Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

Advice from Experts – The General Contractor

We have started to get advice from local experts, as we are dreaming/thinking/planning about next steps.  Below is a bullet point list of some of the ideas we recently got from Jeff Hawks at New Beginnings, a friend who also has redone not only my parent’s house, but several large projects in their neighborhood in Sebastopol.

  • Put a 6-inch deep/wide “planter box” around the perimeter of the house, filled with gravel and dirt, to facilitate drainage.
  • Someone really liked brick at this place; sell any bricks we don’t want at $0.50 a piece.
  • Echoing our inspectors’ advice, wait a year before taking out any big trees or making any drastic remodels.  Get to know the place.
  • Replace only rotted stuff now, then slowly make other changes that were recommended by the inspectors as we work on the rest of the house.
  • Take the canopy of the redwood tree in the front (which totally blocks the house and looks kinda scraggly) up to the top of roof?
  • As a matter of maintenance, caulk all around the outside trim of the house, to keep water from getting in, around the windows and doors.
  • Our roof has 3 – count em, THREE – layers of roof on it.  We are definitely on the quest for a new roof (I will let Christopher talk about that) but Jeff recommended that we powerwash (only going downward) to get rid of lichen while we are waiting to figure out the roof (probably summer of 09).
  • He recommended retrofitting the windows with a white vinyl (they are currently black aluminum, which sweats, and definitely creates problems with mold in this very-wet-very-dry climate) to update the look of the windows.
  • He recommended colonial style trim near the floor, and a thinner trim around doorways and windows to quickly update the rooms.
  • In the garage there is a push-up door; for extra space and an updated look, he recommended a pull-up door.
  • Use blue shale gravel in the driveway.  Possibly extend the driveway out.
  • In the back, for the deck, use fiber glass roofing, and use tongue & groove framing.
  • Change out all outlets & switches with clean white.
  • For kitchen counters, he recommended “Meganite”.  He also recommended working with John’s Formica.  He recommended re-facing the cabinets (he said John’s could help us with that.)  Their phone number is 707-544-8585
  • For windows, he recommended working with Aaron at B&L glass, at 707-546-4143.
  • He also recommended visiting the Home Depot Clearance Section whenever we were there, and to find medium-grade fixtures at on-sale prices.
  • Overall, he said, we should be looking to do medium-upgrades.  The house is in a neighborhood that has some nicer houses (we are literally on the line of “estate-residential” zoning) and some simpler suburban developments.  If we go super-nice, we won’t get our investment back when we sell; if we go too cheap, stuff won’t last and we won’t be satisfied.

Jeff gave us a ton of ideas; he has been doing this work for a long time, did a beautiful job on my parent’s house, and is very practical and pragmatic about how to do things in a way that works with our needs and our pocket books.  Thanks so much Jeff!

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