Author Archives: mike

Remodel with a Pro

Spring is officially here and many homeowners are getting ready to update, renovate, clean, maintain, or fix that something or other that has been in disrepair for the last few months, or in many cases, years. Homeowners have many options available for home improvement and remodeling, especially today with the current economy and the many lay-offs in the building industry. It can be a daunting task to figure out who to hire and who you can trust to complete the work on time, on budget, and most importantly, at a level of quality that is to your satisfaction.

There are several ways to make sure that you are hiring a design-buid contractor who is a professional. Review the items below and make sure the firm that you hire for your next project has all of these bases covered.

1. Design: Hiring a design firm that is familiar with the building industry and the current costs associated with different types of designs is a critical aspect to ensure your remodel is designed within your budget. Design-build firms with years of experience ensure that your project is using the cutting edge design practices that will save you money and ensure for a smooth delivery of the project goals.

2. License: The Contractors State License Board requires a license for anyone contracting for more than $500 for labor and materials. There are many contractors with an expired license or one that has been revoked. You can check the current status of a contractor’s license on-line at

3. Referrals: Make sure that your contractor has an updated list of several references for you to call and check for quality, integrity, and timeliness of the work performed. I would advise to ask for references of recently finished projects and/or projects that are still in production.

4. Worker’s Compensation: Homeowners are responsible for people working on their property if they were to get injured on the job. Checking for active Worker’s Compensation Insurance protects homeowners from liability issues not only with the General Contractor, but with all the trade partners hired by the general contractor. It is the General Contractor’s responsibility to make sure all of the sub-contractors have valid Worker’s Compensation Insurance. The Homeowner assumes this role if the hired contractor does not maintain an active and valid worker’s compensation insurance.

5. Liability Insurance: Accidents happen. Contractor’s Liability Insurance covers accidents on the property as well as fire protection. This will fall under a homeowner’s insurance policy if the contractor does not have a valid general liability insurance package.

6. Estimates: The first place that many consumers get scammed is by not receiving a thorough, written description of work to be performed. Detailed descriptions create expectations for both the homeowner and the contractor. Many contractors low-ball costs to get a project, and then later create additional work orders after the construction has commenced. Typically, low estimates mean that you are getting the bare minimum. Make sure the expectations are set forth and that all work is described in detail.

7. Payment: State law requires that only 10% of the total construction cost (labor and materials) or a maximum of $1,000 can be required for a down payment. Be sure that the payment schedule coordinates with the progress of the project and never pay the final payment until all work has been completed.

By following these simple tips, your remodeling experience can be one that is positive and provides value to you and your family. If you have any questions about your next remodeling project, please feel free to email me at

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Beat the Summer Water Bill Blues

With summer just around the corner, conscientious homeowners are reassessing water usage in their yards to avoid significant increases in water bills.  Summers in the Sacramento Valley are hot and dry; traditional landscaping and swimming pools are notoriously thirsty culprits for driving up the utility bills.  A popular trend is to landscape with lush and colorful California native plants.  These plants, adapted to our Mediterranean climate, can survive dry summers with very little water.  The UC Davis Arboretum and Yolo County Master Gardiners are excellent resources for information about drought tolerant plants for your yards.  Another alternative is to consider creating an outdoor living area with patios, decks and walkways embellished with planters and potted plants.  An outdoor living area can not only reduce overall outdoor water consumption, it also extends the living area of your home providing a quiet retreat or space for entertaining.  And, there is no need to give up the swimming pool.  Studies have shown that a swimming pool can lose 1000 gallons of water per month just due to evaporation.  An excellent way to cut back on the water bill is to keep the pool covered when not in use.  This diminishes the rate of evaporation and can make that added element in your outdoor living area more water conservative.

Outdoor water use represents only a portion of total water utilization. The typical family household uses 400 or more gallons per day just going about their daily routine.  Without a doubt the largest percentage of indoor water use can be attributed to the toilet (about 27%).  Along with leaky faucets, leaking toilets can account for an additional 14% of all household water use!  And, unlike outdoor water use which is usually only excessive during the peak summer months, indoor water use is consistent year round.  Fortunately, in the past year manufacturers and designers have introduced a plethora of water saving fixtures to satisfy a full range of household budgets.  According to our Lead Designer, Amorette Ramirez, EPA water sense toilets can conserve an estimated 20-50% of water usage.  There are also new water saving shower heads and vanity faucets that combined would have a drastic affect on lowering water use and bills. Additionally, water is wasted down the drain as we wait for hot water to arrive at the source of use from the water heater. Metland brand recirculating pumps force the water the water back to the water heater in order to circulate the hot water to the source of use. And they are relatively inexpensive to install.

If, like many homeowners right now, you are interested in creating a more efficient home, come by our open house on Sunday, June 5th between noon and 3pm!  Our design team will be available to show you some of the cutting edge energy and water efficient fixtures for your kitchen and bathroom.  We will also have outdoor living area ideas that will inspire the creation of your own perfect backyard retreat!

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