When it comes to designing a backyard, for many people it is very difficult. There are endless possibilities for design and creativity. An open backyard space is like a blank canvas full of opportunity for designing. However, this space can also be overwhelming and bring up questions like: Where do I start? What size patio should I put in? What options are there? How do you incorporate games, barbecues, firepits, fireplaces,outdoor kitchens, retaining walls, pools, patio areas, lawns, plants and the list goes on.
One of the keys to designing inviting, outdoor spaces is to create areas that draw people out into the yard.
Patios: Backyard patios don't have to be just one big, rectangular slab placed at the backdoor of the house-which is the tendency to do so and a very traditional layout, but not very practical. Consider the functionality and how it will actually be used. Avoid having a patio placed only at the back door- give people a reason to try and enjoy other areas of the yard. Consider sun and shade exposure, distance to the house, views, entertaining, dining, cooking and sun bathing. Remember to allow extra room for traffic areas behind or between outdoor furniture.
Lawns are often the central and largest feature in a garden, so think carefully about the size and shape you want when creating a garden plan. At the initial planning stage it is always best to sketch out a rough outline of how you want the lawn to look and how it will relate to the rest of the garden. Will it be formal or informal? Are there play areas or dining spaces? Should different areas be connected together with paths or stepping stones? Should there be flowerbeds? Breaking up the space into several smaller patio areas, or "outdoor rooms" and create several areas of interest throughout the back yard. Make observations next time you area at a party how the guests break into smaller groups and travel to visit other groups.
Plants: To avoid the feel of overdoing the hardscape, use grass and groundcovers to break up pathways between patios. Place flowerbeds between structures and patio areas. Even narrow planter-beds will help soften edges and give the yard a more inviting, garden feel.
Only when you are completely happy with the design on paper should you begin to create the space physically.The overall goal is to create destinations in the garden and connect them with welcoming pathways. Use focal points, seat walls, fountains, ponds, arbors, fireplaces, fire pits, and fragrant plantings to create interest at different locations and draw guests out into the yard space.
Here at Larry Carroll Masonry, repeat customers are extremely important to us. We sincerely appreciate their support and continued loyalty over the 30 years we have been in business on the Monterey Peninsula.
In our opinion, Communication is a vital part of keeping customers satisfied. As well as employing staff who are enthusiastic and who actually know what they're talking about does wonders for the reputation of the firm. It's always our goal to improve customer service because studies show that 67% customers stop buying products from a shop/brand just for bad customer experience.
Every Business Needs Loyal Customers. While “thanks” has a nice ring to it, words just don’t carry the gravity of actions. If you’re in the customer service business — and every business is to some capacity — you should strive to continually show your gratitude to customers.
It's proven a business will most likely make a sale to an already loyal customer than a new one. While it is important to constantly find new markets, it's just as important to keep current customers coming back. Studies across a number of industries have revealed that the cost of keeping an existing customer is around 10% of the cost of acquiring a new one. So, economically it makes pretty good sense.
Another study says that existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products than new customers. Also they spend 31% more compared to new customers.
First impression is the last impression: This is extremley true for all businesses as well. When you sell a product for the first time to a customer, make sure everything is in proper shape. This creates confidence and trust between you and your new customer. It helps to build customer loyalty and eventually it brings more business from that new customer.
Loyal Customers Spread the Word About Your Business: Word-of-mouth marketing is real, and it works. We trust people we know when they recommend a service or company to us. Loyal customers truly believe in your company, and they’re not shy about sharing the gospel with anyone who will listen. This is undeniably a benefit for your business.
Loyal Customers Stick With You No Matter What: If a customer has given you their loyalty, they stick around. Because they like what’s at the core of your company, loyal customers will stay with you when times are hard or things are unsure. Even if something goes wrong, loyal customers are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and stay true to your business.
Loyal Customers Come Back More Often: Sometimes, loyal customers use a business more often than they logically need to, just to support the company.
