Monday, August 29, 2016


I grew up in North Hollywood, where set builders and prop shops were everywhere. Musicians came and went. Most musicians were carpenters too. I had plenty of experience building sound rooms, growing up where I did, but with technology and precise building, things have changed.

Recently a client, musician Sapphire Adizes, hired me to design a soundproof room for him so he wouldn’t bother his neighbors.

When I was building soundproof rooms years ago we did it the old-fashioned way: We filled the walls with sand all the way to the top. The only problem was that eventually the sand would leak through the wall or attract moisture. A more advanced soundproof room would have solid concrete walls, but that’s not affordable.

To understand soundproofing, imagine throwing a golf ball into a cotton canvas. The canvas has to move or give in order for the golf ball to quietly interact with it. When building a soundproof wall we need to create a “canvas” on the inside of the noisy room. The exterior walls are not as important because the interior wall is doing all the work of softening the noise. (Although four layers of drywall on the exterior wouldn’t hurt.)

Here is the method we use today:

1. After our 2x4 walls are built (whether the studs are steel or wood doesn’t matter), we install rubber metal clips on the studs. These rubber metal clips will receive the metal tracks in step 2. The rubber on the clips gets screwed directly onto the 2x4 studs. That creates the give or movement that we need to silence the noise.

2. Once the rubber clips are installed, we snap on long metal tracks called “hat channels,” because they look like a little hat. These tracks basically create another wall between the original 2x4 wall and the drywall. The hat channels/track must run horizontal across the 2x4 stud wall, 3 inches below the ceiling and 6 inches above the floor.

3. Once we have installed the hat channels, we can install 5/8 drywall on top of the metal track/hat channel. Some tracks and rubber clips allow you to install only 2 sheets of 5/8 drywall, but there are different ways to set up the tracks and clips to allow a builder to install 4 layers of 5/8 drywall. A sound engineer or structural engineer should be consulted first to make sure you have the correct specifications. On the walls, the extra drywall wouldn’t be so dangerous, but a ceiling that is too heavy with drywall can hurt or kill someone.
The drywall on the walls should be at least 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch off the floor. The drywall on the ceiling should hang away from the 2x4 walls as well. This gap allows a lot of movement between the interior drywall and the exterior wall, adding to the noise reduction. Four sheets of drywall is quite enough to muffle most noise and keep it from passing through to the exterior walls. Again, it’s essential to have the correct spacing, amount, and gauge of rubber clips and hat channels to support four layers of drywall.
The interior walls, where the noise is being made, are the most important in reducing noise. The exterior walls are not as important.

In addition to the soundproof room, Sapphire Adizes also needed to get a more dense sound in his recording room (removing the echo). To accomplish this we installed 2-inch and 4-inch acoustical foam on all the corners of the room, including the ceiling. Another approach would have been to rebuild the room with 45-degree angles on the ceiling, which also deadens the echo.

Always consult with your engineer, architect, builder, and sound engineer, and the local city codes before building.

You can check out more projects like that on our website

After- interior studio

After- Exterior

Interior of walls
Interior of wall side view

Friday, August 12, 2016

What’s behind a contractor’s license?

Lately we have seen the emergence of many inexperienced contractors. These unreliable contractors often disguise themselves under a legitimate license by renting a license from a retired contractor or someone else who has the ability to pass the Contractors State License Test. These “instant” contractors never went through the proper channels of working in the field under other contractors, and lack foresight and real experience.

A conscious contractor puts his heart into his work and demands the same of his employees and subcontractors. This subtle, sometimes unseen passion and dedication are what keeps a contractor busy without advertising. A conscious contractor knows that the quality of his material, his labor, and foresight separates him from the other guys who are pretending to be experienced contractors.

Inexperienced fly-by-night contractors have a different attitude: They are looking to make a quick buck. They know there is no real consequences for their shoddy work because their name is not on the license. When the licensing board revokes the license they were using for what ever reason, they consider it just the cost of doing business. They will find another license to rent, taking no responsibility for their inexperience or the clients who got burned along the way.

These unrepeatable contractors often push their employees to the limit with no real reward. That kind of business practice causes the quality of workmanship to go down.

I take pride in rewarding my employees beyond their weekly pay to boost their morale after we complete the job. This not only brings up the quality of our work, it adds an overall attitude of camaraderie and selfless energy.

