Monday, December 20, 2010

You've probably seen scaffolding as you've driven by job sites in residential neighborhoods, but have you ever stood on one? Here's a bird's eye view of our scaffolding set up on a two-story home in the Berkeley hills. The site is steep and there is potential for danger, so we are being supremely careful by using this professional, sturdy scaffolding to work on the exterior of the home.

The deck railing off the master bedroom is rotten at the base, so we're replacing the railing. The crew must work at at a height of 25 feet up.

We just finished a bathroom and closet remodel for the homeowners on the interior of the house. They called to say how happy they were with the results.

Friday, November 19, 2010


It was a bright and shining night for me and my family. Steve and our son Adam accompanied me to the NARI Leadership and Remmies Awards Banquet on November 10. I was to be presented with the Marilyn Thurau Women In Remodeling Award.

We dined at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel ballroom on the mezzanine level. NARI, by the way, stands for "National Association of the Remodeling Industry". On The Beam has been a member since 1996.

When it was my turn to receive the award, Debbie Mackey, the previous recipient, gave a warm speech full of accolades about me. Much to my surprise, the entire room rose and applauded as I went to the podium. I was not expecting that.

This award is named after a dear lady who owned a radiant heat company, and we did business with her over the years until she died of cancer a while ago. We miss her, but her son and daughter-in-law took over the business, called Summitteers Radiant Heat, and so it goes on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


When we read the news about the disaster in San Bruno, Steve quickly picked up the phone and called our clients from 2005, the Marquezes. Nobody answered, so he left a voice mail message: "Are you all right?" We waited several days until we finally heard back from Joaquin, who told Lisa the amazing story of their close call and great luck in escaping injury and serious damage.

Their house sits in the canyon only a block or so away from the outer edge of where many houses were consumed in the conflagration. Neighbors' windows cracked and broke, and paint blistered and peeled off exterior walls, Joaquin reported. However, their own residence suffered only minor singeing. The high-quality double-pane windows that we installed years ago are still intact, and the integrated color that we recommended for the exterior stucco job didn't blister in the heat.

We're very happy that the Marquez family is safe and sound and that their home is too.

Monday, September 13, 2010


You can calculate your own remodeling project. We have this pretty fantastic tool on our website to assist our clients and potential clients in getting an idea of what their project will cost. This information is basic and important to everybody who owns a home that needs work done on it. Simply visit our website at On the Home Page you will see a button at the bottom right labeled "What Will It Cost?" Click on that block and you will arrive at the estimate calculating tool: a series of charts with construction choices that you can sift through and click on at the appropriate level for the work you have in mind.

Be your own estimator! One caveat though: these estimates are rough and preliminary. Please contact us through the website so that we can provide a more accurate cost to construct.

We would love to have your email address so that we can stay in touch with you from time to time. Your email address is kept private and we respect your need to not be flooded with advertising.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day for a Shower

It's not hard to imagine why the bathroom is the first room to go in a house. It is a room used frequently by the entire family (unless each has their own), and it is continually subjected to moisture. Rot and mold often develop both out in the open and behind walls and flooring. This is particularly true if the original bathroom was not built up to modern-day codes with water-resistant materials and techniques.

So......if your bathroom looks a bit ragged around the edges, there is a whole universe of beautiful bathroom designs and surfaces awaiting you. I've posted a shot of one of our client's choices for shower fixtures; ain't it a beaut? We installed it carefully in the granite tile shower surround. Standing in this kind of shower stall is truly a glorious way to start the day!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Value For My Money Question

Time and again Steve and I run up against the same consumer attitude: What value can I get for my money? We would like to address that question in a roundabout way with another question: What is your budgetary upper limit for any given expense? For example, how much are you willing to spend for a relaxing, beautiful vacation in Hawaii? What's your top price for a car? These are very personal evaluations and we are well aware that there is great variation from individual to individual or from family to family.

Now we come to the question that is so very pertinent and close to our hearts: What is your upper limit for that remodel you've been dying to get started but keep delaying because of the economy? Rarely do people want to confide that upper limit to us, and we can only guess that this is due to lack of trust and fear of being exploited.

The fact is, we want to give you the best value for your budget. However, nine times out of ten we don't know that budget, and it remains a mystery as we struggle to arrive at a reasonable estimate to build the new kitchen of your dreams or that fabulous new bathroom.

We are not a "pricey" company, something we've heard others mumble about as they pick their way through numerous contractors and bids. We are reasonably priced and stand by our estimates. They are extremely accurate through years and years (25 to be exact) of estimate experience and up-to-date knowledge of the materials and subcontractors.

Will you get the same job for a lower price? Doubtless, no. A remodeling project is complex and detailed. We make sure the details are perfect and the complexity is our headache, not yours.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Congratulations, Shirley!

