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Atlas Construction Blog

Organic Security for your Hawaii Home – Security Landscaping

Looking to secure your Hawaii home? If you can’t afford a security system or you want added security, consider going organic.

Through creative landscaping you can help secure your home before anyone even gets near it.

Plants and bushes have been used for centuries to designate property lines and the perimeters of a home. The also create visual barriers and sometimes have defensive capabilities built in.

There are a couple of great plants that are like natures barbed wire.

Citrus tress for example have impressive thorns.

Or the popular Thai hybrid crown of thorns which blooms for months and does not need a lot of water.

It’s also considered a good-luck plant in Thailand. You will be granted good luck in accordance with the specific mythic power of each of the saints: health, bravery, wealth, beauty, artistry, cleverness, poetry and victory over evil spirits.

Of course Bougainvilleas grow easily in Hawaii and are great as defensive hedges as well as for in vulnerable spots like under windows.

Roses are also great, you can put up trellis’ and train climbing roses which can also help cool your home.

Blackberry and raspberry vines grow thorns that serve to protect the fruit. This can give you both protection and a supply of freshly grown food.

Pyracantha angustifolia aka the fire thorn bush is a species of shrub in the rose family that contains thorns that leave a burning sensation that lasts for hours. The fruit is inedible for humans, but they are a food source for birds.  It can be used to make hedges for home security but is considered invasive in Hawaii.

Before planning your beautiful yet painful security landscaping project, be sure to check with the University of Hawaii’s invasive species council who can make sure the plants you choose are safe for your Keiki, pets and the aina.

Atlas Construction Blog

Building a Home in Hawaii – Buy or Build?


One of the most common questions we get is, “How much does it take to build a home in Hawaii? Is it more expensive to build or buy?”

Should you find land and build from scratch, find an older one and remodel that one, or just buy a new one?

This answer has a lot of factors, and it will vary depending on who you ask. Vary rarely will  you get an actual straight answer.  So we decided to break it down and actually give you one.

It depends on the following factors:

  • Where do you want to live?
  • How big of a home are you building?
  • What is your budget for building?
  • Do you have a time constraint?

Not knowing those things makes it impossible to give you exact numbers. But here is an example formula that allows you to work it out yourself.

Currently the median price to buy a home on Oahu is about $650,000. It depends on the area, but that will most likely not be a newer home and will need work.

The reality is a nicer newer home is going to be more like $800,000 and up. That would be a move in ready home that needs little to no work.

Now if you want to build from the ground up, you need to find property. This is not easy. While there are vacant lots available, your options are limited.

If you are lucky and have the time and patience you might be able to get a distressed property in a short sale. The lowest we have seen recently is $400,000 and the home was a tear down.

Next you need someone to do the work. Someone you can trust. This is essential and can make or break your whole project. Finding a Design Build Contractor (see this link to learn about DBC) with an established history is key to making sure you get what you asked for and don’t go over your budget.

If you are thinking of doing it yourself be prepared for a lot of headaches, the system is not an easy one, permits for one are a process even most contractors struggle with. The people that work at the DPPA have a hard time even. Also if you do not have experience locating materials or a relationships with vendors, you may be getting substandard materials or paying more than necessary.

Now you’ve found someone to build, what is it going to cost you?

To build a home in Hawaii it costs about $180-250 a square foot if you go with reputable licensed contractors using safe quality materials. If you do the work yourself, you might be able to get the cost down to about $150/ft.

If you build a 2000 sqft house in Oahu, you are going to spend at least $400k on the construction. If your property cost $400k, you are looking at $800k.

So there is your answer.

In short, to buy new or build it is about the same!

So the real question is, “Should I build or buy?”

The answer is obvious.


One main reason is you get what YOU want. Why pay for another persons vision or problem when you can build your own dream home? It may take more time then buying a move in ready house, but getting what you want from the beginning with a reputable contractor who can look at your long term needs like ohana living and Aging in Place, will pay off much more in the long run. Not only monetarily, but for your happiness as well.

Attend our FREE Monthly Home Building Seminar

Find out everything you need to know about what it takes to build a home in Hawaii.

Atlas Construction Blog

Secrets your Hawaii Contractor doesn’t want you to know.

Hiring a wrong contractor can cost you a lot.

Renovating a basement, adding an extra room or just doing some house repair can be a difficult task. That’s why hiring a contractor for a home improvement project will be of great help. However, finding a good contractor can be quite a challenge. Hiring a wrong contractor can cost you a lot. The tips below will help you hire the best contractor who is experienced enough to make sure your home improvement project is of great success.

Finding a Contractor

Finding a competent contractor depends on how complex or big your project is. Therefore do a thorough research through friends, neighbors and co-workers who have hired a contractor before. Remember that even if you get referrals from individuals you trust, it’s crucial to trust your instincts.

