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

Green Building Explained

What is Green Building

According to the World Green Building Council, a green building is one that, “in its design, construction, or operation, minimizes or eliminates negative impacts and creates positive impacts on our climate and natural environment.” Green buildings preserve natural resources and improve our quality of life.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides a framework for efficient, healthy, and cost-effective green building. Spearheaded by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is the most widely recognized green building rating system in the world, LEED certified buildings are a symbol of the highest level of sustainability.

Any building can be green: a shopping center, an office complex, a school, hospital, library, and a residence, provided they include and meet specific requirements and features such as:

  • Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
  • Renewable energy (i.e. solar)
  • Reduction of pollution and waste along with recycling and re-use
  • Use of non-toxic, sustainable, and ethical materials
  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Consideration of the environment and the inhabitants in design, demolition, construction, and operation

Harrell Designer and Code Specialist, Rafael Gomez, explains that after World War II, housing was built very rapidly to meet demand. “These post-war homes were not necessarily healthy or durable. They used materials that not only stripped our planet’s natural resources but also could unknowingly expose residents to lead paint and other toxic chemicals. With the increased global awareness of the importance of environmentally sustainable practices, green building has emerged as an all-encompassing process with the mission of creating long-lasting structures that take the health of the Earth and humans into account.”

When building a home, or remodeling in California, there are green building guidelines that must be followed, as California has its own green building standards, called CALGreen. The first state-mandated green building code in the nation, CALGreen measures are applied to planning, design, operation, construction, use, and occupancy of all new construction as well as remodels and additions.

CALGreen addresses five areas of construction and remodeling:

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

Every city must comply with CALGreen code standards and can also choose to enforce a higher level of green building requirements. “Palo Alto has been pioneering the green building movement in Silicon Valley for years,” says Rafael. These enhanced local city ordinances create “reach code” standards that go above and beyond those required by the state.

To encourage homeowners to upgrade to more energy efficient appliances or materials, many cities offer rebate incentive programs for installation of green alternatives such as solar panels, electric water heaters, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Palo Alto is spearheading California’s mission to have zero emission buildings by the year 2045. Many other cities and states are taking the same initiative, joining efforts with contractors and developers to make remarkable progress toward this mission of a carbon neutral future. Energy efficiency in new construction is exceeding the 2020 target of 33 percent.

“At Harrell Remodeling, we integrate the mandatory green building measures into each stage of a project,” states Rafael. “Depending upon the size and scope of the construction, there are also prescriptive measures we must take into account, such as roofing, insulation, and windows.”

Recycling construction material plays a significant part in green building. “Harrell Remodeling pays close attention to the recycling rules for all our projects,” Rafael explains. “It is our responsibility to meet the recycling requirements, and to salvage and repurpose materials for a second life.”

Rafael shares that some homeowners want to go even farther with making their residence environmentally friendly. Studies show that one in three Millennials want a home that is sustainable and eco-friendly. “Whether our clients simply want to meet the minimum green building standards, or want to make their homes as environmentally friendly as possible, Harrell Remodeling is here to help facilitate that.”

Myths about Green Building

There are a lot of misunderstandings and falsehoods surrounding green building. Below are just a few of the misconceptions and explanations dispelling those myths.

Green building is more expensive

According to Gina Rodda, principal owner of Gabel Energy, the upfront cost of an eco-friendly building is indeed more expensive but after year ten, the return on investment kicks in. The energy efficiency of a sustainable home results in considerable savings over time. And, because of the use of non-toxic materials and enhanced indoor air quality, the occupants enjoy better health and reduced medical costs.

Green building is not as efficient as traditional construction

Construction using green building is still a new process but when applied properly, which is where CALGreen and other code mandates come in, it can be exceptionally efficient in all phases.

Green building is just a fad

With our reliance on oil, escalating fuel costs, and the negative impacts we’ve made on our planet, we’ve reached a point where we need to pivot. And a large part of that pivot is the implementation of global green building practices. The green approach to construction is constantly evolving and requires diligence but this environmentally responsible and responsive process is here to stay. It saves resources, energy, and increases the health and wellbeing of occupants.

If a product has the Green label on it, it must be green

Unfortunately, this label isn’t an indicator of a product’s sustainability. It simply means the manufacturer complied with minimal criteria. Often, these are also less expensive options that lure consumers with the label and a lower price. To determine if a product is truly eco-friendly, ask a professional for advice.

