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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Kitchen & Bath – Contractors CATEGORY

Jim Adkins is a 24-year veteran of the construction industry and vice president of Springs Construction, a Diamond Certified company since 2004. He can be reached at (650) 720-5949 or by email.

Jim Adkins

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jim Adkins: Finishing Strong

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

REDWOOD CITY – While he’s since made a successful career for himself, Jim Adkins’ involvement in the construction industry began with a rude awakening. “I started out as a teenager, working summers for my grandfather, Walter Springs Sr.,” he recalls. “I remember coming to work the first day and thinking I was going to do something easy like drive around in a truck or backhoe. When I walked into my grandfather’s office, he pointed to a brand new shovel in the corner and told me that when I learned how to use that tool, he’d give me the next one. Basically, I started my career making blisters!”

Despite a less-than-idyllic start, Jim went on to become well-versed in all aspects of construction and eventually earned his certification as a master finish carpenter. Today, as president of Springs Construction, Jim says he enjoys building relationships with clients as much as he does building their homes. “I always tell people that my favorite part of the job is handing the keys to the clients and telling them, ‘Here’s your new home!’ The whole process is very rewarding.”

A native of Northern California, Jim lived in various parts of the San Francisco area before finally settling in San Jose, where he lives with his wife, Chris, and their children, Laurel and Bryce. He says his favorite part about living and working in the Bay Area is its natural diversity. “You drive 45 minutes west and you’re at the ocean, and you drive four hours northeast and you’re in the snow. Essentially, you could go surfing and skiing in the same day if you wanted. Not a lot of places can boast that kind of versatility. The more I travel, the more I realize that I have a pretty good place to live.”

While he’s passionate about construction work, Jim’s other love is motorsports. “I watch drag racing and Formula One religiously, and I also follow Motocross and Supercross,” he says. “Whenever there’s a race in town, my son and I are there to see it.”

In both his life and career, Jim attributes his personal success in part to an ongoing process of self-improvement. “I just try to do a little better every day,” he explains. “Whether it’s my performance in the field or my role as a husband and father, my goal is to do things better today than I did them yesterday. I think that attitude has motivated me and helped bring me to where I am today.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sport?
A: I’m a big motorsports fan. In NASCAR, I root for Jeff Gordon; in drag racing, I really like John Force; and in Formula One, my favorite driver is Kimi Räikkönen, who drives for Ferrari.

Q: What was your first concert?
A: Eddie Money at the Cow Palace, when I was 16 years old.

Q: What do you like on your pizza?
A: Pepperoni and extra cheese.

Q: If someone was making a movie about your life, what actor would you choose to play you?
A: Brad Pitt, because I’m extremely handsome! (Laughs)

Q: What Seinfeld character do you identify most with?
A: Kramer. He’s just a happy-go-lucky person—he has his friends and his ideas, and that’s about all he needs.

Q: What’s the best gift you ever received?
A: When I was 12 years old, I wanted a radio-controlled car called a Baja Buggy for Christmas. I was sure my parents got it for me, but Christmas morning came and there was no Baja Buggy. I was disappointed, but I was old enough to understand that my parents probably weren’t able to afford it, so I let it go. Later that afternoon, after some family members had come over, my dad said to me, “Hey, go open the drapes on that sliding door and let in some light.” I pulled back the drapes and there was the Baja Buggy!

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Home Remodeling Considerations

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REDWOOD CITY — When taking on a remodeling project, many homeowners feel overwhelmed with the complex nature of the process. However, by addressing a few important aspects ahead of time, you can set yourself up for success. Here are a few… Read more

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Video: Preparing for a Remodel

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REDWOOD CITY —  Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re planning on a remodel, you’ll first need to know where to start. Today we’re in Redwood City with… Read more

Steve Labourdette is a 28-year veteran of the construction industry and owner of Labourdette Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 234-5963 or by email.

Steve Labourdette

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Steve Labourdette: A Labor of Love

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SEBASTOPOL – When Steve Labourdette took his first remodeling job as a young man, it was simply a means to earn extra money for an upcoming trip. However, the passion he developed for his work would later blossom into a full-fledged career. “When I was 20 years old, I decided I wanted to do some traveling,” he remembers. “I’d already had some construction experience, so I was able to get a second job doing home remodels to save up some money. I found that I really had a knack for it, so when I returned after six months of traveling, I decided to get back into it. Later, I got my license and started my own company, and that’s how I got where I am today.” Since 1999, Sonoma County residents have been benefitting from Steve’s expertise as owner of Labourdette Construction.

Steve is a lifetime resident of the Bay Area—after living everywhere from the Presidio in San Francisco to Novato, he eventually settled in Sonoma County, where he resides with his wife, Maya, and daughters, June and Eva. “Since I’m the only guy in the house, we have a joke that when we got cats, I made sure they were males,” he laughs. “The truth is I love being surrounded by all this girl power.” When asked his favorite part about living and working in the Bay Area, Steve cites its versatile population. “There are so many different types of people here. I’ve worked for CEOs and winemakers, and I’ve worked for people who punch a clock, so it’s been a neat opportunity to build relationships with folks from all different walks of life.”

Outside of work, Steve enjoys a variety of pastimes, from playing acoustic guitar to outdoor activities such as hiking. “I love to go on hikes to the beach, in Annadel or on any West County trail,” he affirms. “I also read a lot, and I’m a fairly avid gardener.”

In his life and work, Steve espouses the importance of personal authenticity. “I went through a difficult time as a teenager, and when I opened up to my dad about it, he gave me a quote I hadn’t heard before: ‘Be true to yourself and no one can deceive you.’ It was just what I needed to hear at that time. I think it really helped me become who I am today, and it’s something I continue to live by.”

When asked what he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Steve says he’d devote more time to a couple of his favorite hobbies. “I would probably double the size of the workshop I have now and focus more on building cabinets and furniture, which is an aspect of carpentry that I enjoy but currently don’t do much of. I’d also build a recording studio on top of the shop where I could play and record my music.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite movie genre?
A: I like all kinds of movies, but documentaries are probably my favorite. The first year we had Netflix, my wife and I watched documentaries almost exclusively, and we still watch them often.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: I could be either. Sometimes I stay up late, other times I’m up early—never back to back, though.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Fall. I love the nice, mild weather.

Q: Ever have a conversation with a famous person?
A: One time at a Giants game, I found myself in an elevator with Willie Mays and ended up chatting with him for a few moments.

Q: If you had a warning label, what would it say?
A: “Grumpy When Hungry.”

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The Importance of Proper Deck Waterproofing

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SEBASTOPOL — When installing a new deck, waterproofing is a crucial aspect of attaching it to your house. By taking thorough measures to properly waterproof your deck, you can expect it to have a longer lifespan and avoid rot issues with… Read more

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Video: How to Attach a Deck to a House

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SEBASTOPOL — Host, Sarah Rutan: When remodeling your deck, its important to know about proper installation. Today we’re in Sebastopol with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor… Read more

Charles Irwin is a 27-year veteran of the construction industry and owner of Irwin Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (408) 214-1500 or by email.

