gazebo outdoor seating and pool daytime

Questions to Ask a Landscape Designer Before Embarking on an Outdoor Project

Creating a livable, fun, and functional outdoor space has become more essential than ever before. Whether you desire dining, relaxing, entertaining, playing, or a blend of these activities, designing such a space takes a talented team.

Before you embark on your outdoor design endeavor, here are some questions to ask a landscape designer to ensure that you get the outdoor living space of your dreams.

Does your company only do design, or are you a full-service Design + Build?

Some landscape designers, like some architects, will create a conceptual, or schematic, design. Once the design is complete, the client has to hire a contractor for the “construction” of the project. If you prefer to work with a single company, consider a full-service firm that offers Design + Build.

Do you charge for an initial meeting?

Some designers may charge a fee, but many don’t. At Harrell Remodeling, the first appointment with potential clients is a free fact-finding mission to discover more about the clients, their needs, their budget, and to see the property in person. It’s also an opportunity to see if both parties are the right fit for one another.

Are you certified by the APLD?

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers certification program is an industry standard that ensures those holding an APLD designation have met certain criteria and have passed a rigorous review of their work. APLDs are also committed to continuing education and must maintain ongoing continuing education units (CEUs).

Do you have a website where I can see previous work?

Being able to see a designer’s work offers insight into their ability to design a variety of outdoor spaces.

Do you have client reviews on Yelp, Houzz, or Google?

Independent reviews from past clients, rather than curated references, provide real-life experiences. Not only can reviews share what went well, but if there were any challenges or unforeseen obstacles, they can provide insights as to how the designer worked with the homeowner to overcome any issues.

Can you help us understand the pros and cons of what we want and need?

An expert landscape designer should help a homeowner understand the pros and cons of their choices, such as what types of stone will work best in their environment and which species of plants will thrive in their microclimate. An expert landscape designer will also ask in-depth questions about the activities, and the people who will use the areas. Determining the best options for each unique project is part of the design process.

Lisa Parramore, Harrell Remodeling’s APLD Landscape Designer, shares this example: “A potential client wanted shade over an attached deck. They initially were thinking of a pergola. I provided three different options: the pergola, shade sails, or a retractable awning. By providing three-dimensional renderings that allowed them to visualize the space, they quickly discovered that the awning was the best fit; when the awning is retracted, they can see the deck and the back yard from their second story balcony. They didn’t realize this was important to them until they could see the space.”

How does the design process work?

Understanding how a designer works enables homeowners to better grasp the creative process. Inquire how many initial design concepts you can expect and if the process is a collaborative one.

What if we don’t like the design?

Most designers understand that creating a design is not a “one and done” endeavor. Lisa explains that clients can provide reactions to and feedback about multiple design concepts to arrive at a final design that meets their approval and budget.

Can you work within my budget?

Landscape designers will need to understand your project budget and list of requirements to determine if the two align. A professional should give potential clients an idea of what is possible for the funding available and offer alternatives to bring the wish list and budget inline if necessary.

What is the average cost of an outdoor project?

An experienced landscape designer should be able to provide a ballpark estimate for your project. The cost of creating an outdoor space is relative to the current market value of your home. Lisa says as a rule of thumb, homeowners can expect the following:

5% of home value: basic landscaping with plants and a specimen tree, irrigation, a patio, and a pathway.

10% of home value: The above plus built structures such as pergolas, arbors, fountains, simple BBQ island, and larger trees.

15% of home value (or more): Custom features including an outdoor kitchen with plumbing, electrical, and appliances, swimming pool, vineyards, plus the above.

Do swimming pools add value to my home?

Pools are rising in popularity, especially during the pandemic when people wanted a yard filled with entertainment and exercise options. Whether a pool adds value to your home depends on many factors, Lisa explains. Real estate agents are a good source of information as to whether a pool increases your home’s value in a particular neighborhood. For those who have no intention of moving, it makes sense to evaluate how much you and your family will use and enjoy a pool, regardless of its impact on resale value.

Will permits be necessary for my outdoor project?

Permits are in place to ensure the safety of, and functionality for, the homeowners. Any design aspects that require professional installation by a licensed plumber or electrician will require permits. This includes outdoor kitchens with gas or electric appliances and running water. Swimming pools will also require permits.

As part of each of Harrell Remodeling’s projects, we conduct thorough research. The resulting feasibility study helps determine necessary permits.

Will you handle obtaining all of the necessary permits for my project?

Knowing whether your landscape designer works for a firm that will apply for and pull any required permits is good to know upfront. Homeowners who opt to apply for permits themselves should understand that it can take quite a bit of legwork to ensure that the plans contain all of the information that a building department requires. Conceptual drawings from an independent landscape designer may not be sufficient. As a Design + Build firm, Harrell Remodeling applies for and pulls all required permits on behalf of the homeowners.

