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.

It’s Time to Prepare for Wildfire Season

For over 35 years, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has been diligent about safety at the job site. We go above and beyond to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees, trade specialists, and clients. This doesn’t end when we pack up our tools once the project is complete…. our concern for our clients’ wellbeing continues long after our work is done.

As fire season is fast approaching, it becomes vital for every family to be informed and prepared. To give the best guidance available, we’ve leveraged many expert resources to provide guidelines, checklists, and plans to help you put a plan in place for your home and your loved ones.

Prepare Your Home

A combination of defensible space and home hardening is the best defense against wildfire.

Defensible Space

Defensible space is the 100-foot buffer you create surrounding your home by removing dead plants, grass, and weeds. This cushion is designed to keep flames from getting close to your residence.

A home’s defensible space has two zones that entail vertical and horizontal spacing. One is the first 30 feet around a home, including well-tended fire-resistant landscaping, roof and gutters clear of debris, and removing all dead or highly flammable organic materials.

The second zone is the second 70 feet, which entails removing all leaves and organic debris on the ground, creating space between trees and shrubs, and tree limbs trimmed to at least six feet above the ground.

Learn more about creating a defensible space around your home by watching this CAL Fire video.

Hardening Your Home

Embers from a nearby fire can travel over a mile, starting new fires that destroy homes and property. Fire-resistant construction materials can minimize your home from catching fire by lessening weak spots in the construction that allow flying embers to ignite.

There are many ways to prepare your home against wildfires. The main focus areas are:

  • Roof: The most vulnerable part of a home. Use composition, metal, clay, or tile shingles. Clear your roof of all leaves and debris.
  • Vents: Cover these access points with metal mesh.
  • Eaves and soffits: Ensure eaves are boxed and protected with non-combustible material.
  • Windows: Install dual-pane windows, preferably with one pane tempered glass, to reduce the possibility of breakage during a fire event.
  • Walls: Use fire-resistant materials such as stucco and fiber cement wall siding on your home’s exterior.
  • Decks: Decks within ten feet of a home should be built with non-combustible materials.
  • Gutters: Keep gutters clear of plant debris.
  • Chimney: Cover chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable metal screen.
  • Garage: Have an extinguisher, shovel, rake, bucket, and hose available for a fire emergency.
  • Fences: Upgrade any fencing within five feet of your home with fire-resistant material.
  • Driveway and access roads: If applicable, keep ten feet of clearance on either side to allow two-way traffic. Trim trees and shrubs, ensure gates open properly, and allow for large vehicles.
  • House number: Make sure your house number is visible from the road.
  • Water supply: Have multiple, lengthy garden hoses that reach all areas of your property, including outbuildings. If you have a pool, invest in a pump.

The CAL FIRE website has a detailed description of how to harden each area.

This home retrofit guide is also helpful.

Be Informed

High-fire threat areas were mapped out in 2018 by PG&E, CAL FIRE, and other public safety experts. The threat map identifies areas with a high probability of a wildfire affecting people and property. Additional action may be required in these locations to decrease wildfire risk.

  • Tier 3 areas are at extreme risk for wildfire
  • Tier 2 areas are at elevated risk for wildfire
  • Zone 1 Tier 1 High Hazard Zones are areas with high numbers of dead and dying trees

One-third of homes in the United States are in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas. Defined as zones of transition between wilderness and land developed by human activity, these areas are at a greater risk of catastrophic wildfire. Santa Clara County has created an interactive map to help homeowners discern if they reside in a designated Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

Stay Informed

There are numerous ways to stay informed during emergencies, including during wildfire season. Consider signing up for these essential alert services.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) allow public safety officials to quickly and effectively inform the public of serious emergencies.

PG&E implements Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) in response to severe weather, including high wind events which may spark and/or spread a wildfire. Sign up to receive PSPS alerts here.

Sign up for CALFire’s Ready for Wildfire App to be notified of fires near you.

PG&E also offers free Wildfire safety webinars that are free virtual gatherings that allow community members to learn more about wildfire safety and emergency preparedness.

