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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Decks & Patios CATEGORY

Desi McGibbon is owner of McGibbon Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (415) 742 – 1938 or by email.

Desi McGibbon

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Desi McGibbon: A Lifelong Builder

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAFAEL — If Desi McGibbon can’t imagine doing anything other than building, it’s probably because he’s been doing it for as long as he can remember. “I’ve been building all my life,” he affirms. “My father and uncles were all contractors, so I was basically raised in the industry. As a kid, I’d be carrying buckets of cement and doing whatever other grunt work was needed, but as I grew older, I started to learn the trades in greater detail. Even after going to college and earning a degree in business, I eventually returned to building. It’s just what I know.”

Originally from Ireland, Desi recounts how he came to live in the United States. “In 2005, I came to visit a friend and just fell in love with California. In particular, the coastline appealed to me, as I’ve always been into water sports. I wasn’t back in Ireland long before I returned to the States, where I sorted out my temporary visas and started working for a construction firm. Once I got a feel for the local building industry, I decided to branch out and start my own company.”

Today, as owner of McGibbon Construction, Desi says his favorite part of his job is transforming outdoor spaces. “We’re very well-versed in outdoor construction, especially deck building. When I see a yard that has been neglected, I don’t see it as a mess—I see it as a blank canvas. It’s really rewarding to turn an unkempt outdoor space into something beautiful.”

A resident of San Rafael (where he lives with his wife, Regina, and their two daughters), Desi spends his time outside of work on a variety of pastimes. “I’ve always been a very active person, so I enjoy water sports, cycling and working out,” he details. “I’m actually planning to participate in the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco, so I have a lot of training ahead of me.” Desi also enjoys spending time with family and friends. “As a father of two young daughters, family is obviously number one for me. Regina and I also like having friends and family over for dinner and get-togethers.”

When asked what he would do if he were to retire tomorrow, Desi says he’d devote more time to fatherhood. “Sitting on the beach with a drink sounds nice, but with two young children, that’s not where I’m at right now,” he laughs. “I would probably buy a nice house and be more involved in raising my girls. We’d spend more time cycling, going to the park, taking trips to the beach—all that fun stuff.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: I’m a night owl by nature, but by force of life I have to be an early bird.

Q: What are your favorite sports teams?
A: I like the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool F.C.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Nepal, because my wife is from there and we’ve been meaning to go back and visit her family.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: I have three, actually: Il Davide in San Rafael, R’Noh Thai in Greenbrae, and Tommy’s Asian Bistro and Grill in San Rafael.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Bikes. I have a few and I’m currently in the market for another.

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Looking at the Big Picture with Deck Construction

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SAN RAFAEL — When building a deck on your property, it’s best to have all the details sorted out before the work begins. Homeowners often give a lot of thought to the kind of decking material they’re going to use while overlooking… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Details for a New Deck

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SAN RAFAEL — Host, Sarah Rutan: When designing a new deck, the finer details can have a surprisingly substantial impact. Today we’re in San Rafael with Diamond Certified… Read more

Thomas Daly is a lifetime veteran of the construction industry and owner of Thomas A Daly Construction, a Diamond Certified company since 2013. He can be reached at (415) 493-8993 or by email.

Thomas Daly

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Thomas Daly: Building a Livelihood

By James Florence, Senior Writer

MILL VALLEY — Daunted by the prospect of a career spent behind a desk, Thomas Daly left his home country to build a new livelihood in the United States. “I was working an office job back in Ireland and I hated it,” he remembers. “Prior to that, I’d spent some time in the U.S. playing for a Gaelic football team, so I decided to return to New York, where I got a job building high-rises. After a few years, I went to Alaska to work on the oil pipeline, and from there I went to Australia to work on another. Eventually, I returned to the U.S., where I settled in Marin County, got my contractor’s license and have been working for myself ever since.”
Today, as owner of Thomas A Daly Construction, Thomas says he enjoys his job’s combination of physical work and mental challenges. “I love that I get to be outside working with my hands every day. Plus, I like that fact that I’m always learning new things. As a contractor, you never stop learning because every job requires a different set of solutions.”
A resident of Mill Valley, Thomas likes to spend his free time staying active. “I’m a member of Bay Club Marin in Corte Madera, where I spend a lot of my time swimming and working out,” he says. “I also play a bit of tennis and squash on the weekends, and occasionally indoor soccer, though I’m getting a bit old for that.” Thomas also likes to travel on a regular basis. “I have family and a small farm in Ireland, so I like to go back there a few times a year. My wife usually books us a trip to somewhere like Spain or Portugal while we’re there. I enjoy going to different places and meeting different people.”
In regard to a professional philosophy, Thomas believes in providing the same level of quality and service he’d expect for himself. “I try to perform every job as if I was working on my own house,” he explains. “When doing estimates, I always recommend what I think is best for the customer’s particular circumstances. Overall, I believe in giving my customers quality work for a fair price.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Thomas says he wouldn’t. “I would close the lid on my own coffin,” he laughs. “Retirement isn’t on my horizon—I’ll keep working until I drop. I enjoy my time off, of course, but I like having work to come back to, and that will be the case as long as I’m in the world.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Both. I go to bed around midnight and I’m usually up by 6am.

