Archive for the ‘Remodels’ Category

MargieAn editorial by Margie Schuler

I recently came across a Houzz article entitled How to Fix a Stinky Garbage Disposal and was interested enough to read on.

I know everyone says just grind lemon or citrus peels in the disposal but I’m not a fan of that method. When I’ve done this in the past, a few days later my disposal smells like rotting peels which is not an improvement. I clean the rubber gasket regularly which helps quite a bit but have often wondered if the inside of the disposal needs cleaning too.

There were three disposal cleaning methods discussed in the Houzz article. Furthering my intrigue was the second method which uses vinegar and baking soda. My fascination with vinegar started when a co-worker said adding a cup of white vinegar to the clothes wash removes soap residue and whiten whites. I was quite pleased after I used it on my partner’s work clothes and the vinegar removed the chemical smell thus saving the clothes from being thrown away. There seem to be many uses for cleaning with vinegar* and I love that it’s natural, not a chemical. Additionally baking soda is also natural and while it doesn’t dissolve, it will react with some liquids by foaming/bubbling which made me think it would reach all the nooks and the top inside of the disposal.

 Tropical Landscape by Azusa Garden & Landscape Supplies Monrovia

Method #1: Clean Mama’s

  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • Mix together to form a paste.
  • Pour down disposal and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Run cold water and turn on disposal for up to a minute.

I tried this method first. While it did eliminate odors and left the disposal with no smell, I felt this method was a bit lacking. The baking soda and lemon juice bubbled and foamed while being mixed in a bowl (which incidentally did not make an actual paste) and I expected more bubbling and foaming once in the disposal but heard and saw nothing. I associate the bubbling and foaming with cleaning so while the mixture was sitting silent in the disposal, I questioned its effectiveness. But the disposal was left with no smell, so I can only assume this method must work.

Method #2: Doctor Rooter’s

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • Sprinkle baking soda down drain into disposal.
  • Pour in vinegar.
  • Let sit for five minutes.
  • Run hot water down drain for 30 seconds with disposal on.
  • Repeat if smell persists.

I tried this method the second time. Since the baking soda and vinegar were mixing directly in the disposal I had high hopes for more of the bubbling and foaming. I envisioned the bubbles and foam would be cleaning the entire inside of the disposal, reaching all the way to the top. The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar was less spectacular than I hoped it would be. I was hoping for a reaction more similar to Mentos in Diet Coke:

Or a science project volcano but without the explosive mess. But, there was only a small amount of foaming in the bottom of the disposal and once it subsided I noticed a pile of dry baking soda to the side so I added more vinegar but I never got the reaction I was looking for. On the positive side the disposal no longer had odor.

The second time I tried this method I doubled the amounts hoping for a big reaction. The reaction was larger but never touched the top of the disposal. Again this was the only downside as my disposal was left with no odor.

Method #3: One Good Thing by Jillee

  • Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Ice cube tray
  • Cut up lemon and place one slice in each ice cube mold.
  • Fill each ice cube mold with vinegar.
  • Freeze fully and store in zip-top bag in freezer.
  • Feed a handful of cubes into the disposal every few days, running disposal with cold water until cubes are crushed up.

To be thorough I listed this method but have no plans to try it due to my aforementioned aversion to lemon peels in the disposal. Plus I don’t have an ice cube tray and there’s no instant gratification since you’re waiting for the cubes to freeze. However, I would be interested to hear feedback regarding this method, if someone was so inclined.

I think either of these three methods would work well and best when done regularly. For now I’m going to stick with the second method and scrubbing the gasket with a toothbrush and dish soap only when absolutely necessary because I’d much rather be outdoors riding my bike or hiking than inside cleaning.

Have a wonderful summer and enjoy lots of outdoors time!

*As a former member of the natural stone and tile industry I feel compelled to share that you DO NOT use vinegar (straight or diluted) on any sealed natural stone slab, tile or sealed grout. Vinegar is so acidic it ends up eating off the sealer, instead always use a ph. neutral natural stone cleaner. Continue Reading →

TomAn editorial by Tom Moore

“It cost exactly what you guys said it would.”

