As a designer, I am always on the hunt for alternatives to the very standard and very affordable and very dull shower curtain.  Yes, I love glass shower enclosures: frameless, hinged, pivoting, even fixed panels without doors-all are beautiful and functional options.  But because of the less-than thrilling hardware choices and bad memories of hitting my head on the cheap 1970’s glass tub enclosures, the option of a sliding door has always slipped to last on the list.

Until now.  Through our glass subcontractor I was introduced to a sliding shower door system that can free-span wall to wall, has a minimal bottom track and operates like greased butter.  It is made by C.R. Laurence and is comparable in price to a classic fixed panel and hinged door system.  There are in several available finishes and its geometry accommodates a good range of design styles.  So now I have a new arrow in my quiver and will post a picture of the results once we install one!  Happy house dreaming everyone.

Posted by Isaac Spinell, Gaspar’s in house Architect. 

This year Gaspar’s Construction and Gaspar’s Handyman are doing a lot of affordable improvements in basements while people search for more usable space in their existing home.  Check out part two of this series on questions about remodeling or finishing out your basement.

Vist the “On the Level” page for the entire story and other from Mark Hughes/Production Manager.

It has happened again.  I blinked and summer was over!  Fall has been pretty forgiving so far, but it’s beginning to get restless out there and time for winterizing our homes is fast running out.  Our upcoming newsletter will have an extensive discussion of everything that can be done to fully and properly winterize your home.  Here, though, I wanted to mention a few things that YOU can do NOW (or this weekend) to give yourself a DIY running start in preparing your house for the coming La Niña winter cold.

1. Replace those furnace filters!  If you use your furnace’s fan all summer to move air around your house like I do, by now it has trapped and killed more dust bunnies than it can hold.  In order for furnaces to run at their peak efficiency, their airways need to be as clean as possible.  A new filter costs a few bucks and takes a few minutes to install.  Make a note of your filter size, then pick up a new one (or three) now.

2. Unless you have the self draining / frost free hose bibbs on your house, you’ll NEED to cover those things with the latest in foam technology: the $4 foam hose bibb cover available at every hardware and home improvement store in America.  For best results, do this BEFORE the fist big freeze (trust me!!!).  If you have the newer frost free bibbs, make sure to disconnect your hoses from them or they can freeze.

3. It’s no treat, but just go do it: CLEAN those gutters and downspouts!  Its dirty, it’s messy, it’s up on a ladder, and if it’s raining it’s even more fun, but really, cleaning your gutters now will save you a major headache when winter shows its face.  If you have clogged gutters when it freezes, the ice can cause all kinds of problems, not the least of which is damaging the gutters themselves.  Don’t wait until this job goes from irritating to emergency.

These are 3 of the big deals on most winterizing lists that you can take care of on your own and save some money in the process.  Remember while you are cursing up on a ladder, that we do these things as ounces of prevention because if we don’t, we pay a much greater price.  Happy fall and rest easy this winter (I’m sure you’ll hear me grumbling from the top of my ladder this weekend too!)  And if these are things that you just don’t want to do, or you have a gutter that’s a hundred feet up there, or not sure what how to get it done, then just call our service department.  They’ll show up with the perfect ladder and leave your yard clean too.

Extreme Makeover: Lift the house and pour a complete new foundation and basement under.

This year Gaspar’s Construction and Gaspar’s Handyman are doing a lot of improvements in basements from a little fix of a laundry room to full on lift the house and rebuild the foundation.  With budgets being tightened, the basement remodel is resurging as an affordable way to get the most out of every square foot of your home.  Check out Isaac’s post for ideas and look over these frequently asked questions for what to prepare for. 

Vist the “On the Level” page for the entire story and other from Mark Hughes/Production Manager.

You really can’t spell salvage with out “save”.   Well, sort of…

A client of ours recently was interested in perusing a bathroom design that found its way into a kind of updated-salvaged-institutional style.  It is a small bathroom that will be used mostly by her son.  The sink is the center piece of the design.  We looked at several great options from fixture manufacturers like Kohler, American Standard, and others, but quickly we realized that the best way to get the look we wanted was to go shopping at our local building salvage yard.  The Re-Store and Second Use are our Seattle favorite places to find that perfect fit for that vintage home.  There we found a sink in fantastic condition considering it’s age and after some trade-ins, our client purchased it for just $30!  We asked our plumber for his opinion (and price) to rebuild it and found out that it would be far less money than buying a new sink and faucet together.   So not only are we getting the precise design look that we wanted, we are getting it put in in like-new condition for less money than we had planned on.  What a great deal!

The lesson here is that salvage items can be a fantastic opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.  Reclaimed plumbing can often be rebuilt to near-new condition.  Sinks can be re-porcelained,  valves can be completely rebuilt, drain lines can be reworked and modernized, and chrome can be replated.  Reused plumbing offers an authentic look (because it IS authentic) that can’t be replicated easily.  Finally, reusing plumbing is a great way to make a greener choice, and potentially to save some money.

The work “potentially” is important here.  Not every sink or tub can be rebuilt perfectly.  Some valves are simply beyond repair or were obscure even in their day.  Some hole spacings are next to impossible to accommodate with a new faucet or valve, and sometimes, the cast iron underneath the porcelain is just too rusty and far-gone to be worth restoring.  Buying from a reputable salvage yard is a good place to start.  They know the stuff they sell, and they can be an early consultant in your quest for authenticity.  Good salvage yards will also have a generous exchange policy, so if the first sink doesn’t quite cut it, they will work with you until one does.  The next move is to show the thing to a plumber preferably an “seasoned” (old) one!  They will have contacts and connections with people who will be able to tell you for sure weather or not your dream sink is worth the $30 you paid for it or if it’s just a really cool planter for your yard.  Even after you have the green light, know that this can be cheaper than new but not always is.  The Gaspar’s design/build team knows the importance of your budget and what it is going to take to realize your vision, whether you want to salvage that one-of-a-kind fixture or use the sleek new lines that are available for a real change of pace.

