Category Archives: Home remodeling contractor

What is Lap Siding?

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If you are a homeowner who is working with siding contractors on your next renovation project, you have likely had the term lap siding come up. But what is lap siding? Very simply, it is siding that is made of long boards laid horizontally to overlap each other. This simple definition, however, can get a little more complicated when you take into account the options for materials the boards can be made of and the several ways they can be made to overlap. Here is a brief overview of these many options, and their benefits for your home. 

Materials

For much of the history of this style of house siding, lap siding has been made of wood. Today you can still install wood lap siding, but you can also look into vinyl, fiberglass, or fiber cement options. Fiber cement is an increasingly popular material because it is less expensive than wood and more durable than vinyl. It is also low maintenance, typically only needing replacement every 50 years, and can utilize different pigmentation technology that offers homeowners a range of colors without the hassle of traditional paint. 

Installation styles

There is more than one way siding can be made to overlap. If you ask home remodeling contractors, they will likely be able to rattle off more than a few – shiplap, channel lap, dutch lap, nickel gap, bevel, and clapboard are some examples. Clapboard is the most common and likely what you think of when you think of traditional lap siding. Each of these installation styles has its benefits, but the main difference is in the aesthetic and what appeals to the homeowner. 

Benefits of lap siding

No matter the material or installation style, there are many benefits of lap siding which is why it is the most popular siding in the US. When weighing the pros and cons of lap siding, consider these benefits: 

 

  • Easy installation – For wood lap siding, it is one of the easiest ways to mill the board. Additionally, other materials such as vinyl and fiber cement are manufactured for ease of installation, which can also help to decrease the cost of siding installation overall.

 

  • Excellent water-resistance – The main purpose of siding is to keep the outdoor elements from the vulnerable infrastructure of your house, which if damaged, can lead to costly and complicated repairs. Lap siding does an excellent job of repelling exterior moisture by nature of its installation style. The overlapping of the boards wicks water down and away so water leaks are much less common with lap siding. 

 

  • Timeless aesthetic – Lap siding has an aesthetic appeal that lasts as long as its materials. It has been the most popular siding style for a long time, and will be for years to come. And as a classic, lap siding is a good investment for any homeowner because it is not likely to go the way of fleeting trends and in turn diminish home value. Lap siding will always be in fashion. 

 

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983. We are experienced home remodeling contractors, commercial skylight experts & siding contractors. We enjoy working with homeowners & businesses to ensure their vision becomes a reality. Contact us today to get started on your next project!

Benefits of Natural Light

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While artificial lighting certainly has its place in commercial buildings, natural light has been shown to offer a range of benefits to building occupants. Many modern office buildings are designed around natural light for this very reason. For most of us, a majority of the daylight hours are spent in the workplace, so it’s no wonder that the desk by the window becomes the most coveted position in the office. Beyond the superficial benefit of having a nice view, employees who enjoy a good amount of natural light during their day also enjoy improved health, well-being, and productivity – while businesses simultaneously enjoy improved revenues. Read on to learn more about these benefits of natural light. 

Improved health

It is common knowledge that exposure to natural light is essential for good physical health. It is our easiest source of vitamin D, which is important for our bodies’ ability to absorb several key nutrients. Natural light is also pivotal for healthy natural sleeping patterns. Because the white light from the sun is what sets our internal clocks or circadian rhythms, those who get greater exposure to natural light tend to sleep better and longer. This has resonating health benefits as healthy sleep patterns are connected to better health overall. And improved health is an ideal outcome that not only positively impacts employees but their employers too. Something as simple as commercial skylights can potentially cut down on sick days.

Improved well-being

Vitamin D is not just necessary for good physical health, but it also impacts a person’s sense of well-being. Natural light has been shown to combat depression and elevate moods, even help with chronic pain. For employers, having a staff that is in a good mood does a lot of good in the workplace. For example, Pacific Gas & Electric studied the impact of skylights across several Walmarts in the same geographic area. The study reported that the Walmarts that had more natural light from the skylights had 40% higher sales than the Walmarts that only used fluorescent lighting. Employees and customers alike could feel the positive effects of natural light. 

Improved productivity

Employees who enjoy a good amount of natural light during their workday are more productive than those who do not. While improved health and well-being directly impact productivity in decreased sick days and elevated mood, those with natural light in their workplace also say they feel more engaged. This increased level of engagement allows employees to better focus and collaborate, getting more done with more successful outcomes. 

