Category Archives: Retaining wall contractors

3 Important Signs You Need to Fix Your Retaining Wall

3-Important-Signs You Need to Fix Your Retaining Wall retaining wall contractor Mares Dow

Retaining walls create an impressive addition to your curb appeal, as well as offering practical landscaping improvements. When you work with experienced retaining wall contractors, your wall should last for many years to come. Yet, while it’s easy to make the decision to hire the best retaining wall contractors for a new build, what happens if you inherit a wall that wasn’t built to such standards?

In that case, your retaining wall contractors may help you to repair or replace your wall as needed if it’s showing these three important signs.

1. Large Wall Slippage

Safety always comes first, so the most important thing to check is if a large section of your wall is experiencing slippage, toppling, or overturning. Think of this type of damage in terms of percent of the wall affected, rather than in total square feet. If your wall is experiencing flaws in a large area you could be at risk for a wall collapse and should immediately call retaining wall contractors to come and evaluate the damage. 

Fortunately, this large-scale damage is not common and rarely part of normal wear and tear. Once the safety of your home or business has been established, you can look at managing simpler repairs to get your wall back to looking and functioning like new.

2. Water Leaks

Properly installed retaining walls should have drainage. The exact amount and placement of this drainage will depend on your location, but if you see water trickling down at random spots — you probably need to fix things. If poor drainage systems are left unrepaired, you may end up with bowing, cracking, and crumbling walls.

3. Disconnected Bricks

Another sign that you should fix things now is if the bricks in your retaining wall start separating, or falling out of the wall. A quality wall will be designed to stay in place, but sometimes the foundation is not packed tightly enough or the bricks or bench components aren’t sealed correctly. Shaking earth from large scale construction or even small earthquakes may also cause wall damage. Fix this damage as soon as possible to save money and preserve the life of your retaining wall. 

Whether looking for a brick wall, lumber-based build, or even concrete — Mares & Dow Construction & Skylight has extensive experience as retaining wall contractors in the Bay Area. Contact us to learn more.

Which Types of Retaining Wall Do You Need?

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Retaining walls can be incredibly convenient in increasing your home’s usable land and might be a necessity for houses on dangerous hills. Weather and erosion can result in a precarious situation for home foundations.

If you are thinking of building a retaining home on your property, the options can be overwhelming. Here are some of the most common types of retaining walls that retaining wall contractors install in homes.

Anchored Retaining Wall

If you have a limited amount of space but still need a retaining wall, then the anchored wall is the best option. This type is known for being relatively thin and can be built taller. It works well for loose soil and rocks.

“Anchors” made of cables or strips are driven into the ground behind the wall and secure Anchored retaining walls. Even though the wall is thin and tall, the anchors support the wall by being driven into the ground mechanically.

Sheet Piling Retaining Wall

If you need a temporary wall for construction, the sheet piling wall is usually the best bet. Sheet Piling Retaining walls are constructed by driving different sections of the pre-constructed wall into the ground and connecting them to form a wall. The sections can be driven in at different depths to create stability. Construction of these walls is quicker than others.

These are some of the least stable walls because they can not withstand a large amount of pressure. These also don’t work in dense, thick soil. Also, it can be challenging to match the wall to a preferred shape, because the preconstructed sections determine the walls’ shape and height.

Cantilevered Retaining Wall

The most common type of retaining wall is the Cantilever. This wall is heavily reinforced with metal bars running through thick concrete to form the wall and is built in an “L” shape so that the soil keeps the wall standing. This wall is one of the sturdiest options for substantial amounts of soil.

The wall can be pre-constructed off-site or constructed onsite. Cantilevered retaining walls have a stem and base shape for stability. However, it’s essential to account for site-specific concerns for sliding and overturning due to pressure.

Gravity Retaining Wall

The Gravity Retaining wall is known for strength, which it depends on to stand and hold soil. This wall is one of the most flexible options when it comes to building material. However, because of its weight, the wall usually must be massive.

Retaining wall contractors can create a type of Gravity Retaining wall using heavy boxes to create a draining system in which they fill holes with rocks or coarse soil. These are called Crib Retaining walls, and they are an excellent option to reduce the water build-up. Regular Gravity Retaining walls might require a trench and room for extra reinforcement.

There is a retaining wall for any situation that your property comes across, whether you need a drive, more landscaping space, or need to protect your home from dangerous erosion. It’s always a good idea to discuss options with contractors and decide which type of retaining wall is best for you.

Mares & Dow Construction & Skylights has been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  We are retaining wall experts.  Contact us today to get started on your retaining wall project!

3 Things You Need to Know to Make Your Retaining Wall Stronger

3 Things You Need to Know to Make Your Retaining Wall Stronger

When building a retaining wall, it is essential to understand the relationship between the wall, the soil, and the water. A retaining wall contractor must account for all three elements, which are in constant contact throughout the life of the wall. When built correctly with water and soil, a retaining wall can last between 50 and 100 years.

In general, a quality retaining wall requires three elements:

  • A solid base
  • Compacted soil/base material
  • Proper drainage

Below, we take a closer look at each of these elements and how they contribute to your retaining wall. If you have any further questions or need to consult a retaining wall contractor in San Francisco, feel free to contact Mares & Dow Construction & Skylights.

