Home & Architectural Trends Magazine Features a Mega Builders Designed & Built Home!
When an international magazine notes our work, we are pleased. So, when renowned magazine Trends asked to do a full pictorial story about a house we designed and built we were thrilled!
In 12 pages of magnificent color photos the custom home we designed and constructed is featured and showcased in Trends latest (February 11′) ‘book’.
While the magazine is available at newsstands (for $10.95 a copy), you could view the entire story as our guest on Trends’ ebook format here.
Please share this with your friends and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!
Remodeling University: Got A Leak? Things To Do When You Have A Water Leak In Your Home
Two weeks ago, in our Getting Ready For Winter post, we have highlighted some essential steps you need to take before the onslaught of winter to minimize the likelihood of water leaking into your home. But leaks might (and do) happen, even with a brand new roof. Besides, not all water leaks would be rain or roof related: stucco or windows’ assemblies might be faulty and let rain water in, pipes might burst, toilets (or washing machines or dishwashers or ice maker lines) could leak – in short, there could be many reasons and sources for a water leak.
So, assuming you have a leak – what should you do?
1. Stop water from getting in: This, of course is common sense. If the leak is from the roof, have it covered and/or plugged temporarily so immediate leaking stops. Permanent repairs should not be attempted while its raining (please have licensed professionals address this. DO NOT climb your roof to plug a leak when its raining please). If the leak is from walls (from say, a bad lathing and stucco job), gutters, doors or windows have someone temporarily cover the area with plastic sheeting and address the issue when its no longer raining (again, please use licensed professionals to mount and fix plastic sheeting to the exterior when raining). If a water line broke, shut down the water and call for emergency plumbing repairs. And if a fixture (or an appliance) are the source of the leak – shut down the water to that fixture/appliance and call for repairs. Note that from a Homeowners’ Insurance standpoint it is your responsibility to take immediate and reasonable steps to mitigate the problem so as to minimize the loss.
2. Completely dry and vent the affected area: The issues here are long term damage to materials and mold. Wood materials are very sensitive to moisture. Large fluctuations in moisture levels will cause wood to swell. This in turn will irreversibly damage assemblies and finish products in your home; HDWD flooring would swell, warp and buckle, finish trim would separate and loose its shape, doors would swell and/or delaminate, cabinets would be ruined and so forth. Whenever any area gets wet from a leak take immediate steps to remove the water and dry the area. The other issue is mold. Mold spores float about everywhere. To become a problem though, mold requires a high-moisture surface to rapidly grow on. When surfaces are left moist on a regular basis, you will soon find mold (for example – the grout lines at the bottom of your shower walls). When you have a leak, water penetrates areas out of reach (such as inside wall cavities, under cabinets, etc.) The result? Mold growth within 24-48 hours. The longer moisture is allowed to remain, the bigger your mold problem becomes. At some point, not too much after the initial leak, mold will propagate to other areas of the home as well (aided by your home’s forced-air unit and duct system). It is therefore imperative that as soon as a leak occurs you not only notify your insurance company (regardless if you or they think it is a cover claim or not), but also take immediate steps to fully remediate the situation by drying and venting operations. Note that your homeowners’ policy might have strict caps on the amount associated with mold issues. As long as competent drying and venting operations are done within 24-48 hours of the loss, you should not have a mold problem. If, however, as is unfortunately so often the case, your insurance company ‘drags its feet’ in how they respond and moisture is allowed to fester, a mold will become a problem. You will certainly need competent representation in your dealings with the insurance company in this case. Either by a contractor well versed in insurance claims and/or by a competent Public Adjuster.
3. As relavant, file and pursue a claim with your insurance company: Not all water leaks are covered by your homeowners’ policy. Typically, accidental damage would be covered, while long term condition would not. Having said that, do not take your insurance company’s input with respect to denying a claim at face value. We’ve seen too many claim, initially rejected as ‘not covered’ by insurance companies, only later to be recognized and paid in full – once the homeowners got competent representation. But, as noted above, it is your burden and obligation to notify your insurance company of a loss as soon as practical. In preparing for the adjusting process and so that your interests are guarded, take a lot of pictures, keep a log of who you speak with and when and both submit and get everything ‘in writing’.