Homeowners Insurance

Contact your insurance agent at least once per year to review your homeowner’s coverage. If you live in a high fire danger area, discuss what additional coverage you may need.

Many insurance agencies use new wildfire underwriting guidelines that rate a property’s risk of being damaged or destroyed by fire. These guidelines assess property risk based on three factors:

  1. Fuel: Presence of significant trees, grass, and dense brush
  2. Slope: The steeper the slope of a property, the higher the risk of increased wildfire speed and intensity
  3. Access: Remote or hard-to-reach properties

Take photos and videos of each room of your home, including the contents of closets, cabinets, and drawers. Upload these visual documents to cloud storage, where you can access them if you need to file an insurance claim.

Click here for CAL FIRE’s information and resources on insurance and home inventories.

Create a Wildfire Action Plan

Having an emergency preparedness plan in place before you need it is crucial. Every family’s plan will vary depending upon unique situations, needs, and issues. Take this short survey to find out recommended actions for your personal wildfire action plan.

Every action plan should address the following:

  • A designated meeting location outside the hazard zone.
  • An outline and practice escape routes to the meeting location.
  • An evacuation plan for pets and large animals.
  • A family communication plan that designates an out-of-area individual as the single point of contact for all family members.

Other necessary action plan preparation includes:

For more emergency planning preparation guidelines and checklists, visit Ready.gov.

Pre-Evacuation Checklist

If you receive notification to be on evacuation standby, there are things you can do in and outside of your home to give it the best possible chance of withstanding a wildfire.

Follow this pre-evacuation checklist only if time allows and you and your family are not in imminent danger.

In advance of any evacuation warning, review your wildfire action plan, including escape routes, meeting points, and your family communication plan. Monitor wildfires in your area and stay up-to-date on your community’s emergency response plan, evacuation orders, and emergency shelter locations.

Have your emergency kits stocked and ready to go, along with a list of essential and irreplaceable items. Locate pets in advance and gather their necessary food, medication, crates, etc.

During an Evacuation

Wondering when you should evacuate? It is always better to leave sooner rather than later. Watch this CAL FIRE video to learn more.

If you evacuate, be sure to dress appropriately in long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and sturdy footwear. Bring a hat or cap and sunglasses. The proper attire will protect you against heat, smoke, and flying embers.

During an evacuation, remember the six Ps:

  • People and pets
  • Papers, phone numbers, important documents
  • Prescriptions, vitamins, eyeglasses
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  • Personal computer hard drive, USB sticks
  • “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash

Wildfire Resources

Take time to fully explore these online wildfire and emergency preparation resources. There are also numerous smartphone apps that can help you remain informed and provide on-the-go advice.

PG&E

CAL FIRE

Ready.gov

American Red Cross

National Fire Protection Association

CDC

National Weather Service

FEMA

Wildfire Community Resources

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.

Home Maintenance: Cleanliness is Next to Costliness

In California, especially in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, homeowners don’t have to undertake as much home maintenance and repair as people who live in states that have harsh weather. But our mild weather shouldn’t cause us to be complacent when it comes to proper home upkeep. Like an annual health exam, maintaining our homes inside and out is an essential preventative measure and costs substantially less than neglecting an issue.

This year, we’ve all paid a lot more attention to the importance of cleaning and disinfecting our homes. Not only does it play a role in our personal health, but keeping a clean home can help uncover and mitigate a myriad of costly home repairs.

Being familiar with your home and how it appears when everything is in good condition helps homeowners understand when something isn’t right, explains HarrellCARE Program Manager Marshall Parker. He stresses the importance of knowing when something seems unusual, then analyzing it, and ultimately quickly fixing the issue.

With years of industry experience, Marshall has seen how ignoring small issues costs homeowners. Marshall shares a story about a couple whose small children would splash water on the floor during bath time. “They noticed the floor delaminating near the tub, which they knew meant water was getting under their inexpensive vinyl flooring. Not wanting to deal with a repair that would probably cost them between a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, they put it off for a decade. Rot set in. When the flooring finally gave way, the damage had spread. The homeowners had to completely remodel the entire bathroom, including reframing the floor. Had they addressed the issue when they first noticed the weak spot in the floor years earlier, they would have saved themselves tens of thousands of dollars.”

