Tag Archives: residential construction


Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in Hawaii

Building an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in Honolulu County, Hawaii can have several benefits, both to homeowners and the community. If you’re a homeowner with a lot over 5,000 square feet and your property meets the minimum requirements of Honolulu City Council Bill 20, you can build a separate living unit, either attached to your home or detached, up to 800 square feet. If your lot is between 3,500 to 4,999, the ADU can be up to 400 square feet, while a lot less than 3,500 is not eligible for an ADU. The ordinance also states that as an alternative to building an entirely new structure, it is possible to partition an already standing structure into both a primary and accessory dwelling.

This ordinance passed in 2015 with the intention of adding additional affordable rental units to Oahu, while maintaining the character of neighborhoods. In theory, if hundreds or even thousands of ADUs are built, the increased supply of rental units should help alleviate some of the housing shortage and reduce upward pressure on rental prices. This proposed solution to the short supply of housing was chosen to try to avoid leveling neighborhoods to make way for condos and apartment units, while also creating additional income sources for homeowners.

The ADU ordinance also helps address a gray-area rental market that rose up in the years following the 1990 “Housing-Ohana dwellings” Ordinance of Honolulu. This previous bill stated that “one ohana dwelling unit may be located on a lot zoned for residential, country, or agricultural use, with the following limitations:… The ohana dwelling unit shall be occupied by persons who are related by blood, marriage or adoption to the family residing in the first dwelling. Notwithstanding this provision, ohana dwelling units for which a building permit was obtained before September 10, 1992 are not subject to this restriction and their occupancy by persons other than family members is permitted.” The ADU ordinance allows for this second dwelling unit to be rented to non-related parties. However, language in Bill 20 emphasizes that the primary unit on the lot should be occupied by the property owner, owner’s family, or a designated authorized representative, which the bill clarifies “For purposes of this section, ‘designated authorized representative(s)’ means the person or persons designated by the property owner or owners to the department of planning and permitting, who are responsible for managing the property.” In addition, the bill states that if either primary dwelling or the accessory dwelling is rented out, they must be for long term rentals (At least a 6 month long initial lease which can be followed by month-to-month for an existing tenant) and not bed & breakfast or transient vacation rentals.

In order to apply for an ADU, “the applicant shall first obtain written confirmation from the responsible agencies that wastewater treatment and disposal, water supply, and access roadways are adequate to accommodate the accessory dwelling unit.”

Bill 20 goes further to detail the path for previously built structures to become ADUs:

“An existing, legally established, accessory structure constructed prior to the effective date of this ordinance in the country or residential district may be converted to an accessory dwelling unit and allowed to exceed the maximum floor area established by Section 21-5. and/or be exempted from the off-street parking requirement established by Section 21- 5. (c)(4) and contained in Table 21-6.1 subject to the following conditions: Provided the director finds that viable constraints do not allow the reduction of the floor area of the existing accessory structure. Provided that the director finds that no feasible alternative off-street parking site exists due to the placement of structures on, and/or the topography of, the zoning lot.”

The most important limitations of the bill are that homeowners must have a lot at least 3,500 square feet large, not in a planned community, or part of an association, and the separate living area must include a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, have a parking space, and appropriate water and wastewater access.

Eight Hundred square feet is enough to build a comfortable two bedroom rental and even if construction of the ADU is financed, income generated at current rental rates would provide a good passive income source to contribute to the mortgage on the primary dwelling or to help retirees pay for living costs.

While not for everyone, ADUs are a viable option not just for existing homes, but for brand new constructions as well.


Remodeling with Natural Stone

If you’re remodeling a kitchen, bathroom, replacing the flooring in your home, or building a new house, natural stone is a beautiful material choice. Part of the charm is the subtle variation in color and patterns from stone to stone. Unlike something artificial made in a factory, no one has 100% control over stone taken from a quarry. This idea that the stone in your house can be completely unique from everyone else’s is extremely appealing. It makes your home one of a kind – no one can copy it even if they try.

Two Examples of Travertine Tile. Huge variation can exist between stone taken from the same quarry.

