Tag Archives: Home Remodeling

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!

Waterproofing your Basement – What you Need to Know

Waterproofing your basement is important, not just to protect your belongings but also to maintain the quality of the foundation of your home. In the San Francisco Bay Area’s drier climate where rain comes now and again, a leak could remain unnoticed for a while, and because the soil is dry, when a large rainfall comes, the soil may runoff causing water to interact with the foundation differently over time. As housing prices increase, more homeowners are looking to finish their basement, either for storage or additional living space. Waterproofing is where protecting your investment in your home begins. This is why waterproofing your basement in the San Francisco Bay Area is important.

Check Drainage

There are several strategies for waterproofing your basement and the right solution for you depends on the origin of the water. Water can be entering your basement because of inadequate drainage or due to the water moving through the soil. If your home has poor drainage, the water running off your roof does not move away from your home. In this situation, you can extend downspouts, clean gutters, and increase grading around your house. You can start by checking your gutters and cleaning and repairing any damage you see. Downspouts should be placing water at least four feet away from your home for adequate damage. Lastly, look at the soil around your home to ensure it is sloping away from your home.

Employ Sealants

These drainage steps can help move water away from your home but may not solve your current or future water issues. Due to the intermittent rain in the Bay Area, it is possible that water will continue to change its flow year over year. To address these issues, you will need interior sealant, exterior sealants, or other exterior drainage methods. To stop water from damaging your basement, you can use interior wall and floor sealers. This is a category of sealants that prevent water from entering your basement by creating a waterproof interior. These are usually silicate-based, acrylic waterproof paint, or concrete waterproof coatings.

French Drains

Keeping water from coming in contact with your basement foundation is often a preferred waterproofing strategy, yet requires different methods. To keep water that moves through the soil from backing up against your foundation, exterior drainage such as a French drain can keep water away from your home. A French drain is a subsurface drain that directs water safely away from your home. Exterior sealants are effective to keep water from entering your basement walls. This requires removing the soil around your home and placing a sealant around the foundation to keep water out.

Often a combination of drainage improvements and sealants is the best choice for homes. This depends on the land around your home and your foundation. Contact the general contractors at Mares & Dow Construction today to learn more about waterproofing your basement.

Creating a Schedule for your Next Home Remodel

Home Remodeling Contractors in San Francisco CA

Home remodel projects, whether you are adding another level to your home or simply adding a small bump-out, can alter your typical routine and disrupt the normal order of your home until they are finally wrapped up. The end result is always worth it, but it can be a relief when you get your newly remodeled home to yourself again. But how long before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor? Putting together a schedule for your next project can help you get an idea of what to expect and is an essential tool for evaluating if the remodel is on time and on budget.

Plan it out

The first step in your home remodel should be a thorough and well-researched planning process, which you can anticipate taking around one month. This portion of your project includes articulating your vision, budgeting, and yes, creating a timeline. At this point, it is also a good idea to acquire any permits or wiring or plumbing schematics you may need to begin your remodel.

This phase of your project can also be helped along with the expertise of a home remodeling contractor or general contractor in your area – don’t hesitate to use them as a resource. At Mares & Dow, we are happy to walk through the project with you, discuss the experience we have with the type of remodel you are doing, and share our insights in the planning process.

The next several steps of your remodel will vary depending on the size and complexity of what you are doing with your home, but generally speaking, most projects take between three and eight months to complete. When constructing your home remodel timeline, be sure to give yourself a little wiggle room. No matter how well prepared you and your team are for your project, it is very normal for there to be timing hiccups. Giving yourself a little padding in your schedule acknowledges Murphy’s Law while reducing your stress levels.

Schedule the project parts

For the bulk of your home remodel, there is usually an order of operations that is standard and ensures your project will go smoothly. For example, it makes sense to plan to do electrical and plumbing work after demolition and before framing and drywall. Once you know in what order to tackle the different parts of your project, you can start to build your timeline. As an example of a generic home remodel timeline, you can estimate two weeks for demolition; five days for electrical and plumbing; ten days for framing and drywall; one week for painting; ten days for installing fixtures and cabinets; five days for doors and windows; one day for cleaning up the project area and cleaning your air vents; one week for flooring; and one week for trim and finishing work. Lastly, be sure to keep in mind that some of these components of a home remodel may be able to overlap, while others will require the completion of the previous step before the next can begin.

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 Remodeling Trends

Trends in Home Remodeling

Every year there is a new wave of remodeling and design trends that seek to capture home owners’ attention. This year, many of the trends are driven by a homeowner population that is staying longer in their homes and are seeking to revitalize their space and utilize more of it in efficient ways to fit their changing needs, all without breaking the budget. These remodeling goals can also be summarized by a trending design concept: lagom, which is a Swedish word meaning, “just the right amount,” and is meant to evoke designs that are understated and balanced. When you start working with your home remodeling contractor to put together your next project, consider these simple yet impactful ideas.

Large, open spaces

Many homeowners are embracing large, open spaces in their kitchens and living room, methodically removing walls and counters that break up the rooms. These spaces are also being remodeled to be diffused with natural light by adding large, energy efficient windows and skylights. For an even more minimalist design effect, kitchens are also being outfitted with open shelves instead of cabinets. An open kitchen or living room allows for more friends and family to gather, sharing the space for a dinner party or game night with ease.

Finished basements and attics

Why undertake an involved home addition when there is perfectly good space already available? Often underutilized, basements and attic designs are now the subject of many homeowners’ remodeling projects. Basements are transformed into offices and craft rooms or a place to lounge in solitude. Attics are reimagined as reading nooks and playrooms. Instead of using them as just another storage space, finishing one of these previously forgotten rooms can feel like your home just gained a significant amount of desirable square footage.

