Moisture meets wood in more places than many of us imagine. Improper flashing that leaks imperceivable drips behind the siding can moisten the framing of your house for years, and provide exactly the environment that termites love to call home. Over time, that wood will deteriorate and leave behind a porous, structurally unsound shell of its former self, leaving parts of your house vulnerable to collapse.
While it is possible to see termites, they are nearly microscopic, and it is much more common to see, and have to live with, the evidence they leave behind, which is often wood framing meant to support siding or stucco that becomes dependent on it for structure. This arrangement will fail. And that failure can be disastrous.
There are, however, ways to combat the damage done to your house by termites. Here are a few basic tips for preempting termite infestation:
If you do identify termite infestation or damage, address the problem with a licensed contractor immediately. The longer you wait to solve the problem, the more replacement or rebuilding will be necessary.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
Water Damage? In the Summer?
Summertime Blues. It may not seem like summer would be the busiest time for water damage issues, but we are involved in several projects in the end of July where the crux of the job is repair of rot or other issues related to improper waterproofing.
It's not always the most rewarding part of our job either. Craftsman love the feeling of building something that was not there before, and while it is nice to put a family back in their home knowing it is going to protect them from the elements and stand tall for many years to come, it's just not quite the same when you leave something that looks the same as it did when you started the work.
The earlier you detect and address water damage issues, the better your chances of mitigating tremendous costs. And addressing the issues in the summer months means putting the building back together with materials that are thoroughly dry and have a chance to cure before staving off the elements again when winter rolls back around.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
Why Hire a Design-Build Firm
Architects are amazing. Their training and licensing requirements make for a skill set that serves society in profound ways, and I celebrate the contribution of their vocation to the advancement of humanity.
I lead with that statement before someone thinks that I'm disparaging architects in the remainder of this blog post. I'm not. But since we are a design-build firm, we have built many additions, outbuildings, studios, even entire luxury homes, with little or no help from an architect. Frankly, it's fine with us either way, but we would love to defer to architects to design the bridges, dams, and skyscrapers, and let us handle the kitchens and living rooms. I know many of our clients are better for it. Think we're bananas? Please, read on for the three reasons why you should hire a design-build firm:
- Jon Leon Guerrero
Some builders approach working for their friends with trepidation. And that approach is definitely warranted. There are lots of potential pitfalls that plague that sort of arrangement and nobody wants a friendship to be damaged by any such circumstance. Friends tend to expect preferential treatment. A customer might expects some deeply discounted pricing, prioritization in scheduling, and flexibility when it comes to changes or payment schedules. A builder friend might not think much about taking some liberties around due dates, work hours, selections, and etiquette or presentation around the job site.
So where do you draw the line? Well, perhaps that answer is a little different for everyone, but our approach is that the lines need to be drawn clearly and early. While the first meeting may have to do with design ideas and potential scope of work, the first business meeting - the one that comes after, "You know what would be awesome right here..." but before the contract gets signed - is where we set out the ground rules:
Once we're all done, we can take the beer, pizza, and the tunes out to that oasis.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
We work in some very exclusive areas of the East Bay Area in Northern California. While we keep our client list confidential, we are very fortunate to include among them some of the smartest and most successful people who live in idyllic neighborhoods that are populated by the acclaimed. I wish we could work for them all.
Last October, our area was affected by fires that destroyed businesses, residences, wooded areas and prime vineyards in and around Napa and Sonoma valleys in an area that included five counties. The fires claimed nearly 9,000 structures, including prominent hotels and prized wineries, over 245,000 acres. To battle the inferno, companies of firefighters from near and far came to help. Once they extinguished the fire, the rebuilding process kicked into gear. In the ensuing months, much of the construction labor force that typically services our territory (engineers, architects, tradesmen, etc.) has headed north to join the effort to rebuild.
We considered those opportunities. We have done beautifully rewarding work in Napa before, and there are many properties that would challenge our craftsmen and put our specialties to great use. But we have decided to stay put, to concentrate in our immediate area, and to serve our constituency and the projects they choose while others shift their focus to rebuilding and interfacing with insurance companies.
Performing our usual work has gotten slightly more expensive. Redirection of materials have created some scarcities. Subcontractors who have done our framing, rough plumbing and rough electrical who are based north of us have workers who live in those communities (two of those individuals lost their houses), and have understandably gone that direction.