If you are considering a remodel, addition, or construction of an ADU on your Silicon Valley or mid-Peninsula property, green building practices will come into play. Having been in the Design + Build industry since 1985, Harrell Remodeling understands the process and importance of these sustainable practices. We invite you to reach out and schedule an appointment with one of our award-winning designers to discover how we can make your home healthy and beautifully sustainable.

Making a Statement With Garage Doors

We’ve all heard the saying, “necessity is the mother of invention” and this definitely holds true for the residential garage. Well over a century ago when one of the primary modes of transportation was horse and buggy, many homes had carriage houses. These were outbuildings situated behind homes that served as shelter for the horses and carriage. When mass production made the motorized vehicle (the “horseless carriage”) popular in the 1920s, the garage replaced the carriage house.

As alleys behind homes were not constructed in the new post-war and 1950s and 1960s neighborhoods, garages eventually moved to the front of the home, often becoming a prominent (and sometimes not very attractive) architectural feature. Today, garage doors offer homeowners the opportunity to add visual interest to their homes, especially if their garage is a primary feature.

Garage doors have come a long way since the cumbersome single panel, manual, swing-up or sliding door. Today, they come in a myriad of materials, including wood, steel, vinyl, glass, and fiberglass, and the styles include contemporary, traditional, modern, and even the historic “carriage house” style. The almost limitless options allow homeowners to design a garage door that makes an architectural statement in keeping with the aesthetic of their residence.

Says Harrell CEO (and occasional Senior Designer) Lisa Sten, “Garage doors have such potential but are underused as a residential design feature. It’s imperative to take a holistic approach – a garage door should be a cohesive, rather than a standalone design statement.”

Lisa suggests that when choosing a new garage door for your home, you should consider:

  • Curb appeal
  • Cohesive design
  • Functionality
  • Energy-savings
  • Safety
  • Privacy and light
  • Material durability

When it comes to materials, wood doors are beautiful but take considerable time and money to maintain. Embossed steel or fiberglass doors with a wood grain offer a similar aesthetic and require much less maintenance. Opting for an insulated door will help keep your garage cool in the summer, and warmer in the winter, which is a benefit, especially if the garage is attached to your home. Be sure to choose windows wisely if privacy (or safety) is a concern. Frosted windows allow light inside while concealing the contents in your garage. Be sure to get a door with heavy-duty springs, especially if you will be using your garage door frequently. Lisa also recommends that homeowners purchase a new garage door opener and have both the opener and the door professionally installed.

There are a number of other elements to integrate with your new garage door in order to coordinate with the design aesthetic of your home, including:

  • Lighted house numbers
  • Exterior light fixtures
  • Trellis structure for plantings and vines above the garage doors
  • Planters or greenery on sides of doors
  • Complementary side gates and fencing
  • Coordinating person door to the garage
  • Paint or stain, and using accents colors

“Painting your garage door a contrasting or bold color makes a visual statement,” Lisa says. “In my opinion, darker colors tend to recede while lighter colors actually pop out more. If you prefer to have your garage door ‘disappear,’ paint it the same color as your house.”

Whatever the style of your home, the right garage door can make an impact, creating curb appeal as well as increasing the functionality of your home.

Woman-founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Remodeling has been creating distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. If you are considering transforming your space, allow our award-winning Design + Build team to help you create the home of your dreams. Reach out to us to set up your design consultation or sign up for one of our frequent and informative educational workshops.

Universal Design & Whole House Remodel

“Universal Design offers a choice to stay at home. If you are already planning a remodel, I always encourage homeowners to incorporate features that make their home more accessible, be that now or in the future. And it doesn’t have to look like a hospital. We can meld these elements into your home’s aesthetic so that it offers beauty and accessibility in equal measure,” explains Harrell Remodeling Designer, Debra Winston.

Here are key takeaways on how to include Universal Design features in your home on a scale both large and small.

Start at the Street

As you enter and depart, consider the various obstacles for those who may have mobility challenges. Many homes have a step up to the front door and creating a zero-step threshold via an inclined surface is an ideal way to remove this situation. The inclined access can be at a back or side door, can be made from decking, concrete or any other smooth surface. Integrating it into the surrounding landscape as well as the aesthetic of the house itself makes it appear as a purposeful design element.

Consider adding handrails to any exterior stairs, having well illuminated pathways, porches and entryways. A lighted house number is a code requirement but also enables emergency responders to more easily locate your home.

Backyards & Garden Spaces

Garden and yard spaces can be created or modified with Universal Design principles. Remove any tripping hazards such as stepping-stones or uneven surfaces where possible. Porches and decks should be enclosed with railings or large potted plants, both serving as a barrier against falling. If there is more than one step leading to a deck or other outdoor space, add a handrail for safety and accessibility. All hand and guardrails should be 42 inches high. (If the guardrail also serves as a handrail on stairs, it can be at 36 inches high.) The space between vertical railings must be no more than 4 inches wide.