Build a Solid Retaining Wall Base

When designing and planning your retaining wall, you may think about how it looks on the front or at the top. However, it’s what goes on at the base of the wall or behind the wall that matters. A poor design at the base can cause the entire wall to crumble, turning it into a high-risk safety hazard. So, it’s at the base that you need to give the most consideration and attention to detail.

Keep in mind that a retaining wall isn’t supporting all of the ground behind it. Instead, it is only supporting the wedge soil, which is the soil that you fill in between the wall and the undisturbed natural soil. This soil tends to slide down the side of the wall or put pressure on the wall. To keep the wall performing well over a long period, consider the following:

  • Use heavier material (large blocks, boulders, poured concrete, or thick timbers).
  • Bury the bottom of the wall slightly into the ground to keep it from being pushed out.
  • Step out the blocks at the end to allow the wall to push into the filler soil.
  • Make sure your base is compact and keep the wall level.

Control the Flow of Water

One of the reasons why a retaining wall is necessary is soil erosion. The culprit is thousands of years of running water that eventually weakens the soil. That same running water can also weaken your retaining wall. Therefore, you must control the flow of water when it rains.

The goal is to either prevent water from trickling behind the wall or control its flow. You can start by ensuring that the topsoil and sod are even with the top blocks. This allows most of the water to flow over the top of the wall. Here are some other tips for controlling the flow of water:

  • Make sure that the fill soil is impervious to block significant amounts of water.
  • Use landscape fabric to prevent the soil from entering the gravel.
  • Use gravel behind the wall to allow for quick water flow.
  • Add a drain tile to allow the water to quickly flow away from the wall.

All of these techniques prevent water from building up behind the wall and adding intense pressure.

Provide Proper Compaction to Relieve the Wall of Pressure

When you think of compaction, you envision a retaining wall contractor filling up a hole and using their boot to pack the fill soil. However, this method only puts more pressure on the wall and may not adequately limit water flow. A better option is to add three to four inches of soil and pack it professionally using a tamper.

A contractor repeats this method until the soil is level with the top of the wall. They also use sandy or gravelly materials, which hold their compaction much better than standard topsoil. With proper compaction and the right soil, you can limit how much water gets behind the wall.

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

5 Ways to Redo Your Bedroom and Increase Your Home’s Value

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Of all the home remodeling projects you can do to increase your home value – whether it’s working with siding contractors to update your home’s exterior or hiring retaining wall contractors to make the most of your landscape and boost curb appeal – redoing your bedroom should have a second and equally important motivation. As you consider your bedroom remodel, its important to not only think of your home’s value but also your comfort. After all, most people spend a good deal of time in their bedroom and creating a space that is warm, inviting, and relaxing should be a key objective. 

When it comes to undertaking a bedroom remodel that prioritizes both increasing your home’s value and maximizing your comfort, there are many options. Here are some ideas for projects that can transform your space while also being a good investment. 

1. Renovating the master bathroom 

A spacious master bathroom with luxe and modern features is both an indulgence and a very practical renovation project. Depending on your home’s layout, you can increase your master bathroom’s square footage by building into an adjoining room or buy constructing a bump-out off the side of your house. After you’ve created more space, you can turn your attention to the fixtures: frameless glass shower enclosures, venting skylights, expansive sink tops, clever and stylish storage. It’s hard to go wrong with a well-appointed master bathroom. 

2. Expanding closet space

Adding a closet or expanding existing closet space is a very popular bedroom remodel project and one that any homeowner can benefit from. An additional closet can help reduce clutter and open up your room, offering you the peace of mind of a clean, organized space. If you are interested in turning your current closet into a walk-in, there are many smart, space-saving shelving configurations to choose from and additional perks you can include like a storage bench or vanity. On top of that, ample closet space is a great selling point with homebuyers. 

3. Updating windows

If your bedroom is burdened with old windows, you are doing a disservice to your experience of the space and negatively impacting your home’s value. Old windows tend to be leaky and can become filmy and let less natural light into your bedroom. Replace single-pane windows with double or triple-pane options to better regulate the temperature in the room and save on utility costs. Or you can trade out old window frames for casement or picture window styles. With new windows, you won’t have to worry about winter drafts or miss out on cool summer breezes anymore. 

4. Refreshing the paint

A professional paint job can go along way in giving a room a new look. For the bedroom, consider warm and soothing colors that make the most of the natural light in the room and help you to feel relaxed. You can also add crown molding as an elegant detail that instantly elevates the aesthetic of your bedroom. And if you are painting before you sell your home, it’s a good idea to stick to a neutral color palette that allows potential buyers to see the room as a canvas for their dream bedroom. 

5. Refinishing the floors

With all the stylish flooring options available, you won’t have a hard time finding something that suits you and your bedroom. You can trade-in your old carpet for a new, plush carpet in a vibrant color or opt for hardwood, bamboo, ceramic, or stone. Whatever you choose, you can trust that quality flooring does a lot to enhance the look and feel of a bedroom.   

Mares & Dow Construction & Skylights 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 & Skylights 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

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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 & Skylights 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.

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.

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