Inside your home, the primary areas where issues will arise are in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms. Marshall recommends looking under and behind things as these are places where potential problems can lurk undiscovered. This includes peeking under and behind appliances, furniture, in closets, under sinks, and inside cabinets.

In bathrooms, moisture is the primary concern. Rot develops when a leak causes an area to remain wet or damp for an extended period. If there is a repeating pattern of something getting wet, drying out, and getting wet again, dry rot will form. Poor ventilation can cause mold and mildew to grow, and paint to peel or crack, which allows dampness to get into the drywall.

In and around showers and bathtubs, look for:

  • Missing or cracked grout and tiles
  • Missing or separated caulking around shower doors
  • Warped baseboards or moldings that are discolored or have pulled away from the wall
  • Soft spots or discolorations on the floor or walls

Marshall also recommends thoroughly checking under all bathroom sinks to look for any sign of water leaks. “It’s a pain to pull everything out from the cabinet, but it’s a much bigger pain to discover – too late – that your plumbing is leaking, and the cabinet (and often much more) is damaged.”

In the kitchen, check under sinks for signs of leaks and behind and under appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators. Clean up spills promptly on all surfaces, especially hot liquids on cabinets, which can remove or damage finishes. Just as in bathrooms, be on alert for cracked or missing grout, loose or missing backsplash or floor tiles, warped or discolored baseboards, and soft spots anywhere on the floor.

In laundry rooms, check around washers for leaks. Notice if any areas on the floor are soft or discolored. It’s also wise to check the vents in your dryer to ensure there is no built-up lint. A clear duct line reduces the chance for a fire. It’s wise to take a peek at your water heater, checking for water leaks or areas that appear to be or have been wet.

“Most water heaters need to be flushed to remove silt that has built up in the tank over time,” Marshall says. “How often varies depending on how hard your water is, but if you notice your hot water runs out faster than it used to, that’s an indicator to get your tank serviced. The anode rod, which helps protect the tank against erosion, also requires occasional replacement. Having your water heater serviced will cost you some money upfront but will extend the life of your water heater considerably as well as making it more energy-efficient.”

Your heating and air conditioning unit (HVAC) also requires regular maintenance. Replace filters in air returns regularly (even more so if the air quality has been poor or if there are furry pets living in the household). Have your system routinely serviced to ensure it is operating correctly. This boosts energy efficiency and, just as with your water heater, will prolong the life of the HVAC system, saving you thousands.

Marshall recommends checking these additional areas:

  • Windows: Look for leaks, condensation, or discoloration on window sills. Cracked or missing caulk or weatherstripping can let in unwanted air and moisture.
  • Doors: Check weatherstripping. When it’s dark, Marshall suggests shining a flashlight around the edges of all exterior doors. If any light can be seen on the other side, that indicates that drafts, moisture, and even insects can make their way inside.
  • Light fixtures & switches, registers, and ceiling fans: Hints of fine, ashy dust, or soot around these areas may mean that there is a ventilation issue in your home. Unwanted and often unhealthy particles are being drawn into your home through these areas.

It’s also important to check the exterior of your home. Clear leaves and debris from your roof and gutters and install gutter guards. Rake up leaves, trim back ivy, bushes, and shrubs to deter rodents from nesting. If you have an air conditioner, remove any bushes crowding the condenser to allow it to perform at maximum efficiency. Along your foundation, dig away any earth or mulch that is touching the stucco.

Do further investigation and undergo repairs if you notice any of the below issues outside of your home.