At the same time, this variability creates uncertainty in the building process. The most common approach to picking stone is to view samples in a show room. This is super convenient compared with traveling to another part of the country, or even the other side of the world to see the newest blocks of stone in person. However, picking samples in a show room creates a couple hidden issues. First, how long has that sample been there? At a quarry, every chunk of stone taken out is gone forever and there can be huge variation in color and pattern from one section of the quarry to the next. The older the samples, the greater the chance of you receiving stone that doesn’t match up the same. Another related issue is that stone suppliers are often wholesalers. This allows them to offer a wide variety of colors and choices, but it means they may not have significant supplies of that stone to meet your square footage needs. In this case, once a stone is selected the wholesaler will ask for the pictures and/or samples of the latest slabs coming out of the quarry. These new samples are then reviewed to make sure the order will match the desired appearance of the selection and then the order is placed with the quarry and the stone is reserved. On higher end purchases, traveling to view the stone in person to make selections can remove part of the uncertainty. If you’re planning on using thousands of square feet of stone, that extra travel expense can make sense. A couple thousand dollars in travel expenses can save you the headache of ordering 5 or 6 figures worth of stone only to find out the quarry no longer has stone that’s a good match for old samples.

In this equation, distance equals time. Due to the nature of this process, the farther away the material is from you the longer the timeline becomes. Cutting, packing, and shipping stone across the ocean can take up to three months. If the stone is available close by, that speeds up the process immensely. It doesn’t always happen, but from time to time samples get out dated and what is actually available from the quarry can look significantly different. While your deposit should be recoverable in this situation because this second sample needs to be approved before the stone is purchased and reserved, you have lost time which can push back the finish date of your project. If you can find an alternative stone available locally you might be able to make up for lost time, but continuing down the path of an international stone purchase will add additional time. The process can be the same with locally available stone – you review samples at a showroom, then updated images or samples from the actual slabs you will be ordering are made available for your approval before the order is placed and money is fully committed. The one big advantage here is the time it takes for each step is significantly less. You could review, reject, ask for new samples, and repeat several times with local stone in less time than it might take for an international stone to go through one cycle.

Despite these challenges, natural stone is a long lasting, beautiful material for all parts of the home.


One of Pacific Business News’ Top 25 General Contractors

At the end of May we found out that we made Pacific Business News‘ top 25 list of General Contractors as ranked by 2015 Hawaii Gross Billings. We feel honored to be the youngest company on the list. Nearly half of the companies on the list were established more than 40 years ago, so we are excited to share their company. We are also proud that our efficiency has allowed us to be among the top 25 while being the smallest business by number of employees. We look forward to a strong 2016 continuing on our success of building custom homes that make us proud.


Why Build a Custom Home?

Building a custom home is a big decision. Before going in this direction, you have likely looked through countless homes for sale and made notes about things you like and others you don’t. Maybe you found a great location, but the home on the lot does not work for you? Maybe you love part of a design, but there are areas of the house that drive you crazy?

Building a custom home is a strong choice when you find a lot with a great location but are not satisfied with the current home, when you find a home in need of significant repairs, or for undeveloped lots.

Among the most powerful reasons for deciding to build a custom home is a desire for choices. A custom home can start as a blank slate. In essence, you have the opportunity to build your dream house. Beyond choices like the appliances and finishes, every detail from small to big is in your control. It is ideal when you have a vision for the type of house you want. Whether you want a design that makes a statement, a house with the latest technology, or simply a place that feels like home, building a custom home allow you to make those ideas a reality. Maybe you are taller or shorter than average and want doors and windows to fit you perfectly, maybe you are left handed and want optimized doors and fixtures, or maybe you just love a certain aesthetic, species of wood, or a color scheme. Whatever the impetus, a custom home can facilitate that expression.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you do not want to get caught up in minute details you can work with a designer or architect you respect and let them choose details you might love but never knew existed. At the end of the day, building custom is best when you want something unique.