4. Get representation: It has been said that ‘he who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client’. This has never been truer as when dealing with your insurance company on your own. The insurance company is not your friend. It is not on your side and it will not fairly and amicably represent your interests in the loss. As a matter of fact, the complete opposite is true. NEVER deal with an insurance company on a loss without representation. At the very least, engage the services of an insurance contractor. A contractor versed in insurance losses to represent you and deal with the insurance company on your behalf. Note that NONE of the insurance company’s recommended or referred contractors qualify. They are all indebted to the insurance company (the source of their jobs) and regard the insurance company their true clients, at least in the long-term sense. Depending on the loss’s size and complexity and depending on your insurance company’s level of reluctance/resistance to meet its obligations, you might also need to engage with a competent Public Adjuster.
5. Repairs: Regardless if the loss is covered by your policy or not, beyond the emergency measures noted above, permeant repairs will need to take place. While finish materials in most cases would need to be disposed of and replaced (no, the warping HDWD floor should not be sanded and refinished – your insurance company’s posture notwithstanding), latent and pervasive defects and deficiencies would need to be addressed as well, else a leak will repeat itself again. Your best bet in this case is a general contractor with know-how and expertise in all building assemblies and systems. A roofing contractor may not be your best bet in assessing or addressing water penetration issues from the stucco, much like a kitchen remodeling specialist might not be your best bet in assessing or addressing water issues in the subfloor area. Make sure to not only address and repair visible surfaces and materials. Have professionals resolve the causal issue(s) as well.
Paraphrasing numerous volumes about buildings and ‘why structures fail’ in a word, that word would have to be ‘water’. At some point most of us would experience a significant water loss in our home. Addressed swiftly and properly, short and long term damages caused by it could be minimized and repairs, properly done, could effectively restore the home to pre-loss condition or better. The above guidelines and recommendations are a good place to start with. Beyond that, things would greatly depend on your insurance company and on the team you choose to represent you and your interests to them.
Mega Builders has handled, with remarkable success, over a thousand claims, including water and fire damage, smoke and soot damage, earthquake damage and so forth. We are often hired as Experts by attorneys representing the homeowners as well. If you have any damage to your home, be it water damage, fire damage, etc.) please do not hesitate to give us a call. We will represent you, the homeowner solely – we never represent the insurance companies. You can reach Alon Toker (Mege’s President) directly at 818-535-5656 (or at firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or comments. We welcome you call.
Remodeling University: “Solar Power International 10″ – Biggest Solar Trade Show Just Ended
For three days last week, Los Angeles was home to the largest B2B solar show in North America.
Attendance was brisk and the number of vendors was staggering. It is remarkable to observe the expanding scope of this show from year to year, regardless of the general economic conditions ‘out there’.
With California accounting for about 50% of the entire US solar industry, local consumers enjoy great selection and a competitive market place.
We were there on all three days to say ‘hi’ to suppliers, to look at new products, to see new trends and to keep abreast of new technologies.
Here are some products of note in no particular order:
This is the incomparable Sanyo HIT double. A transparent solar panel that benefits from both direct sunlight and reflected light from the surface below it. It is great for trellises and has a wonderful ‘hi-end’ look.
This is a Building Integrated glass solar panel from Schüco. It is gorgeous, large and $$$. Imagine a complete facade done with this panels. Breath taking!
This is 3M’s “Ultra Barrier Solar Film”. The possibilities are endless!
Westinghouse came up with a remarkable solar system. The panels are beautiful to look at, the system is modular and holistic in its design, minimizing parts, exposed wires, potential grounding issues and eliminating hi-voltage DC. It also enables remote monitoring of each individual panel. This is state of the art – and we have it available to our client TODAY!
For more on solar and how you should go about getting it (it might not be for you), please visit us here and download our free Solar Installation Report. Or, feel free to call Alon Toker, Mega Builders’ President directly at 818-535-5656 (or email at email@example.com).
You can read many more article about remodeling, general contractors, cost of construction and other important issues to homeowners at our Remodeling University blog.
Remodeling University: Getting Ready for winter
With summer behind us, winter is not far off. In addition to changes to our wardrobes, there are steps we need to take to make sure that our homes are ready for the coming rains. Here are some suggestions;
1. Roof: If your roof leaked before and you put off repairing it – fix it now. It is always cheaper (and safer) to repair a roof before it leaks as it would be after, because once water penetrates the home you have to contend with leak damage as well – and water damage repair can be very costly! If your roof looks like it is at the end of its ‘shelf life’, get a qualified roofer or a trusted Los Angeles remodeling contractor to evaluate it and make recommendations.