  • New cracks in stucco or paneling. Peeling, bubbling, or cracked paint
  • Dried or cracked caulking around windows
  • New cracks in concrete walkways or foundations
  • Damaged screens in foundation or roof eaves
  • Dented, bent, or damaged gutters or downspouts
  • On decks, check for loose railings, warped boards, and popped nails or screws
  • If you have a crawl space, look for damp areas that may indicate a water leak

All of this may seem like a lot. But that’s Marshall’s point about knowing your home and how cleanliness is next to costliness. “A clean house kept in good shape helps you discover potential issues before they become big problems,” he says. You don’t have to spend an entire day with a lengthy list in hand seeking out every issue at once. Know what to look for. When something looks wrong, don’t wait – investigate and fix it right away. For other things, like your HVAC or water heater, schedule annual or semi-annual reminders in your phone to have them serviced.

HarrellCARE’s Small Project Division can help with many of these home repairs. The HarrellCARE team will handle it all to minimize homeowners’ headaches while completing each project on time and on budget.

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.

Dawn to Dust: Cleaning & Disinfecting High-Touch Surfaces
 to Stay Safe, Maintain Finishes, and Keep Warranties Valid

Over the past six months, cleaning and disinfecting our homes has become of the utmost importance. Kelly Burnette, Harrell Remodeling Assistant Project Manager, did a deep dive into what it takes to both clean and disinfect surfaces properly.

“We all remember those aisles of empty shelves where the cleaning products should’ve been,” Kelly reflects. “People were, and many still are, disinfecting countertops, door hardware, and other frequently-touched surfaces in their homes. There is a correct way to clean plus correct ways to sanitize while also maintaining finishes and keeping warranties valid.”

The first and most crucial step is to clean before you disinfect. Get rid of dust, grease, and other build-up first. “Cleaning and sanitizing is not always a one-step process,” Kelly explains. “If a surface is visibly dirty, it is necessary to remove that dirt before disinfecting.”

Most appliances and materials, including countertops, have products the manufacturer recommends for cleaning along with others they warn against. Some cleaning products are too harsh or abrasive and can permanently damage the surface. Using those unapproved types of products will void any warranty provided by the manufacturer.

Once the high-touch surfaces in your home have been cleaned and are free of built-up dirt and grime following the specific manufacturers recommendations, you are ready for the more frequent, daily sanitizing procedures.

After considerable research, Kelly discovered a simple process and a highly effective solution that can be safely used to disinfect cleaned countertops, flooring, appliances, and other high-touch surfaces, while staying within the manufacturer’s guidelines for many different household surfaces.

Rather than purchasing several different disinfecting products, a mixture of 4 drops of Dawn dish soap, four Tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol, and one quart of water is an ideal solution for frequently sterilizing most surfaces.

“People have a misconception about bleach and how to use it,” Kelly shares. “Bleach is very caustic and shouldn’t be used on many materials in a home. This diluted solution of dish soap and alcohol is powerful without being overly harsh. It is also incredibly cost-effective.”

Thanks to its ideal pH, Dawn excels at removing dirt, grease, and grime without etching, discoloring, or otherwise damaging surfaces. Isopropyl alcohol is the sanitizing agent. When appropriately applied, this mixture provides 24-hours of disinfectant protection. The Dawn solution does have a shelf life, so only mix what you will use within five to seven days.

Disinfecting Process

  1. Use clean paper towels or non-abrasive microfiber cloths
  2. Spray the mixture onto the surface for the initial cleaning
  3. Wipe off thoroughly, ensuring no dirt or other residue remains
  4. Thoroughly saturate the surface with the solution and let sit for one minute
  5. Using fresh cloths or paper towels, wipe down the area completely

When cleaning light switches, the one-minute wet saturation isn’t feasible. Instead, apply the solution to the cloth instead of spraying it directly onto the surface and wipe down a few times a day. This process should also be used for door and cabinet hardware, cell phones, tablets, television remotes, and even computer keyboards and your computer mouse.

As you go through your home disinfecting, change the paper towels or cloths frequently. Continuing to use the same towel will only move dirt and germs from one location to another. Friction can also wear away an object’s finish, so it is vital to use a soft, non-abrasive cloth and avoid the same motion every time.