Another significant reason to go with a new custom home is greater reliability and less maintenance. When you buy new fixtures, appliances, and build with new materials many of the common repairs needed with older houses get pushed way down the line. Over the course of home ownership, repairs and maintenance can really add up. If you buy an older house and have to replace the roof, the A/C, buy new appliances, fix water damaged bathroom walls and floors, replace flooring, and repaint, pretty soon the money you thought you were saving by buying used stretches thin.

Let us not forget another great reason for building custom, secret rooms! Who has not thought a spinning fireplace that leads to an underground man cave would be cool? In all seriousness though, your imagination is the limit for what can be done, whether it is a room for a guitar collection, a garage set up for building a muscle car, a kitchen Julia Child could only dream of, or a dining room large enough to accomodate the entire extended family on holidays.


What Does A General Contractor Do?

When you’re considering remodeling, renovating, or building a new home there are many questions to answer. You likely have a vision for the way you want your house to look, but how do you get from an idea to a finished product?

The first step is the design. With the help of an architect or designer, depending on the project, you’ll be able to get those thoughts on paper. Unless you plan on doing all of the work yourself, the next step is where a general contractor comes in. A general contractor functions as a general manager. They facilitate communication between owner, architect, sub-contractors, and any other involved parties. They also go through the plans, figure out what needs to be done, which materials need to be ordered, and which workers or subcontractors are best suited to do the work. In addition, a general contractor sets an initial budget for the project and works to prevent the project from exceeding the budget. They also warranty the work, oversee day-to-day operations, and create timelines and schedules. In essence, they provide the labor, often via sub-contractors, materials to build the house, and make sure the work gets done. General contractors go through a licensing process at the state level to help ensure reliability.

While some general contractors charge a flat rate for their services, most charge an overhead percentage on all labor, materials, permits, and other expenses that accumulate during the project.

One important advantage of using a general contractor on your project is their construction expertise and relationships with subcontractors. As a homeowner, if you decide to hire plumbers, electricians, tile setters, and other specialized trade workers on your own for a remodel or renovation, you’ll likely encounter a few obstacles. Do you know exactly what needs to be done for your project, who should do it, and in what order? If you remodel your kitchen and have new lighting fixtures and appliances and you don’t know that you might need to check to see if an electrician should rewire for additional power requirements, you could find yourself with contracts that don’t cover your needs. You may feel that the electrician should cover this extra work, but if it’s not in the contract you’ll likely find yourself in a dispute where the contract isn’t on your side.

A good general contractor will be providing regular work for their most used subcontractors. Over time they build relationships and establish quality expectations. From time to time when disagreements or disputes come up, the steady stream of work the general contractor provides plays an important role in making sure both sides are committed to finding a solution. Whereas, if you’re a home owner and your personal project is the only one you have going, you don’t have as much leverage in negotiating directly with workers in case something doesn’t go as planned.

If you have any questions for us about the role of a general contractor, send us an email and we’d be happy to get back to you.


Apartment on the Ocean

In 2015 we finished work on renovating an apartment right on the water in Honolulu. On it’s mauka side was Diamond Head, and out the front window was the pacific ocean. We recently had a photographer take photos during the day and also in the evening to capture the wonderful light through the floor to ceiling windows.

One of the challenging aspects of overseeing construction on this renovation was its location. The apartment sat about 10 stories up in an apartment building with an older narrow elevator and small parking lot. Anything too big to fit in the elevator had to be brought up 10 stories outside of the building. Despite those limitations, the project came out great.

It’s a modern design incorporating glass, marble, and tile into a seamless and wide open layout.

Check out our project on Houzz for more photos.


Why a level 5 primer is right for high end homes

When you are building a new home or doing substantial renovations requiring new walls, it’s important to think about how the drywall finish will affect your final paint quality.

To meet the highest standards and the most discerning eye, a level 5 finish is essential. It helps remove bumps, lines, and other imperfections.

Drywall finishes are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest quality. For more information, you can check out this drywall specific website for details on the characteristics of each level.

Below is a handy video detailing the steps that go into applying a level 5 drywall finish:


Picking Out The Right Roof for Hawaii

Roofs in Hawaii endure intense sunlight, frequent rainfall, humidity, and corrosive ocean air. Considering all of those factors, picking the wrong roof leads to frequent maintenance, repairs, and early replacement.