You can also do research by looking at websites that have reviews and ratings. Do not forget to look at how long the contractor has been in business and whether he or she possesses the required qualifications.

What to do Before You Hire?

Once you have narrowed a number of companies, request for written estimates.  Get a detailed explanation if there is any variance in price. Do not just go for the lowest bidder.  You want to see what you are getting for your money.

Questions to Ask

  • Are there similar projects like mine, you have completed before? If there is, ask for a list to see how the project was done. Do not only call the references, but also visit the site to see how the work was done.
  • Does my project require a license? Most states require a license for a building project. A competent contractor will have all the required permits before the commencement of your home project.
  • May i see a list of references? A competent contractor will be able to provide you with names, phone numbers and addresses of the previous clients he has worked with who had projects similar to yours.
  • Will you be hiring subcontractors for this project? If there is any need for hiring other subcontractors make sure that they have licenses and insurance coverage.
  • How do you manage the project?  Project management can make or break a project and it’s budget.  You want to go with someone with a good project management system.

Have a Written Contract

Some states require a written agreement. Even if your state does not require one, ask for it. The written agreement should contain the following.

  • Name, address and permit number of the contractor
  • The estimated time of commencement and completion
  • The mode of payment
  • What the contractor is obligated to do and not to do
  • The right to terminate the contract within three business days
  • All the promises made during calls and conversations

Payment Options

Make sure you understand the mode of payment available. Do not pay cash. For small projects, you can pay by credit card or check. For larger project arrange the mode of payment.

After Hiring the Contractor

Keep all the related paperwork for your home improvement projects in one place. If you have any dispute with your contractor, try to resolve it as soon as possible.

There is no doubt that hiring a home improvement contractor can cause a lot of anxiety and fears. But if you do your part well, you will

ensure that your home improvement project is a huge success!

Atlas Construction Blog

3 Exciting Innovations in Solar Power

With solar power such a viable option in Hawaii, we’re especially excited by the latest developments in the solar power industry. These three innovations have the potential for tremendous impact on the way we create and use energy in the very near future.

  1. Thin film solar panels

Thin photovoltaic film makes more efficient use of materials and has a resulting smaller carbon footprint than traditional solar panels. This translates into lower cost to the consumer and solar energy that is even more cost-efficient.

Thin film PV solar modules use an extremely thin layer of semiconductor material bonded and sandwiched between two pieces of glass and sealed with a laminate coating. Modules produced in this way absorb the solar spectrum more efficiently and produce more electricity than the usual silicon wafers.

The modules are expected to last for about 25 years, which is comparable to currently used solar products. And at the end of their lives, thin film modules are easy to recycle, with materials that are readily re-used.

  1. Solar coated windows

A related technology to thin film solar panels, this process is still in the development stages. It involves creating a “spray on” coating for windows that generates electricity. While remaining transparent, solar coated windows will generate electricity with tiny solar cells smaller than a grain of rice.

Solar coated windows will be capable of generating electricity with common indoor lighting like fluorescents and LED, as well as converting sunlight to energy.

  1. Micro-inverters

Solar panels produce DC power, but your home uses AC power. The inverter is the device which achieves the transformation from DC to AC and makes usable energy for residences and businesses. Rooftop inverters can be extremely costly, and not very efficient, to boot. But the new micro-inverters are more efficient (five times more according to developers), and cost much less than traditional inverters.

Empower Micro Systems, the developer of this radical game-changer, is already completing field testing of their product. They’re in the process now of forming agreements with manufacturers and vendors, and hope to release a pilot product before the end of 2013.

Innovations in solar technology are appearing fast on the horizon. We can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Atlas Construction Blog

Home Remodeling Solutions to Make You Fall Back in Love With Your House

Home Remodeling Solutions to Make You Fall Back in Love With Your Hawaii Home

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your home? Need an upgrade, but don’t want to move? Sounds like it’s time for some serious residential remodeling.

Here are 4 great solutions if your house no longer meets your needs:

  1. Adding bedrooms Young families sometimes find themselves with more kids than bedrooms. At the same time, the current economy in Hawaii has resulted in adult children returning to their parents’ homes ‒ often with children of their own. Whatever the reason, extending your house upward is a practical way to add bedrooms to a home that’s suddenly become too small. This is also a great opportunity to add a second or third bathroom, and make life a little easier for everyone.
  2. Ohana conversions In the same vein, you may need to accommodate as many as four generations in your home. Converting to an Ohana home is the best way to accomplish this feat. Build up, reduce the size of your garage, or extend the sides of your house to make a separate, but connected living space for grandparents. We’re experts at adding the small touches that make everyone feel welcome and independent.
  3. Extra storage Just about everyone can make use of extra storage. The neat trick is to add storage without adding square footage to your home! We can squeeze every bit of efficiency out of the space you already have, by tweaking the design of your home for optimum efficiency. Prime possibilities include re-purposing the spaces under staircases or in underutilized kitchen areas and closet expansions.
  4. Improving accessibility Sudden injuries or concerns about aging residents may create the need for a more accessible floor plan. We’ll help you move crucial bedrooms to the ground floor, eliminate dangerous entries, and add safety features to bathrooms and other common areas.