2. Gutters: Have the gutters cleaned from leaves and other debris. Clogged gutters will lead to water infiltration into the wall and the interior of the home. I recommend that you use trained and properly equipped workers for that task and not attempt it yourself as the risk of injury is real.
3. Doors and windows: Check (or have a qualified contractor check for you) the condition of all the weatherstripping, door sweeps, glazing and caulking at your doors and windows. If in poor state of repair, water might infiltrate during significant rainfall or wind-driven rains. Even if water does not penetrate, poorly weatherstripped doors and windows will significantly undermine the thermal barrier, running up your heating bill.
4. HVAC: You are likely to use your central heating this winter – even if you live in Southern California. Have an HVAC licensed contractor test run your furnace, check your ducts for leaks and check your thermostats. If possible, duct cleaning might be a good idea as well.
5. Insulation: Not a winter item per se, but as viable for winter home-comfort as it is for summer and as attractive for winter energy savings as it is for summer. Is your sub-floor area insulated? Is your attic?
6. Yard and Storm drains: It is imperative to have all rain water shed away from the structure. Make sure your storm drains are not clogged or damaged. Review grading around the home’s perimeter and make sure it slopes away from the structure everywhere. If you have sump-pump assisted system, test the pumps and the system – BEFORE it rains.
7. Water usage: Fall and winter are great times to save on irrigation. While you can certainly do that manually but shutting off your sprinklers every time it rains, you might want to consider investing in an automation of that function. Many systems and devices offer that functionality, from rain sensors to soil moisture sensing devices. With such devices installed, you savings are will be most readily realized in the fall and the spring.
8. Power usage: During the colder months, your pool can do with less circulation. You can save 2-3 hours of pool pump operation daily. Change your timer accordingly.
To paraphrase numerous books about ‘why structures fail’ in one word, the word most experts would agree on is ‘water’. Of that, there is plenty of – even in a Southern Californian winter. A little care will go a long way here and will prove to have great ROI.
Good luck and stay dry!
Mega Builders is a leading Los Angeles contractor, with specialized know how, certifications and experience in ‘green remodeling’, home damage restoration, solar PV, design and large scale remodeling projects.
Remodeling University: What You Should Call Mega Builders For
The tern ‘home remodeling’ is far too encompassing and general to be of real value. All too often we get a call or an email from a homeowner who approaches us because we are a Los Angeles remodeling contractor with questions about work elements that we do not do at all.
So here is a short run down of the areas in which we have developed a level of expertise, proficiency and know-how that enable us to not only give you the best possible product, but also helps us do it for the most competitive price:
1. Design/Build – almost without exception, we designed all of the hundreds of projects featured on our site. We are very proud of our core competency in design. From a kitchen remodeling to a custom home, our new floor plans and designs are always creative, magnificent, rewarding to live in and, as importantly – your budget centered. Our expertise include complete teardown and rebuild, additions (first and second floors) and whole-house remodeling projects. We have done hundreds of those through the years to our clients complete delight.
2. Kitchens – we have remodeled well over 1000 kitchens to date. Of particular note in this regard is the fact that we are the exclusive North American distributor for the Mal Corboy Cabinets. These amazing museum-caliber creations are on par with or exceed the quality, fit and finish of the best of the European brands, from Poggenpohl kitchens to Snaidero and so forth. Aside from Mal Corboy Cabinets we have extensive lines of custom cabinets for almost all budgets and styles.
3. Home Damage Restoration – since the 87′ Whittier quake we have handled thousands of insurance related losses. Dealing with an insurance loss (examples of which would be fire damage repair, water damage repair, etc.) is very different than dealing with a regular remodeling project. Securing a fair, complete and amicable settlement from the insurance company should not be taken for granted and rarely happens without massive, concerted and particular effort on behalf of your ‘team’. You need representation when dealing with an insurance company (never go at it on your own!) and we put together a team of the best professionals (public adjuster, etc.) out there. Repair work for home damage restoration too is very different than ‘run of the mill’ remodeling.