Improved revenues

A more productive workforce certainly has its positive impacts on revenue generation for a business, but there are other ways natural light in the workplace influences the bottom line. For anyone who has worked with home remodeling contractors to install large windows or skylights, it is no surprise that those features help to increase the home’s value. Plenty of natural light is a key selling point. The same is true for commercial buildings. Prospective tenants are more likely to pay more for a space that provides ample natural light. Additionally, building owners who install features that promote natural light experience a reduction in energy costs as building occupants don’t need to rely only on electricity to light the space. 

 

Mares & Dow Construction has been serving the Bay Area since 1983. We are experienced home remodeling contractors, commercial skylight experts & siding contractors. We enjoy working with homeowners & businesses to ensure their vision becomes a reality. Contact us today to get started on your next project!

How Long Do Retaining Walls Last?

retaining wall - Mares Dow

Retaining walls, when properly designed, built from durable materials, and maintained appropriately can last quite a long time. Consider the Great Wall of China or the Hoover Dam – while it may seem a stretch to talk about these artifacts of history in the same breath as your local home remodeling contractors, these structures are fundamentally similar to and the monumental ancestors of your common backyard retaining wall. When it comes to building a lasting structure, there are several elements to factor into your project plan. 

Proper design is key

Retaining walls have seven basic components: The wall itself, drainage stone, filter fabric, batter, weep hole, footing, footing drain. How these components are designed to all work together with the unique conditions of the retaining wall site is a big predictor of how long the retaining wall will last. For example, if the batter of the wall, or the backward lean of the wall toward the earth it is retaining, is not sufficient for the wall height, the structure will not last as long as it could. Eventually, the wall will break down under pressures it wasn’t successfully engineered to withstand. Simple miscalculations in the design can have a far reaching impact, which is something retaining wall contractors can help you to avoid. 

Durable materials make walls last a lifetime

As you can imagine, the material you use to construct your retaining wall has a huge influence on the structure’s longevity. Walls made of timber, for example, will not last as long as walls made of masonry. Timber retaining walls can last up to 40 years if the wood is high quality, while masonry walls if properly designed and installed, can last until someone decides to tear them down. Concrete block or poured concrete retaining walls are particularly long-lasting, as concrete is known for its strength and durability. In the end, it is up to you to decide how permanent you want your retaining wall to be. 

Good maintenance covers the rest of your bases

In themselves, retaining walls are fairly low-maintenance structures but doing what little upkeep is required can ensure the structure lasts. It is important to regularly inspect your wall to make sure groundwater is draining properly from the footing drain, weep holes are unobstructed, and the filter fabric isn’t damaged. Additionally, even the best retaining walls can be compromised by harsh changes in environmental conditions, such as soil erosion or extreme seismic or weather events. In these circumstances, you can work with a professional to identify and repair any damage. 

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!

Is It Time to Replace Your Siding?

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The siding on your house is the key to preserving the integrity of everything behind it. When your siding is compromised, it can lead to damage to the structure of your house and eventually cause multiple problems inside your home. Unsightly siding can also negatively impact the value of your house, undermining even the best work of your home remodeling contractors. But how do you know when you need to replace your siding? Here are four signs it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new. 

 

  1. Pervasive dry rot

Dry rot is caused by fungi that eat away at wood siding, causing it to decay and crumble. You may notice your siding is cracked, brittle, or depositing spore dust. If this sort of damage isn’t already visible to the naked eye, it can be detected by knocking on your wood siding to see if the wood has become soft or spongy compared to undamaged wood. If dry rot is localized, the affected area can be treated before the fungus spreads. However, if the damage can’t be contained in this way, it is time to replace your siding. Non-wood siding materials can help you to avoid this issue in the future. 

 

  1. Cracks, gaps, bulges

Like dry rot, these siding issues are important to take care of before they lead to further damage to your home. Cracks and gaps in siding allow moisture to reach the materials that make up the infrastructure of your home, which can result in costly problems and necessary repairs. If you also notice bulges or warped siding that doesn’t lay flat, this may indicate that the infrastructure has already been damaged. Inside your home, you might even notice mold or mildew, peeling paint, or drafts around wall fixtures. Siding contractors are skilled in identifying and remedying these harder-to-detect issues. 

 

  1. Too high-maintenance

If you find yourself needing to spruce up your siding with a power wash or a fresh coat of paint more often than you’d like, it may be worth looking at more low maintenance and higher quality siding options. Quality siding should last several years without fading or losing its shape, and in general vinyl siding doesn’t require the same upkeep as other siding materials. When the demands of maintaining your siding are more than you want to deal with, consider replacing it with a siding material that is more your speed. 

