February 6, 2014
Liquefaction is when soil or sediment loses its structural rigidity and behaves like a liquid. The energy of an earthquake can cause this to happen and it will quickly render a typical typical concrete foundation useless in supporting and resolving the energy that finds its way into a home or structure. Liquefaction was a major factor in the destruction in San Francisco‘s Marina District during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Casey Chan at Sploid found this remarkable video of liquefaction in action– just not during an earthquake (when we’d be running for cover, head between legs).
A common question we receive from clients involves earthquake safety and the development of an appropriate design response. Its always a challenge to answer it because earthquake risks come in many forms that people understand (like a toppled dresser or a falling picture frame) to ones that are comprehendible (like stucco cracks or a dislocated gas line).
Where we run into a challenge is communicating the risks of overall building performance during a seismic event. This is due in part because, frankly, not many people are looking at the soil when a seismic event occurs– we are inside a structure, swaying or jumping– disconcerting for sure–concealed are the mechanics of how the building behaves and reacts to these forces.
January 28, 2014
Are you searching for a unique design feature for your home or office? Consider a vault or a vault door.
Vault are constructed from steel or concrete and metal blocks. Either construction is designed to be difficult for burglars to penetrate. As depicted in the photo to the right the blocks are 8 1/2 in length, 2 1/2 to 4 feet in width and 4 to 5 inches thick. Once the vault wall are complete, then the interior can be finished according to owners specifications.
Vaults can be utilitarian and functional, modern and chic or both at the same time. The can be used a wine cellar, bar, lounge, safe storage area or as anything else you can imagine. Remember, once a vault is installed they cannot be removed without extensive renovation.
If you like the concept of a vault, but do not have space or functional need, consider putting a vault door on the entrance to a room. The door could protect your office, conference room, library, kitchen pantry, living room, closet or more. Remember, however, that a vault door is not an average door and it is recommended that you consult an architect before attempting to install one.
For further inspiration, this video details how an old bank was remodeled into a home and how the vaults were incorporated as the center of the design.‘I Live in a Bank’
For vault and vault door pricing contact Security Safe USA Hayward, California at (877) 777-0456 or http://securitysafeusa.com/.
November 4, 2013
Construction continues on the Craftsman home in Oakland. It is at the point in construction that project really starts to take shape.
The exterior of the house has seen a full transformation. New Evening Blue Hardie Plank siding covers the house and new cream trim surround the new mesa red windows. It is important that exterior changes reflect the Craftsman style.
Applying drywall defines a space. Here you can see the double sided fireplace that connects the living room and the new dining room.
The kitchen cabinets are in, and awaiting the marble countertops, tiled backsplash, and appliances.
Construction site visits are always the best part of any project. This one in particular, for obvious reasons.
October 31, 2013
October 15, 2013
In that pile of rubble, tangled amongst the empty boxes, lie our discarded plans of the home. A bittersweet sign that the project is nearing completion.
October 14, 2013
Several months ago we began working with a young couple expecting their first child. They had recently purchased an outdated craftsman style house in Oakland, CA. The couple was looking to turn their purchase into an investment for their growing family. They came to us with a dream, and we have been working tirelessly with them to turn their house into a home they can be proud of.
In the past few weeks we have seen their home go through major demolition, substantial leveling, many structural upgrades, some construction of new walls, and finally, material finish selections.
The story of their home begins with the house (shown above) being completely gutted. When this photo was taken, the demolition was complete, and the house boasted the ability to be seen through.
The contractor worked quickly to put in place the structural upgrades, according to our plans, and the framing of new rooms began taking shape.
In the photo above, you can see the electrical, plumbing and insulation that is now covered by the drywall. All of these details are overseen by us to insure that they meet the city standards and client demand.
In every project there are unforeseen issues that arise. Here you can see Mason and the contractor discussing one such issue. An old floor and a red crayon make for a perfect place to sketch out a solution.
As the job site is in full swing and construction is moving towards the end, so begins the fun part – finish material selections. By the clients request, we meet with them at a stone warehouse to pick the perfect marble slab for their new kitchen counters.
We are excited to see the end of such an extensive project draw near. After all the finish material is selected and put in place, and the final walk through happens we hope to see a smile on our clients face as they enter their new home.
Just a few more steps and we will be done! Check back to see more updates, and the finished home.
September 19, 2013
Are you considering purchasing a home in Northern California? Mortgage rates are predicted to rise on a 30 year fixed to about 5% by the end of the 2013. Purchase your new home now!
The following is an interview with Ephraim Schwartz, Mortgage Consultant at O’Dette Mortgage Group. Schwartz provides insight on present mortgage market conditions and how to obtain best mortgage rate.