Charles Irwin

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Charles Irwin: House of Dreams

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

GILROY — Charles Irwin received an early education in the construction field by doing something most kids only dream of: building a house. “When I was 14 years old, my parents decided to sell our house in San Jose and build our own,” he remembers. “Over the next four years, I spent all my holidays, weekends and vacations working on the house. Besides the realization that I enjoyed working with my hands, that experience taught me a lot about construction and got me started in the field.”

Following high school, Charles further expanded his versatile skill set by working in various industry capacities. “I was a roofer for a while, did drywall for a bit and was also a framer,” he recounts. “Eventually, I decided to go back to school and get my CAD degree, which led to a career in civil engineering. After about nine years of designing traffic signals and roadway plans, I decided to get back into construction, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 15 years.”

Today, as owner of Irwin Construction, Charles says his favorite part of his job is breathing new life into old spaces. “I like taking an old, beat-up kitchen and turning it into somebody’s dream kitchen. The process of transforming something a client doesn’t like into something they love is very exciting for me.”

A lifetime resident of the South Bay (where he lives with his wife, Tricia), Charles spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “I’ve always loved cars and racing, and I used to do dirt track racing over in Watsonville,” he says. “My latest passion is car restoration—right now, I’m rebuilding a ’33 Dodge sedan.” Charles also enjoys going shooting at the archery range and spending time with his family, including his two grown children, Branden and Samantha.

In his life and career, Charles espouses the importance of integrity. “I believe that a person is only as good as their word,” he explains. “If somebody says they’re going to do something, it’s important that they do it. That’s why I never promise our customers anything I can’t deliver, and I always deliver what I promise.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Charles says he’d take a long vacation. “I’d probably take a trip to Italy. I’m Italian, and my wife was actually born in Italy, so I think that would be a really special vacation for both of us.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “Vikings” on the History Channel.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Maurizio’s in Morgan Hill.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Halloween—even though both of our kids are grown up, we still get dressed up and go out!

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
A: The Greatest American Hero.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past. I think it would be really cool to go back to the Renaissance period and see all the art and technology as it was being developed.

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How to Patch Drywall

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GILROY — Whether caused by a swinging door or another accidental source, drywall is easily damaged. Luckily, it’s also fairly easy to repair. Using the following procedure, you can repair a damaged area of drywall in your home: 1. Cut… Read more

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Video: How to Patch Drywall

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GILROY — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you have a damaged area of drywall in your home, you’ll be glad to know it’s fairly simple to repair. Today… Read more

Tom Todd is a 24-year veteran of the remodeling industry and owner of Bay Bathrooms and Kitchens, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (650) 376-0866 or by email.

Tom Todd

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Tom Todd: Specialized Success

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — As a general contractor focused on the residential sector, Tom Todd considered himself to be specialized in his field. However, when he met another contractor who actually was, it altered not only his perspective, but his career. “Since I only dealt with residential properties, I was under the impression that I was a specialty contractor,” he recounts. “That is, until I bumped into another contractor who told me he only did bathrooms. Up to that point, I never knew one could find enough work handling just one aspect of the industry, so when I discovered this was possible, I decided to try it, and it ended up working out very well.”

Today, as owner of Bay Bathrooms and Kitchens, Todd says he enjoys the creativity his job entails. “Even though all bathrooms are, in a sense, the same, the artistic possibilities are endless, so it’s always a unique experience. It’s very gratifying to see the clients’ faces light up when they see the transformation their space has undergone.”

A native of San Jose, Tom expresses a particular fondness for his region of residence. “Naturally, I like the diversity and the weather here in the Bay Area, but beyond that, it’s my home,” he says. “Whenever I leave for any length of time, I always look forward to coming back, because this is where I feel most comfortable.”

Outside of work, Tom devotes the bulk of his time to the pursuit of outdoor activities. “I love the outdoors, and spend a lot of time camping, fishing and hiking,” he affirms. “I’m an avid salmon fisherman, so I do a lot of trolling off the coast of Marin. If I’m able to get away for days, I like to go down to Mexico and do some tuna fishing.”

In his life and career, Tom espouses the importance of keeping your word. “I believe it’s critical to do what you say and to be consistent,” he affirms. “I think a big part of my success in business has come from being a good listener and giving my clients the information they need, without trying to be a salesman. Sometimes I have to tell customers things they don’t want to hear, but in the end, most people appreciate my honesty and consistency.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you a cat person or a dog person?
A: A cat person. Some of my neighbors and I have started rescuing abandoned dogs and cats that end up in our neighborhood and taking them to local shelters. Since I tend to rescue more cats than dogs, I’ve come to have a fondness for felines.

Q: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
A: River’s End Restaurant & Inn in Jenner.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music.

Q: Who’s your favorite movie monster?
A: Mike, the one-eyed monster from “Monsters, Inc”.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Fishing lures.

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Preventing Bathroom Water Damage

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SAN JOSE — The most common reason bathroom fixtures need to be replaced prematurely is water damage, usually from unseen or ostensibly minor leaks. What few people realize is that, in most cases, this damage can be easily prevented; in fact, with… Read more

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Video: Annual Bathroom Maintenance

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SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: Replacing a rotted-out bathroom fixture can be expensive. The good news is, a little annual maintenance will go a long way toward… Read more

Jeff Schroeder is general manager of American Kitchen and Bath, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2008. He can be reached at (408) 372-8959 or by email.

Jeff Schroeder

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Jeff Schroeder: A Natural Transition

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — By his account, Jeff Schroeder’s entry into the home remodeling field was a purely natural transition. “My father actually started his own remodeling company back in 1980, and as a kid, I would go to jobsites with him from time to time,” he remembers. “During my senior year of high school, I started working for him on a more regular basis, which was when I really got hooked. As soon as I graduated, I started full-time in the industry and I’ve been at it ever since.”

Today, as general manager of American Kitchen and Bath, Inc., Jeff says his favorite part of his job is the everyday challenges it entails. “In kitchen and bathroom remodeling, you’re constantly encountering issues that are unique to the homes you’re working in. For that reason, it never gets boring—there’s always a new challenge and something new to learn, which keeps me sharp, running and motivated.”

Born and raised in San Jose (where he lives with his wife, Robyn, and their children, Megan and Jacob), Jeff expresses his appreciation for the diversity to be found in California’s third-largest city. “San Jose really has a lot to offer, from jobs to entertainment and beyond,” he says. “Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it here. As far as working in San Jose, I get to meet so many different types of people and work on so many different types of houses, so there’s always something new.”

Outside of work, Jeff engages in a variety of pastimes, including auto restoration and watching sports. “I’ve owned a ’66 Mustang since high school, and I still enjoy going out to the garage and tinkering with it,” he says. “I also love watching hockey. In addition to being a big San Jose Sharks fan, my son plays roller hockey, so it’s a lot of fun to watch him compete and see him grow as a player.” Jeff also devotes much of his time to family activities. “My daughter and son are both in private schools that require community service hours, so Robyn and I usually work alongside them when they’re volunteering. Of course, we also love taking vacations to Disneyland.”

