Seasonal Tips for Your Home

With all this rain we thought this tip from our Production Team might be of help. Rain, and what it can tell you about your home’s performance.

The California rainy season creates an opportunity for you to see how your home performs in rainy conditions. Take advantage of this very telling opportunity, the heavier the rain the better! Put on a raincoat, grab an umbrella and walk around the outside of the house. No ladders required!

Stand at the sidewalk, looking toward your home. Start by looking at the top of the roof and work your way around and down as you walk closer.

  • What you do want to see:
  • Clear view of roof surface. (for a flat roof, this won’t be possible, but still take a look from the street)
  • Water running freely down the roof slope and into the gutters.
  • Water flowing out from the downspout/rain-chain and away from the foundation.

What you don’t want to see:

  • Tree branches touching or resting against the roof.
  • Debris on the roof, slowing the flow of water to the gutters.
  • Dripping water from the corners or underside of the gutters.
  • Rusty gutters or open seams.
  • Very slow or no water flow from your downspouts.
  • Rusty downspouts or open seams.
  • Water flowing out from the downspouts and back toward the foundation.
  • Water from the dripping gutters or downspouts splashing up onto the sides of the house.

If you find that the rain water is flowing off your roof, down your downspouts and away from your home, that’s great news.

If you don’t see this, then it’s time to call for an inspection of your roof and roof drainage system. Having a roof in working order should be at the top of every homeowners maintenance list.

Second, would be exterior paint, but let’s leave that for another day.

Rediscover Your Back Yard with Hardscape Features

Are you ready to spend more time outdoors without leaving the sanctuary of your home? Do you want to fall in love with your back yard again and add to your home’s useable footprint while enjoying the Bay Area’s world-renowned micro climates? There are many different hardscape features and ideas that will enhance the outdoor living experience in your home. Hardscapes are typically defined as the fixed objects in landscaping, such as brick and tile patios and pathways, pergolas, stone walls, wood decks and other similar structures.

Gazebos and Pergolas

Create a shaded seating area with a solid-roof gazebo. Furnish it with a small table and chairs, a swing or built-in benches. Pergolas provide filtered shade without blocking your view of the sky. Choose materials like cedar, steel, vinyl or aluminum to coordinate with other outdoor-living components in your yard.

Decks and Patios

Rediscover the outdoors with the installation of a deck or patio with wood planks, pavers, concrete, natural stone or brick. Add outdoor furniture, a hot tub, fire pit or a kitchen to create a space for relaxing with family, and entertaining guests.

Swimming Pools

Add some refreshing splash to your back yard. Instead of your typical pool of the blue-and-white rectangular variety, use instead, natural stone basins and borders. Add waterfalls, unusual shapes and graduated levels to your custom pool. Surround it with a brick patio or a multi-level deck with seating.

Stones and Boulders

Large stone sculptures or a thoughtfully-placed stone fountain can be a beautiful focal point for your back-yard. Large rocks built into a low wall along a pathway or perimeter, convey a touch of rustic elegance and can create a terrace effect. Consider granite, limestone or slate for a beautiful yet natural look.

If you’d like to create something extraordinary with the outdoor living spaces in your Bay Area home, the design-build professionals at Harrell Remodeling can help. Contact us for details.

Three Style and Design Trends

Three trends, styles and designs that are on the forefront of our designing minds these days…

1. Designed for Aging

Many Designers are becoming certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS), in response to the growing need to identify ways to help aging baby boomers “age gracefully” in their homes, for as long as possible. Universal design is one such trend that is coming to the forefront of main stream design for homes.  Look for easy kitchen and bath upgrades to enhance functionality, comfort and safety. Features such as wide hallways, enlarged and zero-step walk-in showers, wall hung vanities and lowered countertops blend seamlessly into the design so that the home does not have a clinical or institutional appearance.  (zero-step shower and wall hung vanity are shown to the left)

2. California is All About Outdoor Living

Outdoor living is here to stay. The yard and garden become a part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors or retractable glass walls such as nana-walls™, open up the home and lead to patios and decks, either covered or open to allow for natural light. Outdoor rooms may even include kitchens with sophisticated sinks and grills, including features such as built-in fireplaces, eco-friendly fire pits that burn clean fuel (ethanol) , LED lighting in a variety of colors including water-proof rope lighting discreetly hidden along fences, pathways or decking.