How do we pick out materials?

Be sure to inquire if your landscape designer will assist in helping you choose materials for your outdoor project. If they do, ask more about how that process works. Will they bring samples to your home, send you links to websites, or meet you at a local showroom – or maybe do a combination of all three?

Can outdoor tech features be integrated into my existing smart home technology?

There are all kinds of technology that can be incorporated into outdoor living spaces. If tech is a must for you, ask your designer if they can integrate it into your project.

Can you help us design a garden or outdoor space that’s low maintenance?

A landscape designer should be able to meet the needs of their clients, including creating a space that is attractive and functional but low maintenance. Lisa suggests inquiring about drought-tolerant plants, durable materials that require minimal upkeep, and automated irrigation systems. A good designer will review all the options and help homeowners find the “sweet spot” that best fits their lifestyle needs.

How long until construction on my project begins?

An independent landscape designer may not be able to give you start dates, especially if you need to secure a contractor to perform the work. They should be able to provide you with an idea of how long the design process could take.

How long until our project is complete?

Most homeowners want to know generally how long their project will take. Design + Build firms can provide a basic timeline from design to completion. It’s important to note that the city planning/building, and permitting timeframes are outside the control of any designer, contractor, or Design + Build firm.

How do you manage lead times?

If a designer provides the conceptual drawings only, they may not deal with material lead times; this will fall to the contractor. Full-service firms should have a process in place to minimize lead times of materials.

Will you help oversee the installation of structures, plants, etc.?

Some landscape designers will be more involved with installation than others. If you prefer professional placement of plants, shrubs, and trees and someone who will be available to oversee the installation of critical components, Lisa recommends asking this question to designers you interview.
A member of the Harrell Remodeling team is on-site daily at each of our projects, and our designers review essential elements of the project.

What is your warranty?

An independent designer may or may not provide any warranty, but full-service Design + Build firms typically have a workmanship warranty. For outdoor living projects, plants may be covered by a limited warranty; pre-fab structures, materials, and appliances typically have manufacturer’s warranties. Inquire what is covered and by whom. Ask how to make claims and if warranties will be transferred to you once the project is complete.

As a single source from conception through construction, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. provides clients with unmatched service, convenience, and quality. Working as a team, our Design + Build process can help you embrace your aesthetic, make the most of your resources, and create quality spaces that fit the unique way that you live.

Are you dreaming of ways to reimagine your outdoor spaces? We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced APLD-Certified Landscape Designers.

Or attend one of our virtual workshops to learn more about the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build experience.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Workers remodeling inside of a house

Five Considerations to Help You Determine if You Should Move or Remodel

Over the years we have met many potential clients who ask the remodeling conundrum: Should I move or remodel? It’s a valid question homeowners are urged to ponder and investigate before deciding the best path to achieve a home that suits them and serves their desired functions best.

So, how do you know what’s the best option for your family? Here are five things to consider before making this important financial decision.

1. Location

The city, town, and neighborhood in which you live are important. There is a saying in the world of real estate: “Location, location, location.” This concept is a critical factor in deciding whether to stay where you are and remodel your home, or find another property.

Location is permanent; a structure can be altered and improved. If you love your neighborhood, your community, and the local school district, that checks the box for remodeling.

On the other hand, if you aren’t enamored with where you live — whatever the reason – that is an indicator that moving might be a better option. Even if you remodel your home, the location stays the same. Ultimately, you should love your location because that is one thing a remodel can’t solve.

2. Longevity

How long do you plan to live in your current home? If you’re in a “starter home” and planning to “move up,” or if your existing home is too big for your lifestyle and downsizing makes sense, moving may be the way to go.

But, if you plan to stay put for a while and want your home to better align with your lifestyle and needs, remodeling is worth exploring.

3. Space/Property

Another consideration is whether it’s feasibly possible for you to remodel or add onto your current home. Each city and county have unique restrictions for maximum lot coverage and floor area ratio (FAR), both of which impact additions and remodels.

Lot coverage is defined as the percentage of your property covered by buildings and structures and, in some jurisdictions, impermeable surfaces. For example, houses (only the enclosed ground floor area), garages, accessory buildings, gazebos, swimming pools, driveways, and covered patios can all count as part of lot coverage.

On the other hand, floor area ratio (FAR) is the aggregate area of all floors of your home and accessory dwelling units as a percentage of your total lot. Some cities and counties also include covered front porches, basements, and portions of attics as part of FAR. Garages and sheds are not included as part of floor area ratio.

These two factors limit adding square footage for some homes, but, says Harrell Remodeling Senior Designer Sheila Ward Hesting, that doesn’t mean you can’t remodel within your home’s existing footprint.