In his life and career, Jeff espouses the importance of continual self-improvement. “I believe that whenever you do something, you should try to do it better than the last time you did it,” he explains. “I’m always pushing myself, and I strive to learn from my experiences and improve each time I undertake something.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Jeff says he’d get more involved in charity work. “I’d probably start volunteering a lot more and helping the community. I’m really involved with my church, so I’d probably jump into that twice as much.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Water, actually.

Q: Have you ever read a book more than once?
A: “The Disney Way” by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. It talks about Disney’s business model/philosophy and how to apply it to your own company.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “The Big Bang Theory.”

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Fall. I like what it represents—it’s the end of the year, things are winding down and it’s time to settle in for winter.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music. I like how, even if you’re in a lousy mood, if you play the right song, it can lift your spirits.

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Waterproofing Your Home

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SAN JOSE — An essential aspect of home maintenance (both inside and out) is protecting against moisture intrusion. One of the most effective measures in this regard is the application of sealant materials such as caulking. However, when performing this step, it’s… Read more

Ilan Sigura is a lifetime veteran of the construction industry and CEO of Sigura Construction, Inc. a Diamond Certified company since 2007. He can be reached at (408) 372-8945 or by email.

Ilan Sigura

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Ilan Sigura: An Integral Career

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SANTA CLARA — By the time he reached early adulthood, Ilan Sigura had already established deep roots in the construction industry. Even when he tried his hand at a new profession, it wasn’t long before he returned to the field that had become an integral part of his identity. “My father was a contractor, and he began teaching me the trade when I was just a boy,” he explains. “Later, as a college student, I decided to study computer science. After I graduated, I spent a couple of months engineering software for a tech company, but I didn’t like it at all. I felt insignificant working at a large company and my work had no direct impact on the lives of others. This was a stark contrast from construction, where I got to interact with people and see the results of my work firsthand. Ultimately, I decided to go back to doing what I knew best.”

Today, as owner of Sigura Construction, Inc., Ilan says his favorite part of his job is the pride he takes in his company’s reputation. “Between my production team, my estimators and my guys in the field, I run a fairly large operation. As we continue to receive high customer satisfaction ratings, it’s an indication that we’re doing very well, which I find very satisfying.”

Originally from Israel, Ilan came to the United States in 1990 to attend college in New Jersey. “My plan was to return home and run my father’s business after graduating, but as it turned out, I fell in love with this country and never went back.” After migrating to the Bay Area for what was to be a brief stint in the tech field, Ilan settled in Sunnyvale, where he now lives with his wife, Rinat, and their five children. When asked his favorite part about living in the Bay Area, he expresses his appreciation of the diverse local landscape. “I like being outdoors, and there are lots of opportunities for that here. With so much to explore and so much variety, it never gets boring.”

Outside of work, Ilan spends the bulk of his time with his family. “My wife and I believe in giving our kids skills so they can grow up to be confident and independent,” he says. “We like taking them camping and sightseeing, as well as doing activities like riding quads and jet skiing.” Additionally, Ilan extends his passion for construction to his home environment. “I do a lot of home improvement projects, which keeps me working with my hands and helps me stay in touch with my trade.”

In his life and career, Ilan says he never forgets to consider the impact of his work on future generations. “As a professional, I believe in doing things honestly and with integrity—not only because what goes around comes around, but because we need to leave a good place for our children to inherit. That’s why my team and I make an effort to implement eco-friendly measures in our work whenever possible. With everything we do, we want to make sure we’re doing right by the planet and the people who inhabit it.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Ilan says it’s a doubtful scenario. “I don’t think I’ll ever retire—I’ll always want to work. But if I did retire, I’d spend more time with my wife and kids. After all, they’re the most important things to me.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Summer—I come from a warm country, so I like the heat.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past, just because things used to be simpler and more innocent back when I was growing up.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Snickers bars.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Both. I usually get about four hours of sleep each night.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Satsuma Sushi in Mountain View.

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Crucial Aspects of Green Building

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SANTA CLARA – When it comes to designing and executing a remodeling project, one of the most important considerations is energy conservation. Building codes require a certain level of energy efficiency, but there are many opportunities to go above and beyond these… Read more

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Video: Conservation Measures in Construction

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SANTA CLARA – Host, Sarah Rutan: When building or remodeling a home, there are several ways to boost energy-efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint. Today we’re in Santa… Read more

Brian Fitzmaurice is a lifetime veteran of the construction industry and owner of Brian Fitzmaurice General Contractor, a Diamond Certified company since 2012. He can be reached at (650) 937-9626 or by email.

Brian Fitzmaurice

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Brian Fitzmaurice: Embracing the Chaos

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

SAN BRUNO — As the son of a structural engineer, it’s no surprise that Brian Fitzmaurice got an early introduction to the construction field. “As a kid, I’d often tag along with my dad when he went to work,” he remembers. “As I got older, I spent my summers working alongside him, digging ditches and working backhoes. When I moved to California in 1981, I was lucky enough to get hooked up with a master carpenter, who taught me a lot during the years I worked for him. Eventually, I got my contractor’s license and struck out on my own.”

Today as owner of Brian Fitzmaurice General Contractor, Brian says he’s learned to embrace the chaos of his day-to-day work schedule. “At the moment, I have four different jobsites running, so I do a lot of bouncing around between them. Besides overseeing things and checking in with employees and clients, I like when I get a chance to do hands-on work, especially tasks that require finer detail like tile setting and finish carpentry.”

Originally from the Boston area, Brian recounts the roundabout course that landed him on the opposite coast. “After college, I decided to go to Europe, where I lived for almost a year before I ran out of money and realized it was time to come home. On a whim, I decided to fly to San Francisco and visit my sister. The weather here was so nice compared to the East Coast that I just ended up staying.”

Outside of work, Brian’s interests run the gamut from international travel to catching up on sleep. “I’ve been extraordinarily busy lately, so I’d say my current favorite hobby is sleeping,” he laughs. “However, I really like to travel. I’ve been to Japan about 30 times. That’s actually where I met my wife, Misa, so now we go there together and visit her family. Also, my son, Jason, has been in Eastern Europe for some time, so I visit him occasionally.” Brian also enjoys playing the stock market. “One of my main interests is investing. Before and after work, I’m usually on my computer trading accounts online.”

In regard to his professional career, Brian says it’s crucial to keep customer satisfaction in focus. “My clients are my bread and butter, so I try to take care of them, do good work and treat them the way I’d like to be treated. I’ve received a lot of good feedback from clients about how I keep them updated on their projects, which is something I guess a lot of contractors don’t bother to do. I just figure, if it was me, I’d want to know what was going on with my project, so I try to do that for others.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Brian says he’ll invest more of his time (and money) toward his favorite pastime. “I doubt if I’ll ever really retire, but if for some reason I couldn’t be out banging nails or running crews, I’d probably shift over to stock market investing. Back in 1996, when business was slow, I got licensed to be a registered stockbroker, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I can see myself spending more time doing that in retirement.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Talk radio while driving around during the day, music when I’m in the office or at home.