Loyal Customers Can Act as Your Focus Group: Who answers surveys or responds to social media posts requesting opinions? Your loyal customers. They don’t mind taking a moment of their time to share insight or opinions with you if they think it will help the company. Why? Because they love the company and don’t want it to go away. Keeping loyal customers around gives you a built-in focus group.
Loyal Customers Will Always Take Your Side: Every person is faced with situations where they can’t or don’t use the company of their choice. However, when it comes down to it, loyal customers will take your side. That gives your business a competitive advantage.
Customer loyalty matters.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
Call us today. We would love if you became one of our loyal customers!
Larry Carroll Masonry
California License #487044
Licensed, Bonded & Insured
Start with your friends and family and then check in with the Better Business Bureau, State Contractor Board, National Association of the Remodelling Industry (NARI), National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) or any other local building or remodelling association for a list of members in your area.
It’s important to educate yourself about the work you want to have completed prior to meeting with contractors. This way you have a deeper understanding of renovation lingo, are able to provide the contractor with enough information to prepare an estimate meeting your goals, interpret estimates received and to figure out whether the contractor is overpricing their work.
Do Phone Interviews
Once you've assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:
Meet Face to Face
Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. It's crucial the communication is there between contractor/client because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: Check in with your state's consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors are licensed and don't have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
Check Contractor References and Past Experience.
Now that you've narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished product. Visit a current job site and see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and careful with the homeowner's property?
Read contractor reviews.
Look at each Contractors website to see what type of work they perform, any examples of already completed work and their qualifications.
Make a List of questions that the Contractor must answer.
When you look at the specifications of potential contractors, make a list of questions, which you want to be answered. Those, who respond to your e-mail or call you, should have an advantage over the others. Here are some questions you need to ask each contractor:
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
Make Plans, Get Bids
You have your short list of contractors whose track records seem clean and whose work ethic looks responsible.. A conscientious contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints but also a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Generally materials account for 40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent.
Show the Contractor what you want completed.
During your meetings, hand over your information you compiled and walk the job with each of them. Be prepared to answer numerous questions. Try to stick with your initial scope of work and do not deviate because it will only make it more difficult for you to interpret the figures on each bid. Ask each Contractor how long it will take them to prepare the estimate and make sure they honour those dates. If they don't, that should be a red flag.
Set a Payment Schedule
Payment schedules can also speak to a contractor's financial status and work ethic. If they want half the bid up front, they may have financial problems or be worried that you won't pay the rest after you've seen the work. For large projects, a schedule usually starts with 10 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project and a check for the final 15 percent when you feel every item on the punch list has been completed.
The cheapest offers are often the most expensive.
Price should not be the deciding factor when choosing contractors. People often choose the lowest bid and ultimately discover that the contractor has not done the job properly. High quality require a certain price. It may cost you more, but the job will be done smoothly and within the standards of eligibility. Cheaper can end up being more money at the end, because you may eventually change the order to correct errors or cancel the contractor and have to rehire another. If you ask for three bids for your project, you'll get three different prices. If a contractor is 15 percent more expensive than another, ask him why. Maybe it includes more items in his offer. If it is cheaper by 15 percent, maybe he forgot to include something very important to you. Remember, you have the right to ask a contractor what you want and they must know how to explain the offer. Throw out the lowball bid- this contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it's better to spend more, get a quality job and get someone you are comfortable with.
Put It In Writing
Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker's compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn't pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn't about mistrust- it's about insuring a successful project.
Call us today if you need help!
Larry Carroll Masonry
California License #487044
Licensed, Bonded & Insured
The harmony outside your home is just as important as the inside: greenery, trees, landscape and building design come together to create a balanced environment.
Builders, designers and architects attempt to design buildings, houses, gardens and entrances to homes and buildings to aid the natural flow of energy. This is achieved by placing buildings in a distinct place, the design of walkways, entryways, and gardens to direct the flow through the rooms of a home or outdoor space to stimulate aspects of their lives.