How many times have I heard that? Well let’s see, in the last 15 years I’ve heard it about once a year. I’m not the kind of person to cross the street when I see someone that decided not to have Semmes and Co. build their home. In fact, I will go out of my way to say, “Hi.” And ask them about their construction experience of their home or remodel.

Recently I asked a couple about this and their response was, “It’s over budget and over schedule.” They went on to explain that several parts of the home were more difficult to build than anyone had anticipated. Well, almost anyone. We spent many hours discussing the challenges of their building with subcontractors and among ourselves in the office; exactly about the same issues that they spoke of.

At Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc., we spend a lot of time pouring over plans. AMatt & Franknd we’ve been taught to locate the tricky parts and figure out the most effective way to do them properly. I like to think that we deal in dreams, not in fantasy. Many people believe that quality custom homes should still be built as inexpensively as they were 10 or 15 years ago. But there is inflation within the building industry, just like everywhere else.

Building codes have changed over the years as well, and add more expense to many upgrades thaSkill sawt we’ve been doing for years. Many subcontractors that we use, we have known and worked with for as long as I have been here. And we use them for good reasons: We know exactly what we will get. While many say they have to charge us more than other general contractors (since we are so picky about the finished product), so be it. You do get what you pay for.

Using an untried, unknown subcontractor simply because his price is lower can lead to disappointment and discontent. We use subcontractors that pay their workers a living wage and offer employees benefits. Much of the time the person with their name on the business is on the job site working alongside their crew. We also like to use local vendors. We know the business owners, we like to keep the money in the community and we know we’ll get service when we need it.

Semmes & Co Builders, Inc. has been synonymous with energy efficiency and Jesshigh quality since 1978. We strive to give our clients the best value for their money and a home that will serve them and their children well for generations. Quality comes at a price. And quality should be paid for. Building a quality custom home should be an enlightening experience. The relationship throughout construction should be enjoyable and the final result, a pleasure for a long, long time.

And that earlier conversation? Often it ends something like this,

“Well, we’ll see you around. Wish we’d used Semmes to build our home.”


Kevin-HauberSpecial editorial by Kevin Hauber, Green Mortgage Consultant
The Mortgage House – San Luis Obispo

Remember all the claims made by solar companies about the value of rooftop solar systems? Well, it turns out they were right. And a study out from the US Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory backs that up. The study is called “Selling Into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes.”

What they did was look at tens of thousands of sales over eight states from 2002-2013, including properties that had solar systems installed at the time of sale and those that did not. What they found was that both new and existing homes sold for $15,000 more on average with a solar system than those that did not have one.

That is a noticeable number. It’s one of the first times substantial figures have been offered to quantify solar homes for the market. It says that if you can lower the operating costs of a home and provide energy independence, that’s worth something.

Selling into the sun

Selling into the Sun

So, everyone knows this. Right?

No, in fact very few people take this into account. If you are going to buy or sell a property with a solar system, you need to make sure the people involved in the transaction are familiar with how to give the system value. That includes the listing agent, the selling realtor, the lender, and the appraiser. The appraiser will use a form called the energy addendum to help quantify the value of the solar system. As well as any other energy related improvements on the property.

You would be surprised how many appraisers have no idea about this, and how many lenders and realtors don’t even know to ask. Since energy costs are becoming an increasing consideration for owning property, make sure you are working with professionals who know what they are doing in this regard. This includes familiarity with the incentives and financing available for energy-related improvements.

By the way, the figures quoted in the study are only for purchased solar systems that are part of the real estate. Leased systems were not included in the study, so this is an important distinction to make. Leased systems have become popular in the last few years, but there are still many questions to be answered. Such as the assumption of leases by subsequent buyers, and the appraised value of the system at the end of the lease. (The appraiser is usually hired by the leasing company). The effects of these leased systems remain to be seen.

