strips in the floor and task lamps next to seating. It is to your benefit to work with an electrician or general contractor for all electrical installations, as they can guarantee the installation meets all building and safety codes. 

2019 Home Remodeling Trends

Home Remodeling Trends

A new year means new resolutions, fresh starts, and, for some, big ideas for home remodeling projects. Whether you are planning something large or small, there are several trends to keep an eye on for 2019. Some of the popular projects of the year lend themselves to DIY-ers with a healthy Pinterest habit, while still others may benefit from the expertise of your local home remodeling contractor. Whatever categories your project falls under, here are a few ideas and trends to consider for your next home remodel.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

A nice, transformative kitchen or bathroom remodel is an annual favorite and 2019 is no different. There are several ways to approach this type of remodel, and the one you choose may depend on your vision, budget, and space. One way to transform a kitchen or bathroom is to update a selection of high impact features or fixtures. In the coming year, many people are opting to drop overhead cabinets in kitchens and instead embrace a more minimalist aesthetic. In order to compensate for the loss of storage of overhead cabinets, some people will install a floor-to-ceiling storage wall, like an updated butler’s pantry – ideal for smaller spaces. In bathrooms, a statement shower enclosure can have a big impact and completely change the look of a space. In both kitchens and bathrooms, trading out old fixtures like tiles, sinks, or cabinets can be an easier, but no less impactful, project. In 2019, designers are predicting that fixtures with seamless features, clean lines, and subtle metallic finishes or splashes of bold color will be the popular trends to watch out for. Of course, for some people, this may be the year that they gut the kitchen or bathroom for a clean slate and opt for all of the above!

Exterior Renovations

Though exterior renovations might not be considered as glamorous as a new master bathroom, they are some of the remodeling projects with the greatest return on investment and can also have a significant effect on the look and feel of your front or backyard. Roofing projects or foundation repair immediately improve the value and integrity of your home, while installing skylights or adding a retaining wall with a decorative concrete finish can also increase curb appeal. Additionally, these projects can have a big impact on the energy efficiency of the home, which means you begin earning your money back with your first utility bill. In 2019, many homeowners may opt for the path of exterior renovations, as it is a solid investment and can provide an updated outdoor landscape for them to enjoy in the years to come.

Serving the Bay Area since 1983, Mares & Dow Construction are home remodeling experts that also offer experienced general contracting services.  Contact us today to discuss your next home remodel project.

Finding an Experienced and Knowledgeable General Contractor

The many components to conducting a construction or home remodeling project can feel overwhelming at first glance, and hiring a residential general contractor can be a huge help in sorting and prioritizing all the elements of a project. The process of hiring a general contractor, however, can also feel like a challenging task. You want someone who is skilled, reliable, and experienced – but how do you go about finding a contractor with those characteristics? A good start is to determine the qualities that are important to you in the contractor you will work with on your project and then to look to your network for recommendations. You likely have friends, coworkers, or neighbors who have recently completed a home remodel and know a general contractor to recommend, or in some cases to avoid. Create a list of the top three to five general contractors and begin reaching out.

Interview more than one general contractor

Once you have generated a good list of recommended general contractors, schedule time to discuss your project with them individually. Outline your job, including materials you are looking for and any design inspiration. If you anticipate any tricky components to the process, go over your questions and concerns and see what ideas they may have for problem-solving. It may be helpful to walk through the space being remodeled or the site where construction will occur, so the contractor can get an idea of any limitations of the work environment. It is also important to discuss your budget. A contractor may be able to bring you savings in the long run by leveraging professional relationships they have with certain materials suppliers or skilled subcontractors. And don’t hesitate to ask for references from other projects they’ve contracted on and to reach out to those references to learn how the contractor works.

Don’t go with the cheapest bid

The contractor who bids the lowest elicits a few red flags, namely that they will cut corners and cost you more later in repairs. Generally, a contractor should cost about 10 to 15% of what you anticipate spending on the rest of the line items for the project. However, there is a lot involved in each project, including some unanticipated expenses. If this is your first kitchen remodel, for example, you may not have an accurate picture of what the final cost of the project will be. Of course, the more remodeling projects of the same type you have completed, the more precise an idea you will have about the total expense. But until you’ve cultivated your own expertise, it is a good idea to rely on the expertise of a general contractor and a safe rule of thumb to avoid the lowest bidder.

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  Our general contractors are experienced and knowledge with home remodels in the San Francisco area.  Ready to start your next project?  Contact us today!

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