Remember these concepts to keep a natural flow of energy in your outdoor living spaces:
1. Remove outdoor clutter
Simple enough....clean up the yard. Remove any and all debris like dead or dying plants
Install a water feature to inspire relaxation. Whether you want a man-made pond, waterfall, or fountain it's important to have flowing water. This is best placed in the north, east, or southeast corners.
3. Outdoor fireplace or BBQ
This is an ideal option for bringing the fire element into your setting. An outdoor fireplace or fire pit is ideal. The best location is in the southern sector of the property if at all possible.
4. Rock and plants
Try to plant foliage that relates to the four elements not covered by the water feature. It's important to balance the yin and yang or male and female energy. Plants with pointed leaves are considered to be yang in nature and plants with round, soft leaves are considered to be the yin.
Complement the earth element by planting foliage that's low to the ground. Water and metal elements are complemented by planting foliage with wavy leaves. Fire element is complemented by planting foliage with pointed and thorny features; Wood by planting tall plants like a cluster of bamboo in the corner of the yard.
Rocks and boulders also anchor the landscape. They're especially effective in the southwest, west, and northeast corners of the yard. Add one for each member of the household; it's thought to help foster relationships.
5. Add movement
Wind chimes, windmills, outdoor flags and wind socks are great ways to increase the flow of energy. Placed in the west, northwest, and north corners of the yard, these strategically placed items can add balance and create comfort.
Circular formations for the placement of furniture foster relationship and strengthen bonds, so create areas for socialization and conversation by creating circles with tables and chairs. Also choose furnishings with smooth rounded corners as this help the flow of energy, whereas hardened corners tend to stop the flow.
Call us today if you need help with an outdoor patio, fireplace or fire pit!
Larry Carroll Masonry
California License #487044
Licensed, Bonded & Insured
Do you know that flame has a magical power? A fireplace is often the center of attention of any room as our ties to fire are deep - nearly primal. Fire brings together people- when the house lights a fire in a fireplace or candles, it attracts the whole family. The reason is the magical power of fire. Fire is a chemical reaction with stunning visual effects that humankind has been infatuated with since the dawning of early mankind. We are drawn to fire for its warmth and soothing visual display. Our desire to control this is strong, so much so that we have created places in our home especially for fire.
And where should the fireplace be located? Even if you never use it, a fireplace still represents a large fire element and should become an integral part of every home because they are not only decorative element. The proper location and use of fireplaces can stimulate wealth and are able to "dispose of" a lot of pathogenic energy from space. However, the incorrect location can cause problems in the family. If you Feng Shui this part of your house, you will promote good relationships with your current family members, your ancestry, lineage, and even a global sense of family. Many modern houses and cottages have fireplaces located in the middle of the living room which is not appropriate when it is placed in the power center of the house that creates a phenomenon "Burning Heart". Masters FENG SHUI prefer to have a "fire" wall-then it does not create a strong energy in the house "cchi" imbalance. There is no universal recipe, because fire is one of the two hardest controllable elements. The fireplace can be placed only in certain directions of the world, where is not the problem of fire element. It belongs clearly to the South or the North East direction.
Complimenting Elements to a Fireplace: If the fireplace is already built, hang a large painting of calm water above it-a painting of calm water above the fireplace represents water dousing the fire and it weakens the effects of the fire. Or instead of a picture of water, use a large mirror over the fireplace. Mirrors are very useful Feng Shui tools because they have so many uses. Mirrors can reflect good things in, multiply positive effects, or they can reflect bad things out so you don’t feel ill effects. But, you can also use a mirror as a water element, because of its similarities to water in terms of reflection and the undulating images it can reflect. Additionally, if stacked wood or leafy flowers in a flower pot can be added to the sides of the fireplace, because the wood element feeds the fire and the fire element in turn nourishes the earth element.
Fireplace should be according to the principles of FENG SHUI always cleaned, ie without the burnt ash and flue damper out of crushing. At the heart of the fire should always be pre-loaded with timber and prepared for making a fire. Fireplace should not be in fact never (even in summer) be empty.
