Archive for July, 2014

As many of you know our founder Turko Semmes, announced his retirement in 2011, after selling the majority of Semmes & Co. Builders, Inc. to three long-time employees, Paul Rose, Tom Moore and Jessica Steely. Fast-forward to 2014 and the question, “Turko, what are you still doing in the office?” needs an answer.
Turko Semmes

Turko originally made a three-year deal with the new management that he would continue full-time employment helping with the transition, through June of 2014. As this date approached, it became clear to all that Turko wasn’t ready to leave. And we didn’t want him to! Although he’s turned over company management and construction to the new owners, he still plays a crucial role in early stages of design and project development. This gives clients of Semmes & Co. the best of both worlds; new owner Jessica Steely will be taking new project calls and our founder, Turko will be involved throughout the preconstruction phase. He will continue to embed his vision and years of experience into projects, as well as provide sage advice to the new owners.

So Turko, what are you still doing in the office?

“Happily doing what I love; creating great homes for great people.”

– Turko Semmes

Come one, come all! You’re invited to join us for a mid-summer tradition: Cruise Night 2014! Bring your chair and join us at Semmes & Co. Builders – 7900 El Camino Real for some cold drinks, hot BBQ and cool cars.

Atascadero Cruise Night – August 15, 2004 – 6:30 to 8:30pm

Cruise Night 2014

"I look forward to more opportunities where we can get to know each other better!"

“I look forward to more opportunities where we can get to know each other better!”

Hello, my name is Margie Schuler and as of March 2014, I’m the newest member of the Semmes team. Before becoming the new Production Coordinator for Semmes, I worked for one of their subcontractors. It was through that role that I developed relationships with Jessica, Paul, Tom and Turko, learning about the amazing people and work that defines Semmes & Co Builders. In the past I’ve worked with many General Contractors, and experienced the exceptional amount of devotion, passion and expertise Semmes clients receive throughout the building process. I often thought to myself, “Semmes is the kind of company that I want to work for.”

I jumped at the chance when the opportunity presented itself!

While I love that the heart and soul of Semmes is founded in Green Building, I confess I’m a green building newbie. Luckily, the team is patient with my questions and always willing to take the extra time to explain concepts to me. I look forward to becoming well-versed in green building; learning more about practices and theories, and how we can participate for better health, environment, life and of course, construction!

As a part of the Semmes team, I love meeting the extended Semmes family of clients and friends. Everyone has been so welcoming.

Contact Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc. for your building or remodeling project.

Available through September 20, 2014

Special thanks to Community Environmental Council and the Economic Vitality Corp. for bringing us this excellent program. Together, they are furthering responsible and affordable energy use. Visit the CEC and the EVC to learn about more of their ongoing programs at Solarize SLO County.

Solarize EVC

We know solar! Contact Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc. for your building or remodeling project.

Author's Warning: This article may be low on facts

Author’s Warning: This article may be low on facts


By Tom Moore

In recent weeks my job has taken me into the depths of Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. I noticed that if I stopped to buy something, I was automatically given a plastic bag for my purchase. This was a shock to me since the infamous San Luis Obispo County Bag Ban began. On October 1st of 2012, Chicken Little and Friends were in a panic; they would never be able to shop again or worse, they may have to supply their own bags!

But something incredible happened. Within six months of the ban I noticed the litter that was strewn along San Luis Obispo County roads and highways was not only greatly reduced but the main offender, the plastic bag, wasn’t to be seen. They had become a valuable commodity, worth up to ten cents apiece (the price to purchase a bag if you forget to bring your own). Another shocker was that the dump, or landfill, has become cleaner. Previously, there were hundreds of bags floating around the dump’s landscape. Now you may see some old, degrading bags desperately hanging on to strands of barbed wire in a sad attempt to maintain their legacy.

What do I miss the most about plastic bags in our environment?


What do I miss most about plastic bags?

Seeing them floating into the heavens on a blustery day like Winnie-the-Pooh on his endless quest for “hunny”? No. Cleaning up the plastic island in front of my house the day after the garbage man cometh? Not very much.