When you bought your home, it was the perfect refuge. Don’t let the inevitable changes of life stop you from loving it. The professional team at Atlas Construction can transform your house into the perfect space for your current life situation, and help you love it as much as you did on the day you first moved in.

Atlas Construction Blog

Atlas Construction Radio – ADUs and HOAS

Atlas Construction Blog

Aging in Place – Remodeling Your Home for Retirement

Aging in Place

Remodeling Your Home for Retirement or Multi-Generational Living

Host Mike Buck discusses Aging in Place with the team at Atlas Construction. Preparing your home for the future by remodeling everything at one time will save you money.  Nate and Mike Buck share their personal experiences with special needs like home care needs, accessibility for caregivers and retired peoples growing requirements for a home.

Alan explains “Visit-ability” being equipped for your friends and families needs.

Atlas Construction Blog

New Kitchen Counters?

Quartz is Trending Here are the Pros and Cons

Quartz is a man-made product, but it rivals natural stone in its beauty and effect in the overall kitchen, and even bathroom, design.  The basic recipe is finely ground quartz, resin and pigments, giving it an industrial feel. However, glass, stones, metals or other ingredients can be included to dress it up or tone it down, to create variations in the appearance.


  • Quartz counters are non-porous, so they’re tough!
  • Quartz counters are scratch resistant.
  • Quartz counters are stain resistant.
  • Because they are non-porous, mold, bacteria and mildew are unable to penetrate the surface.
  • Quartz counters do not require long-term maintenance (wood and natural stone need to be re-sealed).
  • If you want a monochromatic theme, with seamless corners and sinks, quartz is best, because it can mimic natural stone, like granite.
  • If you’re looking for a more uniform, monochromatic look, quartz can do that as well. So, it’s versatile.


  • Quartz can be expensive, but if you were deciding between quartz and granite, you would be spending about the same amount.
  • Quartz is for indoor design, only. While it is tough, but if it’s exposed to sunshine, rain and other elements, it will show the wear, through fading or warping.
  • Don’t place a hot pot directly on a quartz countertop, because it affects the resin. If you always use a trivet, you’ll be fine.

If you want more information about this trending product, call Atlas Construction at 951-9500.

Atlas Construction Blog

Want a More Energy-Efficient Home?

Home Improvement Experts Show You How

When trying to improve the energy efficiency of your home, a big consideration is the appliances you have.  Lou Manfredini, a Home Improvement Expert and TV personality, suggests you look for appliances with the Energy Star Label.

That label, found on washing machines, dishwashers, computers and stereo equipment, means that the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have certified these products as energy efficient.

Because of recent improvements in insulation and compressors, the Energy Star website at, says today’s refrigerators use much less energy than older models. An ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator can maximize your energy and dollar savings without sacrificing the features you want. You can help by minimizing the number of times you open your refrigerator and freezer doors. Energy Star also says a full refrigerator keeps its contents colder than an empty one. So, it’s better to be stocked up, rather than having bare refrigerator shelves. In a full refrigerator, the compressor turns on less often, than in a bare refrigerator. That means it’s more efficient. And, keep your refrigerator coils clean. It will work better.   Older appliances should also be replaced. In the case of refrigerators, you should be prepared to change out a ten-year-old refrigerator for bigger savings. And, don’t forget to recycle your old refrigerator. Be sure to check when recycled appliances are picked up in your area.

To circulate air more freely in your home, use ceiling fans.  And, if your ceiling fans have lights, make sure they are ENERGY STAR certified. Adding weather stripping around windows and doors will also help keep out the hot air, and in Hawaii, that’s our main concern.  If you have air conditioning, you should clean the outdoor components of your HVAC system. And, have a professional tune up your HVAC system.