Kelly does advise caution when cleaning “living finishes.” Living finishes such as copper, bronze, brass, bamboo, and teak are subject to outside elements like weather, water, and air. The patina can be worn away or discolored by certain cleaning solutions; thus, it is best to use products expressly recommended by the manufacturer.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling, Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and the mid-Peninsula since 1985. The Harrell Remodeling Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out. To discover the lifestyle possibilities of your home, we invite you to reach out to one of our talented designers for a complimentary consultation or join us for one of our virtual workshops.

Repurpose Interior Spaces to Meet Your Lifestyle

After almost six months of spending a lot of time in our homes, many of us have discovered that our interior spaces may not be fully functional. We could use a dedicated office, a quiet area for our children to do schoolwork, a place other than the kitchen table for our 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. You might want to repurpose interior spaces in your home to better meet your needs.

“Families normally don’t spend such an extended period in their homes,” shares Harrell Remodeling CEO and Senior Designer, Lisa Sten. “Now is the perfect time to walk through your home with a fresh perspective to determine how you can reimagine and repurpose interior spaces.”

Lisa highly recommends starting this “room reimagining” at the curb. “We are all feeling disconnected from everyone outside of our immediate household and are searching for ways to socialize safely. Having a connection to others and the outdoors is something many of us are seeking.” For many homeowners, that means people-watching or holding physically distanced gatherings in their front yard. Front yards are an underused space ripe for repurposing. (We will be exploring repurposing front yards in an upcoming blog!)

Once inside your home, look with fresh eyes and analyze every room, every niche, nook, and storage space. Think about your lifestyle needs: how could these various big and small spaces be reimagined to meet those needs? Maybe those lifestyle changes are short-term, like an area for children to attend school online, while others, like dedicated game rooms, might be ones that your family will enjoy for years to come.

Living rooms are an excellent example of an area that many families don’t utilize frequently. Consider dividing large rectangular rooms into two sections, such as a seating area and game or study space. Rearranging the layout or adding multi-functional pieces of furniture can result in a quick transformation. Get creative – clear off that sofa table and use it as a desk. If your family is all about game night, turn your living room into a “tricked out” game room with areas to work on puzzles, play and store board games, engage in a round of foosball, pool, or other favorites.

Many newly-constructed homes don’t have a formal dining room, but if you have one in your home, seriously consider how often you use it. Do you plan to entertain often, and, if so, are they sit down meals or more informal occasions that occur around a kitchen island or in the backyard? Formal dining rooms can easily be transformed into a game area, play or study space, or a hobby, craft or music room. Installing glass or barn doors is a simple way to provide a barrier against sound or create privacy.

There are many wellness services that we’ve been unable to enjoy over the past six months. Getting a haircut or massage, enjoying a workout at our favorite local fitness center, going to a spa for some self-care, all of these are wellness luxuries we’ve gone without for a while. If you’d like to have these personal care services close at hand, you could remodel your master bath to include a steam shower, soaking tub, sauna, or a dedicated hairstyling space. “Harrell has a longtime client who has a specially designed location in her home where she has her hair cut and styled,” Lisa shares. “Many others love creating a spa-like experience in their master bathrooms or designing a dedicated space for yoga, lifting weights, or cardio fitness.”

What spaces or locations in your home could be revitalized? Consider all areas, large and small.

  • Living rooms
  • Formal dining rooms
  • Guest bedrooms
  • Under-stair or other storage spaces
  • Walk-in or large closets
  • Landings
  • Lofts
  • Open niches or nooks
  • Flex spaces
  • Large entry or hallways
  • Great rooms
  • Backyard sheds

One client’s airy great room was reinvented simply by adding doors. “The open space was ideal for keeping an eye on her young children, but when they got older, everyone wanted more privacy. Dividing the great room with artful frosted glass doors created a sense of separation between the kitchen and seating areas without diminishing the home’s natural light or overall flow.” 