We're very proud of Shirley Douglas, for whom we built a deck in the Oakland hills. She appeared in a feature story in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, March 26, 2010, titled "How older runners get on the right track." The story is on the front page of the Bay Area section, C1, and continues onto page C9, and includes several wonderful color photos of Shirley. Shirley ran marathon races when she was younger, and is going to start up again in her 60's. Her new deck, made with Brazilian Ipe hardwood, is featured in recent older blogs on this blogsite. Go Shirley!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Some of the best people we know are our customers. We bend over backwards to please and serve not just because it's smart business practice, but also because we love 'em. Here are a few examples:

Dan's father, Alan, was having a hard time leaning over to file his important papers and retrieve those that he needed. We had just finished a second bathroom remodel for Dan, and now he was asking our assistance in building something for his father that would elevate the file cabinet so Alan wouldn't have to bend over. Steve went to Alan's home in San Francisco, measured, and constructed a nice solid maple box to lift up the cabinet a couple of feet. Our charge to Alan for labor and materials: $0! It's on the house, Alan.

There were some beautiful cherry cabinet doors in our woodshop destined for recycling. They were left over from another job. Meanwhile, Hoa was building maple cabinets for Irene and Michael's laundry room, and as it turned out, the cherry doors fit perfectly. We installed them instead of building new ones. Our charge to Irene and Michael for labor and materials on the doors: $0! Not only did the cabinet doors provide an opportunity for us to "gift" our clients, they were salvaged and reused, something near and dear to Irene and Michael's hearts. Their house is replete with green remodeling features, and we added one more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ipe On The Mountain

Can you guess what type of wood we used to build this fence and deck? Here are the clues: pest and termite resistant; fire-resistant; strong and durable; comes from South America.

The homeowner had endured long enough living with a very old, dangerous and dilapidated deck and fence perched on a steep hillside. It was time for an upgrade, and she turned to us after she heard glowing accolades from her neighbors about our work. The original deck and fence, made of painted wood, gave way to this stunning material. It is safe to say that she was delighted with the outcome. She placed a beautiful potted orchid in a cozy corner of the deck to accent the beauty of the wood.

The answer to the question in paragraph 1 is: Ipe (pronounced "EE-pay"). It is a Brazilian hardwood that is carefully "stewarded" so as not to destroy forest, terrain or sustainability of the tree.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Just got back from the permit department of the City of Oakland. It's always an adventure in there, akin to falling down the rabbit hole and landing in Permit-Wonderland. I stood in three lines (one line twice), and spoke with three people, only to discover after almost two hours of wonderland wandering that the computers for the entire department had crashed and nobody had been issued a permit all week. It wasn't going to happen this day either.

"When will the computers be back to normal?" I asked, with little hope in my heart for a normal answer.

"Don't know," was the reply.

It hadn't occurred to a single soul in the permit department to post a sign letting applicants know that the computers were down, thus sparing them the waiting time to find out. The Mad Hatter couldn't have had a nuttier tea party.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


You are gazing at an ipe hardwood fence, matched in beauty and elegance by the frosted glass front entrance gate with brushed nickel hardware. Let me tell you a little about ipe wood: It grows in South America and is just about the densest wood available for building. Ipe is highly fire-resistant, given the same rating as concrete and steel. It is also resistant to decay, termites and fungus.

If you want to add class, elegance, durability and value to your home, use this wood. Our clients are very happy with the deck, fence and gate we built them. We recommended ipe and they love it.

This fence and gate are part of the project that was featured in the October 4th, 2009 San Francisco Chronicle, Home & Garden section. If you visit our website, click on "Press", then click on S.F. Chronicle 2009, you can read the whole thing. Let us know what you think of the article.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Our Master Cabinet Maker Hoa Nguyen built this custom corner cabinet. It fits snugly into the corner and is flanked by two large oval mirrors that the homeowner selected. This was a complete 'gut and remodel' of a very old bathroom that now looks ready for a magazine feature ad.

Monday, January 11, 2010


We're not only green on the outside, we're green on the inside too. What does this mean? Simply put, we remodel with conservation efforts and we also run our daily company operations with recycling and re-using in mind as well.

These are daily business practices that conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint as much as we possibly can. Here are some of our "inside" green practices:

~ We re-use paper. Both sides get used, especially in the fax machine.
~ We recycle paper that has no further use. This includes junk mail, packaging,
scraps, tissues, napkins, and paper cups.
~ We use ceramic cups, bowls and plates to cut down on paper use.
~ I take home plastic forks, knives and spoons, run them through the dishwasher,
and bring them back to the office for further use.
~ We use extra architectural plans for gift wrapping.
~ We keep our light and utility use to a minimum in the office and shop.
~ I take home food scraps for the compost pile and plastic scraps for
~ I walk or ride my bicycle for errands that are close by.
~ We save up any broken or otherwise electronic equipment and take it to a
company that recycles electronics. This includes CD's, keyboards, cables, etc.
~ When I purchase office supplies, I often refuse a bag or bring in my own.

I hope that one or more of these suggestions will contribute to your energy conservation efforts. If you have green business practices that we haven't thought of, please share!