3. Glass Backsplashes

Be on the lookout for back-painted, solid glass panel backsplashes in contemporary settings, which provide a colorful yet ultra-clean, sleek alternative to the more traditional tile backsplash.  This sleek look can also compliment a kitchen or bathroom that has busy patterns in the cabinets, flooring or countertops.  Glass will provide a simple backsplash will not compete with the surrounding textures, and add either a pop of color or neutrality to your space.  (mustard glass backsplash in the photo to the left)

Article Credits: Ciro Giammona – President and General Contractor

You will be floored with all the choices!

Outdoor kitchens are known to be a beautiful extension of your home that can be used to relax or enjoy your time with family and friends. Transform your existing patio into an outdoor kitchen or create a new outside addition in a space that isn’t currently being used for anything else. Aside from size and location, one of the key and first areas to consider when you’re thinking about outdoor kitchen remodeling is your outdoor flooring.

Flooring
Outdoor kitchen floors should be a flat surface where you can comfortably walk and stand. Choose a material that is durable when exposed to the elements and materials that meet the safety criteria include concrete, brick, engineered stone and natural stone. After safety, consider your design needs and budget. Because of its affordability and durability, concrete is still one of the most popular outdoor flooring options – there is stamped, colored or a rock-salt finish.

Surfaces that work well for outdoor living space remodels include:

  • Flagstone is a durable option as these stones aren’t easily damaged when exposed to the harmful elements. Flagstone does not crack easily and it is not destroyed by termites or other such insects as compared to wood patios which can have both of those problems.
  • Slate is available in a variety of colors and textures as these are made up of a fine type of rock that retains its natural appearance and is smooth and flat.
  • Ceramic tile is a popular choice that offers a variety of colors and finishes to choose from and, in most cases, is adequate in terms of slip resistance.
  • The old standby is brick and is a traditional favorite for a reason – it’s attractive, water and heat resistant, easy to clean and blends in well with all types of furnishings.
  • Porcelain tile – this durable, low maintenance material is making a grand re-entrance with texture, color, the ability to mimic most stones and even wood surfaces, and is a great choice for those who are budget minded, Steer clear of surfaces that are easy to crack or are slippery when wet, like glazed ceramics, porous surfaces, polished stones and glass. Crush-and-run stones are uneven and impractical for a kitchen floor.
  • Field stone / Blue stone – a natural and rustic touch is created when Fieldstone is used in an outdoor living space, especially if the natural stone hasn’t been cut. For a more formal and elegant look, you can use Field stone that is shaped into rectangles and squares.

If you’re not sure what you need or want, talk things over with our Harrell Remodeling design + build team, we’ll walk you through the options and the process so you can have an outdoor kitchen that you’ll truly love.

Spruce Up Your Deck For Spring

Spring is right around the corner. This is a good time to take an inventory of your deck. Look at the structure and decide whether you need any outdoor remodeling or repairs to make it safe and attractive for the upcoming season. Go beyond a simple cleaning. If your wood looks drab or splintered, your deck may need a facelift.

Function
If your deck isn’t a place you like to spend time, think about why it’s not. Is it the weather, or is it that you don’t feel comfortable using it? This is also a good time to think about what elements you can add to make it more inviting. From outdoor furniture to shade to music and lighting, the possibilities are endless. Whether you want to enjoy the sunshine or curl up in a shady corner with your laptop or a good book, add in some more function to make it a haven.

Structure
Any warped flooring or supporting structures should be replaced. Make sure that there is just enough space in between your wood slats to allow air to circulate. This will minimize problems with mold or moisture. Check the framing and make sure that it is safely and sturdily attached to the home’s structure.