Q: What kind of movies do you like?
A: I like everything from old Clint Eastwood movies to historical documentaries.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: O’ Sole Mio in Millbrae.

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

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: Probably the past, just to get a firsthand view of major historical events.

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Choosing the Right Fasteners for Your Remodeling Project

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SAN BRUNO — There are several different types of fasteners (i.e. screws and nails) used in construction, but many homeowners overlook the fact that not every fastener is right for every application. For example, let’s say you’re remodeling your bathroom. In this… Read more

Differentiating Quality with Building Materials

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SAN BRUNO — When comparing construction bids, many people fail to account for the quality of materials to be used on their projects. Different levels of quality have different costs, so it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for.… Read more

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Video: Differentiating Construction Fasteners

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SAN BRUNO — Host, Sarah Rutan: When performing home improvements, it’s important to use the right type of fastener for the application. Today we’re in San Bruno with… Read more

Donna Merritt is office manager of Merritt-Nelson Custom Builders, a Diamond Certified company since 2008. She can be reached at (707) 336-2997 or by email.

Donna Merritt

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Donna Merritt: The Athlete in the Office

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

ROHNERT PARK — Donna Merritt has been managing Merritt-Nelson Custom Builders’ office for more than 20 years, but outside of work, she has an entirely different claim to fame. “I’m a competitive slalom water skier, which is something I’ve been doing for the past seven years,” she explains. “In 2013, at the age of 58, I became a U.S. champion with the tournament group I compete with.”

Donna’s athletic abilities don’t stop there: she’s also a world record-holding powerlifter. “With some encouragement from my personal trainer, I began powerlifting in 2012 and actually set a new world record in my first competition,” she says. “Needless to say, I was shocked at how well I did!” As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she also recently entered her first bodybuilding figure competition and won first place in her age bracket.

When asked her motivation for pursuing these various athletic endeavors, Donna says it’s simply a natural extension of the way she feels. “I’ve always been very interested in health and exercise, and I’ve found that the more I do it, the better I feel. I’m nearly 60 and I’ve never felt better. Some people call me crazy, but I plan on competing as long as I feel this good.”

Long before she became a record-setting athlete, Donna began working for Merritt-Nelson Custom Builders after her husband, Gary, and his partner founded the business in 1993. After two-plus decades with the company, she says her favorite part of the job is helping clients realize their remodeling goals. “I enjoy the process of taking a client’s dream for their home or office and turning it into a reality.”

A resident of Marin County, Donna expresses her appreciation for the natural beauty and diversity of the local landscape. “I’m really grateful for such a beautiful area to live in, as well as having access to so much within such a short distance. The coast, the mountains, San Francisco, the wine country—anything you might want to do is just a few hours away.”

When she’s not in the office or training for her next competition, Donna spends much of her time relaxing at local reservoirs. “My husband and I are avid boaters, and we like to be on the water as often as we can,” she says. Additionally, she enjoys spending quality time with her grown children, Dawn and Nick, and her two-year-old grandson, Peyton.

In regard to both her athletic and professional careers, Donna credits much of her success to her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone. “When my personal trainer first suggested I compete in bodybuilding, I had my doubts, but now I’m a world-class powerlifter,” she says. “I think that just goes to show what you can accomplish when you simply step outside your comfort zone and attempt new things.”

When asked what her future retirement might look like, Donna says she’ll likely split her time between life at home and travels abroad. “My husband’s dream is to buy a big yacht, sail to the Caribbean and just hop from island to island. As good as that sounds, I also want to be able to spend more time with friends and family, particularly my grandkids, so we’ll have to find a compromise.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: Dog person. We have two dogs: Duke, a little Yorkshire Terrier, and Star, a Bichon Frise.

Q: Ever read a book more than once?
A: “On Top of Your Game” by Carrie Cheadle. It’s a lifestyle coaching book that can also be applied to sports psychology.

Q: If you could travel to any country, where would you go?
A: Ireland. My mom was born and raised there, and I would really love to see the place she came from.

Q: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “Roar” by Katy Perry. My wonderful daughter put together a video of all the competitions I did over the last two years and included that song, which is about never giving up.

Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: I played volleyball, and I was a really good server. They called me “The Slugger.”

Q: What do you like to eat for breakfast?
A: Oatmeal with fresh fruit on top.

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How to Break the Ice with Design

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ROHNERT PARK — When planning for a remodeling project, many homeowners find design to be the most intimidating aspect. Fortunately, for those who don’t know where to begin, there’s an easy and effective way to “break the ice” when it… Read more

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Video: Designing For Your Remodel

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ROHNERT PARK — Host, Sarah Rutan: When thinking about a remodeling project, there’re a few things you can do before meeting with a designer and a contractor. Today… Read more

Ric Plummer is a longtime veteran of the remodeling industry and owner of Ric’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom, a Diamond Certified company since 2003. He can be reached at (510) 371-4954 or by email.

Ric Plummer

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Ric Plummer: An Elevated Career

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter

CASTRO VALLEY — As owner of one of the East Bay’s premier kitchen and bath showrooms, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Ric Plummer is at a high point in his professional career. However, there was a time when being at elevated heights was literally part of his everyday job. “I started out doing framing and drywall in San Francisco high-rises, including Four Embarcadero Center, one of the city’s tallest buildings,” he says. “After fifteen years, I grew tired of working in the city and decided to go into business for myself.” As an independent kitchen and bathroom remodeling contractor, Ric started out small, making house calls and working out of a pickup truck. Eventually, he progressed from his truck bed to a central location, opening Ric’s Kitchen & Bath Showroom in 1996.

Today, Ric says his favorite part of his job is bringing clients’ projects from vision to reality. “I like it when we’ve accomplished a difficult project, and the homeowner is amazed that it came together the way I said it would. To me, that’s better than money.”

A resident of Castro Valley (where he lives with his wife, Debbie), Ric says he enjoys living in a place that offers the best of both worlds. “I like the fact that I live in the country, but I’m only five minutes from the city. It’s also just a nice area to live in, having grown over the years from a little cow town into an active and diverse community.”

Outside of work, Ric divides his time between two principal hobbies: hot rods and horses. “I love old cars and have a workshop on my ranch where I rebuild them from the bottom up,” he says. “I own six different hot rods and like to compete in car shows. My other major pastime is raising and training horses. My son, Dillon, competes in equestrian events, and during the season, he trains six days a week here at the ranch.”