“One of our clients thought they wanted to add onto their home, but that wasn’t feasible, so instead, we created new flow and function by relocating rooms, knocking down walls, and designing a fresh new floor plan. Their home became a space that finally worked for their lifestyle without having to add square footage,” elaborates Sheila.

She also stresses that conducting thorough research in advance is essential. “Not only does an in-depth feasibility study fully outline the city or county building requirements, but it also informs the design and helps determine the project budget.”

4. Price

Depending on the size and scope of the project, an addition or remodel can be a significant financial investment. But, often, buying a new home involves a sizable increase in property taxes, especially if you’ve been living in your current home for a long while. Also, the Bay Area housing market is competitive, with many homes going well over the asking price. Increased property taxes and mortgage payments, not to mention an aggressive buyer’s market, can make moving financially unappealing.

Although adding onto or remodeling your home does involve monetary outlay, and your property tax basis will be readjusted (if certain rooms are added), the total cost is frequently equal to or less than what will be incurred by relocating.

5. Functionality

Sheila concedes that all of the above-mentioned factors are essential considerations, but she reminds clients that finding another home that meets their specific wants and needs, both now and in the future, is slim to none.

Remodeling creates a space designed exclusively for your distinctive lifestyle: a skilled designer crafts and curates your home’s flow and functionality around how you live.

For example:

Do you enjoy entertaining indoors and out?

Is cooking or baking a passion for one or more family members?

What storage and organization solutions can be incorporated?

Is there a need or desire to include elements of Universal Design?

Do you have pets and want to design a unique space just for them?

Sheila shares the story of a remodeling project where the owners were cat lovers. With six felines in the house, they had a problem finding discrete locations for the numerous litter boxes. What they did have was a large laundry room. Sheila took advantage of the space, designing unique built-in cabinetry with separate cubbies for each litter box and a remote, motion sensor activated exhaust fan that wouldn’t frighten the cats, and keeps odors at bay. She also installed exterior shed doors behind the cabinetry that allow the owners to access the litter boxes from the outside, making an easy, no-mess cleanup.

“These homeowners would never have found another home that met this particular requirement,” Sheila points out. “Finding ‘the’ perfect home isn’t a reality. That is one of the biggest benefits of remodeling — your home is designed just for you.”

Answering these five questions can narrow down whether it makes more sense for you to move or remodel.

And, if you’re still unsure, seeking professional advice about the potential of your existing home can be illuminating. Sheila emphasizes, “Homeowners frequently can’t see their home’s possibilities. An accomplished designer can show you what your home can become.”

Harrell Remodeling Inc. provides clients with unmatched service, convenience, and quality from conception through construction. The Harrell Design + Build team can help you embrace your aesthetic, make the most of your resources, and create quality spaces that fit the unique way that you live.

Are you dreaming of ways to reimagine your home? We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced Designers.

Or attend one of our virtual workshops to learn more about the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build experience.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Bathroom floor-plan with intricate backsplash

Benefits of Working with a Designer

The Importance of Permits: What are They and When are They Required?

Whether you’re considering renovating your kitchen or bathroom, expanding your home’s living space, or adding a new addition to your home, having the proper building permits is essential.

There are times homeowners undertake improvement projects without pulling a permit. Some aren’t aware that a building permit is needed, and others may not want to wait for approval or pay the permit fees. While some minor home improvements don’t require a permit, many others do. The bottom line is, conducting a remodeling job without the necessary permits can spell trouble down the line.

What is a Permit?

A permit is an official approval issued by the local Building Department that guarantees that the work being performed to a home adheres to state and local code requirements. Permitting ensures the future occupants’ health and safety along with the building’s structural integrity.

A complete set of construction documents must be submitted to the Building Department to obtain the permits necessary to begin a remodel or addition.

Depending upon the project’s complexity, the permitting process can be straightforward or require multiple agencies to review and approve the plans before being approved for a permit.

These agencies may include:

  • City or County Planning Department
  • Public Works
  • Fire Department
  • Environmental Department

Larger projects such as additions may require structural engineering plans, soils reports, property surveys, energy compliance reports, and arborist reports as individual requirements based on the complexity of design or special site conditions. Harrell Remodeling’s Design team works with team consultants and specialists early in the design process to address these requirements before submitting project plans for permit approval.

The Role of Green Building

CALGreen, California’s green building code, also impacts the permitting process. Created to improve public health, safety, and general welfare, CALGreen targets five key areas:

  • Planning and design
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency and conservation
  • Material conservation and resource efficiency
  • Environmental quality

Based on project size and scope, aspects of CALGreen must be addressed to obtain permits.

What Home Improvements Require a Permit?

Most home upgrades will require a permit. Aesthetic improvements such as painting, carpeting, tile, adding baseboards or crown molding, replacing interior doors, replacing lighting or plumbing fixtures (in existing locations) don’t require pulling permits.