Entry doors should be a minimum of 36 inches wide and should have a peephole at an accessible level for all residing within the home. At the point of entry, there should be a beveled transition or low-profile threshold to allow easy passage of wheelchairs and other mobility devices. A bench or landing for placing bags while opening the door also is desirable.


If the garage is the primary entry point, eliminate clutter to create a clear path to get into and out of a vehicle as well as enter the residence. If the entry into the house from the garage has more than one step, a ramp may be necessary.

The Interior

Multi-Level Homes

Many people have two story houses, which can be made accessible if there is at least one bedroom and a full bath on the main level.

Residences with multiple levels can be made fully accessible by installing a chair lift or an elevator. The opportunity for each is dependent upon the space available and the overall layout of the home. Budget plays a significant part as well.

Chair lifts are the less expensive option and require a landing area at the top and bottom of the stairs for the user to easily enter and exit. Elevators can be installed internally or externally and should be spacious enough to accommodate a person in a wheelchair plus one additional person. During a major remodel, a home can be redesigned with an elevator shaft (hallways and closets are great areas to use) but professional installation of an exterior lift can solve access challenges without “tearing up the house,” Debra explains. Installation should always be performed by a licensed elevator contractor.

Lighting & Electrical

Proper illumination in every room of your home is a key to Universal Design. Task lighting, ambient lighting and dimmable lights that offer visibility at night make a home safer and more navigable. When possible, install light switches, electrical outlets and thermostats at levels accessible to those who are seated.


If you plan on replacing flooring in your home, strive for a seamless transition from one space to another. Using the same flooring throughout when possible avoids the need for transition strips, making even inexpensive flooring appear high-end. If this isn’t achievable, thresholds of ½ inch or less create a smoother flow and a reduced tripping hazard. Taping or securing area rugs – or removing them altogether – eliminates tripping hazards.

Hallways & Doors

If you have the opportunity during a remodel, increase the width of hallways and doors. Most interior passageways should be 36 inches wide, but an additional six to 12 inches makes them more maneuverable, comfortable and flexible.

The typical interior door is 32 inches wide with some as narrow as 26 inches. Increasing doorways to 36 inches allows for easy passage, especially for those using mobility devices. If doorways cannot be made wider, there are some opportunities to widen doorways by using specialized offset hinges. These move the door out of the pathway when opened, increasing the passageway by 1-3/4 inch. Installing levered handles allow all doors to be opened and closed by those with limited grip or hand strength.

Bathrooms & Kitchens

Bathrooms with Universal Design elements can ensure homeowners can live comfortably and safely in their own home. For more specifics on integrating elements of Universal Design in bathrooms, refer to our blog on this topic.

As the heart of the home, implementing Universal Design principles in your kitchen also greatly enhances its long-term livability. Learn more about how to merge these elements into your kitchen by reading our Kitchens & Universal Design blog.

Laundry Rooms

Front loading machines set on pedestals provide ideal access while offering additional storage at a low level. Having a rolling laundry basket is also a plus.

Universal Design is a way to make your entire home livable for all stages of life, for people of all abilities and ages. It is a worthwhile investment to incorporate elements of Universal Design. These principles can be implemented all at once during a major remodel, in specific rooms, such as during a kitchen or bath remodel, or anytime you are considering any type of upgrade, including flooring, door hardware or lighting. Explore more about Universal Design on our website.

Founded by Iris Harrell and 100% employee-owned, Harrell Remodeling Design+Build has been creating distinctive homes since 1985. To learn more about Universal Design and how it can make your home more livable for years to come, we invite you to talk with one of our Designers. Feel free to email us or call our Palo Alto office at 650-230-2900 to schedule a meeting to talk more about Universal Design.

Designing A Roof With Curb Appeal

We’ve all driven by houses that have that certain something. These welcoming, attractive homes have that much sought-after moniker referred to as curb appeal. All of the exterior elements come into play – landscaping, color of the house, entry door, windows – to create a cohesive and inviting appearance. Yet there is one important element we don’t often consider when it comes to curb appeal: the roof.

Harrell Remodeling Designer, Rafael Gomez, studied architecture and worked in both commercial and residential firms before joining Harrell.