Televisions are not welcome in rooms with a fire place - even though popping a movie into the DVD player and getting cozy next to the fire might make for a very pleasant evening. If this is your cup of tea then I have just one suggestion to make, have a way to conceal the television when it is not in use. Find a bookshelf with closing doors or find a projector screen that drops from the ceiling if your pocket book can afford.
Forget about using objects and colors that represent fire in the Family areas, since fire burns wood. As such, you should avoid high energy colors like red and orange in the family spaces of your home, as these colors represent fire.
No Family Pictures on the Fireplace! Never put your family pictures on top of a fireplace, no matter which area of the house the fireplace resides. If you have pictures of your family, or even just your children, on top of a fireplace, you may be experiencing many quarrels between those pictured. As a real life example of what this might represent, imagine all of the members of your family driving together in a car with no air conditioning through the desert during the height of summer. The stress and tension between the family members would rise with the temperature. (By the way, the same holds true even if a person pictured is deceased.)
Any room with a fireplace automatically radiates a fiery element. The fireplace radiates heat and blankets the atmosphere of the room with feelings of stillness and comfort and may spark feelings of passion and intimacy - keep this in mind if you are trying to rekindle a relationship. The searing and crackling of burning wood is peaceful and relaxing for one or two people but it will have a different, stimulating effect as the number of people in the area rises.
Call us today if you need help with a fireplace!
Larry Carroll Masonry
California License #487044
Licensed, Bonded & Insured
The most popular renovation areas in the home today is the kitchen. An average return on investment for this type of home improvement could see a possibility of as much as 70 to 80%. What about an outdoor kitchen? Many experts suggest that building an outdoor kitchen can get you about the same if not more return on investment. But there are exceptions:
1. Climate: The climate where you live will determine how often you can use your outdoor kitchen? Is it a nice weather like the Monterey Peninsula year round? Or are you located in an area that receives snow? Even if you are in an area that receives snow, you can add features, like fireplaces or coverings, to extend the use of your outdoor kitchen into the colder months. However, this will most likely increase your budget as well.
2. Size: How large do you want your outdoor kitchen to be? Think about how your new kitchen space fits into your home and lifestyle because it can impact how much money you’ll put into it. You should sit down and plan out your space with an expert. They can help you figure out the best plan that fits your needs and budget.
3. Materials: Qualify materials and craftsmanship are always extremely important when you construct any outdoor addition to your home so it can withstand any type of weather. The last thing you need is for it to fall to pieces in the next rainstorm because you skimped on materials or hired an inexperience contractor. Remember quality may cost a little more, but well worth it in the long run.
4. Plumbing: Are you planning on adding plumbing lines to your project? Adding a water or gas line into your design is convenient, but sometimes plumbing can get expensive – especially if your outdoor kitchen isn’t right next to the house. Always remember to price out options to see what fits into your budget.
5. Features: Once you have established what features your want in your outdoor kitchen, maybe you’ll have a little extra cash in the budget if you plan properly. Remember to add items to enhance the area: landscaping, electronics, appliances, wood storage, brick pizza oven, lighting or anything else you can think of. This is the time to splurge a little on the things you want. If you spend a little extra money to get quality materials, you not only get an additional space at home to spend with your family, you also may add an extra room to your home and increase the home value.
Outdoor kitchens can be a great investment opportunity for your home – not to mention they provide additional living space. Before you jump on the outdoor kitchen bandwagon consider the points above, and if it makes sense for your home talk to an expert to create a plan that fits your needs and budget. We would be happy to help, so give us a call.
Many people focus on the interior of the home when they consider improvements to boost their sales appeal or price. However, many sellers neglect the outside of the property. It is the first impression a buyer has to form an opinion whether they like a house or not before stepping in the front door. Truly, to maximize your properties’ potential, you need to focus on improving the curb appeal. Improving the exterior of a property may not be as exciting as trying to figure out what to do with the kitchen, but in many ways it is more important. You want that WOW factor to make buyers pay attention and venture inside.