Remodeling for accessibility

A more functional but no less popular remodeling trend is to adapt homes for their multi-generational residents with greater accessibility needs. Many families now require houses that not only accommodate the new arrivals of children, but also parents and grandparents. For some homes, this means widening doorways and hallways and renovating bathrooms so they are wheelchair accessible or introducing ramps at entrances. In other situations, it may mean constructing a new room on the ground floor for easy, stair-free access. As more and more families welcome more generations into their homes, they are turning to creative remodeling solutions to reimagine their space in a way that can comfortably accommodate their changing needs.

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!

Properly Constructing a Retaining Wall

Retaining Wall Construction

Retaining walls can open up landscaping options for your property, add beautiful design elements, and safely contain gradings throughout a property. They are also a summer project that can be fun for many homeowners. Properly constructing a retaining wall is important for your home’s long term value as well as the safety of every backyard barbecue next to a retaining wall. Constructing a retaining wall can be a do-it-yourself project, and here is a brief overview of how to properly construct one. This overview can help you better understand whether you are ready for a DIY project or if your project may require the help of a general contractor for retaining wall installation. If your wall is above four feet tall, you should consult an engineer, and you may need to submit building permits.

Creating a solid base for your retaining wall

Retaining walls function to provide the force to push back against the weight of the solid earth behind it. Soil can weigh up to one and a half tons per cubic yard, and much more when wet. This means that retaining walls must be strong. This starts with the base of your retaining wall, which must be level and secure. First, you will need to dig out the area where your retaining wall will be to a depth that can fit the first course of bricks as well as base material. Base material, usually crushed stone or gravel, allows for drainage and provides a compacted base to keep your retaining wall from settling. Once the base material is compacted, begin to place the first course to create the shape of the retaining wall. It is important that the first course is level, as any misalignment will become exaggerated in the upper courses, so take your time and ensure that the bricks are placed well.

Building up your retaining wall

Keep in mind that your retaining wall needs to be able to push back against the soil it is containing. There are a few simple design elements, drainage and sloping, that will help make your retaining wall more secure. Keeping water from accumulating behind your retaining wall helps prevent overloading your wall with the increased weight of wet soil. Integrating drainage is done by backfilling the area behind your retaining wall with coarse rock instead of topsoil. This will allow water to pass behind your wall. It is also helpful to include drainage pipes at the base of your wall to carry water away from the wall. This can be done by first placing a drainage pipe behind the first above-ground course. Then, you cut a brick in half in that course and place a drainage gate along the drainage pipe. You can rent a saw specifically designed to cut bricks at your local hardware store or contact your local general contractor for advice.

You will then continue to place each course on top of the other. When placing each course, make sure it is level and fits together with the course below as designed, and continue to the next course. Most block systems for retaining wall are designed to incorporate a slope and easily fit together with a lip on each course. This places each course slightly offset behind the course below, sloping the wall. Sloping the wall reduces the load on the higher courses of the wall, improving its stability.  When you are about a foot from the top of your wall, start placing topsoil instead of rocks behind the course and make sure the final level of the topsoil is even with the retaining wall to maximize water runoff.

If you need help with your retaining wall or would like to hand the project off to an en experienced and knowledgeable general contractor, contact us today!

Considering a Home Remodel? 5 Questions to Ask a Contractor

General Contractors for Home Remodeling

Home remodeling can be an exciting but an overwhelming undertaking on your own. While you may know what you want out of a remodel, it is difficult and complex to turn your dreams into reality. General contractors have the expertise you need to create a beautiful, long lasting remodel. Here are 5 questions to ask a contractor to get started on your home remodeling.

5 Questions to Ask a Contractor

Are my timeline and budget reasonable?

The first components of your remodel that you need your contractor to understand are your timeline and budget. Be realistic and upfront with your contractor. This will allow the contractor to provide you with accurate advice and estimations of what is possible for your home remodel.

What remodeling options are available for my home’s structure?

Let your contractor know what you need out of a remodel. Prepare by creating a list of your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” For example, must-haves might be the new bedroom you need because a family member is moving in or an additional dining space to accommodate a growing family. Nice-to-haves could be additional windows or appliances that you have been considering, but could be cut from the project if needed to fit your time and budget.  Your contractor will survey your home to determine what options are available to you based on your home’s structure, timeframe, and budget.

What are the current design trends for my type of home remodeling?

A contractor will be up-to-date on current home remodeling design trends in your area. They can provide you with ideas from recent remodels as well as samples from magazines or design companies. Take your time considering what final look you want for your newly remodeled home. It is helpful to cut out magazine photos and place them in the area of your home that you will remodel, so you can envision what the space can look like in different styles.

What are the best materials?

Your contractor will also have the experience to source high-quality materials and local sub-contractors that will be able to give you a long-lasting installation. Ask your contractor about what materials they recommend for the remodel and the designs you choose. With a quality local home remodeling contractor, you will be able to rest easy that the materials you use in your remodel will last for years to come.

What are the long-term impacts of my remodel?

While many people undertake a remodel to fulfill evolving home needs, there are secondary considerations that your contractor can speak to.  For example, you will want to understand how your remodel will impact your homes’ long-term value and maintenance costs. Ask your contractor if they are aware of options for your remodel that can increase the value of your home or reduce maintenance.

We hope you found 5 Questions to Ask a Contractor to be useful.

At Mares & Dow Construction, we are experts at home remodeling and general contracting.  We have been serving the Bay Area since 1983.  Before you get started on your next home remodel, call us to discuss your plans and ensure you choose a general contractor that meets the needs of your project.

FOUNDATION REPAIR PRODUCTS & METHODS

Grip Tite - Certified Repair Specialist

Copyright © 2018 Mares & Dow Construction
Customer rating: 4.5 / 5 based on 57 reviews