Category Archives: Retaining wall contractors

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.

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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