The biggest pop can be the driveway. For an area that gets used every day, it would make sense to make the driveway as appealing as possible. If there are cracks, weeds and other noticeable flaws, improving the driveway will dramatically increase curb appeal. By adding a stone or rock driveway it will not only change the complete curb appeal for the house but will make the house more livable, and may command a higher sales price.
Additionally other factors that contribute to your curb appeal is the condition of the grass, landscaping and any trees or bushes near the front of the property. Plants on the front stairs, flowers in the garden, fresh mulch and updated shrubs are all easy fixes that have a big return. If your grass is old and there are dirt patches, you can either lay down some sod or start the seeding process months before your house is ready.
As well, you should look at the roof, siding, new paint, updated trim, new shutters and fresh gutters can all make a huge difference. A new matching front door can also have a big impact. The front door is one of the first things that anyone notices when they enter a house. If the door is old and the handle is rusted, the rest of the house will suffer.
There are many things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your property. Some of these things may be more costly than you imagined, but they can have a huge impact on your sales price. If you are wondering which items should be updated, ask a few friends to drive to the house and tell you the first thing they think of when they pull up. This will give you an honest assessment and a starting point for your work. Spending time and money on the interior is important, but it will all be for naught if the exterior of the house is a mess and a negative for a buyer to look at it.
Seven seconds. That’s the time it takes for a person to create a first impression to be created. This relates to your home's curb appeal as well.
If you read a multitude of articles concerning the return on investment of your home, curb appeal is one of the items at the top of the list.
According to Remodeling Magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report of 2015”, the top three things that bring a great return on investment are the replacement of a garage, siding, windows, and front door.
While all these bring in a significant return on investment, the addition of a driveway gate or custom columns brings your property value up. Additionally, it may aid in selling your property faster or achieving a higher property value as it also gives off a perceived exclusivity and security.
Your walkway or the driveway is usually the first thing that people notice when they come to your home. A driveway has the power to add immense personality to a beautiful house. Imagine having a gorgeous house with aesthetically pleasing interiors, but it starts with a broken, cracked and stained driveway. Your guests will be left underwhelmed and unimpressed even before they get a chance to step inside your home.
Elevate the curb appeal of your house by building a complimentary driveway leading up to your house. There are numerous building materials to choose from. Regardless of what material you choose, it’s crucial that you stay on top of its maintenance and repair work. If you notice any cracks or potholes, tend to them immediately. This will keep the driveway attractive and also ensure its long life. Let us look at different types of building materials for driveway, along with their pros and cons by clicking here.
With a driveway that reflects your personality and lifestyle, you can form a great first impression on the guests when they arrive and leave behind a lasting impact on their minds as they exit. Whether you choose to install asphalt driveways, gravel or driveways made of paving stones, you can be assured of adding character and indelible personality to your property. So, choose wisely and make your home picture perfect!
Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil. Building retaining walls to keep hills or other elevated land areas from encroaching on your home and property requires precise planning and an understanding of the forces that work to defeat human efforts.
Retaining walls differ from dams in only one aspect – what they are holding back. For constructing retaining walls, the pressure of the soil against the wall and the effects of frost and freezing are the two key elements to address in planning. Improper design will cause the wall to fail.
The pressure created by the material being held back comes from more than just the dirt – the amount of moisture in the soil must also be considered. Wet soil can weight upwards of one hundred pounds per cubic foot, and retaining walls must be strong enough to handle this load; an appropriate drainage system for your area will help with controlling moisture buildup. In addition to the weight of the soil itself (wet or dry), anything resting on top of the wall or atop the material behind it must also be factored in.
As soil freezes it expands and presses against anything holding it back. Known as frost heaves, this pressure will wreak havoc on improperly constructed retaining walls. The impact of frost and freezing can be mitigated by making sure an adequate drainage system is in place.