4. Solar – We carry a specialty license for solar. Although we could ‘do’ solar with our general contractor’s license, it was important for us to demonstrate to our clients that we have the particular core competencies involved with solar power panels, solar systems, building science and green technologies. The fact that our expertise and experience also include building and roofing makes us particularly equipped (unlike almost anyone out there) to deliver a quality product that will serve you without fail for many years. Our design awareness and know-how is helpful as well. We do our best to come up with solar system solutions that are not only well priced, reliable and efficient – but also architecturally pleasing.
Anyone can lay claims for expertise and experience. But the ‘proof is in the pudding’ as the saying goes. The many projects featured on this site speak volumes to that end. Furthermore, our multiple licenses and certifications (not to mentions media coverage, awards, etc.) should be further proof. Last, but not least, our top rating with the BBB (a rating of A+) is second to none and ahead of almost all companies in this industry. It is reflective of our client-centered approach and unwavering dedication to our clients’ satisfaction and to delivering on (and exceed) all of our promises.
Remodeling University: Do You Really Need a General Contractor?
With all the discussion (see previous posts) about the best way to hire a general contractor, Los Angeles residents might ask themselves a legitimate questions: “do I really need a general contractor on my project?”
Well, in my opinion, the answer depends on your particular circumstances.
Generally speaking, the more complex your project is and the larger it is, the more a competent general contractor is needed. Many homeowners might not be aware of it, but being an owner-builder is a viable option for many remodeling projects. That category (owner-builder) is also recognized by the city for the purpose of securing permits.
As an owner-builder, you act as the GC (general contractor). So let’s say that you live in Los Angeles and Kitchen remodeling is what you are considering. You might decide to do the demolition yourself, have an electrician take care of the electrical work, a handy man patch the walls, you’ll do the painting, the Home Depot would supply and install the cabinets and a friend of yours would install the tile counters. Is that a legitimate approach? It sure is…providing;
Here are some of the challenges you should be aware of:
1. Like for anything else, for this too there is a learning curve. Even if you are a very fast learner, chances are that you’ll have a few missteps the ‘first time out’.
2. Design knowhow: the more complex the project, the more critical the design would be. Unless there is a design professional on your team, yours would be a hit-n-miss experience.
3. Code and construction knowhow: Someone on your team needs to be knowledgeable in the various codes pertaining to your project and in the best sequencing for your particular work.
4. Competent supervision: while a layperson can review finish work and judge it satisfactory (or not), the same does not hold true for ‘rough’ work. As a layperson, can you tell if the plumbing is run correctly, the wires properly sized, the drywall legally nailed, etc?
5. Availability: will you be able to be on site to see that things are done as agreed to or as needed? Was the gravel base placed before the driveway was poured? Was the second coat of paint applied? Were the old pipes abandoned and new ones ran in the wall? Unless you are – A. On site to supervise and note all these things, short cuts are certain to take place and B. Even if you are at home to supervise, do you know enough about construction’s ‘best practices’ to be able to effectively supervise?
None of it is ‘rocket science’. Truly. But there is enough complexity in today’s homes that you need to consider your options; if you have a basic project that does not involve multiple trades, is not too complex and the overall scope and budget are small, I think you can take it on yourself, should you be so inclined. Just take the time needed to educate yourself (endless resources are available online) and stay on top of everyone. If, on the other hand, the home remodeling you are considering is complex, involves structural work, requires design and/or is broad in scope and budget, I strongly recommend that you team with a competent, professional and experienced general contractor. Without a doubt, that would be in your best bet.
Remodeling University: Choosing A General Contractor
As noted before, the subject of how to choose the best contractor for your project is of critical importance. It is probably the most important decision you’ll have to make with regards to any substantial remodeling adventure. It is also a subject that is impossible to cover adequately in a single blog post. So here is the second installment;
Beyond the brouhaha of a sales pitch and independent of the appeal of low, or too-good-to-be-true quotes, an alert homeowner can find clues and telltale indications relating to the remodeling companies being considered. The challenge of course, is to ignore the pull of the ‘great’ low quote or the charisma of the persuasive salesperson long enough to be able to objectively evaluate these criteria.