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: When I’m the U.S., I drink coffee, but when I’m in Ireland, I drink tea, which is what I was raised on.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: I have two: The Cantina in Mill Valley and The Mayflower Pub in San Rafael.

Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?
A: Mostly biographies and history books, especially anything about the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Q: If you could talk to anyone living or dead, who would you choose?
A: Abraham Lincoln. I’d like to hear what he has to say about what’s going on in this country today.

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Assessing Deck Safety

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MILL VALLEY — In the past, many wood decks were built with Douglas fir wood, but time has shown it’s not a good material to use due to its susceptibility to rot. During my 30 years as a deck builder… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Choosing the Right Decking Product

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MILL VALLEY — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re building a new deck, make sure to choose a product that will last. Today we’re in Mill Valley with… Read more

Brandon Stieg is president of Pacific Circle, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2007. He can be reached at (415) 785-8044 or by email.

Brandon Stieg

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Brandon Stieg: Finding a Balance

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

LAGUNITAS — As a young man, Brandon Stieg had a talent for architecture, but he preferred being outside to sitting at a drafting desk. Eventually, he was able to find a balance between the two. “I’ve always been artistic, but I was also good at math, so when I got to college, it made sense to major in architecture,” he recounts. “However, soon after starting an architectural apprenticeship, I realized I didn’t want to be an architect. The idea of being at a desk for eight hours a day just didn’t appeal to me—I wanted to be working outside. With this in mind, I got into woodcraft and trained as a carpenter and woodcarver. Eventually, I started my own business, and today my focus is on building decks, patios, fences, and other outdoor features. Typically, I spend 10 to 20 hours a week designing and the rest outside building, so it’s a nice balance.”

Today, as owner of Pacific Circle, Inc., Brandon says his favorite part of his job is seeing projects progress from conception to completion. “Often, after a client describes what they want, I’ll make a drawing and they’ll say, ‘That’s exactly what I was thinking!’ When it’s built and the finished product looks just like the original vision, that’s really cool. I think that’s one of the best parts of being a builder rather than an architect—you get to see the end result.”

A resident of Lagunitas (where he lives with his wife, Sara, and their three children), Brandon expresses his appreciation for life in Marin County. “I grew up here—in fact, I live on the same street I grew up on. I’ve spent time in several different places and enjoyed them all, but it’s always nice to come home. I’m thankful that my kids have the same opportunity to run around in West Marin like I once did.”

Outside of work, Brandon engages in a variety of active pastimes. “I love to surf, so I go whenever I get a chance,” he details. “I also do a lot of art, from painting to creating large-scale steel sculptures. I actually have a few pieces on display in local galleries.” In addition to personal hobbies, Brandon enjoys hanging out with his family. “We have a full plate of family stuff, from the kids’ extracurricular activities to weekend trips to the beach. We stay busy, that’s for sure.”

In regard to his professional career, Brandon describes how he draws inspiration from old-world craftsmanship. “Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of quality and going the extra mile to ensure that,” he explains. “A big inspiration for me is the Industrial Revolution—I really admire the quality put out by the craftsmen of that time period. I do my best to apply that level of quality in my clients’ projects, and it always pays off.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax.

Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: A dog person—I have a young Brittany Spaniel named Moki.

Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: I used to be a professional snowboarder, and I participated in the World Extreme Championships, where they’d drop you off in a helicopter at the top of a mountain and whoever did the most intense run-down was the winner. Those were definitely my thrill-seeking days.