There are many ways to breathe new life into your home, meeting your entire family’s needs, hobbies, and lifestyle. Some creative spaces include:

  • Game room
  • Home theatre
  • Hobby or craft space
  • School/study space
  • Playroom
  • Home office
  • Home gym/yoga studio
  • Meditation room
  • Music room
  • Art studio
  • Home library
  • Wine room

There are many opportunities to recreate under-utilized areas in your home. An open landing may be just the right spot for playing board games or a reading nook, and a guest bedroom can double as a home gym. Under-stairway spaces can become wine cellars or quiet study areas for distance learning or fun, cozy play areas for younger children. Spacious walk-in closets may have enough room for clothes as well as a home office set-up.

When deciding on the new purpose of a room or space, Lisa recommends considering the room’s lighting, size, and shape, and the privacy required. How many people will use it? What type and size of furniture are needed? Is natural light a necessity, or will other light sources suffice? Do you need visual or sound privacy?

There are numerous ways to reinvent and reclaim your home and repurpose interior spaces. Rearranging furniture, flipping a room’s purpose, and reimagining a space can breathe new life into your lifestyle. If none of these ideas work for your residence, consider constructing an ADU, an addition, or remodel. The Harrell Remodeling Design + Build Team is always here to help you reimagine your Silicon Valley or mid-Peninsula home inside and out.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and mid-Peninsula since 1985. We invite you to attend one of our virtual workshops or schedule a complimentary appointment with a Harrell Remodeling designer to learn more about how we can help you achieve your perfect lifestyle.

Does Your Home Electrical System Need a Check Up?

The power provided by electricity is an absolute necessity and one upon which all homeowners rely.

These days, with people working from home, students attending school online, and with the myriad of increasingly smart devices and über-modern appliances, electricity is integral to a home’s operation and is essential to enjoy our modern lifestyles.

Do you know the health of your home’s electrical system?

Harrell Remodeling’s Production Team Manager, Gary Gray, recommends inspecting and evaluating the items below to determine if your home is due for an electrical “wellness check.”

How old is your house?

If your home is newer construction, was built after 2008, or recently underwent a major remodel, odds are your electrical system is probably up-to-date. For houses constructed before 1970, the codes have changed considerably – as well as the amount of energy today’s homeowners demand. Homes of this age, especially with original electrical systems, should be checked for safety.

What type of electrical wiring does your home have?

Historically the two most common types of residential wiring have been 1.) Romex, and 2.) Knob and Tube. Commonly used in North America in the 1880s to the 1950s, Knob & Tube remains in some older homes in the Bay Area. And although not inherently unsafe, the age of this type of wiring can lead to it degrading and deteriorating, creating a safety hazard. Romex, on the other hand, is the modern standard for interior residential electrical and is made up of a tight bundle of 2 – 3 insulated copper wires encased in a non-metallic sheathing.

Is your electrical system grounded?

Grounding improves a home’s safety and applies throughout your electrical system. If your electrical outlets have two prongs, that is a sign that you have an outdated, ungrounded system. It doesn’t mean your house is unsafe necessarily, but it does limit the types of devices you can plug in. Your computer, for example, typically has three prongs and therefore requires a grounded outlet. Grounding from the outlet connects back to the panel via a grounding wire, and from the panel, it connects to a copper rod that is buried in the ground 8′ below grade. The purpose of grounding is to protect your electrical system in the event of a power surge or lightning strike.

Simply because an outlet has three prongs does not necessarily mean the outlet is grounded. Two-prong outlets are often replaced with three-prong outlets for the convenience of plugging in three-prong power cords. But with no grounding wire running from the outlet back to the panel, the outlet remains ungrounded. “Many homes built in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in tract homes that were prevalent in various Bay Area cities, had partially grounded electrical systems,” says Gary.

Are there signs of electrical overload?

There are often indications of an overtaxed electrical system. These include:

  • Burn marks or discolorations on outlets
  • Humming noises when an appliance is in use
  • Flickering lights
  • Sparking when a device is unplugged
  • Circuit breakers tripping regularly

The above are all red flags that your home’s electrical may be overburdened or has problems. Additionally, certain panel brands used decades ago are more prone to the risk of fire and electrical shock. Zinsco and Federal Pacific brands, in particular, have been widely publicized to have a higher failure rate and consequently lost their Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) rating.