An uninsured, inexperienced contractor usually is cutting corners to maximize his income. Not having workers comp, liability insurance, or a good bond shows his intentions to everyone around him, including you, the customer!

Please note that legitimate contractors have overhead: They have accountants, insurance, taxes, secretaries, tools, and work trucks. This is proof that they are interwoven into our society. They follow rules and laws, and take their responsibilities to heart. They know they must share the honey with their clients, employees, and community.

That is true success.

You can check out some of our work at 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Flat Roof Solar Panel Installation

I am excited to share my most recent solar install. I really love working with these clients—their home is a museum of art collections and designs, and both the exterior and interior of the house are architectural beauties.

This project included connecting a 40-panel solar system to the grid. Because the roof is flat, we used the SunModo racking system, which is specialized in custom systems for flat roofs ( It has several other advantages as well:
1.     SunModo is all aluminum, which makes it very lightweight, so there’s less stress on the roof, but still thick and burly enough to support 40 panels.
2.     Because of its angle arms, this is an excellent system to use in areas with high winds and ocean breezes. (This product is tremendously popular in Hawaii, where it is subjected to salt breezes and tropical storms.)
3.     The racking system is designed to level and plumb itself easily.

From a professional point of view it was great working with this system. It is light, dependable, easy to install, and very cutting edge.

This install required structural mounting to the roof, which meant we had to work in close cooperation with the roofer. We set him up for success by making all our holes on the roof small, clean, neat, and tidy. Our roofer, Reed Roofing (, was helpful in waterproofing our penetrations using Gaco foam and silicone in 54 E-curbs (

An important tip for solar installers, roofers, plumbers, or electricians, working on flat roofs: When the existing roof has a silicone layer, you must be careful not to use the E-curb POLY filler. The POLY in the E-curb kit will melt your silicone roof layer and instead of sealing it, will cause it to leak. 

It was a little nerve-wracking to do this install in the middle of the rainy season, but because we used the SunModo racking system, and were able to work closely with Reed Roofing, the panels were up in less than a week. The rooftop now blends beautifully with the serene mountain views of this stunning Carpinteria home.

We had a blast from the beginning to the end on this job. For more information about solar panel installation please go to our website

Monday, March 28, 2016

Remodeling a 1930 guesthouse

As a green construction company, we love opportunities to give new life to existing structures and materials. Recently we had a great pleasure to save a 1930 home from demolition. This small example shows that there are ways to save money, time, and effort with some creativity and thinking outside of the box.

Although it was charming, after consulting other professionals (architects, engineers, and other contractors) the owner of this small 1930 guesthouse had been convinced that the home was a tear down. My plea was that she already had a foundation footprint that was grandfathered in with the building and safety department—a legal structure that she was already paying property taxes on. Because my client had faith in my experience, we pushed forward, even in the face of others’ contradicting opinions.

Once we began our construction project, we discovered that the building’s walls were not constructed of 2x4s like a typical modern home. It was so old that instead it had redwood planks, 1 inch x 8 inch x 8 feet high, all around the exterior of the house. These planks were holding up the roof and provided the main structural support of the home. 

We knew we would need to tackle the project in a creative way, and did so by shoring up the home’s roof and building the exterior walls from the inside out. We gutted the interior and assembled exterior perimeter walls to follow the old foundation footprint. Not only were we able to save the home from demolition, but we also saved every single piece of the 80-year-old redwood planks to be re-purposed. As an added bonus, the owner/designer was delighted that this plan gave her the opportunity to redesign the interior.

In looking into the materials left over from her last job, the owner found she had enough tile and Brazilian wood (teak, iron wood) to do the finishes on the small 1930 house. She also went to a recycling center where she found an old freestanding bathtub. 

I don’t tell this story to put down the hardworking architects and engineers who had the owner convinced to tear it down. In their defense, it was a risky job, which required experience in the front lines of physical structural construction. It required shoring, assembling, and disassembling within the interior of the structure. If we hadn’t known what we were doing, the whole house could have easily crumbled, and, even worse, injured someone.

The lesson here is to take your time. Listen, slow down. Don’t let your emotions drive your decisions. Stay open-minded until all ideas have been explored. Because the owner of this project trusted my experience and creativity, she gained a 900-square-foot guest home that she now rents out.

We had a blast working on this project. To see more pictures from this remodel, and other green building projects, go to 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Power of Listening

In any relationship communication is key. When it comes to communicating with your contractor, it is very important to convey all your priorities, concerns, and preferences in the first stages of the relationship. Make sure you ask questions. Ask again if you don’t understand. And—this is the most important part—make sure your contractor is listening.