Install a programmable thermostat.  There are many different brands, and they range in price from $40 to $100.  You can program your thermostat to adjust the temperature, while you’re at work or asleep, which can save you up to 30 percent on a well-insulated home. says: When used properly, a programmable thermostat can help you save energy when you’re asleep or away from home. Use the thermostat’s pre-programmed energy-saving setpoints as a guide, setting the temperature back in the winter and up in the summer. Use the vacation setting to maintain energy-saving temperatures when you are gone for several days. Don’t run your heat or air conditioning when the windows are open. Turn your air conditioner up if a ceiling fan is keeping you cool enough. With proper use, programmable thermostats can save about $180 every year in energy costs. also advises that you turn off fans and lights, because it costs almost 20 dollars a year to leave one light on for eight hours a day.  Also, make sure you turn off electronics while not in use.

If you need any further assistance, you can Atlas Construction at 951-9500.

Atlas Construction Blog

Top Structural Products

Building Design + Construction’s conducted its annual Top Products report and the year’s top structural products are in. The top-ranked products include Simpson Strong-Tie’s Fabric-Reinforced Cementitious Matrix, Owens Corning Thermafiber, and Icynene’s Classic Ultra. 

1. Fabric-Reinforced Cementitious Matrix – Simpson Strong-Tie

Simpson Strong-Tie’s FRCM is an easy to apply structural layer that can be used to repair or protect damaged concrete and building material. It doesn’t add weight to the structure itself and greatly reduces installation costs. “FRCM provides a low-impact, low-weight alternative to traditional concrete strengthening and retrofit methods. Many times, it is the most economical strengthening solution available, given its reduced preparation and installation time,” according to Strong-Tie’s website. 

2. Foam-Lok 2000-4G – Lapolla

The Foam-Lok 2000-4G incorporates Honeywell’s next-generation blowing agent in a closed-cell spray foam insulation system. This allows for reduced environmental damage, better insulation, and an improved yield. Lapolla’s cutting-edge product offers a lower core temperature, a more user-friendly application, and saves you money in the long-run. 

3. Plenum Barrier – Rockfon

Rockfon’s Plenum Barrier is a noise blocking panel built to ensure sound isolation and more privacy between rooms in commercial structures. The Plenum Barrier can be quickly installed over most walls and inside ceilings. It is a great choice for jobs that require high sound isolation without having to use bulkheads and full-height walls. 

4. Duramax ICF – Nudura

The Nudura Duramax comes in at eight feet long and 18 inches high, making it the largest insulated concrete form available. This makes it easy for contractors to place large areas of wall quickly and effectively. The Duramax can be shipped flat, with a fastening strip that locks the forms into place once unfolded at the worksite. 

5. Silent FX Quickcut – Certainteed

Certainteed’s sound-reducing dry-wall comes equipped with a viscoelastic polymer between two dense gypsum cores, which improves its noise reduction. The Silent FX Quickcut lives up to its name with a built-in score and snap design made for fast installation. This dry-wall is made for use on interior walls and ceilings in commercial, residential, and institutional structures. Certainteed’s M2Tech also ensures protection against moisture and mold. 

6. Thermafiber – Owens Corning

Owens Corning’s Thermafiber is designed and made with an emphasis on safety and fire protection. Its mineral wool insulation is used for commercial, residential, and industrial structures and can resist fires and temperatures up to 2,000˚ F. Thermafiber also provides building owners with liability protection in the events of an act of terrorism on their structure. 

7. Quiet-Tech – CarpetCycle

Quiet-Tech is CarpetCycle’s acoustic batt insulation built of 85-90% post-consumer recycled materials. It is UL Greenguard Gold Certified, Class A Fire rated, and does not contain any form of toxic inhalant or Red List-banned chemical. Quiet-Tech is designed as a thermal insulator for the interior walls and partitions of any structure.

8. MultiFix – Rockwool

This stone wool insulation board has a glass fiber coating that allows for flat roofing application. It reduces the number of layers needed for low-slope roof assemblies. The Rockwool effectively regulates the temperature of thermal insulation and provides strong point load resistance. 

9. Greenguard XPS – Kingspan

Greenguard XPS offers extruded polystyrene insulation board, air barrier building wraps and accessories such as flashing. Its R-value of 5.0 per inch of thickness makes it perfect for jobs that require below the slab, along foundation, inside basement walls, and exterior insulation application. It can also be used as general purpose insulation for roofing, wall, and foundation jobs. 

10.vClassic ultra – Icynene

The Classic Ultra offers top of the line cohesion,  a gold green guard certification, and an R-value of 3.7 per 1”. It can be sprayed in a wide temperature range and ensures a consistent foam during spraying. It is a cost-effective product that enhances cohesion properties by up to 90%.  

11. Concrete Subfloor Panels – USG

USG’s concrete subfloor panels can carry a total load of 330 psf. When used over a steel frame and covered with carpet and pad, these subfloor panels can achieve a 56 STC sound performance rating. They are non-combustible and offer one- and two-hour fire-rated assemblies. These concrete subfloor panels are built to last; they will not warp and can be installed quickly and easily.