Now this research concludes what we’ve assumed all along: people who have purchased solar systems for their homes and businesses have made a substantial investment that has lasting value.

by Jessica Steely & Jeff Wade

New construction and remodeling can be a challenge, for the home and building owneJessicars, as well as for the contractors. All sorts of surprises occur that conspire to delay and confound the best of intentions. Remember in life, relationships and construction – if you find something that works, stick with it. This has been the case for the partnership between Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. and Green Goods for many years.

The mission and motivation of both businesses have remained aligned for over 10 years. It was at that time, they co-founded the local nJeff Wade-2013onprofit organization, SLO Green Build. These teams collaborate to provide    eco-friendly buildings through the use of sustainably harvested and constructed materials using green construction techniques.

The practice of Green construction includes energy efficiency, conser01Green Partnershipvation of resources and healthy indoor air quality. Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. and Green Goods strive to find a balance of cost, comfort and conscience in every element of a project. This has resulted in satisfied customers across the Central Coast.

Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. and Green Goods source the most eco-friendly 03Green Partnershipproducts including, FSC lumber, rapidly renewable cork flooring, soy-based glues in cabinets and plywood. Reclaimed wood has also played a role, reusing the high quality materials initially installed many years ago. With that same idea, they bring the demo materials to ReStore for a second life.

Combined, Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. and Green Goods projects have spanned many construction styles. Building types include: straw bale, passive solar, farmhouse, craftsman and contemporary.

A recent project in Arroyo Grande seamlessly incorporated multiple styles. Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. was se02Green Partnershiplected as the general contractor and Green Goods provided the cabinets, vanities, closets and built-ins. Semmes customizes every project to insure a quality result to the budget and character desired by their clients. Green Goods is often involved. In this case, the client selected Green Goods, and Semmes could not have been happier. This was a succinctly custom job and required the highest quality of fit and finish.

The scope of the casework on this project was large, with de04Green Partnershipsign evolving as construction occurred. Good communication between the on-site Semmes and Green Goods teams resulted in the best possible room sequencing and coordination with the other subcontractors.

Consider using a Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. | Green Goods partnership for your next project.

Contact Jessica at Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc., 805-466-6737 or Jeff at Green Goods 805-300-2805

by Paul Rose

While concrete has become the go-to resource for most all structural mass paul-roseprojects, Rammed-earth provides many more attributes that are aesthetic, thermal and structural. We use Rammed-earth methods in several ways:



Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth (PISE), which is similar to a “shot-cretOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe” application on a swimming pool. Stabilized earth is applied under great force to a one-sided formwork and around the re-enforcing steel. This leaves a smooth finish on the form side, with a course granular texture on the outside.


Conventional Rammed-earth, is installed between two forms and hydraulically impacted with tam01Earthen Prodping machines. This style leaves a finish that is smooth on both sides with a layered pattern similar to sedimentary stone. Both of these styles achieve a compressive strength of over 600 pounds per square inch.


Watershed block is a formed block similar to the common concrete block, but has a very 02Earthen Prodlow carbon footprint, and a dramatic visual appeal. These blocks come in a number of different colors and textures, fitting into the conventional structural mindset of many engineers. Watershed block requires less labor and specific knowledge for correct installation than PISE or conventional rammed-earth.


Much research has been made into where these materials originated and their future use.  Concrete has one of the largest carbon footprints in the construction industry, and is not a justifiable solution as a long-term product.

This article about the Egyptians’ method for building the pyramids is recommended for a new perspective on this old material.

As the art and form of building has changed over the years, we at Semmes and Company Builders, Inc. would like to help you build a lasting project for today and tomorrow.

by Paul Rose

paul-roseRainwater harvesting covers many applications, from small and simple projects to large, complex ones. The California drought has residents realizing their water needs are demanding their some attention. Cambria residents, with their drastic need for water (and its high cost), have more water collection systems than anywhere else in San Luis Obispo county. Our recent October rainstorm gave most systems just enough water to fill their storage more than half way.