1. Contract: educate yourself about what a complete and proper Home Improvement Contract should contain (in California, use the CSLB website). Ask the contractor for all his contract papers and compare to what’s required. You will often finds remarkable short falls in what the contractor’s contract looks like to what it needs to be. Note that these state mandated contract elements are there to protect you, the consumer.
2. Payment Schedule: Never, ever work with anyone that requires substantial sums ‘with commencement’ of anything (unless you are ordering a custom item, like cabinets). A good Payment Schedule is hinged upon Completion of stages of work, not commencement of them.
3. Success leaves clues: if the contractor is indeed professional, experienced and competent and has been doing this for a time – what does he have to show for it? Did he receive any awards? Any positive media recognition? Talk is cheap – the proof is what you need to look for.
4. Scope of Work: how detailed and complete is the Scope of Work? Worry of its not. Did you hear the sentence “don’t worry about it” once too often? Worry about it.
5. Portfolio of work: well, first many construction companies in Los Angeles (and I’m certain, elsewhere) don’t have a portfolio of their work, but may be doing great work. If you did not look through a portfolio ask and go look at projects (recommended at any event). The point here is about those who do show you a nice portfolio. Are these pictures of projects these contractors actually did or are these pictures off the internet, manufacturer’s brochures and so forth? A keen observer should be able to tell.
6. Deposit amount: are you being asked for an unreasonably high amount up front? That’s a big red-flag. In California, the deposit cannot exceed $1000 or 10%, whichever IS LESS!
These are just some quick examples of indications you might be heading into troubled waters. Remember that in remodeling the amounts involved are relatively large and the ‘entry threshold of membership’ is very low (it doesn’t take much to present oneself as a contractor or even to procure a license to be one). Together, these two factors are a recite for trouble.
A proactively cautious homeowner that is diligent and careful about any hiring decision will likely end up fairing better with regards to the project than those owners that are not.
Remodeling University: Choosing A General Contractor
Choosing the right general contractor for your project is the single most important decision you will make with regards to your remodeling work. The scope of this subject far exceeds that of a single blog post, so I expect to revisit this issue several times in future posts.
For starters, why is this such an important decision?
– Unlike an ‘off the shelf’ item’ your project is yet to be ‘manufactured’. Yet, the ‘factory’ qualities are unknown.
– Once a general contractor is hired, you are no longer dealing with a regular business transaction. You are now a ‘hostages’ along for the ride.
– The contractor’s knowhow, expertise, notions regarding quality and ethics, financial strength and so forth – all critical to the success of your work – are all unknowns for the most part.
– The contractor’s demeanor under pressure and when problems arise (and they will) will greatly affect your experience of the project and ultimate outcome
– Cost overruns and time overruns, so pathetically common in remodeling, could adversely affect your family and you and are mostly contractor related
– The ‘value proposition’ or ‘what you are getting for your money’ is entirely hinged on the contractor you hire
– Of course, there are the nightmarish scenarios associated with unsavory, aggressive and/or underhanded contractors (that our industry is full of, regrettably), which often result in job-abandonment, walk-aways (with padded pockets and little work completed), liens being filed by unpaid vendors or subs and the like.
So it is clear why this is a critical decision. Why than, do so many homeowners fail to make the right, or at least the best choice?
Well, the blame here is shared, I believe, by both the contractors and the owners:
– Regrettably, some of the more shady and aggressive contractors out there are also some of the most accomplished companies as far as sales are concerned.
– Much like con artists that could be charming, charismatic and endearing, so are some of the salespeople working for such companies. It is almost too easy to be misled
– Mediocre contractors (and worse) compete on price alone. They would often be among the lower bidders
– Greed is a powerful motivator. Affordability is almost as strong. When homeowners want a more involved project than they can afford, they sometimes lose some common sense and better judgment when faced with a ‘great’ (read: too good to be true) bid.
– With so many contractors out there and with the ‘urban myth’ of the ‘get 3 estimates’ guiding homeowners’ hiring practices, odds are the homeowners choice for a contractor would be the wrong one.
For starters, I strongly recommend downloading and reading our free report: “The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make Before Remodeling that YOU must avoid”. You will find this report on our Home page (www.megabuilders.com) at the top right corner.
Beyond that, read through our articles and elsewhere about best practices for hiring a contractor. You will find more about this right here, in future posts, so please feel free to come back.