“I remember early on in my career, designing rooflines was my biggest fear. I couldn’t grasp how what was going on inside a home could be matched up in a proportionate, balanced way with the roof,” reflects Rafael. “The experience in figuring this out was valuable in teaching me how interior and exterior architectural elements worked together. Now, I really enjoy creating rooflines that add to the beauty of a client’s home.”

There are multiple components that make up a roofline:

  • Shape
  • Pitch
  • Mass/scale/proportions
  • Continuity
  • Flow

The goal is to find the right balance of each of these elements while also designing a roofline that is in line with the overall architecture style of a home. It is also important to consider the neighborhood in which you live so your home fits within the overall residential look and feel of the surrounding area.

“To maintain the architectural integrity and continuity of their neighborhoods, many cities have architectural guidelines that impact what homeowners can do to the exterior of homes,” explains Rafael. “It is always advised to gather all of this information in advance of starting a project.”

The proper use of materials and design elements also helps to create curb appeal. Dormers with windows, enclosed soffits, gutters and downspouts, vents, and rafter tails that have a distinct design are all ways to add visual appeal to a roofline.

There are also a myriad of roofing materials that can enhance the beauty and resale value of your residence. Certain materials look best with specific architectural styles so it is wise to take this into consideration as well as the pros and cons of each type of roofing.

Thanks to their affordability, approximately 70% of homes in the United States have composition/asphalt shingles. This roofing material comes in an incredible array of colors and profiles, and is a great option for many types of houses. Available in clay, concrete, slate, and fiber cement, tiles are another roofing material that can offer a dramatic profile for the right style of home. Wood shakes, once very popular, offer an attractive, upscale appearance but tend to be considerably more expensive than their composite counterparts. Metal is a great option to achieve a farmhouse look, or for use on a feature area, such as an accent on an entry, dormers, or bay window. Solar tiles are an up and coming roofing product, eventually replacing the large and unsightly solar panels that can often detract from an otherwise attractive roofline.

Designing a roofline that accentuates your home, especially if you are undergoing a significant addition or remodel, can positively impact your curb appeal. It’s critical to ensure your roofline has a balanced appearance, it structurally sound, and properly ventilated. Working with a designer to assist in selecting the finishes, materials, and other elements guarantees a consistent architectural aesthetic and a home that has one heck of a WOW factor!

Let Harrell Remodeling help you achieve a roof with incredible curb appeal! Schedule a complimentary session with one of our talented designers at either our Los Gatos or Palo Alto showrooms.

One of Harrell Remodeling’s premier designers, Rafael Gomez has a background in Architecture and his extensive design experience brings a bold and forward-thinking edge to the Harrell Remodeling Design + Build team. After graduating from Universidad Autonoma De Guadalajara in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, Rafael became a licensed Architect in Mexico. In 1995 Rafael began his professional career in San Francisco working in both commercial and residential architecture firms. Having worked in the field of design and construction, Rafael possesses a comprehensive design philosophy, which begins with the assumption that design is an intelligent process through which people arrange their environment. Establishing a relationship with his clients based on mutual trust and respect, Rafael carefully listens to client needs to create a custom design that fits their unique lifestyle. Designs that allow for function, durability and longevity are Rafael’s trademark. Thanks to his extensive project feasibility research and collaboration with our production department and engineers guarantee, these designs come to life. Rafael joined the Harrell Remodeling team after 12 years of Design + Build experience. His vision and attention to detail have won him many awards from NKBA kitchen renovations to whole house remodels as well as new homes.

Garage Doors: The Gateway to Curb Appeal

One of the most frequently used home additions is the garage. It rolls convenience, safety, security, and storage all into one. As a key component to your next custom remodeling project, a new garage or simply a new garage door can dramatically alter your Bay Area home’s appearance. And newer garage doors may provide improved function. If thinking about enhancing the curb appeal of your home, you may consider these options available for today’s garage doors.


Wood is a traditional garage door material that provides a more natural appearance. It blends in particularly well with brick, stone, and wood homes. Depending on the design, it can be elegant or rustic. Wood is a popular choice for carriage house designs and often comes with windows in the upper portion of the doors.


Metal garage doors for Bay Area homes are traditionally made of steel and aluminum. Traditional steel doors offer higher durability and an added sense of security. A more modern steel door, often called a sandwich construction, is now available with varying degrees of insulation to help ward off energy loss. Aluminum provides a sleeker look and is a much lighter weight material, although still durable. Both materials can be painted as needed to coordinate with the rest of your home’s exterior.


If you like the look of wood but prefer a less weather sensitive material that is easier to maintain, fiberglass may be the answer for you. Fiberglass doors are made in a broad variety of styles, including faux wood finishes available in different colors and grains.

