Valentine’s Day is almost here and many of us will try to find the perfect greeting card, gift, or night out to show appreciation to our loved ones. While these offerings may provide a brief spark in your relationship, may we suggest a more permanent Valentine’s Day gift that will enhance your home and bring you and your loved one closer for much longer than a holiday? . . . . A Fireplace!

On chilly winter nights, nothing adds as much ambience to your home as a roaring fire. Year-round, a fireplace adds beauty, dimension, and a focal point for your room. While there are a number of federal and local regulations that restrict the construction of old-fashioned masonry fireplaces in new and remodeled homes, there are a number of EPA-certified wood-burning fireplaces that provide the richness only a real wood fire can impart and, at the same time, curtail the particulate matter in the smoke by as much as 70%. Two are shown in the photos at right. Additionally, there are a number of ways to retrofit an existing wood-burning fireplace to comply with current regulations. Most will require glass or metal doors and an insert or retrofit to contain the particulate matter. See the list of EPA-certified Fireplacesfor more information.

Renaissance Rumford EPA

Gas fireplaces are also a great option if you do not want to be concerned with obtaining a consistent supply of dry, seasoned, firewood or with cleaning the ashes from the fireplace. In the past, gas fireplaces failed to provide anything close to the experience of a wood burning fireplace. Today, there are a number of greatly-improved gas and electric fireplaces options from which to choose. See the EPA Website for a list of EPA-certified choices.
To help our customers sort through the maze of options and regulations, Hammerschmidt Construction has teamed with Blaze Fireplacesbecause of their expertise and superior customer service.

Blaze will walk you through the five steps of selecting the right fireplace for your space and make the installation easy and enjoyable.

    1. Is a fireplace or fireplace insert needed? A fireplace insert is installed in the existing wood burner. A regular fireplace is installed in the framed opening.
    2. Are you looking for a traditional or modern style?
    3. Are you using the fireplace for heat, and if so, how much heat will be required?
    4. What options (log set, brick, doors and control functions) would you like installed?
    5. Review the flue piping and the installation parameters.


Blaze Fireplace is a family-owned and operated full service contractor and supplier of fireplaces, mantels, insulation, and garage doors. Blaze provides onsite consultation, installation, service, warranty, and after-sales support. Their 6,000 sq ft designer fireplace showroom features more than 60 active burning fireplace displays and over 40 mantels. The Blaze San Francisco Office and Showroom is located at 101 Cargo Way in San Francisco, CA 94124 Phone: 415-495-2002.

01 Feb / 2013

Space-Saving Doors

Do you wish you had more space inside your home, but you aren’t interested in an addition right now? We are experts in re-configuring your existing space to optimize its functionality. Keep reading below as we discuss some space-saving door options.

Perhaps your home feels overcrowded and you’re looking for ways to increase usable space without adding on. Have you considered the fact that a standard hinged door requires eight to ten square feet of floor space to swing open? This is basically wasted space in your home, since nothing else–such as a chair or table–can occupy that same floor space. You may want to keep in mind the following attractive options:

Pocket Doors
A pocket door uses no floor space around an entry, but rather it slides within the wall, providing a clean, unobtrusive look to a room. The door hangs from a track mounted to the ceiling, with a guide placed at the door opening. One big advantage of this type of door is that furniture or shelving may be placed along the wall next to the door opening.

Wall Mounted Sliding Doors
A wall-mounted sliding door has a track-and-roller system that attaches directly to the wall, reminiscent of barn doors. The hangers either can be exposed for an industrial look, or hidden in a facia for a more finished look. Unlike pocket doors, these doors remain outside the wall and therefore are an ideal solution for walls constructed of concrete block or brick, or for wood-framed walls containing pipes or wiring. Furniture may be placed beside the doorway without interfering with the door’s operation.




Additional Tips and Benefits:

  • Use door panels with decorative glass inserts to add style to the space and allow light to be shared between rooms when the doors are closed.
  • Always choose robust, high-quality hardware for all of your sliding doors. This will go a long way toward assuring trouble-free performance.
  • As families transition through the various life stages, they want their homes to be flexible enough to adapt to their changing space needs. At times there may be a need to define some private space within an open floor plan. Converging wall-mounted sliding doors or a multiple pocket door system are able to maximize an open floor plan, easily creating two rooms out of one large room.
  • Pocket doors and wall-mounted sliding doors both offer a universal design solution, since it is not necessary for a person to remain clear of the door as it is swinging open. Also, if a person is needing help from behind a closed door, easy access may be gained from either side. To meet ADA requirements, a pocket door must open with no more than 5 lbs. of pressure.

