Author: Ben Marciano

Home Remodeling: Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?

Designer bathroom remodeling project in Los Angeles Suggested descriptive file name: A-List-Builders-Home-Remodeling-Contractor-Bathroom

DIY Home Remodeling vs. Hiring a Contractor

With so much information about how to perform home improvement projects available on the Internet, more homeowners are doing DIY home remodeling than ever before. Whether you need to remodel an attic, a basement, or any space in-between, you can find plans for doing it yourself. But do they come from a professional remodeler? Could you do a professional job?

Flying Solo Compared to Hiring a Pro             

Doing your own remodeling can be personally satisfying and potentially cost less than hiring a home remodeling contractor. But when the work goes wrong, satisfaction flies out the window, and making things right can cost more than if you had hired a contractor in the beginning.

Before you embark on DIY home remodeling, consider whether doing the work yourself is a good option based on everything that’s involved. Here are six important things to consider:

1. Credibility of the Work Plan

When people decide to perform DIY home remodeling, they usually do so because they have professional remodeling experience, or because they believe that they are using information provided by someone who does.

However, the website of a professional home remodeling contractor rarely tells people how to perform work that the contractor is paid to do. This is why many homeowners perform DIY home remodeling using questionable information that comes from home improvement web forums and websites that publish DIY home improvement articles.

Because credentials of forum members and authors are often unverified, it’s frequently hard to tell if the information comes from a licensed contractor with professional remodeling experience. Unless you know the source is legit, using the information is a gamble that may not turn out in your favor.   

2. Proficiency at Skilled Trades

Let’s assume the information for your DIY home remodeling plan comes from a legitimate source. Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean you’re prepared for the work.

For example, if your remodeling plan involves replacing light fixtures, it also involves working with elements of your home’s electrical system. If it entails replacing plumbing fixtures, it also entails working with elements of the plumbing system.

Homeowners who plan to perform DIY projects often view the work from a superficial perspective. They envision the changes they plan to make independent of the systems and technology that are essential to understand before changes are made.

If you aren’t proficient at tasks that a skilled tradesman would perform if you hired a home remodeling contractor instead, you could do more than botch the job. You could put yourself in danger.

3. Proficiency at Specific Tasks

Proficiency at a trade doesn’t equate to proficiency at all tasks of the trade. For example, flooring installation is a trade, but it is not uncommon to find an installer of wood flooring in all types of wood and finishes that does not install concrete flooring of all consistencies and patinas of color, or vice versa.

Consider your proficiency at how a general trade is specifically rendered within the context of your project. Wood joinery techniques for cabinet construction, weatherizing newly installed windows for energy efficiency, and creating unique surface finishes in plaster and lathe construction are examples of tasks that are best performed by specialists of the trade.   

4. Guarantee of Workmanship  

Let’s take things a hypothetical step further, and assume that your remodeling plan is based on information from a credible source, and you have proficiency at skilled trades — as well as specific tasks within the trades — that the plan requires. Can you now offer what a home remodeling contractor would? Yes and no.

You can perform the work with a comparable level of expertise, but you can’t guarantee the work will be made right, at no cost to you, if something goes wrong and needs redoing.

When you hire a reputable contractor, you receive a guarantee of quality workmanship. If human error compromises the work — as occasionally happens with even the best contractors — it will be corrected for free, according to contract. If your own work is faulty, you repair it at your own expense, and the cost could be high.

Open kitchen and living room floorplan remodeling by A-List Builders in Los Angeles. Descriptive file name: Home-Remodeling-Contractor-A-List-Builders-Living-Room-LA-CA

5. Quality Grade of Materials

In addition to quality of workmanship, you also need to consider the quality of materials. In preparation for DIY home remodeling, homeowners generally acquire products from big box retailers that cater to DIY home improvement. In many cases, these are residential-grade products that lack the quality of commercial-grade or industrial-grade products that contractors use to ensure quality workmanship that lasts.  

Home remodeling contractors acquire these products from business-to-business (B2B) companies that supply contractors and not the general public. This is another important aspect of how using a professional home remodeling contractor can be necessary for achieving professional results.

6. Fallout from Improper Work

Some of the most unfortunate results of amateur workmanship are revealed weeks, months, or even years after a DIY home remodeling project is complete. For example, improper electrical work that causes a fire or poor plumbing work that causes a flood often does so somewhere down the line, not immediately following the shoddy work.

Improper workmanship that starts to look bad at the seams, so to speak, is not the worst that could happen. Worse are outcomes, such as fires and floods, that put your safety and the value of your home in jeopardy. Experienced contractors should always perform work that could have tragic results if performed improperly.

Need Help With Remodeling?

If any of these considerations apply to a remodeling job you plan to do yourself, it’s a sign that a contractor should do the work instead. As the customer, you’re always in control of the project. You decide what is done; the contractor simply ensures that it’s done to the highest standard.

If you have a DIY home remodeling project on tap that should be placed in professional hands, A-List builders is here to help. We can work with you closely, consulting you about anything you wish, whenever you wish, every step of the way. We handle home renovations of all sizes and scopes. To get started on your remodeling project, contact us today for a consultation.