In his life and career, Ric espouses the importance of surrounding one’s self with the right people. “I’m only as good as the people behind me,” he affirms. “In this business, there are a lot of variables, so it’s vital to have competent people that can keep things organized and moving efficiently. From my floor staff to our product suppliers, I make it a point to work with people I can trust and whose quality of work I’m happy with.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Ric replies that he wouldn’t. “My business is a big part of my life, and if I retired, I would miss it,” he says. “When I wake up each morning, I don’t lament having to go to work, rather, I look forward it, so I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you have a favorite sports team?
A: The Dallas Cowboys.

Q: Do you have a favorite band or musician?
A: Tesla. Their drummer is a good friend of mine.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: “The Swiss Family Robinson.” I used to watch it as a kid and loved the ingenuity they employed to build their house. I’ve always been fascinated by the scenario of having to survive in an uninhabited environment.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Work on cars in my shop.

Q: What was your first car?
A: A ’64 Volkswagen.

Q: What’s your dream car?
A: A ’57 Chevy.

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Catalyzed Conversion Varnish for Cabinets

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CASTRO VALLEY — When buying new cabinets, an important aspect to consider is the finish. A cabinet’s finish seals the stain/paint and protects it from scratches, dents, water damage, and sun fading. For this reason, a cabinet’s finish has a considerable impact… Read more

How to Take Measurements for a Remodeling Project

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CASTRO VALLEY — When it comes to remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a quality kitchen and bath showroom can be a great resource. In addition to supplying a full range of material and product options, many showrooms offer the service… Read more

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Video: Choosing the Right Cabinet Finish

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CASTRO VALLEY — Host, Sarah Rutan: When shopping for new cabinetry, there’s an important yet easily overlooked attribute you should look for. Today we’re in Castro Valley with… Read more

Jim Vivrette is a 29-year veteran of the remodeling industry and owner of Altera Design & Remodeling, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 480-7910 or by email.

Jim Vivrette

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Jim Vivrette: A Remodeled Career

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

WALNUT CREEK — Jim Vivrette developed an early love for building by working alongside his father, but he never expected it to lead to a professional career. “When I was a boy, my dad and I began building a house up in the Sierras,” he remembers. “I loved working with him and having the opportunity to learn all the different trades. Over time, building became my hobby, but I never planned on doing it for a living.”

After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in economics, Jim started doing financial planning and eventually worked his way up to a vice president position at a San Francisco branch of Bank of America. However, when he found himself unexpectedly out of work, he took the opportunity to “remodel” his professional direction. “In 1986, Bank of America laid off 27,000 people, and I was one of them,” he explains. “At that point, I decided to take my avocation of building and make it my profession. I started a remodeling company that consisted of just me and my wife, Sylvia. Over the next 30 years, we grew to 23 employees and are still going strong today.”

Today, as owner of Altera Design & Remodeling, Inc., Jim says his favorite part of his job is the interpersonal interaction. “To me, it’s all about working with people: clients, employees, subcontractors, suppliers—everybody. Since our company handles everything from design to construction, it requires the involvement of many different people, so we try to create a great experience for everyone involved.”

A resident of Orinda, Jim prefers to spend the bulk of his free time outdoors. “I love to be outside, whether it’s hiking, biking, snow skiing or water skiing,” he affirms. “In particular, I love going up to the Sierras, which I’ve been doing since I was a kid.” When he’s not communing with nature, Jim enjoys reading and spending time with family, including his and Sylvia’s two grown sons, Jason and Brian, and two grandchildren.

In regard to his professional career, Jim espouses the importance of integrity. “I’ve always felt it’s important to go to bed each night with a clear conscience,” he says. “That’s why I’m all about doing the right thing, treating people properly and being a very ethical company. Those values work, and they’ve made it possible to create a wonderful company with tremendous employees. At this point, we’ve been able to help thousands of homeowners, which allows me to sleep soundly with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.”

When asked what his life might look like if he were to retire tomorrow, Jim says it wouldn’t be much different. “I don’t foresee any radical changes—I’m very comfortable with the way my life is now. I would just spend more time being outdoors with my wife and family.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What kinds of books do you like to read?
A: I love suspense novels, biographies and books on politics.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past. I really enjoy U.S. history, so I would love to go back in time to see some of the significant events in our country’s development.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: The 4th of July. It’s outdoors, the weather is nice, and it’s a good time with family and friends.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: In an omelet.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Antiques, especially family heirlooms.

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3 Preliminary Considerations for Kitchen Design

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WALNUT CREEK — If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, there are three preliminary design aspects you should consider: 1. The outside environment Most kitchens have a door or window to the outside, which is an important consideration when you’re designing.… Read more

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Video: 3 Considerations for Kitchen Design

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WALNUT CREEK — Host, Sarah Rutan: When planning to remodel your kitchen, there are some basic design considerations you should take into account. Today we’re… Read more

Radu Binzari is a 21-year veteran of the construction industry and owner of Strong Builders Construction, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2009. He can be reached at (415) 504-7877 or by email.

Radu Binzari

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Radu Binzari: Building Strong

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Originally from the Republic of Moldova, Radu Binzari came to the United States at the age of 32 and brought with him a construction expertise that was foregrounded by a multi-generational background. “My father and grandfather both worked construction, so I was raised in the field,” he says. “Later in life, when I came to Northern California on vacation, I was attracted by the local industry. Since my father had done a lot of wood work, I appreciated the American emphasis on building with wood as opposed to rock and concrete, which is the common method in Europe. Overall, I saw a lot of opportunity for both life and work, so I decided to stay.”

Today, as owner of Strong Builders Construction, Inc., Radu says his favorite part of his job is interacting with customers. “I find that Bay Area homeowners tend to be very open to new ideas and thinking outside the box, which makes my job more fun. I enjoy working with my clients to create designs, select products and solve problems.”

In regard to a professional philosophy, Radu espouses the importance of staying true to your word. “From big things like price to small things like punctuality, it’s important to deliver what you promise to your clients,” he says. “If you tell a customer you’re going to be there at a certain time, you have to show up on time. If you tell a customer a certain price, that price should be the same at the end of the job. That’s why our clients appreciate us—we do what we say we’re going to do.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Radu says he wouldn’t. “I’d work,” he laughs. “I’m the kind of person who likes to stay busy. Even when I’m off, I’m usually working on my own house, fixing things and doing little remodeling projects.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant in San Jose.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: New Year’s Eve.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: Legos.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Work.

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Proper Intervals for Deck and Tile Sealing

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SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Most people understand the importance of home maintenance, but not everyone knows the proper intervals at which to perform various tasks. Two common instances of this are the sealing of wood decks and tile surfaces. Deck sealing To… Read more

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Video: Tile Sealing Frequency

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SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: Tile surfaces look their best when regularly sealed, but the technique and frequency of sealing can vary depending on the type… Read more

Scott Westby is owner of MSK Design Build, a Diamond Certified company since 2010. He can be reached at (925) 385-8975 or by email.