Below are some of the most popular roofing choices, ordered by lifespan and cost.


Asphalt roofing

Asphalt Shingles (10 – 30 years) are often the cheapest solution. Having been around for over 100 years, asphalt is not exactly new, however compared to wood, ceramic, and slate, it’s the new kid on an old block. The relative short lifespan of Asphalt is an important consideration as toward the end of its life, asphalt shingles show lots of wear and do not have a particularly nice aesthetic.


Rubber Shake

Rubber Shake is an interesting alternative. Though not a natural material, they are made of recycled materials so it is eco-friendly. It is also a durable and relatively cheap material.


Cedar Roofing

Wood Shingles (15 – 30 years) can look excellent. Cedar is a popular choice for shingles or shakes and the wood can be treated to increase fire resistance and decrease vulnerability to pests. However, Hawaii is a tough environment for this material. Plus, they are more expensive than asphalt while having a similar life expectancy.


Metal Roofing

Metal Roof (20 – 50 years) – the ocean air can be very corosive, so uncoated steel doesn’t do well out here. However coated steel or copper will hold up well, retain its color and overall aesthetic appeal.


Ceramic Tile

Ceramic Tile (40 – 100 years) roofing dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. They are expensive and fragile, but they are eco-friendly and have an historic aesthetic and long lifespan. We’re used to seeing red teracotta tiles, but ceramics can come in multiple colors and styles.


Slate Roof

Slate (50 – 200 years) is very expensive, but is virtually unrivaled in its longevity. If you install a slate roof it’s likely to last for multiple generations. It’s not a man made material, so you don’t have to worry about artificial colors fading, an important for hawaii it is not affected by high humidity, mold or fungus.

Besides lifespan and cost, one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing roofing is the style of the house. A Spanish villa style home will fit best with ceramic tile, a modern design often jells well with metal roofing, whereas wood and slate roofs fit well with more historic European style homes.


10 Years of Custom Home Builiding!

In 2006, Phil Barker and Brett Kappelle partnered to form Barker Kappelle Construction. Both entered the trade as carpenters, and over the years developed an intimate knowledge of home building. By the 1990s each had moved to Hawaii, Phil from New Zealand and Brett from California. Soon they took the next step and went into business for themselves. Through dedication to quality and attention to detail they have created a strong name for Barker Kappelle Construction. They have built excellent homes across Oahu for 10 years, and strive to make the process easy for home owners from start to finish.

Custom Home Building

Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going next!


Neolith and the Dream Kitchen

Kitchen Remodeling with Neolith

The kitchen is a gathering place for family, conversations and of course food! When you’re dreaming of the perfect kitchen, you want a space that looks and feels great, stays clean, and makes cooking as easy as possible. It may seem hyperbole, but the right countertop can make all of those things a little easier to achieve.

Imagine the perfect countertop, not just color but characteristics. It should look great, shouldn’t stain or get discolored, and must be easy to clean. If a countertop could do all that it would be pretty great. What if there was a surface that could do that, plus things you don’t even associate with countertops? Imagine a surface so strong that you can use it as a cutting board without thinking twice about scratches or chipping, one that is heat resistant so you won’t need hotpads, and is safe to eat off of. Neolith is all of those things. While it isn’t naturally occurring, Neolith is made up of all natural components. Clays, feldspar, silica, mineral oxides, and natural pigments are sintered at extremely high pressure and high temperature in a kiln to create a porcelain that is incredibly strong, can be cut super thin, and can be made into large slab sizes.
The natural pigments ensure that the color and appearance of the slab stays the same over time, and isn’t subject to fading or discoloration. In addition, unlike most traditional surfaces it does not stain. It’s nonporous. You can treat it like a porcelain plate that won’t break.
Because Neolith isn’t naturally occurring, unlike stone it is virtually a blank slate for color options, and a variety of pigments can be added with intention to create outstandingly uniform designs.

While countertops are an obvious starting point for Neolith, it can also be used as flooring, and walls.