And this brings us to an important concept: Storage is the hardest part. The size of your rainwater harvest system is based on your usage, your available space, and the amount you are willing to pay. Average storage containers cost about a dollar ($1) per gallon.

If you have a sloping property, that will help your rainwater collection system. Consulting a professional experienced with water collection systems is important. If you are installing a smaller system with minimal storage, you could experiment with a design yourself, but an experienced professional can save you time and money.

Permits are required for any system that has over 5000 gallons of storage. If you intend the water for indoor use, a permit and a water treatment system is mandatory, even if it’s just for flushing a toilet. Permits are also needed for sprinkler irrigation use to place the stored water on the ground surface. However, if you are using a drip irrigation system, you won’t need a permit if your storage is less than 5000 gallons. SLO Green Build has created a guide that can help with many of the specifics. This printed guide can be purchased and shipped to you for $13, or downloaded for free. This manual will give you basic guidelines for developing your system, such as how to estimate the amount of water you will harvest per inch of rain.

Water is one of our most precious resources. At Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc. we work on learning the most current technologies that affect the use and development of our systems and resources. Combining these systems into a cohesive package for each individual home is our forte.

For more information about Rainwater Harvesting, contact Paul Rose.


by Turko Semmes

Many of us that are looking back at age 50 are either planning to move into a new home or remodel ours for the chaturko with hatnges taking place in our families and lifestyle. Many folks who move to San Luis Obispo County are not planning to move away. Even if you may relocate in the future, many of us have parents who move in with us to live out their later years. With good planning, a comfortable Aging in Place experience is manageable. It’s appropriate to make these plans when you remodel or build your home.

As of 2000, the US Census reported there were 35 million Americans over the age of 65. According to estimates, there will be approximately 71.5 million Americans over the age of 65 in thirty years. That number is more than twice what it was in 2000 and will represent nearly 20% of the entire projected U.S. population in 2030. Everyone goes through different changes as they get older but there are some basic considerations that are essential to making these changes positive.

First, consider how a person with restricted mobility will livaging-in-place-home-modifications-ideas-bathroom-268x300e in the home. Plan to place the bedroom and bathroom on the same floor as the kitchen and living area. The ground floor is best, but there is equipment that will take people up and down stairs with ease. Next, think about traveling from the bed to the bath to the kitchen to the exterior. Are the hallways large enough? Three feet six inches (3’6”) is the minimum but four feet (4’) is better. Are there any 90-degree turns along the pathway that will be used? If the hall is less than four feet it’s best to clip the inside corner, even if only by six inches. To insure a smooth path, all flooring should be flush with each other. Use a smooth surface such as tile, hard wood, or concrete (although this is hard and gets slippery if wet). Carpet can be used if it has very short pile. Cork is an option, but canes, walkers or chairs can damage it. Are all the doors three feet (3’) wide? No less than two feet six inches (2’6”) is allowed. If you’re using a wheel chair, having the extra width makes mobility easy and safe. And replace your doorknobs with lever handles.

Next, consider how to get from the house to the outside. Having at least one conveniently located exterior flush-sill door, can give access to a popular outdoor location. Now think about your vehicles. Do you have access (without stairs or narrow paths) to get from inside the house to the garage? What about the eventuality of having someone live in your home to care for you? A separate guesthouse isn’t required, as most homes have an extra bedroom. If that bedroom has an attached bath, with possibility to add a small kitchenette in the future, that works as a place for someone to live with you. It’s good to have a private outside access area as well. Also consider your home’s temperature control. If there is one area you’ll be spending most of your time, make sure it’s equipped with one temperature control zone. There are new mini-split heating and cooling units that can be a perfect solution for this. Of course you want to make that living space tightly insulated, but with good ventilation. Many older people like to close up their house, so an air to air-heat exchanger that provides fresh air (without sacrificing temperature control or energy efficiency), is a must. And it’s not too hard to add into an existing house.

