Enjoy the Beautiful Bay Area Weather in Your Own Custom Outdoor Living Area

What better way to enjoy this beautiful Bay Area weather than in your own custom designed outdoor living area.

From all of us here at Harrell Remodeling, enjoy your weekend!

Wireless Lighting Controls and Home Automation

Wireless controls for lighting and home automation are gaining popularity in home remodeling features. Once you’ve used a remote to turn down the lights or turn up the volume on your sound system, you’ll probably be hooked. Wireless functions go far beyond the convenience of making adjustments without getting up out of your chair, however.

Consider the different lighting and electrically powered items you use each day. Most of them can probably be added to an automated system to reduce inconvenience and the repetition of turning them on and off. Some of these features can be incorporated into a home security system, while others are operated by separate controls. The number of wireless automated devices available on the market is constantly evolving. Your system can be set up to accommodate newer products and models as they become available.

Activity Choices
When choosing which items you want to have control with a wireless timer, think in terms of indoor and outdoor lighting, thermostats, pools, hot tubs, warm floors, security cameras and home surveillance. Use remote control devices from inside or outside the house to turn on specific lights and small appliances. You can also add motion detector alarms to items like cabinets with cleaning supplies or medicine cabinets to help keep kids and toddlers safe. Room-to-room intercom systems are another convenience feature that adds peace of mind for parents or convenience for those with spacious homes. Trigger automation is another option; turn on certain lights when the garage door activates or turn on the deck lights when the sliding door opens.

Types
Wireless devices typically work on a radio frequency (RF). There are three main types of wireless control, Z-Wave, Insteon and X-10. They can be combined with wired automation or stand alone with wireless capabilities, depending on which system you choose to use. Controllers for automated systems come in the form of remote controls, wall switches and tabletop panels. Some wireless speakers and home entertainment systems require hard wiring to create a signal that can be used by wireless remote control devices.

Remotes for Convenience
Dimmer switches powered by remote can raise and lower lighting and sound for everything from kitchen lights to home entertainment. When planning your home remodeling project, do a room-by-room survey with your design-build contractor to cover all of your potential needs.

Energy Conservation
If you’re aiming for greener energy usage, use automatic timers for scheduling the thermostat, towel and floor warmers, and outdoor lighting. Motion sensors can also trigger lights and fans to turn on and off when someone enters or exits the room.

The choices in home automation and wireless controls are practically endless. If you’re not sure which systems you want to control or what the most effective RF or wired signals are for your lifestyle, discuss it with a Bay Area design-build contractor.

A Closer Look at Stone Surface Countertops

Natural stone surfaces have grown in popularity throughout the home. Choosing sturdy and sophisticated surfaces for your countertops and backsplashes adds an unmatched level of beauty to any kitchen.

Granite
Made from natural igneous rock, granite is a durable and distinctive countertop surface for kitchen remodeling projects in the Bay Area. It has a different look when polished, adding a look of elegance to kitchens and baths. Variegated, or veined, granite has deep contrasting colors. Consistent, or speckled, granite offers depth and texture.

Marble
Some people simply can’t resist the appeal of marble. A softer surface, it is equally beautiful but not as durable as other kitchen countertop surfaces. It will pick up stains and nicks, so if you plan to do much meal preparation, other surfaces are probably better suited. Marble should be sealed at least once a year to help it wear better.

Quartz
Quartz is a natural crystallized mineral surface that is a popular countertop option in kitchens and baths for Bay Area remodeling projects. It is an alternative to natural stone that that offers a different look and sophistication. Quartz is a naturally occurring mineral in crystalline form. It can be cut in slabs from the quarry, but it more commonly appears as engineered quartz ordered through a manufacturer or distributor to create a beautiful and sturdy countertop surface.

Silestone®
As the largest producer of quartz surfaces, Silestone® offers a diverse range of more than 60 colors and patterned countertop finishes. It is available in single-dimensional, three-dimensional and five-dimensional color processing for added depth.

Microban®
Microban® is an anti-microbial technology built into kitchen countertops. You’ll find it in Silestone quartz countertops and in other products. It minimizes the presence of bacteria, fungi and mold, which is always good for kitchen and bath surfaces. When a quartz countertop is treated with the protective Microban technology, it’s permanent. It doesn’t wipe off or wash away.