Scott Westby

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Scott Westby: West by Northwest

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

WALNUT CREEK — The son of a building contractor, Scott Westby had been involved in construction for most of his life when he decided to return to school in pursuit of a new career. However, even after he became a lawyer, his former livelihood managed to find a way back into his life. “After several years in construction, I left my home state of North Dakota to attend law school in Eugene, Oregon,” he recounts. “Following school, I passed the bar exam and moved to Portland, where I practiced law for 10 years. I originally planned to go into business law, but due to my prior professional experience, I kept getting construction litigation cases and ended up practicing construction law.”

Following his Northwest stint, Scott moved to the Bay Area with the intention of continuing his law career. However, following an intermediary sabbatical, he made the decision to return to his construction roots instead. “After moving to California, I decided to take a couple years off before jumping back into my law career,” he explains. “During that time, I kept myself busy by helping friends and neighbors with their home remodeling projects. Everyone kept telling me I should get my contractor’s license and start charging for my work. After enough pestering, I finally decided to take their advice and started my own design/build firm.”

Today, as owner of MSK Design Build, Scott says his favorite part of his job is combining creative ingenuity with financial practicality. “I enjoy working with my clients to conceptualize their projects and explore creative possibilities while figuring out how to get the maximum value for their investments.”

As a resident of Oakland, Scott says he enjoys the creative perks of building in the Bay Area. “The Bay Area is known for its cultural diversity, but it also has a lot of structural diversity. In addition, there’s a wide range of tastes and artistic aspirations among Bay Area homeowners, which makes my work a lot more fun.”

Outside of work, Scott engages in a variety of pastimes, from reading to exploring nature. “I enjoy going on hikes at Redwood Regional Park, Lafayette Park, Big Sur and other natural sites,” he says. Scott also enjoys cultivating his artistic side by drawing, painting and collaborating on creative projects with his daughters, Ana and Alicia.

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Scott says he’ll invest more time into his artistic pursuits. “I’d like to set up a shop where I can have all my tools and art supplies together so I can work on personal projects, as well as collaborations with my girls and various friends who enjoy art.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Italy. I’ve actually already been there, but I really like the pace of life and the history, plus there’s still a lot of it I haven’t seen.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Read.

Q: What’s your favorite animal?
A: The horse—they tend to have really interesting personalities.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect shells, particularly ones with irregularities.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Talk radio.

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Differentiating Cabinet Styles

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WALNUT CREEK — Some homeowners assume shopping for new kitchen cabinets will be a simple endeavor, but there are actually numerous options from which to choose. By familiarizing yourself with the various cabinet styles ahead of time, you’ll be able… Read more

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Video: Cabinet Choices

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WALNUT CREEK — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you're planning on installing new cabinets, you'll want to know your options. Today we're in Walnut Creek with… Read more

Juan Sandoval is owner of East Bay PC Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (510) 962-5972 or by email.

Juan Sandoval

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Juan Sandoval: Fueled by Freedom

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

ANTIOCH — As Juan Sandoval recounts his journey to becoming a building contractor, it’s clear his professional progression was largely shaped by a desire for freedom. “Before getting into construction, I worked in a restaurant, and I’d get tired of being in the same place every day,” he remembers. “When I started doing construction, I really liked the fact that we were constantly moving from one jobsite to another. It just felt a lot freer.”

After starting out as a laborer, Juan worked his way up through the ranks, accumulating a wealth of experience as he went. A decade later, he again felt the tug of freedom and decided to make the jump from employee to owner. Today, as owner of East Bay PC Construction, he reflects on the motivation for his decision. “I didn’t do this to become super wealthy—I just like the liberty that comes with being my own boss. I like making my own schedule and being in control of my professional destiny.”

Juan says his favorite part of his job is collaborating with clients to bring their dreams to fruition. “I enjoy meeting with a customer, learning about their dreams for their remodeled home and helping them turn those dreams into reality. Often, people have lots of ideas but need help with the practical aspects, which is where I come in.”

A resident of Antioch, Juan spends most of his time outside of work with his family. “My wife, Maricela, and I have four beautiful kids, aged 20, 17, five and one,” he says. “Basically, after raising our first two kids into their teens, we decided to start all over again. I enjoy taking time off with my family and going to the beach or on short vacations. We don’t stay at home very much—we prefer to be out and active.”

In regard to his professional career, Juan espouses the value of customer confidence. “I make sure my clients know I’m with them every step of the way,” he explains. “If they have questions, they know they can come to me, even if it’s after hours. Since I keep them updated and informed, they’re not constantly worrying about their projects, which reduces stress for both of us. Overall, I find that making myself available to my clients results in healthier working relationships.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Juan says he’d head south. “I would probably move to Rosarito Beach, Mexico and spend the rest of my life there with my wife. I would likely keep my business running, though—I’d just come by every so often to make sure everything was still running smoothly.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: An early bird. Where I live, if you’re not on the freeway by 5am, you’re going to spend two hours fighting with the traffic.

Q: What’s your favorite TV show?
A: “The Walking Dead.”

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Tools.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: It’s a tie between India 4 U in Brentwood and La Piñata in Concord.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: I would go to the past and get into architecture. I’ve always been fascinated by building design, so I’d love the chance to go back and follow the path to becoming an architect.

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Making the Most of Your Living Space

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ANTIOCH — Living space is a precious commodity these days, especially in the Bay Area, where housing prices are higher than most other parts of the country. Whether your house is occupied with people or possessions (or both), you may… Read more

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Video: Utilizing Space in Your Home

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ANTIOCH — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you have a seldom-used room or hallway in your home, consider transforming it into a more useful space. Today we’re in Antioch… Read more

David Cook is 19-year veteran of the remodeling industry and owner of Cook’s Kitchen & Bath, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2007. He can be reached at (707) 901-7940 or by email.

David Cook

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David Cook: From Restaurants to Remodeling

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource

VALLEJO — Despite having an innate predilection for building, David Cook spent the bulk of his early career working in the restaurant business. Eventually, however, he decided to take a chance and pursue his professional passion. “I’ve always loved working with my hands and building things…let’s just say I had the best treehouse on the block when I was a kid,” he laughs. “Later, I ended up in the restaurant business, where I got stuck for many years until I finally burned out. I decided it was time to follow my heart and do what I really loved, so I went to work for a general contractor in San Francisco.”

It was during this time that David got an opportunity to enter a specialized area of the field, although he initially rejected it. “I was offered a job from a guy at my church who installed kitchen cabinets,” he recounts. “I politely declined, but less than a month later, the contractor I worked for laid everyone off, so I went back to him and asked if the offer still stood. After working with him for a while, I realized that while he was good at installing cabinets, he wasn’t so good at the administrative aspects, so I decided to get my license and start doing my own thing.”

Today, as owner of Cook’s Kitchen & Bath, Inc., David says he enjoys the inherent variety his career entails, as well as the sense of accomplishment he derives from it. “In this line of work, every job is different, which keeps things challenging. It’s also neat to stand back, look at what we accomplished for our clients and see the reactions on their faces.”