Since certain materials and tradesmen are less available, we are forced to become selective about which jobs we take on. Like any other business, we have to consider the likelihood that a project will be profitable, but there are several other factors that influence that decision. Here are some of them:
Is it in our work profile? Custom cabinetry, natural stone, fine wood finishes, automation - these are the kinds of tasks where we want our team to stay on the leading edge, so while outfitting a coding farm with 200 Ikea desks in an open office would be highly profitable, that's not our lane. We stick with the high end projects that we want to continue to master.
Is the timing right? We have to be strategic about the timing of our projects and when we deploy certain assets. If our finish carpenters have our cabinet shop filled with the paneling for a steakhouse for three weeks, we have to time a custom kitchen build around those weeks, or respectfully pass on taking the job.
What are the job constraints? Will there be permitting issues or one-off inspections? Will the job require specialized engineering that may be unavailable for a long while? Are there HOA or historical society design reviews that are out of our timing control? These issues can be prohibitive, and must be identified in the selection process.
What are the risks? Are there strategic, operational, or financial risks that are beyond our comfort level? Are there factors that make compliance more costly or difficult, or require additional certifications or crew training?
These factors make the work very interesting, but if we fail to recognize them early, could lead to us accepting jobs for which we are not the best suited, and in this climate, it is difficult to make time for projects that are not what we do best.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
One Man's Trash
Our last blog entry was about beautiful security windows. This one is about the windows they replace.
A Man's Home is His Castle
We are replacing aged, but lovely by most people's standards, windows on a lovely estate that is about thirty years old. The theme of the estate was previously classic southern plantation-esque, and we are remodeling to capture the old world European feel, employing stone walls and the kind of chunky, burned wood accents you would find on a country manner. The windows and doors, all seventy-nine of them, are coming out as part of the property's total makeover. Those windows were state-of-the-art when the house was built, and are still terrific. They are double paned, energy efficient, wood-framed, and the mechanical parts are all precision designed well-oiled machines, and they still work as such.
Here's the conundrum: We can't even give them away. We have tried the usual outlets, but everyone has their age and size limits, and these windows are older and many are larger than operations like Habitat for Humanity usually fit into their building processes.
To be perfectly clear, we all adore Habitat for Humanity and their dignified mission, and we support them any way that we can do it. But back to the windows...
The humble abodes in which most of us live, and in which Habitat for Humanity and most similar organizations specialize, typically do not call for windows over 6' x 6', and it is just not practical to depend on most homeowners to have to maintain equipment that uses 30-year-old hardware. There are other operations around that do a wonderful job of using reclaimed materials, but timing is crucial with those companies, since what they are gathering can be based on the themes of the projects they have on the docket. It's as if we are trying to give away a Ferrari, but nobody we know has room in their garage for one of those fancy cars.
We are open to suggestions. Please comment if you have one, and we will diligently follow up. We definitely don't want the vintage Ferrari of windows to go to waste.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
If you are a security-conscious homeowner …
I'll admit, that starting sentence is a bit of a misdirection. We did recently go through the worthwhile exercise of researching security glass in bullet resistant windows for a magnificent estate designed to take advantage of the lovely East Bay Area climate and let in lots of natural light, and our findings are worth sharing for several reasons. We will make some posts about home security in the coming weeks, as we are one of very few builders with a licensed security professional on the team. But in today’s post we will explore a few of the reasons that make security glass something you should at least consider in a luxury property, even if its occupants don’t necessarily keep a high profile.
Let's just get a couple of things cleared up: To say a window is bulletproof is to advertise falsely. Like a safe, which is resistant of cracking, and whose measurement of security is in the likely time it will delay the undesired access to its contents, windows with security glass are bullet resistant. They are designed to keep certain calibers of bullet out for measured amounts of time. With enough firepower and persistence, one can blast his way in. The amount of security is dependent upon the length and intensity of the attack. There are also several providers of security windows in the marketplace, so we speak somewhat generically here about them so that the comments herein can apply most every homeowner's tastes or preferences.
Here are a few reasons, besides security, to admire the security window and consider it for your luxury residence:
But in today’s post we will explore a few of the reasons that make security glass something you should at least consider in a luxury property, even if its occupants don’t necessarily keep a high profile.
They are beautiful
Security windows are of substantial weight and thickness, and are framed as such. They often employ a multi-channeled aluminum frame to accommodate the panes and provide proper support and attachment to the framing in the event of a blunt force attack. So in a setting with a large picture window, or on a building of considerable scale, the frames are appropriately chunky. The vendors we explored also finished out the frames to a beautiful polish, or incorporated fine hardwoods.