What technology are you using?

In the past 20 or 30 years, the use of modern technology in homes has skyrocketed. Today, we have a wide variety of consumer devices that require electricity to function. Electrical systems didn’t use to have to meet such continuously high demand. The older your home and its electrical system, coupled with the amount of modern power-hungry tech you use, should be a reason to investigate your home’s electrical health.

Power Hungry Technology includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Solar Panels w Battery Backup
  • Kitchen
  • Personal
  • Printers
  • Routers
  • WiFi extenders
  • Smartphones, Tablets, and eBooks
  • Entertainment systems (TVs, sound systems, etc.)
  • Home Security Systems and Cameras
  • Smart assistants
  • Electric Vehicle Chargers
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters

Who has worked on your home?

Gary explains that understanding who has performed work on your home’s electrical system is critical. “There are many homeowners who either tackle electrical projects themselves or hire unlicensed handymen to perform work. This subpar work often results in jerry-rigged ‘updates’ that are potentially unsafe, including long-term use of extension cords, which are intended only for temporary use. If you suspect any such work in your residence, I would consider that a reason to get an electrical check-up.”

The Role of Title 24

In 1978, the California Building Standards Commission enacted Title 24. The goal of this state-wide energy code, which is enforced at the local level by city government agencies, is to ensure that all building construction, system design, and installation achieve higher energy efficiency levels.

The Title 24 code is updated every three years to consider and incorporate new energy-efficient technologies and construction methods. These standards save energy, expand electricity supply reliability, increase indoor comfort, prevent the necessity to build more power plants, and preserve the environment. But with these Title 24 improvements may come the need to make other upgrades to your electrical system.

The most recent Title 24 code changes went into effect in January 2020. Homes constructed under this revised code are 53% more efficient than those complying with the previous code from 2016.

Preparing for the Future

California’s Title 24 energy code continues to be revised, as cities strive toward all-electric, climate-friendly homes. Appliances such as heating systems, dryers, and kitchen stoves that once sourced power from natural gas are going electric and therefore are now tapping into a home’s electrical system.

Homeowners who envision a larger-scale (kitchen or whole-house) remodel, or additions may need to meet current code standards throughout their home, including their electrical system.

These upgrades could include:

  • Upgrading the primary utility service to the residence to support a larger service panel
  • Expanding the size of your service or sub-panel to include an Arc Fault Circuit
    Interrupter (AFCI)
  • Updating your electrical to add new circuits and install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
    (GFCI)

AFCI is a new technology designed to protect against fires caused by electrical arcing. AFCI breakers are installed in the home’s electrical panel to provide arc fault protection on each individual circuit. Because AFCI breakers are considerably larger than standard breakers, they consume more room in electrical panels, often requiring panel upgrades due to space constraints.

GFCIs are fast-acting devices, shutting off power to safeguard against electrocution. GFCIs are those distinctive outlets with reset buttons typically found in kitchens, laundry rooms, baths, and outdoor areas, as they are necessary for wet-area applications.

Additionally, Gary sees more use of integrated USB ports within electrical outlets, making it easier for homeowners to charge cell phones and other portable devices while leaving the outlet available for other purposes.

Harrell Remodeling frequently partners with licensed electricians to do a thorough inspection of clients’ electrical system, which is recommended every ten years. This two-hour examination includes checking panels, securing breakers, and looking over the entire system inside and out.

The safety and health of your home and its inhabitants are first and foremost. Please reach out to Harrell Remodeling to discuss your remodeling needs and to determine if an inspection of your home electrical system is necessary.

Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling Inc. Design + Build has been creating distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and mid-Peninsula since 1985. We invite you to attend one of our virtual workshops or schedule an appointment with one of our award-winning designers to discover how we can redesign your Silicon Valley or mid-Peninsula home inside and out.

The 4-1-1 on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)