Have you already gathered lots of ideas for how you’d like your new kitchen to look, once it’s remodeled? Perhaps you’ve thought about the style of cabinets you’d prefer or the beautiful materials you envision on your countertops and backsplash.
You should also consider these three kitchen trends that will add both safety and convenience to your kitchen. And, their green benefits extend beyond the usual energy and water savings.

1. Hands-free Faucet Controls – touch or motion activated

A kitchen faucet with hands-free technology is a tremendous advantage to meal preparation. Advanced sensors detect movement or a slight tap on the faucet itself to start the flow of water. If your hands are full or too dirty to turn on the faucet, a wave of your hand, the touch of your arm, or the presence of your hands under the spout will start the water flowing.
Hands-free technology saves water, since faucets shut off automatically, unless instructed to do otherwise. And, it can be incorporated as part of Universal Design for those with restricted reach and/or limited hand mobility.

2. Induction Cooktops

Would you be surprised to learn that induction cooking technology was developed in the United States? It didn’t immediately take off here–as it did abroad–possibly because of the specialized cookware requirements. It now appears to be gaining popularity in the U.S as consumers become better acquainted with its advantages.
Induction cooking uses induction heating to directly heat a cooking vessel, as opposed to using heat transfer from electrical coils or burning gas as with a traditional cooking stove. For nearly all models of induction cooktops, the cooking vessel must be made of a ferromagnetic metal, or placed on an interface disk which enables non-induction cookware to be used on induction cooking surfaces. Induction cooks food very quickly–90% of the energy produced is used in the cooking process as it heats only the pan and the food inside the pan–rather than the kitchen environment. The induction cooktop surface remains cool to the touch, so spills can be wiped up easily and there are no open flames or hot burners that can cause safety issues.

3. LED Lighting

LED lighting has opened up amazing new opportunities for placing light in your kitchen wherever you desire and however your imagination dictates. It doesn’t produce heat so it is perfectly suited for the inside of refrigerators and food storage cabinets. And, it’s available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from long, narrow strips that fit under cabinet toe-kicks to round pucks suitable for cabinet interiors. LED provides white light in warm and cool tones, as well as a wide variety of other colors that can add drama to your kitchen décor.
Quality LED products typically last longer than CFLs, and are therefore preferable for hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. The long life of LED lights make them an eco-friendly product.

One of the first signs of the Christmas season is the sight of a front door adorned with an evergreen and holly wreath. A welcoming sign of holiday cheer, wreaths have been used symbolically for centuries.

In ancient Rome, the wreath became so powerful that people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is origin of hanging of wreaths on doors. The ancient Druids believed that holly, with its glossy, shiny prickly leaves of green adorned with red berries, remained green all year due to their magical properties. Many speculate the holly berries have given us our green and red colors of Christmas. Combining the symbolism of the wreath with the believed magical powers of holly, the Romans exchanged holly wreaths as gifts. Once Christianity took hold in Rome, holly wreaths became Christmas wreaths.

A traditional evergreen, holly, and pinecone wreath

To add color to their Christmas wreaths, the American colonists incorporated colorful fruits. Pomegranates, in particular were used as they represented wealth. Celebrating the Christmas season for 12 consecutive days (the “12 Days of Christmas”) the celebration ends on January 5th, the 12th day.

Christmas and Advent Wreaths

While there are many designs and styles of Christmas wreaths, they mainly fall into two categories, the decorative wreath and the Advent wreath. The decorative Christmas wreath is used for holiday decorations and is usually made of evergreens, holly, or other materials which symbolize life emerging through a tough winter. The ring or wheel of the Advent wreath of evergreens decorated with candles was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. The circle symbolized the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signified the persistence of life in the midst of winter. Some sources suggest the wreath – now reinterpreted as a Christian symbol – was in common use in the Middle Ages, others that it was established in Germany as a Christian custom only in the 16th century.