A good contractor is like a good clergyman. If he knows your specific concerns and hopes, he will spend more time and effort to make sure he doesn’t drop the ball on things that are most important to you. When I talk to my clients I try to understand the underlying reasons for their priorities. This can only come with true listening.

When you talk with your contractors, notice whether they take the time to explain everything. Did they explain it a second or third time around if needed? In a follow-up conversation, did they address your concerns or did you have to constantly remind them? Are they making sure your project is truly on budget, even if it costs them the job? Are they explaining all the variables, as well as the benefits, or just telling you what you want to hear?

Better communication brings knowledge for both sides. It is then easier to plan a strategy (even a backup plan) that will lead to a satisfactory execution.

Good contractors understand all the variables within the bigger picture, including ever-changing regulations, underlying politics of engineers, architects, or building & safety issues. I have had clients get upset because I did not agree to what they assumed was a reasonable budget or schedule. Many times this has led to me turning away projects that were based on unreasonable expectations.

When I truly listen to my clients I can see the bigger picture. For example, one client asked me to build a guesthouse in her back yard. She had a beautiful garden and, from our talks, I realized that the garden was very important to her. I knew that no matter how nice of a guesthouse I built, if it ruined her plants she would be left with a bad memory of whole experience. Protecting her garden required some careful planning and extra attention during construction. Some plants we could not save, but I was careful to communicate everything to her to make sure her expectations were realistic. Eventually we managed to save most of the garden and she was very happy.

By listening to my clients from the beginning, I make sure they are delighted with all aspects the final product. To see more, visit my project gallery .

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The power of long term relationships

When I think about my clients and their projects, I think about how I feel about bringing my truck to my mechanic, or my thoughts when I see the doctor. I trust my mechanic because he has been taking care of my car for years. He knows its history, and I know he will use the best parts for it. The same is true when I visit my doctor: I am completely trusting his experience in his field to advise me on what treatment or medication best suits me. He has known me for years, and therefore can give me the best treatment for me. These relationships are about longevity.

          Nourishing my relationships with employees or subcontractors elevates the quality of my product. Unfortunately, I often see big-brand companies that are only concerned with their bottom line. They hire pushy salesman, drive up their prices, and do lousy installations using low-end materials. It’s pretty much the standard with today’s boom & bust type mentality. The average company on the S&P today only has a 15-year lifespan, verses a 67-year lifespan back in the 1920s. (

          Long-lasting companies are those that do not have revolving doors. If your regular doctor now has 5 new staff members since your last visit a few months ago, does that increase your confidence in the care you’ll get? Big companies have high overhead, which leads them to take on many projects with tiny margins and fast turnover. Since employees are hindered by tight budgets, they lose morale. Their apathy is projected in the quality of their work and the high employee turnover. Projects that have an easy call back, which can be solved faster by the employee who handled that project the first time around, now cost more time and money because that employee is no longer working there. When you have high employee turnover the quality of workmanship goes down.

          I’ve been blessed to have the right people guide me through my 20 years of experience as a contractor. I have worked with the same contractors as a subcontractor on their projects, and as a general contractor working with them as my subs. Our relationship was never lost. I became best friends with my engineers. Not only is there a deep trust between us, but a mentorship was also established. This relationship gives us both valuable information about how to build better for less, gives our clients confidence, and has brought us more work over the years. Which brings me back again to the need for long-term relationships. Watch out for those fast-paced machines that are big for only a short while and then disappear.

I believe boom & bust will be here for a while until long-term goals are once again imbedded into our culture. Meanwhile, I will continue to be long-term minded in all my endeavors.

          I trust that eventually we will all begin to focus on long-term goals. True prosperity will come from nourishing our relationships with employees, subcontractors, clients, vendors, and all the people in our professional arena.

Visit my projects gallery to see the projects I've worked on with some of my long-term clients 

With Ross, my mentor
On a job with my crew of 15 years

Monday, February 15, 2016

Our upcoming Solar project

We are very excited to see this project coming to its install phase in the next few days.
It is a 5000 sf residential property in Carpinteria, CA, with a flat roof, which required custom racking system from of Canada.
It is a complex install that took some time to design and prepare for and now we are finally ready to move forward with the installation.
This is the "before" picture. more to come after the project is done.