Q. What are mortgage rates predicted to do within the next year?
Daily volatility for mortgage rates will likely continue into future, but overall rates are definitely going to increase. My best guess is that a 30 year fixed conforming mortgage will finish in the neighborhood of 5% at the end of 2013.
Something that is not always made clear to the public is that mortgage rates are not set by the Federal Reserve. Conforming mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage bonds. The Federal Reserve can influence rates by purchasing bonds, as they are doing now with their 3rd round of Quantitative Easing (QE3), but it’s overall market conditions that determine which direction bond prices move, and therefore rates.
Q. How much are home prices expected to rise within the next year?
Case Schiller 20-City Home Price Index (20 key cities in the United State) increased 12.2%, year over year in May. Looking at the next year ahead, it will absolutely vary depending on the market. My markets are Lake Tahoe, and the San Francisco/Marin Bay Area. No one has a crystal ball, but I would expect to see Tahoe continue increase less than 10%, and the Bay Area could increase 15% or more. The Bay Area’s limited inventory, and thriving economy, will continue to push prices up in this competitive market.
Q. Would you advise buying a house now?
Absolutely. There is a reason why we are seeing so many cash offers in the Northern California Real Estate market, and it’s because the stock market and bond market have little more room for immediate upside. The bond market is about to head into a long term down turn, and although stocks have performed well, they do not have much higher to go. If the question is where best to put one’s money, the answer is no better than Northern California real estate. Prices and demand are on the rise, and while rates are up from their all time low, a 30 year fixed rate mortgage is still approximately only half of its average over the past 40 years.
Q. How can one obtain the most competitive mortgage rate?
- A credit score greater than 740.
- A down payment of 20%. To note, with a great credit score, one can actually obtain best case rates with less than 20% down, but must buy private mortgage insurance. Best case rates can actually be had with 10% down. But the sweet spot in terms of lowest cost of monthly ownership is 20% down.
- Income: Must be supported by 2 years of tax returns.
- A note to the self-employed: It can be extremely valuable for self employed (1099) workers to consult with a good mortgage adviser prior to even structuring tax returns, as it could impact if they may choose to forego some write-offs.
Q. For those considering purchasing a second home, do they have any advantage on rate and should they finance with their primary mortgage lender?
When purchasing a second home, there is no advantage in obtaining a mortgage with a primary home lender. For each mortgage, borrowers should select a mortgage adviser who is an expert in their field, and holds the borrowers best interest as the absolutely top priority. If the second home is in a unique vacation market, it’s always good to go with someone local who is familiar with the properties and area.
Q. If a buyer finds a piece of land or fixer-upper, can they borrow more money on their mortgage to cover building costs?
Loans for raw land are slowly coming back to market. They can be had, but generally require strong down payments. For fixers; these are called “rehab” loans. There is a Federal Housing Administration 203k Loan that will include funds to remodel.
March 13, 2012
Both practical and beautiful, this website argues that perhaps bookshelves might even be…sexy.
March 12, 2012
Currently in the midst of construction, the project at 285 Moultrie Street is an excellent example of a typical Bernal Heights remodel – something we at AMK Inc are very familiar with. In addition to digging out and finishing the basement to add another level of habitable space for an expanding family, the owners are adding a new dormer on the upper floor to allow for an additional bathroom and expanded closet space. Especially in Bernal Heights, which is designated as its own “Special Use District” by SF Planning Code Section 242, building vertically (in both directions) is often a more accessible option than building a rear addition in order to expand a modest home.
We will be posting a series of photos documenting the construction process of this project, beginning with these photos of the new dormer framing & initial basement work, for your viewing pleasure & neighborhood edification.
Moving to the basement level, this photo shows the main support beam overhead, and the rebar reinforcements ready to have concrete poured over them to form new post footings, necessary to support the new dormer above.
Looking from the street side of the basement toward the rear, piles of rubble and wood from demolition work pile up. In the background where people are standing will be the location of new stairs to the backyard.
This photo shows the demo work for aforementioned stairs to the rear yard, looking toward the front of the house from the rear. In the foreground is an existing concrete patio which was partially broken up, and in the middle ground you can see where the concrete foundation wall had to be cut into to allow for through access.
Stay tuned for an update next week as things really take shape!
January 18, 2012
The custom Mason jar chandelier designed by Mason Kirby for a project on Valencia Street in San Francisco is consistently a fan favorite. The following ideabook showcases some other creative ways that designers and homeowners have used Mason jars as light fixtures. For a real life example, take a stroll by our office windows!