Glass Panels

Many attached garages are incorporated into the front of the house, while other homes have detached garages that sometimes function as temporary workshops for hobbyists. The need for glass panels on a garage door can be dictated by the desire to have the door coordinate with the appearance of the home or to increase the natural light within the space.
Garage doors with large glass panels are also available and marry well with homes that have a high incidence of glazing. Adding glass panels to a garage door can balances the exterior appearance and provide a source of natural light to the interior.

Classic Versus Carriage

Classic garage doors are typically laid out in blocks and rows of rectangles. As the door rises, they roll up and disappear into the garage ceiling. Carriage house doors hearken back to the horse-drawn carriage era, and typically open outward from the center. Choose your carriage house hardware and windows carefully to create a plain or more ornate look. Add lift handles and knockers for an even greater authentic appearance.

If you’re not sure which look will best enhance your curb appeal, talk it over with our Design + Build team from Harrell Remodeling.

13 Home Maintenance Tips for Spring

Winter is finally coming to a close. With warmer days ahead, spring is an ideal time to give your home some much-needed TLC after months of cold, wet weather.

One of the best things a homeowner can do is to do a visual inspection both inside and outside their home. Look for mold or mildew build-up on the exterior as well as inside your home, especially after a long rainy winter. Keep an eye open for condensation inside windows. Look for peeling paint, bent or damaged gutters, or any other signs that indicate needed repair.


Spring is a great time to do some basic maintenance on your HVAC system. Swapping out your furnace filters is quick, easy, and inexpensive. It keeps your system operating efficiently and is one less thing you’ll have to worry about come next winter.
If you haven’t had your furnace serviced recently, schedule a maintenance visit now rather than waiting until you need the heat and discover your system is not functioning properly.

Just like with your furnace, your air conditioning unit needs a tune-up every few years and it is best to get this done in the off-season. That way, when the heat hits, you’re AC will be ready to cool.

Explains Harrell Remodeling Senior Project Manager Kai Jensen, “Most people only think about servicing their furnaces, AC units or roof when they encounter an issue. But the best (and cheapest) time to do this is during the off-season.”

2. Roof, Gutters & Chimney

Your roof, gutters, and chimney also need some TLC. Blow leaves off your roof, especially in the valleys where they tend to pile up. If not removed, they build up and eventually cause damage to your roof. Now is also a great time to have your roof inspected as well as have repairs completed. Remove leaves and other debris from gutters and have any damaged sections or downspouts replaced or repaired.

If you haven’t had one in awhile, an inspection will ensure your chimney is structurally sound while a professional cleaning keeps dangerous debris from accumulating and possibly causing a fire.

3. Look for Cracks in Stucco

If you discover large cracks in the stucco on your home, fill with a flexible caulking or apply a stucco patch. This reduces the chance of moisture seeping behind and into the walls and causing dry rot.

4. Sprinklers

Turn on your sprinklers and redirect them if any are hitting the exterior of your home. Over time, having water hitting the outside of your house can can cause dry rot. Replace missing or damaged sprinkler heads and check for water leaks.

5. Septic Tanks

If your home is on septic, it typically needs to be cleaned out every four or five years. And if you don’t already, purchase some septic treatment products and begin using this monthly to break down grease, fats, and oils.

6. Windows & Exterior Doors/Locks

Open and close each of your windows to make sure they operate properly. If you have double paned windows, look for cloudiness between the panes, which indicates window failure. Look closely at caulking on both windows and doors and reapply if it is cracked or peeling. If the paint is fading on the exterior of your windows, take time to repaint.

Check all exterior door locks and make sure they operate smoothly. If you have trouble getting the key in the lock or if you have to coax the lock itself to open, call a locksmith and get them to tune up your affected locks and possibly cut new keys.

7. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Check all of the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Make sure you have at least one CO detector on each level of your home. If you live in an all-electric home, carbon monoxide detectors are NOT required. If you have smoke detectors that are only battery operated, California law requires they include a 10-year battery that cannot be replaced or removed. Be sure to upgrade to these units if necessary.

8. Water Main

Locate your water main, remove the cover and look inside for leaks or water build up. Contact your local water company if you discover any issues.

9. Showers, Sinks, Toilet & Tubs

Check caulking around sinks as well as in showers where the tile meets the shower pan and around bathtubs where the wall tile connects with the tub. If the caulk is cracked, peeling, or pulling away, its time to reapply.

Check all drains for hair build up and remove using a tool made just for this fun job. This will reduce odor as well as allow water to drain properly.