Drought-Tolerant Landscaping & Garden Ideas

Cacti, grasses, and California poppies. Upscale design-build firm A-List Builders can give you a drought resistant yard in your Los Angeles area home remodel.

The sunny, dry climate of Southern California is ideal for days out shopping and lazing on the beach. However, it means that water can be scarce—and this affects the home garden. In this blog, we’re going to show you drought-tolerant landscaping ideas that will allow your garden to survive—and even thrive—in the dry climate of Los Angeles.

1. Take Your Inspiration from California Natives

The most important choice you’ll make when designing your garden is which plants to include. While you may love the lush foliage of elephant ears, hydrangeas, and tree ferns, these plants take a lot of precious water to keep alive and are more suited to areas with high rainfall.

Fortunately, if you choose a diverse variety of California native and desert-loving plants for your Los Angeles home, you can have a drought-proof garden that requires very little water and will look fabulous into the future. Here are some drought-tolerant landscaping ideas to help with plant selection.

California Native Trees

Any garden that is self-sustaining will mimic the layers that are present in natural ecosystems. A tree layer provides shade, holds the soil together, and provides moisture for surrounding plants. These California natives are perfect for large Los Angeles home gardens:

  • Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
  • Palo Verde (Cercidium floridum)
  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
  • Beach Pine (Pinus contorta contorta)
Drought-Tolerant Grasses

Grasses are an easy way to add texture, shades of green, and drama to a low-water garden and are great for small spaces. In our drought-tolerant landscaping ideas, we suggest the following grasses for your front or back garden:

  • Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina “Glauca”)
  • Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens)
  • Purple Needle Grass (Nassella pulchra)
  • Giant Wild Rye (Elymus condensatus)

A small succulent growing outdoors. A-List Builders can manage your next home remodeling project. Let us fulfill your vision! Serving greater Los Angeles.

Succulents and Cacti

Succulents are one of the most well-known additions to a desert garden that cover the ground with diverse textures and need very little water. Plus, succulent gardens in Los Angeles front yards often become the envy of your neighbors! Many even have colorful flowers in the spring and summer seasons. Consider the following drought-tolerant landscaping succulent ideas for the driveway or along the edge of the house:

  • Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta)
  • Our Lord’s Candle (Yucca whipplei)
  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller)
  • Hen and Chickens (Sempervivum tectorum)

2. Work with Your Soil Type

When choosing the drought-tolerant plants that could be right for your garden, you will also need to take your soil type into consideration. To find out what type of soil you have, you can make some observations based on color and consistency, send your soil for testing, and locate your home on this map of soil types in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

Here are some drought-tolerant landscaping ideas for each of the main soil types found in the Los Angeles area:

Sandy or Silty Soil

These types of soil drain very quickly and can tend not to store as many nutrients as clay or loam soil. Choose plants that need a lot of drainage (those that don’t like “wet feet”), and add organic matter to help hold in the nutrients. Drip-irrigation is the most effective form of watering.

Clay Soil

Clay soil forms a ball if you roll it in your fingers and typically retains a high level of nutrients and water—making it ideal for agriculture. The downside is that clay soil can become dry and cracked with hot weather. For drought-tolerant landscaping ideas with clay, add some organic matter. Organic material can help to aerate clay soil and stop it from becoming waterlogged.


Loam soil is thought of as the “ideal” soil as it contains the perfect ratio of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. Most plants will do well in loam soil or a variation of it, provided that their moisture, light, and temperature requirements are also met.

3. Maximize Water Collection and Retention

Drought-tolerant landscaping ideas aside from plant choice focus on collecting and retaining water on your property for as long as possible.

To collect water in your garden, consider installing some rain barrels to collect runoff from the guttering. You can then use this for watering your garden. You can also build “check dams” and “dry creeks” in your garden out of rock to encourage the water to pool and be soaked up by your plants.

Reducing evaporation can help to retain water in the soil for a longer amount of time and keep your plants alive with minimal watering. For drought-tolerant landscaping ideas to reduce evaporation off the soil surface, cover the soil with mulch or pebbles. Pathways made out of decomposed granite can help water to drain into the water table below, decreasing urban runoff and keeping our waterways clean.

4. Hire an Ecologically-Minded Landscaping Firm

If you want to make your Los Angeles garden attractive and environmentally responsible, but you are not sure where to start, we are here to help.

Simply tell us what you’re thinking about in terms of front and back yard garden areas, and we’ll take care of the drought-tolerant landscaping ideas for you!

To learn more about our landscaping and hardscaping services, you can take a look at the photos on our website and contact us to schedule a free landscaping consultation.

5 Tips For Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can come with its challenges including knowing exactly how to make your dollar stretch. In this blog A-List Builder’s will help you understand how to get the most out of your kitchen remodeling budget no matter how big or small your budget may be.

Tip #1: Keep it classic!

Everyone gets a bit excited knowing they are about to make their kitchen bold and flashy when they are embarking on a kitchen remodel so they go for eye catching colors throughout but that can be a huge mistake, especially for cabinets. It might look cool for a year or two but trends die so you’re better off keeping your look classic. If you’re really considering adding some flare to your kitchen consider using gold or chrome accents for things such as knobs and handles, it will add style that will stay in style for years to come.