 

  1. Faded color or just out-of-date

No matter how great the interior of your house looks, if your siding is severely faded and discolored, or it looks like it is from a bygone era, your home value is not what it could be. Today’s siding comes in a range of striking colors and styles that can immediately improve the curb appeal of your house. Additionally, when you take advantage of modern siding options, you benefit from materials that are engineered to last and increase your home’s energy efficiency. 

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!

Should you add a bathroom to your home?

bathroom-remodeling-Mares Dow

There are several reasons homeowners work with home remodeling contractors to add a bathroom to their home. For some, they are anticipating changing household needs like new or growing children or older relatives who are coming to live with them. For others, they are looking to increase their home’s value with a renovation project. Depending on your needs, a bathroom addition may be a great remodeling project for your home as well. 

Bump-Out bathroom to manage family traffic

If your family is growing, you might be experiencing an increasing demand for bathroom time. Adding a half bathroom can help alleviate any bathroom bottlenecks and hopefully lessen any conflict around this shared commodity. You don’t need a lot of space for a half bathroom, so a small bump-out can accommodate a sink, toilet, and shower. Consider locating your bump-out bathroom at the end of a hallway or adjoining a bedroom. Alternatively, some homeowners are able to convert a larger closet if it is conveniently located near existing plumbing. 

Ground floor bathroom for easy accessibility

More and more homeowners are welcoming older relatives to come live with them for extended periods, so the accessibility of their home becomes a consideration. Having the necessary amenities on the ground floor is important, as is constructing those amenities so they can be navigated with walkers or wheelchairs. If this scenario is similar to yours, it is a good idea to add a spacious bathroom that features supportive handrails and a wide doorway with a sliding door. The full bathroom can be added to the guest room or carved out of other spaces like the garage. 

En-suite bathroom in the master bedroom

A master bathroom to accompany the master bedroom is a great project for increasing the value of your home. If you are considering a master bathroom, there are endless design options that can create a truly luxurious space. From spacious bathtubs and glass-enclosed showers to double-sink bathroom vanities and commercial skylights to let the natural light in – you are only limited by the square footage you can spare. Some homeowners choose to construct their en-suite bathroom from the existing space of their bedrooms, while others will build a full addition to accommodate the master bathroom of their dreams. No matter the path you take, this bathroom addition is sure to increase your enjoyment of your home and your home’s value

 

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!

Home Remodel: 5 Reasons to Renovate Your Kitchen

Home remodel - Mares Dow

As you work with your home remodeling contractors on your next project, consider these five reasons to focus your efforts on a modern, on-trend kitchen renovation. 

 

  1. New color trends

For several years the all-white kitchen has been the predominant trend. While this clean and minimalist look may still have some staying power yet, other hues are making an appearance and looking to overtake monochromatic white color schemes. Pastel pink cabinets, for one, are a popular option that offers a beautiful complement to natural materials such as butcher block countertops or granite tiles. On the other end of the color spectrum, moody hues for the kitchen, such as navy or forest green, provide a bold accent to lighter walls and counters and pair beautifully with gold hardware and fixtures.  

 

  1. Cabinets are back

Though the open-shelving trend has an undeniably appealing aesthetic in the glossy pages of magazines or the bright glow of your browser, many homeowners have found them to be impractical in their real-life application. The epitome of unencumbered minimalism, open shelving can, unfortunately, tend to feel more cluttered in practice. As a result, cabinets are making a comeback. With the endless styles of cabinets to choose from, now is a great time to renovate and ditch your open shelving if they aren’t working for you. 

 

  1. Modern room dividers

There are multiple unique ways to designate and partition the kitchen from other household spaces without sacrificing the spacious and connected feeling of an open floor plan. Glass and steel room dividers, for example, can keep the kitchen sounds and smells out of your living room while still letting the spaces visually interact. Like the work of skilled retaining wall contractors, this modern take on partitions can transform how your kitchen and surrounding rooms look and feel. 

 

  1. Exciting texture options

Whether its rough-hewn stone tiles or polished concrete countertops or a live-edge wooden table or island, there are many dynamic textures to explore in your next kitchen renovation. To make a statement with texture, some homeowners are extending their tiled kitchen backsplash all the way up to the ceiling. This bold accent draws the eye and creates a stunning and visually interesting addition to any kitchen. 

 

  1. Enjoy a deep bench

Built-in bench seating for the kitchen table is a popular new renovation for homeowners looking to create a cozy dining nook that invites people to lounge and spend time at the table. Benches also have the benefit of offering additional storage for items like games, place settings, blankets, and any other accessories you may need to settle in for a while and spend time with friends and family. 

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!

 

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.

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.

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