Zodiaq®
Zodiaq® quartz surfaces are made by DuPont™. This scratch-resistant and heat-resistant engineered quartz crystal surface is rich in depth. It, too, is available in a wide array of colors and textures. Zodiaq®
is well-known for its brilliant colors.

Natural stone countertops can be coordinated with other surfaces in the home during your design and build remodeling project. It’s also a fashionable choice for flooring, walls, tabletops, vanities and backsplashes. Despite the material’s popularity, it is rare to find two stone surfaces in different Bay Area homes that ever look alike.

Choosing Windows and Exterior Doors for Your Home Remodel

You may be asking yourself, “How do I make a decision regarding which windows and doors would be suitable for my remodel or new home? When I look at all the possibilities out there I get overwhelmed.”

We understand the stress related to the thousands of decisions a homeowner faces when it comes to undertaking a remodel. With such a permanent and lasting decision like windows and doors, your first intuition should be to trust a professional. It is important to know what you are hoping to accomplish with the purchase of windows and doors so they can best direct you to the appropriate brand and style.

Here are some things to consider:

Windows: How do you want them to operate? Will they slide or swing open? Let’s start with sliding windows. You will need to decide if they are to slide horizontally or vertically. Once that decision is made a great number of questions will be asked to point you in the right direction. What if they are to swing open? Do you want them to roll open, push open, or pull open? Are there any walkways, shrubbery, or furniture to consider that may affect your decision?

Doors: Will they slide or swing? If sliding, do you want them to be French (wide stiles and rails) or Patio (narrow stiles and rails) style frames? If swinging, do you want Inswing or Outswing? Also, think about the obstructions as you would with windows and if they swing out, how will you keep the doors open if a wind kicks up or if there are lighting sconces on the wall?

If you don’t mind painting or staining on a regular basis there are windows and doors made completely of wood. However, there are low-maintenance wood windows and doors with exterior frames clad in aluminum or vinyl. This gives you the traditional warm look of wood on the interior yet protects the exterior wood from damage by the natural elements. (You just have to clean them once in a while.) There are also windows and doors made with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass framing, each with their own special aesthetic and feel.

There are also different types of glass, grids (mullions), hardware and screen styles, each varying by brand and each offering an array of energy efficiency.

Stroll through your neighborhood or thumb through magazines to get an idea of what you would like to see in your home. Then take the time to visit showrooms in your area in order to see the differences up close. Consumer Reports can help you compare brands.

The right purchase not only enhances the warmth and beauty of your home, it will also help create energy savings for you and our planet.

By: Danielle LaNear

Flooring Choices and Where to Use Them

When it comes to Bay Area home remodels, flooring options can affect the look, feel and sound of any room in the home. Some types are more environmentally-friendly than others. While flooring choices are nearly endless, here are four popular choices in Bay Area remodeling.

Marmoleum
Marmoleum is a type of linoleum made by Forbo Flooring Systems. Its roots are in the phrase “marbleized linoleum.” Marmoleum is anti-static, anti-microbial, is easy to keep dust-free and is ideal for people with allergies. It’s a solid choice for kitchens and bathrooms because of its naturally clean features and lasts between 25 and 40 years. Vibrant color and pattern choices are diverse, separating it from its stereotypical ancestry of linoleum. This green material is not based in petroleum, but in linseed oil. It is one of the greenest flooring materials on the market today.

Amtico
Vinyl flooring has long been a popular choice in flooring for any room in the house. From kitchens to living rooms to hallways to bedrooms, Amtico flooring is a popular choice for remodeling projects. Manufactured by a British company, this is a higher line vinyl floor known for use with accents, designs and patterns. It discolors with high heat, and protective floor guards will keep it from getting scratched by furniture. An Amtico floor dressing will provide added protection from scuffs, spills and scratches.

Cork
Cork flooring is a sustainable material that comes in as many as 40 different shades of color and a variety of patterns. It is comfortable to walk on in bare feet and is an excellent choice as a noise barrier. Use it for upstairs floors or for rooms where quiet is appreciated. Although it is insect-resistant and can last for years, it is susceptible to scratches and dents from furniture, sharp objects and high heels. Cork flooring is practical for people with allergies, but fades under constant light and warps with high humidity. Use it in any room in the house except the bathroom and laundry room.