Other improvements that don’t require permits include:

  • A shed or small separate building 120 square feet or less without electrical, plumbing, or mechanical services
  • Neighbor fences 6 feet high or less
  • Roof repairs of 100 square feet or less
  • Retaining walls 4 feet or less measured from the footing (below the ground)
  • Replacing existing light switches and outlets in their current location
  • Level 1 EV chargers

When it comes to adding on to your home, building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or undertaking a major kitchen and bathroom remodel, permits are required.

When altering, removing, or adding to any electrical, plumbing, mechanical, or structural aspects of a home, getting the proper permit is a must because these crucial systems directly impact the homeowner’s health and safety.

The Role of Research

Knowing what’s involved in your city’s permitting process before embarking on the design process saves time, money, and frustration.

Understanding each project’s unique requirements at the outset is essential, which is why Rafael Gomez, Harrell Remodeling Designer and Code Specialist, launches a thorough analysis of every client project.

“This feasibility study not only helps inform our designers, but it also better defines each project’s permit process based on scope, and helps minimize or eliminate surprises,” Rafael elaborates.

This thorough research process determines which principal building codes apply to the proposed remodel or addition. It also outlines the project’s permitting process and provides an idea of the timeframe for permitting, construction, and budget.

Harrell Remodeling always obtains the proper permits for every one of our projects. Rafael stresses that it’s wise to work with a Design + Build firm, architect, or contractor who has experience in your city, understands the varied codes and permitting requirements, and will help you apply for and obtain the necessary permits.

Permits Maximize Home Value

The goal of a remodel, improvement, or addition is to improve a home’s livability, its residents’ lifestyle, and ultimately increase a home’s value.

Unpermitted work can negatively influence home value and can end up costing considerable time and money. Homeowner’s insurance covers permitted projects. If an insurance claim ever needs to be filed, the insurance company may deny unpermitted improvements. Should local taxing authorities eventually discover work has been conducted without permits, the homeowner may be liable for significant back taxes, fees, and penalties.

As an example, suppose a Building Department official realizes no permits have been pulled for a project that’s already underway. In that case, explains Rafael, they will most likely red tag the job, resulting in an immediate “stop work” order that involves going through the proper channels to obtain the necessary permits. This avoidable scenario entails considerable lost time and penalties, and meanwhile your home will remain a “construction zone.”

Rafael cautions that the violation will not disappear unless the homeowners work directly with building officials to remedy the permit situation. If the work is discovered after completion, officials could order the project to be brought to code, potentially involving a partial tear-down of the home and a costly rebuild.

And should you decide to sell your home in the future, potential buyers may ask to see permits. Some buyers steer clear of unpermitted improvements altogether, while other buyers may request that the affected areas be brought up to code or might request a reduced sales price.

In the long run, doing it right at the outset by meeting state and code requirements and obtaining the necessary permits saves time, money, and many homeowner headaches.

Permit Requirements Constantly Evolve

State and local codes are updated every three years, which leads to a more intricate permitting process.

“Staying in front of the information and knowing all of the parameters leads to a better Design + Build process,” Rafael stresses. “Although obtaining permits can be a rigorous process, local city and municipal Building Departments want to help create beautiful, healthy, safe homes.”

Remodeling or adding on to your home is equal parts exciting and overwhelming. At Harrell Remodeling, our goal is to provide a seamless full-service Design + Build experience, which includes initial project research and managing the permitting process.

To learn more about the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build experience, we invite you to attend one of our complimentary workshops or meet with a Designer to explore your home remodeling needs.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Top Tech and Trends From KBIS 2021

Harrell Remodeling Designers Barb Wingo and Brooke Nicholson virtually attended KBIS (The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show®), the preeminent and highly anticipated kitchen and bath design event. In association with the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), KBIS offers an inspirational, interactive platform showcasing the latest industry products, trends, and technologies.

The topics and products presented at KBIS confirmed that homeowners seek to repurpose and reimagine the spaces in their homes. It came as no surprise that outdoor living, smart home technology, cleanliness and hygiene, and Universal Design continue to gain traction.

“Harrell has seen firsthand how spending so much time in their homes has clients exploring new ways to improve it inside and out,” affirms Barb.

“The environment and eco-friendly renovation was another hot topic,” Brooke contributes. “Luxury kitchen upcycling is a trend that is also gaining a foothold.”

Here’s a quick peek into our Designers’ top KBIS take-aways for 2021.

Taking Life Outside

The pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home orders have upped the ante for indoor-outdoor living. Travel restrictions have homeowners seeking to design memorable experiences in their own homes. Barb points outs, “Rather than traveling to resort destinations, the trend is to transform yards to create a multi-functional retreat atmosphere at home.”

Through expanding usable outdoor square footage, homeowners also extend the value of their homes. Families are looking for covered outdoor areas that offer protection from the elements with all the comforts of inside spaces. They want amenities that allow them to cook, dine, relax, entertain, work, study and learn al fresco.