Traditionally, the Advent wreath consists of three violet and one rose candle set in a circle of evergreens. In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, one candle is lit. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. The fifth candle, which symbolizes the birth of Christ, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Whether you are looking to start your holiday decorating or trying to find a gift, a wreath can brighten a front door, a window or various places inside your home. See our resources section in the left hand column for more ideas.

Multigenerational households are on the rise in the U.S. Do you belong to a family that has several generations living together under one roof? Below are some ideas for enhancing your home to make this arrangement work successfully for everyone.

A dramatic change is quietly taking place in the make-up of the typical American household. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that since 1990 the number of multigenerational households has grown approximately 40 percent.
This nationwide shift is due to a number of factors, one of which is the rising cost of living. College debt has caused many young adults to move back home again after they graduate, even if they have good jobs. Single moms or dads have often decided to move in with their parents who can help provide less expensive childcare. Older adults are living with their children, rather than pay the high costs of an assisted living community.

If your family lives in a multigenerational household, it is probably for a variety of reasons. Families from ethnic groups such as Asians and Hispanics are more accustomed to multigenerational living, and often find it preferable. However, this lifestyle does present challenges, the greatest of which is to reach that delicate balance between privacy and togetherness.

One of the most successful strategies for optimizing multigenerational living is to create a separate, self-contained suite within the home. This concept is often referred to as a “home within a home.” These suites, regardless of size, offer everything necessary for independent living, including a small kitchen, bath, living area and bedroom. There may be a separate laundry area as well. Each suite has a separate outside entry so family members may come and go without disturbing each other, yet it shares an interior door with the main house. The suite may also share the back yard, or have its own small patio instead. This enables families to stay close, while individual members retain a greater degree of privacy.

Almost any home can be remodeled to include a separate suite. If you desire to stay within the confines of your home’s existing footprint, one option would be to combine a couple of adjoining bedrooms to create the necessary space. A professional remodeler can help you analyze any other underutilized areas in your home and consider whether they could be re-engineered to function as a suite. Of course, if you have space for an addition, this may give you the most flexibility.

Families who have added separate suites to their homes have been pleasantly surprised to discover how these suites can continue to meet their ever changing needs throughout the various stages of their lives.



15 Nov / 2012

Less is More

If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and contemplating what material to select for your backsplash, consider the sleek and contemporary alternative to tile or stone–simple, classic, architectural glass. While an elaborate tile or stone backsplash may provide a focal point for your room, sometimes less is more. Back-painted glass slabs provide more than a focal point; they can change the whole feeling in the room, providing a sense of depth and vibrancy in a clean, uncluttered way.

It can be used virtually anywhere you currently use glass, tile, or stone: kitchen backsplashes, bathroom vanity tops, tub and shower walls, fireplaces, accent walls, and refrigerator and cabinet door panels.

Maintenance is easy; back-painted glass is non-porous and seamless and outlasts many architectural products such as tiles and laminates. It doesn’t allow mold or bacteria to form; it is water-proof or water-resistant and it is easy to clean.

  1. Fast & easy installation. Has to be tempered but this can be done by the glass company you choose. The glass is optically clear and the thickness is typically 1/4″, 3/8″, or 3/4″.
  2. It can blend well with the colors you have already chosen for your remodeled room. Instead of trying to find the perfect size, color and textured tile pieces, glass slabs can be painted to match the color codes of all leading paint manufacturers.
  3. The simplicity of a glass wall allows you to get creative and fun as well. Glass is the perfect surface to tape decorations, stick cling-ones, and best of all dry-erase markers can be used to draw on the walls! It wipes right off! Chalkboard paint is fun, but the kids will love this too.

We’re entering the season for parties and holiday get-togethers at your house. As visitors make their way up the walk, what kind of first impression does your front entryway make? If you’re thinking about replacing your doors, you’ll want to read our discussion below.

The front entry to your home is one of the first things a visitor notices. The doorway, as the home’s focal point, will greatly influence the perceived value of your home. It also becomes an opportunity for you to make a unique statement about the character of your home.