Materials
Treated wood and natural stone materials are sturdy and attractive materials that can change the look of your deck. Be sure that flooring is intact and not slippery. If it is an uneven surface, decide whether that might create difficulties in balance or mobility.

Stain Versus Paint
If you have a wood surface, you may wonder whether you should paint or stain. Surfaces that have already been stained but look drab can be re-stained and sealed. As a general rule of thumb, stain handles foot traffic and weathering better than paint. Paint tends to chip, crack and peel.

Once you have decided the type of work your deck needs, determine whether it’s something you that requires help from a professional. At Harrell Remodeling, we not only do design and build remodeling projects for decks, we also offer handyman services for Bay area homes. Contact our office today at 650-230-2900 to discuss your needs with our staff.

Spring Clean Up For Your Deck

With skies clearing, temperatures warming and flower buds forming, it won’t be long before you find yourself yearning to spend more time outdoors.  What better place to enjoy summer than out on your deck, unless of course, it looks weathered, worn and unsightly.  Doing a deck tune-up, while not effortless, can be a very rewarding experience because the improvement in appearance can be quite dramatic.

First off, it’s best to make sure the deck is sound, as it doesn’t make much sense to improve the appearance, if repair work is required.  Obviously if the deck or railings feel unstable in any way, you may want to get a professional opinion or structural assessment about what can be done to improve that.  But if it feels sturdy and the framing is accessible, inspect it to make sure that the connections are tight and that there are no obvious signs of rot, insects or other damage.  Older decks in our neck of the woods are sometimes constructed in part or even completely of untreated Douglas Fir, a strong wood when protected from the elements, but highly susceptible to rot and insects when exposed to weather because it lacks the natural protections found in Redwood or Cedar.

Clean loose debris from between the deck boards with a putty knife and leaf blower.  If the deck boards are too tight (less that 1/8” apart), you may want to make adjustments because the boards need air to circulate around them to avoid rot.  Next check the nails, screws or clips that attach the deck boards to the frame.  If they are loose or not flush, reset them to tighten them up.

If the boards are extremely weathered or splintering, sanding the deck will be the only way to smooth them out, but you may want to consider getting professional assistance if this level of repair is required.  Next it is important to have a few days of clear, dry weather before and after cleaning and finishing to make sure the finish material makes a good bond with the deck.

As a rule, decks should be stained/sealed rather than painted because stain penetrates the wood and erodes slowly over time, but paint is a relatively thick surface coating that with traffic and exposure can lose its bond and chip off.  Once painted, it is very difficult to remove the paint and go back to stain, so if it is painted, the surfaces will need to be well prepped and cleaned prior to applying new primer and paint.

If re-staining, a good, clean, and dry surface is important.  Commercial cleaners are available and typically their active ingredient is oxalic acid.  Pre-rinsing the deck will loosen the largest particles and help the deck accept the cleaner.  The cleaner can be applied with a broom or brush then allowed to sit for several minutes to remove stains and ground-in dirt.  Persistent stains can be given a second cleaning, but be sure to “feather in” to avoid a spot-cleaned appearance.  Then a good rinsing is in order with a strong spray (not stream) of water.  Avoid pressure washing unless you have had a lot of practice as it is easy to scar and even shred the wood surfaces with the high-pressure spray.

Once the deck has dried out for a couple of days (and there are a couple of dry days in the forecast ahead), a new stain/sealer can be applied.  The other extreme of direct sun should also be avoided.  Finishing the deck early in the day will give the stain/sealer a chance to penetrate deeper into the wood before the heat begins to dry it out.  To avoid variations in the finish, it is important to keep a “wet edge”, and doing a section at a time with a clean break such as at a deck board or other termination point will yield consistent results.

Of course, if this all sounds like too much work to you, don’t let that stop you.  Harrell Remodeling would be happy to lend a hand because we know that properly maintaining a deck will add many years to its life, saving a lot of money in the long run, as well as providing a pleasurable place for you to enjoy those lovely days of summer and warm nights ahead!