Pergolas and cabanas expand outdoor space by creating exterior “rooms” that can be fully equipped with a myriad of conveniences, including outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens, surround sound, WiFi, lighting, and outdoor furnishings that rival their interior cousins in comfort.

Watching TV outside, participating in Zoom meetings and social hours, and family movie nights under the stars have all given rise to the popularity of projection. The anti-glare technology enables a vibrant, clear image even in full sun, and it rolls up and hides away when not in use.

“Outdoor living has been a hot trend for years, but the trend now is to design exterior spaces that serve as a destination, offering many of the luxury amenities of travel locations. Homeowners want a multi-functional area they can use as an office, movie theatre, learning environment, and staycation escape all in one,” Barb points out.

Smart Kitchen/Smart Appliances

Smart appliances that are part of the connected environment in a home bring additional value to the owner. With the ability to update wirelessly and customized with enhanced capabilities, this technology is a future-proofed investment, continuing to provide value over time instead of becoming obsolete.

In addition to dedicated displays on the appliance, many appliances can be voice or touch controlled by smartphone apps. “Your connected washing machine can notify you when the cycle is complete; your oven can ping you when it’s preheated; the dishwasher will alert you when the drying cycle is finished,” Barb elaborates.

Smart food storage technology helps reduce food waste and expense. These devices track what’s in your refrigerator and pantry and informs you when items expire. They can even suggest recipes with the ingredients you have on hand. Brooke explains, “Your smart phone can show you what is inside as well, so if you can’t remember how much milk you have while you are at the store, you can just turn on the camera inside your fridge and have a peek!”

Another top tech appliance touted at KBIS is the LG Washtower. This full-size, full-capacity washer/dryer takes up half the space, stacking neatly in a kitchen, closet, or other location, eliminating the need for a dedicated laundry room. The centrally located control panel for both the washer and dryer makes it easily accessible. Built-in artificial intelligence detects fabric texture and load size, automatically selecting the proper wash motions and drying temperatures. The turbo wash setting with five variable sprays thoroughly cleans a load in under 30 minutes. LG also has a Styler steam closet that fits perfectly tucked up against the Washtower. The WiFi-enabled steam closet is ideal for sanitizing and reducing odors in sporting and fitness gear, reducing wrinkles, and gently refreshing delicate fabrics.

The GE Kitchen Hub provides access to all Android-based devices from your kitchen microwave, including other smart appliances, lighting, etc. The Hub can access the internet, streaming services, email, and offers video chat capability. Oh, and it can help you cook, too! The Hub’s scan-to-cook capability reads package bar codes and programs the proper cook time and temperature. The touch screen allows users to search guided recipes, and a built-in camera tells you if you’ve missed a step or if what you’re cooking is cooked appropriately.

Bold Fixtures and Finishes

New offerings in kitchen and bath fixtures allow for even greater personalization of the home as a reflection of the homeowner’s unique lifestyle.

Kohler offers new hues from calming to vibrant for kitchens and baths. Kohler’s Iron/Tone sink comes in a dozen shades, including Lavender Gray, Black Plus, and Indigo Blue.

Stunning, statement faucets and plumbing fixtures are available in Matte Black, and Vibrant Brushed Moderne Brass as well as Vibrant Ombré effects in Rose Gold/Polished Nickel or Titanium/Rose Gold.

Hygiene and Hands-Free

COVID accelerated the popularity of personal hygiene toilet seats, both for cleanliness in the face of the virus and self-reliance from those infamous toilet paper shortages. The once separate functions of toilets and bidets have been combined into one fixture, sometimes referred to as bidet seat or washlet.

A bidet seat can be part of a new toilet or added to an existing toilet. Equipped with auto on/off and auto-select single or dual flush capabilities, these intelligent toilets offer a completely hands-free experience. Many people find this appealing from a cleanliness standpoint.

While most toilet/bidet fixtures require a nearby electrical outlet, some, like Kohler’s Purewash™ manual bidet toilet seat, require no electricity or batteries. The Purewash installs in minutes, connecting to the toilet’s water supply line.


Also in high demand are touchless or hands-free faucets. Motion-sensing and voice-activated fixtures, like Delta’s TRINSIC VoiceIQ™ kitchen faucet connects to voice-enabled platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Homeowners can turn the water on and off, pour specific amounts, and warm-up with spoken commands. The TRINSIC also has a hand wash feature, providing the proper length of time pre-set for lathering, scrubbing, and rinsing, a great feature for households with kids.

Luxury Kitchen Upcycling

Sustainable and eco-friendly products and services continue to be on-trend. For homeowners who plan to remodel their kitchens, upcycling is a way to give kitchen cabinets, countertops, fixtures, and appliances a new lease on life. Organizations like Renovation Angel receives donated high-end kitchens and, in turn, upcycles luxury cabinetry and appliances in other homes. They have partnered with Miele, Sub-Zero, and Wolfe, along with numerous other high-end brands.