A Material Choice
Exterior doors are generally available in three different materials: wood, fiberglass/composite, and steel. As you are making your choice, factors to consider are cost, endurance, climate, energy-efficiency, usage and finish. If you prefer natural wood because of the warmth of its appearance, keep in mind that wood requires regular maintenance to protect it from the weather. Today’s manufactured wood doors usually have an engineered wood core that provides stability. Fiberglass/composite and steel doors are designed to withstand the elements and provide easy-care. In addition, these doors can convincingly resemble wood grain.

The Insulation Factor
Doors are an important part of the overall insulation picture for your home. A flimsy, poorly fit door can allow a regular, unwelcome flow of cold or hot air into your home, negatively affecting your energy bills. Your fiberglass/composite or steel door should have an energy-efficient and environmentally-safe core. Consider purchasing an entry door system with the components–such as hinges and weather stripping–all designed to work together efficiently.

The amount and kind of glass used makes a difference. You may want a lot of glass to improve your view, or to increase your indoor lighting. On the other hand, security and privacy may be more important to you, and therefore you want a door with minimal glazing. Either way, choose an ENERGY STAR qualified door with a double layer of glass, a low-E coating, and argon gas between the glass panes.


Decorate with Doors
Use your doors as a design element, coordinating them with the architectural style of your home to make the whole picture attractive and appealing. Doors come in virtually every style, from Victorian to Rustic. Glass can be etched, beveled, leaded, frosted, stained, textured or tinted. Obscure glass is valued for transmitting light and maintaining privacy at the same time. Doors may have inserts in many shapes. Large glazed doors, often with sidelights and transoms, are currently very popular. Some doors are painted, some stained, and some have baked-in color.

By carefully selecting your entry door, you can create a welcoming appearance for your entire home, while adding value and energy savings at the same time.

When you’re designing your child’s room, it’s tempting to begin by purchasing a comforter set from his or her favorite Disney character–say Perry the Platypus–and then go from there. Bright teal-green walls with tangerine accents, and you’re in business, until next year, that is, when your child prefers a different cartoon hero. Keep reading for our tips on designing bedrooms that are flexible enough to transition through all stages of your children’s lives.

Parents love to delight their children with fanciful bedrooms that resemble a princess castle or a pirate den. But how can you design bedrooms that both fit your children’s needs and imaginations right now, yet are flexible enough to fulfill their needs and desires as they grow and mature?

The bedroom should function well for your child’s activities and well-being.

  • Kid’s rooms should provide ample storage for clothing, toys, books and games, and make that storage easy for them to use, so they can clean up after themselves. One of the best solutions is built-in cabinetry that is anchored to the bedroom wall, since children will often try to climb.
  • Include some open shelving, cubbies and baskets, which are easier for smaller children to manipulate than deep drawers and large closet doors.
  • Install several clothing hooks inside and outside the closets, since these are simpler for children to use than hangers.
  • Include a table, desk or built-in desktop for completing arts and crafts projects or schoolwork, along with seating that provides good back support and encourages healthy posture.

Kids Room

  • Make certain this area is well-lit to avoid eyestrain. General overhead room lighting is important, as well as task lighting specifically focused on the activity area.
  • Kids like to personalize their rooms. Allow them to express themselves by providing a chalkboard or install a cork board where they can attach their artwork. If your child is a budding artist, paint a section of the bedroom wall with chalkboard paint.
  • Choose materials and finishes that are easy care and non-toxic, such as low or no-VOC paints, stains or sealants. Select natural flooring materials, such as hardwood, cork, bamboo or real linoleum (Marmoleum), rather than carpet that can harbor allergens or vinyl that can emit harmful fumes.

The bedroom should be flexible enough to perform well into the future

Kids Room

  • Children grow up more rapidly than parents expect, and their needs change quickly. Unless you want to completely re-do your child’s bedroom every year, design the bedroom for flexibility.
  • Avoid choosing a juvenile theme for your child’s bedroom that he or she will quickly outgrow. Choose cabinet finishes and paint colors that can form a backdrop for your child’s ever changing interests.
  • Select a crib that transitions into a toddler bed and then later into a regular twin or full bed. It will save you the cost of purchasing a new bed as your child ages, and may make the adjustment for your child easier as well.
  • Install adjustable rods and poles in the closet, so the space can evolve to fit various clothing sizes as your child matures.
  • Include a comfortable adult-size lounge chair or loveseat for reading books or cuddling with your child. The same lounge chair, transformed by the addition of some colorful new throw pillows, can serve your child during the teen years.