Finally, two aging-in-place-kitchen-bath-design-rev-a-shelfof the most important rooms: the bathroom and the kitchen. Roll-in showers, with handle sets that can be adjusted before getting wet, are extremely helpful. The ability to roll a wheelchair up to a vanity or the kitchen sink is recommended. With advance planning, cabinets and plumbing can be laid out so they can be modified as needed with little, if any, extra work. These are just a few items to consider for Aging in Place with your kitchen and bath. Here are some links delving into many other details.

We at Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. are always here to help you with your Aging in Place plans and concerns. Please contact us any time and we will gladly discuss your plans and ideas.




Garage & Parking

Laundry Room

Common Areas

In-Home Mobility

Exterior Home

This is an occasional blog-post where we ask a Semmes’ client to tell us about a great feature on their house.

Installing the Tapmaster hands-free faucet controller at our kitchen sink was one of Tapmasterthe best decisions we ever made for our custom home.  It simply is a fabulous feature for our family.  Our kids were able to use the faucet at our big kitchen sink long before they were big enough to reach the actual faucet because the controller is conveniently located in the toe kick of the cabinet.  The hands-free feature is also very hygienic.

Besides the convenience, we also appreciate the water it conserves. The savings really added up over the years.  The controls are extremely reliable. No dancing in front of a sensor, or waiting for it to turn on.

We know how much we enjoy it, because we miss it when we vacation in other homes.

Tapmaster really changes the way you use your faucet.site_logo

by Margerie Manning

Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. Client

by Margie Schuler

On a recent Fall evening, Semmes & Co Builders, Inc. hosted local interior designers to view wallcoverings by Koroseal, including the Arte and Reid Witlin LTD lines. Now, I used to immediately associate “wallcoverings” with period décor of the 1980’s, but not anymore!

Today’s wallcoverings may include corrugated metal, wood veneer (that can even bend and make a 90-degree corner), glass beading, leather looks (that don’t resemble pleather), acoustical treatments, dimensional, dry erase or projection surfaces. This is in addition to the more traditional fabrics, textiles, and grass cloths. With these options available, you can select a designer name wallcovering instead of an art-piece for a focal wall.

Or design your own with by utilizing custom digital printing. The possibilities are vast and I predict more types of wallcoverings to be specked in the future. With looks like these, why not?

Digital Pictures1

Digital Surfaces

Leather Looks

Leather Looks

Intrigue Caisson Acoutiscal

Intrigue Caisson Acoutiscal

Glass Beading

Glass Beading

Digital Surfaces

Digital Surfaces

Corrugate Metal

Corrugate Metal

by Tom Moore

An often-overlooked partner in the home building process is that of the Engineer. Clients understand the need for a reputable Architect and Builder, and usually have a clear understanding of the architects’ process.Their task is to create a form that suits the clients’ every need. Their design is to be aesthetically pleasing, functional and customized to the client. Architects are the rock stars, loved and admired.

As with rock stars, if Architects don’t have roadies and a reliable support crew, their work becomes very difficult. The ability to stay in the public eye becomes close to impossible. You might say Engineers are the roadies to the Architects. A variety of engineers may be associated with a project: civil, structural, mechanical and soils engineers are several that come immediately to mind. These are the ones we work with the most.

The Engineer makes sure the Architect’s beautiful creation doesn’t fall on your head. Or roll down the side of the mountain. Or sink into a quagmire. Engineers spend many dedicated years in college and with continuing education to keep you safe and sound. Things that cannot be explained in numerical equations simply don’t exist in the world of the Engineer. They can put a numerical value to a type of soil, a bolt or a piece of wood.

A Builder’s relationship with an Engineer can sometimes be touch and go. We at Semmes & Co Builders, Inc. have been very fortunate to maintain good relationships with just about every Engineer with whom we’ve worked. We may run into unforeseen problem, then work out a solution with the Engineer. They’ll put a numerical value to it and we are off and running again.

Little known fact: an Engineer invented the bolt. Without bolts, skyscrapers could not be possible since engineers could not place a numerical value upon a hammered rivet.

It takes all kinds of professionals to complete a successful building project. And, I take my hat off to the Engineers.

Architects View