The Renovation Angel Upcycling process:

  1. Renovation Angel conducts an inspection
  2. They provide a net value estimate
  3. They carefully remove/demo the kitchen
  4. A third-party appraisal (Approximately $450) is conducted
  5. Tax deduction paperwork provided upon appraisal completion
  6. For those purchasing a upcycled kitchen, you’ll need to hire an outside party for installation

Brooke explains more about this unique take on upcycling, “Renovation Angel takes donations of kitchens and offers significant tax credits. People buying the used kitchens receive a deep discount on elegant kitchens and appliances while also reducing recycling and landfill tonnage.”

Universal Design

Universal Design is an evergreen trend that gained more attention as families sheltered in place. The process of creating products and environments accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, Universal Design applies to people of all ages and in all stages of life. Independent design principles and products benefit those who live in the home and to those who come to visit.

In addition to sleek and stylish Universally Designed products, voice-activated smart technology makes life easier for those with varying abilities. Voice commands turn on and off lights and appliances, including activation of a pre-set morning or evening routine. Verbal instructions or motion sensors activate faucets and fixtures. Water sensing systems monitor and send alerts regarding water leaks. Smart thermostats can adjust the ambient temperature with an app or via voice command. Smart keypads allow doors to be locked upon command and unlocked with an app. Personal hygiene bidet seats allow for independent self-care.

To discover more about the latest technology and trends for your home, we invite you to attend any of our complimentary virtual workshops.

To explore the remodeling possibilities your home has to offer, connect with one of our talented Designers.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

exterior of house with driveway

Living in Your Home During a Remodel

Deciding to remodel your home can be thrilling. It’s exciting to see the design of your future home come together on paper, and even more so when the renovation work finally starts. But then, how do you live through the disruption until your newly remodeled space is complete?

In addition to having detailed design conversations about a client’s home remodel, Harrell Remodeling Senior Designer CKD, UDCP Gloria Carlson says discussing “disruption tolerance” with homeowners is also crucial.

Gloria explains that every client has a different tolerance level when living through what can be an upending experience to your daily routine. “It’s a very personal and individual decision that we work through collaboratively on a case-by-case basis.”

Some people don’t mind the disturbance, while others can’t function in a disrupted environment, especially with many people now working and learning from home. Still, others decide to move out because they have small children or pets that wouldn’t fare well in a home construction zone.

Gloria recommends that those who choose to stay in their homes create ways to function smoothly. For example, clients undergoing kitchen remodels will benefit from setting up a temporary kitchen space that may include a table, refrigerator, microwave, storage, and access to water.

Whether homeowners choose to stay or leave, there remains some level of disruption. The time and expense of securing and moving to an apartment or rental property are worth it to some, allowing them to have a relatively normal place to call home during their remodel. Other homeowners would rather save money and stay in their homes despite the inconvenience.

Informing clients of worksite protocols and the project’s overall impact on their residence can help guide homeowners in deciding to stay or find alternate accommodations. This includes how living and work areas will be contained and cleaned, and how dust, noise, and disruption will be minimized. During COVID-19, mandated health and safety protocols also determine how employees, tradespeople, and family will be kept safe.

Because we “never forget it’s your home,” Harrell Remodeling has strict company guidelines regarding keeping every client’s home free of dust, debris, and excessive noise. Says Harrell Site Manager Mario Rivera, “Our team goes above and beyond to keep our clients’ homes clean and safe.”

This extensive list includes:

  • Using air scrubbers equipped with HEPA filters to mitigate dust and airborne particles
  • Sweeping and vacuuming work areas daily
  • Daily removal of debris
  • Protection of areas from the point of entry to the work location
  • Containment using zipper walls
  • Minimizing excessive noise

If the job and space allow, the air scrubbers remain on-site from deconstruction to completion. All walls, floors, and other areas are protected throughout the project, and zipper walls remain as long as containment is needed. Harrell takes into account the needs and safety of family pets on the jobsite as well; this has included not just dogs and cats, but tortoises, birds, amphibians and reptiles!

Especially now, keeping clients, tradespeople, and employees safe and healthy is of paramount concern. Harrell has a comprehensive written policy based on state and county COVID-19 protocols.

“We have heightened cleaning requirements in place that meet or exceed state and county specifications. At the end of each workday, we disinfect countertops, door and cabinet knobs, as well as other high-touch surfaces,” Mario reveals.

Signs are posted on each job site, clearly outlining the necessary health protocols. These include wearing face masks, maintaining at least six feet of distancing, and other vital safety measures everyone on the property must follow. This includes requiring isolation of anyone who has traveled out of the area before returning to the job site, per the current local County’s requirements.