How long does it take you to find your favorite hairspray or body lotion as you’re getting ready in the morning? If you’re like most Americans, trying to locate things you own but can’t find takes up almost an hour of each day. This lost time can result in missed deadlines, which only adds to the stress. For your own peace of mind, make the decision to start organizing your bathroom today!

The first thing to do is to make an inventory of all the items found in your bathroom and decide which need to stay there. Divide everything into three piles: keep, donate and discard. Will you ever use those brand new burgundy-colored towels a friend gave you years ago? Doubtful, since they no longer match your color scheme. Donate them! If you have expired medications, or half-used products that you don’t like, discard them.

Once you have whittled your pile of “keep” items down to the essentials, decide where in the bathroom they should be located. If they are décor items, they can go back on your countertop. Other items should be organized carefully in drawers or cabinets.

Interior cabinet storage solutions, similar to those designed for kitchens, are just as convenient in bathroom vanities. A drawer with dividers is perfect for smaller make-up products. Pull-outs, like those in the photo above, make larger items easily accessible. Slide-out under-sink organizers are great for storing cleaning supplies, but lock the cabinet if you have children in your home. Consider installing a separate wall hung medicine cabinet to help keep medications out of the reach of children. Robern offers a mirrored cabinet with an integrated cold storage unit, making it possible for you to keep all your medications together in one place.

Even if you’re not needing to use your range or refrigerator tonight because you’re sending out for pizza, chances are you’ll be using your kitchen sink for clean up. The sink is one of the most heavily used fixtures in the kitchen. Doesn’t it make sense to purchase a sink that performs well for your needs? Be sure to review all the options below, before you choose your new sink.

Homeowners tend to give their kitchen sink little consideration when making selections for their new kitchens. They may spend weeks deciding on the perfect chef-style range and then only rarely use it, while the sink is put into service continually. Why shouldn’t your sink be highly functional and lovely to look at — in others words, a joy to use?

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks complement the look of commercial-style appliances. Steel is more protective of dropped glassware than harder materials like cast iron. It does scratch and can dent if a heavy pot falls into the sink. A thicker gauge of steel will be less apt to dent. Sound-absorbing pads underneath the bowl will result in a quieter sink.

2. Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron sinks boast a glossy porcelain finish that is available in a wide variety of colors. This sink can withstand a hot pot, but if a pot is dropped into the sink, the enamel can chip, after which the underlying iron may corrode. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner to protect the finish.

Granite composite sink

Granite composite sink

3. Fireclay (Vitreous China)
Fireclay is hard and quite heavy — made from a ceramic-like material that is fired under intense heat. The glossy color goes all the way through, so there is nothing under the surface to corrode. Using a nonabrasive cleaner, the sinks are easy to maintain, but they can chip.

4. Granite Composite (such as Silgranit)
Granite composite sinks are made of a mixture of 80% natural granite and acrylic resin — the material extends throughout. These sinks resist scratching and chipping, plus they are non-porous and resist most household stains. They can easily handle a hot pot up to 500 degrees.

5. Solid Surface (such as Corian)
Solid surface sinks may be joined to a countertop of the same material for a seamless look. The non-porous material offers easy maintenance, since there are no recesses to collect bacteria. A downside is that the sink can be damaged by heat and sharp objects.

6. Natural Stone
Natural stone sinks are valued for their unique beauty and ability to integrate with a stone countertop. Most stone is porous and should be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Even after sealing, certain acidic liquids may stain and etch the surface. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner.

Recycled copper sink

Recycled copper sink

7. Copper
Copper sinks develop a patina over time, which is one of the characteristics most people love about the material. The relatively soft metal can scratch, but most scratches may be removed by polishing. Avoid long exposure to hot pots, which can distort the shape of the sink.

8. Concrete
Concrete offers great versatility in the shape, color and texture of a sink. Objects may be embedded into the concrete for decorative, as well as functional purposes. Newer products are highly resistant to cracking, chipping and staining — problems that plagued concrete sinks in the past.

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