Remove all of the aerators on your faucets, remove any debris and sediment, and reattach.

Turn on and off water valves for each sink and toilet to make sure they haven’t seized up and are operating as intended. Look under all sinks for leaks, check inside toilet tanks to ensure all parts appear in working order.

“To easily check toilets for leaks, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, your toilet has a leak,” shares Kai. “I also recommend homeowners locate and check their main outside water valve, making sure it turns on and off. The same with hose bibs. Being outside, they can tighten up over time so it is important to check them every so often.”

10. Replace Light Bulbs

During winter, lighting is used much more than in spring and summer so bulbs often burn out. In the evening, go outside and inspect your outdoor lighting for bulbs that are broken or burned out. Do the same inside your home and replace all nonfunctioning bulbs.

11. Garage Door

Open and close your garage door a few times to confirm it operates smoothly. Check all of the bolts, especially those responsible for attaching the door to the hinge and spring hardware, and tighten if loose. If it’s been awhile since you had your door serviced, it’s probably time to do so.

12. Washers, Dryers, Dishwashers & Refrigerators

Inspect all hoses for your dishwasher (located under the sink) and clothes washer for cracks or damage that could result in leaks. Clean the vents in your dryer, both those inside as well as behind the appliance.

Explains Kai, “Dryer vents need to be cleaned two or three times a year to prevent lint build up, which can result in a fire.”

Check the seals on your fridge for cracks and vacuum behind your refrigerator to remove dust build-up from the back of the unit, which can reduce the efficiency as well as the life of your appliance.

13. Electrical Panel & GFCI Outlets

Flip each switch on your electrical panel. If any circuits don’t stay in their “on” position, this indicates a potential issue and it would be worth having your panel inspected.

GFCI outlets are typically placed in the kitchen and bath. Test each by pressing the button to reset the outlet. If any fail to work or reset properly, it’s time to replace them.

“Many older homes don’t have GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens. These are important safety features and should be installed,” says Kai.

Maintaining your home can seem like an overwhelming task but the team at Harrell Remodeling is here to help. Our experts identify potential issues and point out areas that require maintenance. This proactive approach allows homeowners to actively participate in the maintenance and repair plan as well as address concerns before they become costly repairs.

Interested scheduling a spring maintenance inspection? Contact Harrell Remodeling to speak with one of our team members.

Kai Jensen is a native of San Jose. His father was employed in the design field, so Kai grew up immersed in the design and construction industry. He has worked in construction for over 40 years and has vast experience in both commercial and residential projects. A skilled craftsman, Kai spent part of his career building custom kitchen and bath cabinets. Kai obtained his licensed general contractor in 1993 and at one time ran his own construction business doing all phases of work from foundation to finish before joining Harrell Remodeling in August 2001 as a Lead Carpenter. Kai is now one of Harrell’s Senior Project Managers and is a Certified Remodeling Project Manager.

How Harrell Protects Your Home

At Harrell Remodeling, our slogan is one we take to heart: We never forget it’s your home.

Harrell Site Manager, Mario Rivera, takes these six words very seriously each time he begins a new project.

“The very first thing we do is to make sure that our client’s home is properly protected. I try to talk in detail with every homeowner, letting them know exactly how we will protect their property. In the back of my mind, I always consider “What if” scenarios. By installing protective materials, my team works to minimize these possibilities.”

Installing and instituting protective measures is mutually beneficial. It safeguards the health and safety of both the homeowners and Harrell workers as well as defends against potential damage during a remodel. The on-site Harrell Team focuses on a number of areas within a home, each of which are dependent upon the project’s duration, scope, and exact location on the job site.

For short duration projects, typically those under a month, carpet tape is used to shield most carpeting and large area rugs. This plastic material has an adhesive-type backing, which allows it to adhere to the flooring, providing a barrier against dirt and damage and a non-slip upper surface. (This tape shouldn’t be used on wool carpets, as it will pull out the strands.)

When a home remodeling project exceeds a month, more substantial measures are employed. This includes placing a paper (not plastic) under-layer barrier on top of the carpet to protect from moisture and possible mold build-up. This is followed by thick cardboard and thin wood or Masonite on top. This method offers multiple levels of protection that will withstand the daily rigors of a home remodel, including ladders scaffolding, and rough materials.