Born in Chicago, David moved to California when he was five years old; today, he resides in Vallejo with his wife, Tina. Outside of work, he spends much of his time hanging out with family and enjoying the outdoors. “Tina and I don’t have any kids together, but we have four kids and six grandkids between us, so we spend a lot of time with family,” he says. “I’m also pretty outdoorsy, and I like going camping and skiing. Additionally, since I love my profession, I enjoy working on my house, as well as on developing and improving my business.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, David says he’d spend some time doing charity work before heading out for an extended vacation. “One of my business coaches is currently raising money to build 5,000 homes in Nicaragua for the extremely poor. I’d love to be a part of something like that and use my abilities to help those in need. I’d also like to do some more traveling—at the moment, Bora Bora is at the top of my list.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco Giants.

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Grapes.

Q: If you could travel to the past or the future, which would you choose?
A: The future—it’s not good to live in the past.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: My fishing pole.

Q: Pancakes or waffles?
A: Waffles.

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Selecting a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

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VALLEJO — Many homeowners think of bathroom exhaust fans as a “one size fits all” affair, but in reality, there are several variables to consider. As modern homes are being built tighter to maximize energy efficiency, the need for adequate ventilation has… Read more

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Video: Choosing a Bathroom Exhaust Fan

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VALLEJO — Host, Sarah Rutan: Most people think bathroom exhaust fans are all the same, but there are actually several variables to consider. Today we’re in Vallejo… Read more

Jeffrey Goffo is owner of Goffo Construction Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2014. He can be reached at (415) 231-2086 or by email.

Jeffrey Goffo

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jeffrey Goffo: Big City Builder

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO — While Jeffrey Goffo grew up working alongside his father, it wasn’t until his college years that he realized he wanted to follow in his professional footsteps. “My father was a carpenter for 60 years in the Chicago area where I grew up,” he tells. “I began working with him when I was a young boy and continued into my teens and through college. When I was in my early 20s, I traveled to Florida to help him build a new house, and it was during the course of that project that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in construction.”

Today, as owner of Goffo Construction Inc., Jeffrey says one of his favorite aspects of his job is working amidst the architectural diversity of San Francisco. “I enjoy all the different types of architecture we have here in San Francisco, from Victorians and Edwardians to Marina-style homes and earthquake cottages. Each style has its own set of challenges, so it keeps things interesting.”

Originally from Indiana, Jeffrey came to the Bay Area in 1976 and continues to reside in the San Francisco area today. “San Francisco has a lot to offer, from its visual beauty to its rich cultural diversity,” he says. “Also, the weather is perfect for working in the construction trade. I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

Outside of work, Jeffrey engages in a variety of activities, from golf to winemaking. “I’ve played golf my whole life—I started out caddying for my dad and later became a Chick Evans Caddie Scholar,” he says. “Today, I run an annual golf tournament and donate all the proceeds to charity.” Jeffrey also enjoys getting away from it all by spending time at his summer house with his wife, Lisa, and their sons, Nick and Alex.

In his life and career, Jeffrey cites the influence of a particular piece of paternal wisdom. “One of the things my father told me was to treat the home you’re working on as if it were your own,” he remembers. “This advice really served me well over the years and continues to be at the core of my business philosophy today.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Jeffrey says it’ll likely be a mixture of avocational pursuits and charitable ventures. “I plan on perfecting my winemaking craft and improving my Bocce game, both of which go hand-in-hand with my Italian-American heritage. I’d also like to volunteer more time to charitable organizations I’m passionate about, such as Habitat for Humanity and the First Tee Junior Golf Program at Harding Park Golf Course.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Coffee or tea?
A: Coffee.

Q: What’s your favorite kind of tree?
A: The olive tree. In addition to winemaking, I like to make my own olive oil.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Fall—that’s when San Francisco has the best weather.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Antique tools.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Harris’ Steakhouse in San Francisco.

Q: Who’s your favorite movie monster?
A: The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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The First Step to Starting a Remodeling Project in San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — If you own a San Francisco property and are considering a remodeling project, there’s one preliminary step you’ll want to take before getting a contractor involved: contact the city building department to find out if there are… Read more

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Video: Preparing for a Remodel in San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — Host, Sarah Rutan: Prior to starting a remodeling project in San Francisco, it's important to consider the legal aspects and local building… Read more

Tim Toupin is owner of Toupin Construction Corporation, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 269-4831 or by email.

Tim Toupin

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Tim Toupin: Builder for Life

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

WALNUT CREEK — Tim Toupin has been building for his entire life, to the point where it has become a fundamental part of his identity. Even when a serious illness threatened to take it all away, he found a way to hold on to the life and livelihood he cherished. “I got started in construction when I was 12 years old, sweeping up houses on a new track development for three dollars apiece,” he remembers. “Soon after, I started working for a journeyman carpenter who lived down the street from me. At age 18, I joined the carpenters union, during which time I worked on some very high-end homes and even built my own house. At age 29, I got my contractor’s license and started buying, remodeling, and reselling properties. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of working on an older home and making it new while maintaining its original integrity.”

In 2008, after many successful years as a builder, Tim was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a deadly form of blood cancer. Fortunately, thanks to a stem cell transplant, he survived. However, since he lost his ability to perform hands-on construction work, Tim’s professional future was left uncertain. “After I was diagnosed, I thought I’d have to close my business,” he says. “One day, my crew approached me and asked if there was any way we could keep it together. So, I put some lead men in charge and we continued. Thanks to their efforts and good work, the business is still going strong today.”

Today, as owner of Toupin Construction, Tim says his favorite part of his job is working with his team. “The quality of our crew gives us a great edge in our industry. I have the best tile setter around, as well as a great plumber, an outstanding electrician, an excellent carpenter and an incredible designer, just to name a few. They’re all really good people who perform at a high level.”

A resident of Moraga (where he lives with his wife, Pam), Tim devotes the bulk of his free time to being with family. “Pam and I have four children and six grandchildren who we love spending time with, whether we’re getting together for Sunday game night or going on vacation to Disneyland. Two of our grandchildren ride around with us to jobsites, just like our children did when they were kids.” Tim also enjoys going to the movies and spending the occasional weekend in Reno.

In regard to his life and career, Tim espouses the importance of family values. “Years ago, I went on a field trip with my daughter and realized I was the only man on the trip—all the other fathers were working. From that point on, I started paying my men to go on field trips with their kids. I just really believe in taking care of my employees and making sure they have enough time to invest in their families. In fact, I think of my crew as part of my family. My wife and I regularly attend quinceañeras and baptisms for our employees’ children, and we also do fishing trips and trips to Las Vegas with the entire crew. We just have a really wonderful family dynamic.”

Looking back on his four decades as a builder, Tim feels nothing but gratitude. “When I was diagnosed 10 years ago, the hardest part was not being able to get up every morning and go to work with my crew. Today, I may walk with a cane, but I’m still out there visiting jobsites and overseeing things. I’m just grateful that I’m still able to be involved in building, and I’ll continue to be as long as I’m able.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Old tools.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Forrest Gump.”

Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Ice cream.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The future. I’d really love to see what science does next. I truly believe the world is gradually becoming a better place, despite the way it often appears. There’s a lot of bad out there, but there’s a lot of good, too, and it’s getting better every day.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas. We have wonderful company Christmas parties for our employees, clients and vendors. We have a photo booth, a Santa Claus who gives out gifts, and crafts and activities for the kids. It’s one of my favorite events of the year.

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The Benefits of Epoxy Grout

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WALNUT CREEK — If you’re having your bathroom re-tiled, you have two primary choices for grout: cement or epoxy. Cement is the traditional style of grout—it’s inexpensive and easy to work with. Epoxy grout, on the other hand, is very expensive and… Read more

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Video: The Epoxy Grout Advantage

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WALNUT CREEK — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re having your bathroom re-tiled, consider investing in a grout product that will outperform most others. Today we’re in Walnut Creek… Read more

Jim Kabel is president of Case Design/Remodeling, a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (408) 256-1949 or by email.

Jim Kabel

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Jim Kabel: A Successful Case

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN JOSE — Jim Kabel started his career in the high-tech field, but after 25 years in the industry, he was ready for a change. “I was running service and support for a major business group when I decided I wanted to do something completely different—specifically to own and manage a business in an entirely new industry,” he explains. After considering his options, Jim decided his professional abilities would be best utilized in the field of home improvement. “As a homeowner, I’d had both good and bad experiences with home improvement, and I felt there was an overall shortage of quality, customer satisfaction-focused companies to address the needs of others like myself.”

When he came across an East Coast-based company that was offering franchise opportunities, Jim knew he’d found a perfect match. “Case Design/Remodeling had a process for remodeling and construction that made a tremendous amount of sense to me, and I ultimately decided to partner with them, which has worked out very well.” Since founding Case’s Santa Clara franchise in 2004, Jim says he’s enjoyed applying his prior professional experience to another industry. “I like taking the things I learned working for a large company, applying them to a small business and seeing how they work. By identifying the skills that are crucial for this industry and tapping the expertise of high-quality professionals, I’ve been able to take things to the next level.”

Originally from Southern California, Jim eventually migrated to the Bay Area and currently resides in San Jose, where he says he enjoys the city’s characteristic diversity. “In addition to the variety of things to do—from sports and entertainment to outdoor activities—I also appreciate the diversity of the people, as well as the professional opportunities available here. It’s just a very fun place to be.”

Outside of work, Jim enjoys partaking in the many things San Jose has to offer. “As a fan of music, movies and sports, there’s always something for me to do here,” he says. “I like going to see live music, and I’m also a San Jose Sharks season ticket holder.” In addition to local entertainment, Jim enjoys playing the keyboard and participating on his company’s softball team.

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Jim says he’d continue to do things that keep him active. “I don’t know if I’ll ever fully retire, but even in semi-retirement, I hope to teach or consult in some capacity—whatever allows me to stay active and relevant.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite musical group?
A: Chicago.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: Probably the past, just so I could become more educated about certain things that happened in our history.

Q: Do you have a favorite local winery?
A: Duckhorn Vineyards in Saint Helena.

Q: What’s one website you visit on a daily basis?
A: Remodeling Magazine’s website.

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Kitchen Planner Checklist

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SAN JOSE — Planning a new kitchen is no easy task, especially if it’s your first major home remodeling project. Use the following checklist to address the various aspects of your new kitchen. Floorplan: Your kitchen is the hardest working room… Read more

Considerations for Remodeling

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SAN JOSE — When planning for a large remodeling project (or any project that’s design-intensive), consider the following points: Define the scope of the project. Before you begin interviewing designers and contractors, have a clear idea of what you want.… Read more

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Video: Five Steps Before Remodeling

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SAN JOSE — Host, Sarah Rutan: When remodeling your home, its important to plan ahead. Today, we’re in San Jose with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor… Read more

Kevin Abrew is owner of Abrew Repair and Construction, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 833-0128 or by email.

Kevin Abrew

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Kevin Abrew: Old-Fashioned Values

By Suzanne Carroll

DUBLIN — Kevin Abrew started his own construction company when he was 19 years old—a logical step for an entrepreneurial young man who had been working on construction sites since he was pulling nails at age 12. The problem was the stiff competition from another local contractor: his father. “My dad and I eventually realized it was silly to be bidding on the same jobs,” he explains. “So, we decided to combine forces and started working together.”
In the early years of their partnership, there was a noticeable generation gap. “I remember trying to talk my dad into getting nail guns and paint sprayers when they first came out,” says Kevin. “I tried to convince him we’d be saving time and money, but he was committed to doing things the old-fashioned way.” Despite their different approaches, the Abrew men managed to cultivate a respectful working relationship. As the years passed, Kevin assumed more managerial responsibilities and took over the company after his father’s retirement in 2002. Today, he operates Abrew Repair and Construction with his wife, Shannon.
Kevin doesn’t shy away from challenging projects. In fact, he takes great pride in solving problems that other contractors say are impossible. “Recently, we had a client who wanted to remove a 23-foot-long wall,” he recounts. “Two other contractors said it couldn’t be done. I said, ‘That’s not a problem, we’ll put in a steel beam.’ The client was amazed. No one else was willing to work with steel. We’re happy to put in the extra effort to get clients what they want.”
For Kevin, providing top-notch customer service goes hand-in-hand with his faith. “Ethics and morals are very important to how we operate as a company,” he explains. “In practice, this means listening to the client and doing whatever we can to set things right. Renovating a home is stressful and sometimes people get emotional, but we always approach every client with dignity and respect, no matter what.”
Kevin was born and raised in Dublin, California, and he bought his first house just down the street from his parents. “The Bay Area is home for me,” he says. “It’s a great location with perfect weather, and we’re so close to the mountains, the city and wine country. Everything that I like to do with my family is nearby.”
Kevin, Shannon and their two daughters participate in a variety of sports. “We like to stay involved by coaching our daughters’ teams. Right now, the girls are doing softball, soccer, football, competition dance and karate. It’s a pretty full schedule!” The Abrews also enjoy traveling, which is something Kevin hopes to do more of once he retires. “We’d love to visit England and Ireland, but I think our first stop would be Disney World.”
Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: The San Francisco 49ers.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Back to the Future.”

Q: What was your first car?
A: A Pontiac Sunbird.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
A: Donuts.

Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music, especially Christian music.

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What Every Woman Should Have in Her Toolbox

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DUBLIN — Every woman should have a toolbox—they’re handy for making quick home repairs and essential for many decorative projects. If you’re planning on hanging pictures, putting up shelving or displaying your kids’ latest creations from art class, start by… Read more

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Video: A Woman’s Guide to Toolbox Assembly

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DUBLIN — Host, Sarah Rutan: Construction may be a male-dominated industry, but men aren’t the only ones who need toolboxes. To learn more, we’re in Dublin with… Read more

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