Harrell Remodeling routinely undertakes complex home improvement projects while clients continue living in their homes. We also understand that just as each client has distinct lifestyle needs that inform their home remodel design, they also have unique circumstances that impact whether they stay or find other living accommodations. When remodeling a bathroom that was the only bathroom in the house, a separate, locked port-a-potty was on site for solely the owner’s use. Whether you stay at your residences or move out for your remodel, the Harrell Team always remembers it’s your home and strives to ensure that you and your family are safe and comfortable from start to finish.

To learn more about the Harrell Remodel Design + Build experience, we invite you to attend one of our complimentary workshops or talk with a Designer to explore your home remodel.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

The Harrell Remodeling Promise: Quality Work, A Strong Warranty & Proactive Follow-Up Process

At Harrell Remodeling, we pride ourselves on understanding and exceeding our clients’ lifestyle needs through exceptional design and quality construction. Once a project is complete, Harrell backs its work with a one-year warranty and a proactive follow-up process.

Before the warranty even begins, the team works collaboratively while the project is in production to identify and resolve issues upfront. This includes any feedback received from the homeowners along the way.

“Our ultimate goal is a zero-item punch list at our Celebration Walk-Through, which takes place just prior to turning the completed project back over to the clients. While not perfect, we strive to be as flawless as possible,” shares Assistant Project Manager Kelly Burnette, Harrell’s warranty program point person.

Considerable planning and communication go into achieving what Kelly calls a “clean job close.” While a project is in progress, an on-going project punch list is physically posted at the job site.

“This on-site list is a central repository designed to encourage homeowners and our Lead Carpenter working on the project to add items that they discover. This process allows our tradespeople to continuously resolve any issues rather than waiting until a job is nearly complete,” Kelly clarifies.

As the final inspection approaches, a small Harrell Team conducts a preliminary walk-through with “zero punch list” as the goal. During this comprehensive inspection, the project is viewed in its entirety, carefully inspecting each room and all its elements. The team ensures the resolution of outstanding items, identifies and manages new issues as they are discovered, and communicates this information to the homeowners.

A few weeks after the preliminary walk-through and shortly after the Final Inspection, the Harrell Team holds the Celebration Walk-Through. Attended by the homeowners, Designer, Lead Carpenter, Project Manager, and Kelly, this event showcases the finished project.

“Our goal as a Design + Build company is to present a pristine project during the Celebration Walk-through,” says Kelly enthusiastically.

During the Celebration Walk-Through, not only do the homeowners get to see and experience their newly designed home, but they touch and test everything. They turn on appliances and faucets, open doors and drawers, and look closely at every surface. This process helps uncover any issues that the on-going punch list and preliminary walk-throughs may have missed.

Once a project is complete, should any punch list items remain, Kelly tracks the progress, manages material backorders and the replacement of defective items, and schedules the work. She also routinely communicates status updates to the homeowners.

To guarantee homeowners are secure in knowing that any outstanding punch list items will be resolved, Harrell Remodeling has the client hold back a proportional amount of funds until these items are completed. The hold back amount isn’t due and payable until the punch list is complete and the client is satisfied.

After the project is completed, Harrell Remodeling’s robust one-year warranty goes into effect. The warranty covers National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) standards but often goes above and beyond.

The Harrell Warranty Program is outlined in writing, and every client receives a copy after the project conclusion, which also clearly states the warranty start date and duration. Every Design + Build client is presented with their warranty documentation in a binder that also includes product manuals, warranty cards, and final permits. The project file also includes a complete list of model #s, brands, finishes, paint colors, and custom materials along with care instructions, and a 24/7 Harrell emergency contact number.

The one-year coverage warrants against workmanship and defective materials of the following:

  • General warranty covering labor and materials
  • Plumbing and heating
  • Electrical system
  • Sheetrock
  • Masonry
  • Structural components

Clients are encouraged to reach out at any time with questions, concerns, or to report any problems they encounter. “We are here for our clients even after the project is complete. If they have a question or concern, the Harrell Team is always here to help.”

A month or so before the warranty’s expiration, a Harrell Designer reaches out to the homeowner to schedule a one-year warranty walk-through. This on-site visit includes basic maintenance, adjustments, and touch-ups to grout and paint. “We also want to find out if their remodel is living up to their expectations,” shares Kelly.

At Harrell Remodeling, Inc., our motto is, “We Never Forget It’s Your Home®.” We also understand that “building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design.”

To learn more about the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build experience, we invite you to attend one of our complimentary workshops or meet with a Designer to explore your home remodel.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.

Quality: An Investment for the Long Haul

Your home is one of your most significant investments. Increasing its value and livability with a remodel is a worthwhile endeavor and a considerable undertaking. One of the most important decisions a homeowner must make before embarking upon their remodel journey is choosing which professionals to enlist.