For carpeted stairs, a sturdy plastic non-slip membrane is applied. If the use of carpet tape is not possible, we will apply a product called Eco-Runner. This material is taped securely to the railing and baseboard. The angular nature of stairs requires the Eco-Runner material to be inspected frequently to ensure it remains intact, secured, and at peak protective performance. Railings and balusters also are swathed in a protective plastic under layer and adhered with a foam-padded tape. If necessary, thick rolls of cardboard can be shaped to protect the balusters to guard against heavier traffic.

Eco-Runner is a fantastic material for each of these types of flooring for short-term projects. For remodels over 30 days, durable plywood and cardboard are layered on top of the plastic runner to ward off scratches, dings, or other damage to the flooring beneath.

“Most flooring is very unique and if harmed, is often challenging to repair. Applying a variety of materials to guard against damage is well worth it,” explains Mario.

Though drywall is easier to repair than hardwood or tile should it get damaged, that doesn’t deter Harrell Remodeling from employing cautionary measures. Often used as a primary interior artery for workers and materials, hallways are wrapped floor to ceiling in heavy-duty plastic using a zip wall dust barrier system, which minimizes denting as well as keeps dust from spreading. Zippered doorways allow access into closets, bed and bathrooms. To further inhibit damage to walls, 4 foot by 8 foot spans of thick cardboard called thermo-ply are leaned against high traffic areas, especially at corners.

Protecting door jams, especially in high traffic areas, is a necessity and there are materials made exclusively for this purpose. The Harrell Team uses a plastic and cardboard C-shaped material that fits perfectly over the trim, offering instant defense against dings.

Cold air exchanges can’t be covered, as they are necessary for your furnace to run properly so at the end of each project, air filters are replaced. Floor and wall heating grills in active work areas are covered to keep dust at bay.

For lighting that isn’t a heat source, such as LEDs, plastic can be applied. Since dust can impede the functionality of smoke detectors, they are either covered or replaced once the project is completed.

Says Mario, “Though we always recommend moving as much furniture as possible out of the active work area, sometimes that isn’t realistic. When this happens, we cover each piece with a thin painter’s plastic and, if necessary, also use the zipper poles and heavy duty plastic walls to allow accessibility and added perimeter protection.”

Mario also lets homeowners know they should remove artwork, bookshelves, or other items on any walls that may be impacted by vibrations caused by work in progress on either side.

When working on the exterior of a home, Harrell Remodeling subscribes to the same mantra of treating each of our client’s home with courtesy and respect. Though landscaping is more challenging to protect completely, the goal is to minimize the impact to lawns, bushes, and trees. Trees are surrounded with a barrier of 2X4s, temporary fencing, and caution tape while bushes will be pulled away from exterior walls during work. Lawns can be protected with plywood, which is often raised up on bricks or concrete pavers to allow airflow.

Since every driveway is unique, the onsite Harrell Team takes into account every aspect of the project that could result in damage over the duration of the job. Driveways can be fashioned from numerous materials including pavers, asphalt, stamped or brushed concrete. If the drive will be a high-traffic thoroughfare, including moving heavy or sharp materials to the actual project location, or if there is a possibility of spills, the location will be protected with a heavy-duty plastic topped by a layer of plywood or OSB sheets, secured together with metal clips.

If the drive will only be used as a walkway, a patterned orange liner is applied is the path of travel. The pattern designates the area of defined usage, ensuring cleanliness while avoiding damage.

Since most residential driveways are not able to withstand the weight of large vehicles or material loads, the on-site team will have any heavy materials delivered to the jobsite dropped off curbside. This avoids potentially cracking the driveway concrete slab, which can result in an expensive repair.

Undergoing a home remodel is dirty and dusty, adding extra particulate matter into the air. Though we do our best to cut wood, tile, and other materials outside, this isn’t always possible. To mitigate this, all tools are connected to a vacuum, which automatically switches on and off with the tool to collect dust. Hoods are used on saws to keep sawdust contained, and we always use HEPA filters to clean the air. Air scrubbers absorb and minimizing the spread of fine dust and particles, protecting both the homeowners and workers.

At the end of each workday, Mario shares that each onsite team sweeps, vacuums, and removes debris. Openings in walls and floors are covered, tools and materials are set aside and covered with plastic, leaving the work area as tidy and safe as possible.

“Protection is very important to me. I do it out of appreciation, safety, and respect of the homeowners as well as for the safety and health of my team and myself,” Mario says.

Mario Rivera began working in the construction trade in 2002, beginning with basic framing. Fascinated by tools and building from a very young age, Mario was hired in 2014 as a carpenter for Harrell Remodeling, working his way to site manager thanks to his diligence, passion, and attention to detail. He firmly believes that the manner in which Harrell Remodeling treats their clients’ homes is just one way in which the company rises above the rest.