Hardwoods
Hardwood floors are durable, ranging in color from blond to black. Exotic and domestic woods offer high quality. They blend well with any decor and will last for years when sealed. Medium shades show less dirt than dark or light hardwoods, and placing mats by high traffic exterior doors is wise. Hardwood flooring lasts more than 100 years and can be refinished or repurposed to extend its life. Hardwood floors are good for people with allergies and are easy to keep clean.

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.

Home Remodeling Projects: Closets and Organization

One of the latest trends in home remodeling is creating functional closet space. The idea is to bring organization and functionality to your bedroom closet. Ideally, you should be able to go into your closet and see all of your choices, from head to toe. Create functional space that let you walk around, rather than standing at the door and guessing what gems are hidden away inside. When doing a home remodeling project, especially a whole home remodel or one that involves bedrooms, take the time to consider what you love and hate about your clothes closets now. Maybe you like having two levels of clothing racks, or perhaps your can’t see or reach hats, ties or other accessories. Join forces with your design and build remodeling contractor to create a space that works for you and each person in your household. Here are a few points to consider.

Lighting
Lighting should be easy to turn on and off. Either use a sensor that automatically turns on your lights when you enter, or make sure that the switch is easily accessible. Lighting should be bright enough so that you can see all of the items in your closet. Keep in mind that the type of lighting can change the appearance of some colors and materials.

Space and Organization
It seems that there is never enough closet space. Layout is important, as it keeps things organized. If you can’t see what you have, you need more space and a better design. Don’t forget to save room for things that don’t need to be on hangers.

Mirrors
Once you have chosen some items to wear, you’ll need to see how they look. Placing a full-length mirror in your closet as well as in the bedroom may make selections easier before you try on your clothes.

Shoes
Shoe selection can make or break an outfit. Keeping footwear close to the floor can be helpful when envisioning an outfit. However, if reaching down to try on shoes is challenging, raising the shoe space probably makes more sense.

Coordinated Separates
When considering your closet design in a home remodeling project, decide whether you need more space for shorter coordinating separates or for longer pieces, like dresses and long coats. Coordinating pants and tops may be easier when the choices are above and below each other.

Accessories
Accessories are usually the last element chosen when putting together an outfit. Be sure to leave space for them where they can be seen and appreciated.

5 Universal Design Concepts in Bay Area Home Remodeling

One of the growing trends for home remodeling projects in the Bay area is universal design. The basic idea is that various elements make it easier for people of any age to live in the home comfortably and safely. From toddlers to senior citizens, universal design creates a non-restrictive environment that is convenient in day-to-day living and life-enhancing for those with physical restrictions. Here are 5 universal design concepts to consider for your next Bay area home remodeling project.

1. Elevators – Home elevators and vertical lifts are common choices for improved transportation and safety. An alternative or addition to stairwells, they are useful for family members using wheelchairs and walkers. They are also helpful for people of all ages with unsteady balance or sore muscles. Residential elevator design is far from what you see in office buildings. They can be custom designed for nearly any shape or size and are made from many different materials, from clear tubes to elegant wooden or gated metal structures. Elevators can provide transport from floor to floor or in shorter distances from level to level, as in a sunken living room.

2. Wide Doorways – Trying to roll a wheelchair down the hall, whether it’s a child with a broken leg or an aging parent, can be challenging with older architectural width standards. Many older houses have narrow doorways and hallways which restrict passage from one room to the next or one part of the house to another for anyone in a wheelchair or walker. This can be remedied in your next home remodeling project.

3. Open Spaces – Open spaces make mobility easier. Passing from one room to another means negotiating walls by going around them. Minimizing walls not only improves pathways, it also allows for a better line of sight for parents keeping an eye on young children.

4. Bathroom – A Bay area bathroom remodeling project is a prime place for universal design. Showers with no threshold and built-in bench seating remove tripping hazards and improve comfort while bathing. Toilets that are 17 inches high instead of the former standard of 14 are easier to negotiate, especially for family members with sore backs and bad hips. Non-slip flooring and handrails improve footing and balance.