San Luis Obispo was not the first county to ban the plastic bag, but they were among them. What could go next – Styrofoam fast food containers? Perhaps, plastic single use water bottles? I hope so.

And they are pretty happy with it. (Gives us that warm, tingly feeling!)

Garden Shed Thank you

By Turko Semmes

Everyone loves the look and feel of wood, but when used outside there are many challenges with its long-term care and durability. After 35 years in the Central Coast construction business, I have observed and utilized many different kinds of wood.

There are several attributes that should be taken into consideration when choosing a wood species for outside use. These are finish, cost, durability, maintenance, appearance, and harvesting. The placement of wood on your building project will determine what species you should choose.

If the wood will be used in overhangs or under protected patios – places that aren’t exposed to weather – then lumber that isn’t naturally durable could be used. But, it’s not preferred. I’d like to discuss wood that is exposed to the elements, specifically siding and decks.

For siding, the most successful material I’ve seen has been All-Heart Redwood or Western Red Cedar. Cypress and Yellow Cedar (a wood that smells like pencils), is used less and only somewhat successfully. In general, wood with a tight grain, from larger trees holds up better. Wood procured from younger, wide-grain trees is not as durable.

By using wood that’s harvested in a sustainable manner, then handled and applied properly, your deck or siding can be enjoyed for many years.

To keep the wood from cupping (when the wood swells and pushes the board edges up), make sure it has been milled with little or no heart center. (Request FOHC – Free of Heart Center.) A clear wood material will hold up better than wood with knots, but I have seen siding with small tight knots age well for over 30 years. (Request STK – Select Tight Knot.)

After you choose the type and quality of lumber, a protective coating is very important. To insure that your siding will last and hold its appearance, a protective finish should be applied to all four sides with two coats before installation. Apply a sealer to the end cuts, finishing up with a third coat after installation. If you are using paint, prime it first with oil and then you can use latex paint after that. Wood siding will require periodic re-coating. On the south and west sides this could be as often as every other year.

Decking requires the most attention as it will be walked upon and touched directly. It also gets the most intense direct weather and sun. For years, Redwood has been the standard for decks, but the quality of most lumberyard redwood has diminished. However, through local sources such as Pacific Coast Lumber we are able to access higher quality redwood trees grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains that are being harvested sustainably.

With decking, like siding, wood-type and milling makes a big difference. It is important to get All-Heart material for deck applications. The same milling and specifications as siding also apply. However, I do not recommend applying finish coatings to wood decking. Let the material weather to its natural color and annual maintenance will be all you need. If you do coat, follow the same installation methods outlined above for siding.

There are many fossil-fueled produced alternatives for exterior applications. However, it should be remembered that wood is the most renewable of them all. If harvested in a sustainable manner, then handled and applied properly, even in the harshest conditions, your deck or siding can be enjoyed for many years.

Contact Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc. for your building or remodeling project.

Well, technically it is white.

Step Forward Straw Paper has been getting a lot of use around the Semmes’ office this summer. We’ve been happily surprised with this paper’s weight, brightness and quality. It copies and prints equally well and as a bonus: it’s thick enough to use for 2-sided recyclable copy and printing. Click here and get your own sample pack.

wheat straw paper

by Paul Rose

Recently, a Semmes project had a lot of concrete needing removal. Consulting with some of our sub-contractors helped us decide to recycle it into gravel for the drain rock behind the site’s retaining walls, and as base material for some of the slab work. This was a great decision that meant we did not need to haul multiple truckloads of waste material to another location, process the material there and haul it back. It was just done on-site:

1. Stack the slab and block wall pieces

1. Stack the slab and block wall pieces

2. Break down into sizes fitting into the crusher

2. Break down into sizes fitting into the crusher

3. Crush them

3. Crush them

4. Screen and clean to become free draining material

4. Screen and clean to become free draining material

While this process meant moving the material a couple of times, it was done all within a hundred yards, not a hundred miles. Re-using materials is fairly common these days, but it usually occurs at a larger centralized location. This is another way Semmes and Co. Builders works to save resources, providing the best solutions.

Contact Semmes and Co. Builders, Inc. for your building or remodeling project.