Cautions stated though, reusing plumbing fixtures is a fun way to get involved in your own remodel, make a green choice, and hopefully SAVE some money.  We will post some pictures of the finished product when it’s ready to move in!

If you have an unfinished (or a poorly finished) basement in your home and have wondered about what that space could be used for, here’s a quick list of things that might spur you on.

1. Home addition without the addition!

Recover all the space that is currently taken up by the dresser that you got at Goodwill when you were 20, the hundreds of cardboard boxes, and that old treadmill that you found for free on the Craig’s List!  You need space not stuff!  With the junk out of the way, you can reclaim all of that square footage that you paid for when you bought your house WITHOUT paying for an addition.

2.Address neglected systems in your house.

Psychedelic-spaghetti in your electrical panel?  Mysterious leaky pipes?  And what IS that smell anyway?  When you decide to finish your basement, it is also the right time to address many of the ancient or failing systems in your home.  A modern electrical panel adds capacity, safety, and tidiness to your newly improved house.  Updating plumbing supply and waste systems can give you cleaner water, trouble-free sewers, prevent basement floods, and save you money on your water bill.  Adding wall framing means insulating and drying in the space, and putting another layer of protection between your life and the soil just beyond those concrete walls.  And if you have delayed a seismic retrofit, the basement renovation will likely make the decision for you-not a bad thing if you live in an earthquake-prone area like Seattle.

3. Potential new bathroom or expanded laundry room!

Only have one bathroom?  Need a place to wash the dogs or outdoor gear?  A basement bath can be much more than a powder room.  In the basement a bathroom can become an extension of the laundry room with a big open shower, utility sink, folding table and storage.  take the pressure off of your cracked 95 year-old laundry sink and the top of your dryer and make a space that works FOR you and not against you.

4. Add a bedroom!

New teenager?  Mother-in-law in town? Put them in THEIR place: their very own basement bedroom.  An extra bedroom makes having guests or a larger family even easier.  No more tip-toeing through the living room while your guests sleep, with a bedroom your basement, your life just got simpler and your house just got more valuable.

5. Recreation room or home theater!

Is that 42″ flat-panel in the living room looking small these days?  Can you now afford something with a bit more oomph?  Basements are ideal places for home theaters or rec rooms.  They can be made to be highly sound insulated, very dark, and can have as many built-in gizmos and toys as your wallet can handle.  Some people even build in theater-style seating levels so that every one has always has the best seat in the house (your house!)

6. Create a home business or shop!

Basements are great creative spaces that can also make you money.  If you have always wanted to set up a home business or can’t afford the monthly payments of a stand-alone office, converting your basement into your own corporate HQ can really streamline  your balance sheet.  If you build things for pleasure or business, a basement shop is a fantastic spot to create your own products and your own cash flow.

7. Who needs a gym membership?!

Sick of the gym guilt?  Need to save some dough?  Convert part of your new basement space into your very own training room or yoga studio and put your mind and body at ease.  In your basement home-gym you can work out before dawn or after bedtime and not disturb the kids.  You can work out rocking out to Eye of the Tiger while not having to leave home.  With a dedicated space for your exercise, you may find the motivation to go the distance with your fitness goals.

8. Music space!

Do you have a budding musician in the family? (Translation: Are you tired of hearing your kid bang on that new drum set?)  Have you always wanted a studio-quality rehearsal space in which you can fine-tune your creativity?  The basement’s potential for isolating sound means that it’s a great opportunity to design and build your very own dedicated music studio.  Whether you are rehearsing, recording, or rocking out, having a well insulated and sound-proofed room can be a blessing for aspiring and professional musicians alike.  Not to mention your 8 year-old drummer…

9. Create your own home bar or man-cave!

A great night out can be had right at home if you have the space to make it happen.  Entertain your buddies at home, and save the cab fare.  Stock your lair with a keggerator, dartboard, pool or ping-pong table  and make your house the new local night-spot!

10. Creative play-space for children!

Last, but not least, basements are fantastic places for kids to be kids.  Let their spirits run wild with creative spaces and places that can be designed around their small size and enormous imaginations!  They can have places to color, to dress-up, snuggle, and hide.  Your kids’ play area can have interesting spots designed in so that they can make their activities happen on their own scale: forts, ropes, tiny doors, playhouses, cozy caves, swings, even a pirate ship.  Whatever they can dream up, can be made to order in your new basement playroom.  And you won’t have to do that scramble to pick up the toys in your living room whem mom says she’s “in the neighborhood.”

This year seems to be the Year of the Basement and Gaspar’s Construction is working on many great basement remodelsContact us and we’ll help you carve out just the right space for what you need.

One morning, just after installing the gas line, our project Superintendent arrived finding our helpful homeowner hooking up his newly delivered barbeque.  He politely reminded him that the deck surface was going to be applied at 9:00.  Then he and our strapping subcontractors helped him carry his new man-toy off to the shed while recommending that he might coordinate the rest of the deliveries with the completion of the project.

Ipe steps, landing and cap on Cable handrails


To read the entire story and other featured projects, check out the Project Spotlight page.