Remodeling University: Manage Your Mindset First for a successful Los Angles Remodeling
Home remodeling projects, large and small, place unusual demands on homeowners.
In the best of cases (if you chose your general contractor well), you will need to deal with noise, interruptions to water and power services, strangers in your home on a daily basis, significant disruption to the family’s routine and so forth.
You’ll also be the point person for a team of players that might not always see eye to eye with each other and/or with you.
All of this – in addition to whatever you have going on in your life already. A challenge indeed!
Before you can manage others and be positive and proactive under the stress introduced by a remodeling project, your best bet is to manage your state of mind.
I have worked with homeowners that were a great asset to their own project. They were in control of their emotions, they made a point to compliment the workers and other team members, they appreciated others’ efforts and showed it, they addressed problems proactively and ran their projects in a business like fashion, avoiding making problems (which will always come up in remodeling) personal or larger than what they actually were. This type of attitude inspires and motivates everyone that is involved in a project. The atmosphere is positive and the results are somehow always better.
As importantly, with this attitude, the homeowner’s own experience is cast in a positive light and the project is much less of a burden as a result.
My advice: before embarking on a project, take a deep mental breath. Vow to be a positive and a supportive center of influence. Tell yourself (and internalize the notion) that you are about to embark on an adventure. One that is going to be challenging but fun and rewarding. Prep your family in advance and solicit their participation in the adventure. They should all share in shouldering the responsibilities. They should all be kept informed about what is going on. They should all take ownership of the process and have a vested interest in the outcome (a great way to accomplish that is by soliciting everyones’ input regarding certain design decisions, for example).
With the right attitude and spirit…and with the right team at your side, you will remember your project ‘days’ fondly for a long time. You will remember the project as a challenging, rewarding and successful experience. More importantly, you will enjoy the results that much more for years to come and, unlike the vast majority of folks that remodeled their homes, you will have great and positive tales to share.
Remodeling University: Get Ready For Summer
With winter behind us (at least for us folk in sunny Southern California) and spring in full bloom, it is time to take stock of what, in our homes, requires our attention, before the onslaught of summer is upon us.
First, I would recommend thinking back on how the home’s systems functioned during the winter months: Did the roof leak? Were the gutters functioning properly? Did rain-water properly drained so that pooling at the yard and more importantly, against the home did not occur? Was there a shortage of hot-water for the family? Was the home drafty and cold? Were heating bills too high? Were there moisture problems on the inside or excessive condensation?
Whatever problems you had, now would be a good time to look into their cause and solution. If you’ll let it go for now, opting instead to address these issues before next winter comes around, chances are you won’t. The underlining issue will only get worst and more expensive to fix.
The summer brings with it its own challenges. Here are some of the potential issues I would recommend that you review and address:
1. Cooling: our summers are HOT. Energy costs are up and rising. Before you have to contend with 100+ degree heat you should have your HVAC equipment reviewed and serviced so that it is ready when you need it the most.
2. If your HVAC is old, consider installing new, high-efficiency equipment.
3. Have your ducts tested for leaks. Repair or replace the ducts with high ‘R’ value ducts.
4. Have your home insulation checked. Getting your home better insulated will do wonders to your utility bills.
5. Check all your sprinklers for leaks and proper function.
6. Consider upgrades to your sprinklers and/or the controller. Significant amount of water can be saved.
7. Review your exterior trim’s paint and general condition of the wood (windows, etc.) It is a good idea to address deficiencies before the sun hits at full intensity.
For all of the above, consider a review of your home by a qualified ‘green’ remodeling contractor or have an energy audit of your home done.
Beyond the maintenance and upgrade issues noted above, summer is a great time to remodel. Even with our mild winters, many homeowners are reluctant to have major remodeling done at their homes during the winter, because of fear of leaks, the mud that gets dragged into the home, etc. Summer is perfect for that. Call a top Design-Build contractor to put together ideas and plans for what you hope to accomplish and get the work done competently, timely and on budget.
If you plan a summer vacation away from home, it might also be a good idea to review the home’s security features; is the alarm system in working order? Are the locks secure? Are outside light operable?
Last, summer is a great time for outdoor entertainment: Is the pool clean and safe? Is the BBQ ready for duty? How is the outdoor furniture? Do you need to get new pool toys?
This summer have fun, be safe and take care of your home. A little preventative care would go a long way.