The proper care in planning will involve the advice of an engineer, and that involvement could open the idea vault when it comes to the sizing and structural possibilities. In our case, the notion of a moment frame allowed for a grouping of smaller windows to be replaced by a single, rather enormous, picture window to a majestic mountain view that practically makes you want to wash dishes (that view is from the kitchen).
They stand up to abuse
Whether your family contains ballplayers or baton twirlers, the normal hazards that call for the average home to require a window repair every two-and-a-half years, security glass stands up to a tremendous amount of bumps and scrapes. So go ahead and get your son a pitching coach, and if his fastball gets outrageous, let it fly. The glass will take a 9mm slug, so a baseball at 90 mph will bounce right off.
Are these reasons enough for the added expense? Maybe not. But if you also have safety or security concerns, or if your house is magnificent and deserves the best of everything, these factors should help reinforce your decision.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
This Wild and Amazing Ride
We have been very fortunate to get some challenging opportunities to beautify the world one home at a time, and while we take a lot of pictures, we have come to the realization that we will best honor this bundle of great liberty by chronicling the experience in this blog. So while our original purpose for blogging was to give our friends tips on care, maintenance, and improvements, we are going to tell the story of our fantastic voyage as a business, as a team of design-build adventurers, and as a family of craftsmen and women who support each other in a unique way to build and to be the very best.
(Don’t worry, we will also include the stuff about taking care of your house.)
So first things first, the newest addition to our team is Daniel Williamson. DW is a first class builder and remodeler who cultivated a great business, DTS Builders Inc., that did scores of terrific projects in the East Bay over the course of three decades. Like a true artisan, DW decided that he would have much more fun if he spent more time building than business owning, and our team is very lucky to be the place he decided to bring his talents. It has only been a week so far, and his contribution has been immediate. His vast construction knowledge has been handy on three of our jobs, our guys have fallen right into step with his style of leadership, and he has adopted our detailed procedures like he wrote them himself.
I hope we can keep him challenged with magnificent things to build and extravagant complications to solve. It is already great fun to work with him. You can look forward to DW’s personality profile on our WHO page in the next week or so, and to pictures of him and the crew on the projects he is heading up. And if he’s leading your project, you can be sure that his exacting standards will be on display for you to brag about to your friends.
Welcome, DeeDub. We’re elated to have you onboard.
- Jon Leon Guerrero
Winterize Your California Home
Everyone thinks it's a piece of cake to live through a winter in California, and for the most part, everyone is right. But your California property, like any other, is a lot easier and less costly to maintain if you take these few simple precautions (or, of course, call a professional to do them) before winter arrives:
Inspect your roof and eaves
Roof repairs are much easier to do before the rainy season. Any materials that need to dry or cure will do much better in the sunshine, and any workers who need to perform those repairs are much happier and less expensive if they're not getting rained on.
Have your chimney inspected and swept
Get professional help on this one. Soot buildup in the chimney and flue is a fire hazard, and like anything else, the maintenance is easier, faster, and often less costly when you do it more frequently.
Inspect and clear your gutters and downspouts
Buildup of leaves, dirt, and excess roofing materials (tar, gravel, shingle bits) can clog your gutters and downspouts. Aside from unsightly and potentially unsafe overflow, the backup can lead to unnecessary rust and costly premature need for replacement.
Inspect your siding or stucco for cracks or separation
Take a lap around your house and look for damage to the siding or cracks in the stucco, separation at the joints, cracks or deterioration of the caulking, or any other places that have become vulnerable to water intrusion. Pay close attention to any locations where trees, bushes, or ivy make contact with your house. Look for fading or cracking in the paint, and get help if you need it.
Get your furnace serviced
The least convenient and most expensive time to find out that your furnace needs work is during the peak times that you need it to keep you warm. Fall is a great time to check on it, change your filter, and test your duct work.
Inspect your drainage systems
Whether your drainage system leads to the ground to be filtered or directly to the storm drains, make sure everything is clear and ready for winter. You don't want to have to make those repairs in the rain.
Check your basement or crawl space for leaks
Take a look beneath your house for any tell-tale signs of moisture intrusion, standing puddles, or mold on the soil or lumber. Look for dry rot on the floor joists or any other indicators of unwanted weathering or wear.
These precautions will give you the peace of mind to enjoy the holiday seasons without worry, and help maximize the value of your California property. As always, if you have questions or need help with any of these items at your house, reach out to us in the comments or by phone.
- Jon Leon Guerrero