So, how do you make that critical decision? To make a fully informed choice, homeowners should consider quality, expertise, and customer service says Harrell Remodeling Designer Barb Wingo, Allied ASID. And of course, cost is a factor.

Materials, Fixtures & Finishes

Barb emphasizes that when homeowners remodel, choosing materials and fixtures that stand the test of time and use is crucial. Materials like flooring, tile, and countertops receive heavy use. Homeowners should also consider frequently used items that perform their function multiple times a day like faucets, door and cabinet hardware, and light fixtures.

Although store-brand or brand-name products are available for a lower price at big box stores, they are often of reduced quality compared to those purchased from reliable vendors and showroom sources.

For example, faucets from big box stores may have plastic parts versus metal components; paint can provide less coverage and durability; flooring materials can be thinner and less durable. There are also fewer finish and function options, not to mention product warranties that are more limited in scope.

“The lower price point of these materials may be attractive initially, but they will not withstand high usage and will need replacing much sooner,” Barb warns.

Design Services

“There are many ways to approach the design of your remodel,” Barb explains. “There are in-house or complimentary retail design services, independent designers and architects, and firms that offer full-service design + build solutions.”

With in-house retail design services, the designers’ knowledge may be limited to the products they offer; they have a vested interest in selling homeowners the lines they carry such as certain cabinets, and plumbing fixtures for example. Working in interruption-driven environments, these designers are often unable to provide clients with the attention necessary to consider distinct needs and lifestyles, and to then create beautiful and functional solutions.

An independent designer or architect can create a design and the draft floor plans, elevations, and complete sets of build-ready drawings, but many designers and architects leave the permitting process to the homeowner, which can be extremely complicated if this is not your expertise. Additionally, once permits are obtained, homeowners must vet and select a contractor for the project’s construction phase.

Depending on the designer or architects’ experience, the project may go smoothly, or the client may experience unexpected problems implementing the design as construction evolves.

Barb explains, “Often, what appears to work well on paper may not work in reality.”

One approach is where the homeowners collaborate with a cohesive, dedicated team from conception to completion. The result is a design that merges function, aesthetics, and the unique requirements of the client. Design + build incorporates function into the design from the outset. Experienced designers dedicate time getting to know their clients, asking detailed questions about how they use each space in their home.

Barb says that asking clients specific questions helps formulate a solid design that encapsulates the homeowners’ requirements.

Examples include:

  • How do you use your kitchen: Is there one or multiple cooks at a time?
  • Do you entertain? How many people? Are they formal or informal gatherings? Where do you like to entertain or gather?
  • Do you want smart home technology and appliances?
  • How long do you plan to live in your home?
  • Do you have specific storage needs (sports, hobbies, display, etc.)?
  • Do you need a multi-function space for a desk or workstation?
  • Does anyone in your home have mobility needs?

This comprehensive and collaborative design and construction process ensures the newly remodeled home creates quality, workable solutions that reflect your needs, lifestyle, and aesthetic.


Whether a homeowner’s project is large or small, it should be built to last. As with the design phase of a project, there are several ways to have your project built. The craftsmanship and level of detail can vary dramatically depending upon the type of construction service chosen.

Big box stores may offer installation services, but they may not provide the best talent and craftsmanship. “And hiring a handyman may seem like a cost-effective choice, but you may wind up with someone who has limited knowledge and experience with certain aspects of your project,” explains Barb. Some handyman-type services will not work on projects that may or should require a permit.

Employing a licensed contractor is a good choice. Licensure provides safeguards for the work being performed. Typically, licensed contractors have a greater depth and breadth of experience on remodeling projects.

Hiring a design + build firm enables homeowners to benefit from an entire team of experts at each stage of the remodeling process.

These experts include a full “production” (construction) team whose job it is to keep all work on schedule. A comprehensive feasibility study is conducted before work begins, keeping the project within time and budget constraints. Design + build firms will also typically secure the required permits, and schedule/oversee all inspections.

Customer Service

The time, attention, and communication level offered by in-house retail design services is another essential aspect that can vary greatly. They work in a very interruption-driven environment, which can result in rendering distracted client service. With the design + build model, design and production professionals work together for you as a team, under one company and one contract.

Look for a company whose goal is to have transparent and collaborative communication throughout the entire planning and construction process. Ask if you will have 24/7 access to an online project calendar, ensuring that you know what tasks are happening at your home and know what is coming up next.

Upon completing each project, ask what length of warranty the contractor’s work will adhere to, and what is their proactive follow-up process.

Excellent design and construction take time, talent, dedication, and expertise. In the words of Aldo Gucci, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.”  

To learn more about the Harrell Remodel Design + Build experience, we invite you to attend one of our complimentary workshops or talk with a Designer to explore your home remodel.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.