Archive for the ‘New Construction’ Category

Semmes Holiday pic 2015

May you and your loved ones have a peaceful, loving holiday season.
We look forward to seeing you happy and healthy in 2016 !

We here at Semmes are a pretty happy group. And we have some new guys to add to our hard working gang.

Steve Bishop pic 2015First we want to welcome Steven Bishop. After a hiatus, he’s back with Semmes and working hard as a job manager these days. You’ll see Steven taking care of all the details on his jobs. We’re happy to have him back with us.


Chris WalterNext, in our line-up is Chris Walter. Chris or “Walter” as the guys call him, joined the Semmes team in September. He’s already been here three months. Whoa – time flies when you’re a hard-working job manager!


Al Martini

Just recently we added our newest:  Albert (Al) Martini. Al comes to us with a background in fine finish woodwork (See some of his artistic side here.)


To all our newest members – we welcome you. We’re so happy you chose to be part of the Semmes Team.

by Tom MooreTom

During a recent remodel in San Luis Obispo, we made many trips to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

What a cool place. You can’t just go there and drop off items without going in and seeing what’s new. Their inventory is in a continual motion, just like the wonderful people that work there. On one trip I spotted some brand new windows that would work perfectly for a small project we were working on. But by the time I had the owner’s approval and made it back to the store they were almost all gone. Fortunately for us,  they still had two windows we needed for the project.

If you’re looking for the obscure, obsolete or overboard this is the best place to start!


ReStore – San Luis Obispo

You need some gently used tools? They got ‘em. Want plumbing fixtures, a kitchen sink, and the tile? They those, too.  After many trips I needed some subway tile to match some existing tile. I fumbled through about 300 tiles to find 5 that matched what I had. You would be amazed how many variances of white subway tile there are. At the ReStore, people just go in, buy an armload, take them home and stick them on the wall. They don’t match? Honey Badger don’t care, sheik nouveau. I love that place!
Did I mention this is Habitat for Humanity? The money spent at the ReStore goes to support funneling money and products into the worthy cause of supplying housing for under-privileged people all over the country and the world.

I suggest a trip to ReStore next time you’re going on a run to the hardware store.

You may save some money while doing someone some good. Who knows, you may even find something that you didn’t even know you need and discover that you can’t live without.

ReStore South:

ReStore North:

turko with hat

by Turko Semmes

In the past, I have written before about Passive Solar Solutions for buildings. And still they are an important way to reduce energy costs and increase comfort levels. There are four components that must be considered when applying passive solar solutions to a project. They are Orientation, Ventilation, Insulation, and Mass (OVIM). Each part of the solution is used in different ways depending on the climate where the building is being built as well as certain site, budget and human factors. But by applying these applications appropriately, the building’s energy use can be greatly reduced. The comfort levels can be raised even in severe climate zones, sometimes at little extra cost.

Today, I want to talk about Mass, sometimes known as Thermal Mass. In particular, let’s discuss Phase Change Materials (PCM’s). The Thermal Mass role is to act as a battery to moderate the temperature of the home through the daily and seasonal cycle changes.

There are two applications of mass. One is direct gain where the sun strikes the material directly – think Trombe Wall systems.

The other and more common application is indirect gain. This is where the temperature of the mass is affected by the room temperature – think all surfaces in the building. We try to incorporate standard high mass materials into buildings to achieve this, but it is not always practical. Some of these materials are concrete in the floor, walls and counters. Also used are extra layers of drywall, fireplace facings, etc.

But for years, we in the industry have thought it would be super to have a material that can store more heat than its actual weight or volume. Now that material is here and it’s called Phase Change Materials (PCM). PCM’s can store 5 to 14 times more heat per unit volume than conventional storage materials such as water, masonry or rock. They do this by changing from a liquid to a solid (much like Freon does in heat pump/air conditioning systems). The trick has been to find a way to incorporate them into buildings in a format that can be standard for all buildings.

Now, the National Gypsum Company in partnership with BASF has ThermalCORE PCMmanufactured a drywall that has small capsules – beads of phase change material within the board. The drywall is installed and finished in the same ordinary way. The only extra cost is the material itself. But, don’t jump up and run down to Home Depot or Lowes. This material is in the economic and marketing development stages. However, I do have some samples, and they are performing quite well, as specified.

Soon, this material will give your energy analyst another tool to help design your building to be more energy efficient and comfortable. All without adding additional systems, complications or maintenance. Since drywall is used on most buildings, one can place it strategically to achieve the comfort and energy savings desired. This is just one more reason Passive Solar Solutions should be applied to their maximum potential before any active or complicated systems are considered.

Phase Change Materials for
Building Applications



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