5. Storage – From bedroom closets to kitchen cabinets, storage design plays a significant role in most Bay area remodels. D-shaped handles are easier to use, requiring a lighter hand grip and less dexterity. Overhead compartments and placement of shelves close to the floor can be minimized or automated.

When you’re planning a home remodeling project, our experienced design and build team can help you discover a variety of universal design concepts that will enhance your quality of life in the present and for the future.

Warm Flooring Offers Cozy Options For Cold Feet

If you’ve ever walked across a cold floor barefoot, you’ve probably wished for a warmer surface. You can change that with your next remodeling project. There are a variety of floor heating systems, each a little different but all with the same purpose – warmth and coziness. Flat heating mats typically offer electric radiant heat. Loose heating cable systems are another option. Hydronic radiant heat pumps warm water through flooring pipes. Air-heated floors are similar to hydronics, using air tubes instead. All warm flooring heating elements are installed underneath the floor and are invisible from above. Depending on the type, they can be used to heat the floor or the whole room with a minimum installation area of about 20 square feet.

Where to Use Warm Floors
If you’re primarily interested in foot comfort, consider putting them in the hallway, kitchen, bathroom, living room or bedroom. Hydronic systems are also used to heat swimming pools and outdoor living spaces from below.

The Basics
Mats and loose cabling are powered by low voltage electrical wiring and affect the immediate area. Hydronics are designed much like the loose cabling method, snaking through the space in a carefully planned configuration. Regardless of the method of heat used, your floor typically needs to be removed and replaced during installation. This is one reason why installing warm floors as part of a remodeling project is a frequent choice among Bay area homeowners. Another option is to use a warm floor system that installs underneath the floor joists. This allows you to keep your existing floor if the joists are easily accessible from the ceiling below.

Flooring Surfaces
Radiant flooring can be used under a variety of surfaces, but are most effective under marble, tile and natural stone, creating floor temperatures into the mid-90s if desired. They are less effective with carpet, hardwoods and vinyl. There are also some systems specifically designed for concrete floors.

Scalability Options
While incorporating a warm floor in your bathroom remodeling project is a popular choice for cold feet, there are multiple alternatives. Choose from floors only to whole rooms to whole-home heating. Radiant underfloor heating is cleaner, quieter and more energy efficient than using forced air, although certain systems are more energy-efficient than others. If you are incorporating soundproof rooms into your home and you’re concerned about unwanted noise generated by forced-air heating systems, warm floors are a quiet alternative. Hydronic heating is a strong solution for whole-home heating. Installation involves multiple zones which are controlled with programmable thermostats for your family’s lifestyle.

There are several alternatives in warm flooring, depending on your needs. The design + build professionals at Harrell Remodeling can help you to choose the one that works best for your Bay area home.

Prioritizing Energy Upgrades

When people who own older homes think about green remodeling and reducing their energy bill, quite often the first thing they think of is adding solar panels (aka PhotoVoltaics or PV).  This isn’t a bad thing, because how could generating clean power from the sun be a bad thing?  However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to making cost-effective energy upgrades and taking the time to dig a little deeper into the particulars of a given home may reveal that solar panels should actually be installed further down the line.

The new mantra in energy upgrading is “reduce before you produce”, because the most cost effective energy dollar is the one you don’t have to spend.  In most homes, particularly those built in the 70’s or before, there are numerous opportunities to reduce energy losses, instead of generating unnecessary power to compensate for them.

Depending on where the home is located and the climate involved, to save money, one course of action might be to get a home energy audit.  In many communities, these detailed performance tests and the recommendations for improvements that come from them are often subsidized by local and state governments and utilities, which further reduces the overall cost of upgrading.

One study in one area suggested the following priority for the particular home involved:

  1. Windows
  2. Wall insulation
  3. HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning)
  4. Roof insulation
  5. Solar

The recommended improvements for the house next door could be completely different, depending on improvements or remodeling that may have already occurred.

So if you want to make the most of your energy upgrade dollars, consider hiring a professional firm who can guide you through the process, looking for ways to “reduce, before you produce!”