Q: What’s one website you visit on a daily basis?
A: Surfline.com. It gives you the current swell conditions and weather forecasts for surfing.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Metal and woodwork from the Industrial Revolution.

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Metal Enhancements for Wood Decks and Fences

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LAGUNITAS — Natural wood is a popular material for building exterior structures like decks and fences. However, due to wood’s sensitivity to the elements, these types of structures are often prone to functionality and maintenance issues. A good way to prevent such… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Metal Frames for Entry Gates

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LAGUNITAS — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to installing a new entry gate, the addition of a metal frame can prevent a lot of problems. Today we’re… Read more

Weston Leavens is a 29-year veteran of the decking industry and owner of Deckmaster Fine Decks, a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (707) 902-3955 or by email.

Weston Leavens

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Weston Leavens: Deck Master

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SEBASTOPOL – Weston Leavens always knew he wanted to work with wood for a living, but he also wanted to find an industry niche that offered the best of two scenarios. “I discovered that as a carpenter, you basically have two choices,” he explains. “You can be a framer, which enables you to work outside but all your work gets covered up, or you can be a finish carpenter, in which case your work remains seen but you’re stuck inside all the time.” Eventually, Weston found that building decks offered the happy medium he was looking for. “With deck building, I was able to work outdoors and create products that didn’t get covered up at the end of the job.” Twenty-five years later, as owner of Deckmaster Fine Decks, Weston continues to enjoy the balanced benefits that come with being a deck builder.

Weston’s major contribution to his industry is a groundbreaking technique that literally takes an inverse approach to traditional deck building. “As I spent more time in the industry, I found I was replacing a lot of decks that weren’t really that old,” he says. “In many cases, I found this was the result of water penetrating the nail and screw holes in the deck, which then caused its understructure to rot prematurely.” Weston surmised that if he could devise a way to attach the deck boards from below, he could avoid this issue and improve the deck’s aesthetic quality at the same time. “We ultimately came up with the hidden bracket system, which revolutionized the deck industry and is still the best way to build a deck.”

Originally from Southern California, Weston moved to Sonoma County in 1996 with his wife, Jenny, after deciding it was time for a change of scenery. “We were sick of city life and wanted to relocate to a more rural area,” he says. The Leavenses found just the atmosphere they were looking for in the small town of Sebastopol, where they continue to appreciate its characteristic tranquility and natural beauty.

Outside of work, Weston participates in everything from daily yoga to outdoor activities like kayaking and walking his dog, Bo. One of his lesser-known hobbies, however, is competing in chess tournaments. “I’m no Bobby Fischer, but I’m not bad,” he laughs. Weston also likes to hook up his camper and hit the road on occasion, which he says is the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow. “Jenny and I enjoy taking road trips to remote locations, so I think if I retired we’d plan a longer, more elaborate trip and check out some new places we’ve never been to.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite tree?
A: Redwood.

Q: Ever had a conversation with a famous person?
A: I once did a project for Lance Alworth, an NFL Hall of Famer who played for the San Diego Chargers. I actually didn’t know who he was at the time. I noticed he had some silver football trophies on his mantle, so I said, “It looks like you’re into football,” to which he casually replied, “Yeah, I played for the Chargers.”

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I have no idea—I’m still trying to figure out how to stay in the present!

Q: What’s your favorite animal?
A: My dog, Bo. Everybody wants to know what his breed is, so we call him a Sonoma Shepherd because he’s just a mix.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Scrambled.

Q: Who makes you laugh?
A: Bill Cosby and Eddie Izzard.

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A Cutting-Edge Product for Non-Wood Decks

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SEBASTOPOL — Many people love authentic wood decks, but not everyone wants to deal with the maintenance they require. That’s why, over the last two decades, we’ve seen a profusion of non-wood or “composite” decking materials hit the market, each of which… Read more

The Benefits of Hidden Brackets

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SEBASTOPOL — If you’re in the market for a new deck, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choices, as material options range from composites and synthetics to hardwoods and softwoods. However, an equally important factor to consider is how you want… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: A Better Product for Composite Decks

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SEBASTOPOL — Host, Sarah Rutan: When planning to build a composite deck, it’s important to purchase a high-quality product. Today we’re in Sebastopol with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor… Read more

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