“When you’re choosing a contractor, it is really important to find out how they will safeguard your home and your safety,” Mario states.

Are you dreaming of a remodel? Schedule a consultation with one of our amazing Designers to discover how Harrell Remodeling can transform your home.

Waterproofing Your Residence: Think Like A Raindrop

Water is one of the most insidious sources of damage to a home. It has a way of sneaking and seeping into the smallest of places, often without the homeowner being aware until the damage it has caused is readily apparent.

According to Harrell Remodeling’s CEO, Ciro Giammona, there are three primary causes of water damage to a residence:

  • Failure by design
  • Improper installation
  • Deferred maintenance

Failure by Design

When building materials are used for the wrong purpose, or when the choice of materials isn’t suitable for the job at hand, the result can be considered failure by design. When choosing materials, it is critical to make sure to use the right ones for the job. For example, there are tiles for use on walls and tiles specifically made for flooring. Wall tile doesn’t have the same hardness and durability as floor tile and, if used in that capacity, it could fracture and create an inlet for water. Another misuse of materials is choosing wood that is not naturally resistant or treated to resist moisture and decay, and using it on decks and outdoor structures that are exposed to the elements.

Avoiding vital waterproofing steps like installing flashing around chimneys and skylights, or ensuring exterior surfaces slope away from your foundation are guaranteed ways to welcome unwanted water into your home. These and other “design flaws” are veritable invitations for water to come and stay awhile.

Improper Installation

There is a right and a wrong way to install most everything. A window is designed with an “inside” and an “outside” but, believe it or not, the Harrell Team has encountered a few that were literally inside-out! This extreme example of improper installation allows water to trickle into the walls, affecting the insulation, framing, and drywall. Exterior sprinklers directed toward your house, roofing materials and flashing improperly installed from the top down instead of bottom up, plumbing that isn’t suitably connected—all of these contribute to water intrusion in a home.

Deferred Maintenance

Every home, no matter how new or how old, needs to be maintained. Normal “wear and tear” along with varied exposure to the elements invites opportunities for moisture issues. By putting off necessary upkeep, especially those that are water-related, homeowners are setting themselves up for even more costly repairs down the road.

“Our team is frequently called to a home to repair something that, had it been addressed at the first sign of the issue, or even better, been properly maintained, would have cost much less money,” explains Ciro. “One rule of thumb is to budget about 1% of your home’s value every year on maintenance. It sounds like a lot but in the long run, maintaining is much less expensive than repairing a major problem.”

For example, when paint begins to crack, flake, or peel, water can creep behind the protective barrier it provides and be absorbed into your home’s siding or other porous materials. When the underlying materials are damp, the damage to surrounding areas will accelerate, resulting in more extensive repairs.

Properly maintaining you grout is another vital step to keeping moisture at bay. Unsealed grout, or grout that cracks and is not repaired can further deteriorate, causing water to seep through and behind the tile, causing damage to drywall, cabinetry, flooring, and more.

The good news is there are steps homeowners can take to waterproof their residences. The number one guideline is to stay on top of maintaining your home, addressing issues before they become problems.

“If you see areas of your home where the paint is peeling, you can often touch it up and extend the life of your exterior paint,” Ciro advises. “I also highly recommend that homeowners check under their sinks. It’s not a place you look often but a slow drip can easily go unnoticed until flooring and cabinets are damaged.”

Ciro also suggests having a licensed roofing company inspect your roof during the warmer months and preemptively fix any issues they discover, such as tree branches in contact with the roof, rusting flashing, or loose shingles. If you have a basement or crawl space, grab a flashlight and go hunting for standing water or areas that appear damp. Caulking is another material that, although designed to be flexible, needs to be reapplied on a continual basis to ensure it continues to repel water.

“We have a client who, in the midst of a rainstorm, conducts what she calls a ‘rain walk.’ She heads outside and looks for things like overflowing gutters, water pooling near the foundation of the home, condensation on the insides of windows, or water that is getting into crawl spaces,” Ciro explains. “These rain walks really help her keep on top of potential issues early on.”

The team at Harrell Remodeling is here to help waterproof and maintain your home. By conducting annual walk-throughs, our experts identify potential issues and point out areas that require maintenance. This proactive approach appeals to many homeowners as it allows them to actively participate in the maintenance and repair plan as well as address concerns before they become costly repairs.

Interested in learning more about how to waterproof your home? Contact Harrell Remodeling to speak with one of our team members or to schedule your HOME WATERPROOFING MAINTENANCE WALK-THROUGH.