Tip #2: Make Lighting a focal point.

A-List Builders Hanging Kitchen Lights

A-List Builders Hanging Kitchen Lights

Lighting can make or break a room, too bright it will annoy people, too dim and it will put people asleep so lighting is important! The lighting in your kitchen isn’t only a means of illumination, it can also be a statement piece and focal point. When choosing lighting for your kitchen consider chandeliers, sconces and pendants. These types of kitchen lighting have high impact and are easy to install or swap out in the future.


Tip #3: Choose a cabinet style that will last.  

A-List Builders Kitchen Cabinets

A-List Builders Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinets should not be overlooked, the right kind of cabinet should last you decades, so stick with a design that shares modern and classic design features. Most modern style cabinets are easy to update in the future with new knobs and handles making it simple to change your cabinet style up without breaking the bank.

Tip #4: Go Bold! But in one area not all.

A-List Builder Bold Backsplash

A-List Builder Bold Backsplash

If you were waiting to find out how you were going to make your kitchen really stand out here’s the part you were waiting for. To make your kitchen eye catching and unique consider putting your “splurge budget” in the tiles of your backsplash. Your backsplash can be the statement piece of your kitchen with the right design. Also consider using your backsplash as the main color pallet for your kitchen and work in accent colors throughout to complete the look.


Tip #5: Every Kitchen Deserves Its Crown!

A-List Builders Crown Molding

A-List Builders Crown Molding

Crown Molding that is. Now here’s something that might make you raise an eyebrow, most people don’t really know how inexpensive molding can be but what it adds in regards to looks is huge for its price. Molding and valence molding can be used in several different areas of the kitchen including under your wall cabinets. Other details such as adding bun feet, corbels, and furniture toe kicks can add even more style points without breaking the wallet as well.


These were just a few good tips from the construction and design professionals at A-List Builders come back soon for more great home renovation advice!


Written by Eddy Martinez

Our clients believe in us.

Here is what a few of them say.

  • Kobi R.

    It’s been years since I’ve done any work to my home so I was nervous about the whole project. Thankfully, I found a company that not only provided me with a patient ( I am very particular) and punctual contractor, Rani, but the job came out better than I expected. After doing such an amazing job on the kitchen, I expressed to Rani that I would like to do some more work with him but money, unfortunately, doesn’t grow on trees. Fortunately, Rani found an affordable way for me to redo all the bathrooms and flooring throughout the house.

  • Beverly S.

    Our initial meeting with Rani was excellent due to him giving us information and ideas we hadn’t thought of. He returned a week later with a presentation for our kitchen. Again, we were surprised at his additional ideals and his presentation. We had previously had two of the big-box stores come out so we had an idea of cost. Rani was more reasonable and offered us better and more creative ideas. Our kitchen is completed and we feel we qualify for Better Homes & Gardens. We would recommend our experience and job to everyone.

  • Warren M.

    After about a year and a half after we remodeled our bathroom, we had some minor electrical issues and reached out to A-List Builders. Ben followed up consistently and in a timely manner until my needed repair work was done.

  • Debbie W.

    Everyone was professional, nice and knowledgeable. I am so happy with their work and I will be using them again for my next project. In addition, I will be referring them (which I don't do unless I completely trust a job well done) to my family and friends. Thank you, again, for such a positive experience.

  • Deborah B.

    I hired A-List for a large restoration project. The project involved wall replacement with framing & drywall, stucco, exterior & interior painting, foundation reinforcement, a new exterior gate, fence repair, brick & tile walkways. Ben was the only contractor I interviewed who recommended that an engineer inspect the foundation as part of the evaluation process. Megan cheerfully worked through the process with my insurance company. All of the on-site workers were a pleasure to work with. They arrived early, were professional, & kept the work-site clean & organized...even the city inspector commented positively about A-List's knowledge & organization. A-List Builders did a great job & their follow-up was excellent.

  • Lou D.

    Like so many people in LA we bought a fixer upper. Over the last 5 years we have searched intently for a contractor we could trust. Never has a contractor come on our property that affected us the way Ben and Megan from A-List Builders have. They immediately understood our needs and made brilliant suggestions. They answered every question, every call, and it was such a difference dealing with them than any company we've ever hired before. They did not waste a minute of our time, nor did they try to get us to do more than we wanted. Their pricing is more than fair. They are so good at what they do and completely trustworthy and make hard things much easier. There actually IS a really good General Contractor out there and a company that does all that it promises and more.

  • Anonymous

    I used A-List Builders for my Bathroom Remodel and my bathroom is more beautiful now than I could have ever imagined...I met with Ben who gave me a free estimate for the job and knew right away that A-List Builders was the company I was going to use for the job. Their estimate was fair, and their communication throughout the entire process was fantastic. I always knew there was going to be someone else on the other line if I needed to get a hold of them for any reason. Their workers were true pros that did an immaculate job, excellent craftmanship and very good at keeping the renovation area very clean. I absolutely love my new bathroom and have already recommended them to two of my friends. Truly a great experience!

So, what do you think?

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