General Contractor Recommendation - Moraga Remodel

We're looking for recommendations of a good General Contractor, who takes pride in his/her work, and is available to take on a moderate remodel project. The work includes:

1. Seismic retrofit (optional and/or can be spun out to a different contractor)

2. Kitchen remodel (which includes removing a structural wall, and adding support)

3. Bathroom remodel

4. Electrical/lighting

5. Whole house window replacement

6. HVAC (can be spun out to a different contractor)

7. Painting

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We would gladly recommend Emanuel with BuildMark. The complete home remodel was a pleasure from beginning to end. Emanuel and his amazing crew does beautiful work, completes it on time and he is a great communicator. We highly recommend him and the company. This is his info: 510-484 5765  emanuel [at]

We've used Eric Sterken extensively for remodeling projects, and I have always been happy with his work ... and how pleasant he is to have around. 

You can find Eric's website at this link, and you can see pictures of his work on our house here.


People have a tendency to want a very high quality contractor for a low price or a very high quality contractor for a small project, such as a balcony repair. It doesn't work like that most of the time. You usually get what you pay for. Any good contractor is not available right now and you will have to wait for their services (a year or more). If you don't have completed working drawings it's going to be hard to get a contractor's attention as they are busy and don't have time to waste talking to people that don't have everything sorted out, including the budget to do the project, permits etc.

The best contractors are fairly expensive, but in construction you get what you pay for. These guys on my list mostly work in Berkeley, Rockridge, Piedmont with an occasional project in Orinda or Lafayette. These guys will be busy and you will have to wait probably a year for their services. Your project would be at the very least $350-400K and likely much more, if using one of the better contractors. A basic kitchen remodel (down to studs) without alteration of the building envelope is $120-150K, but most are much more. Bath remodel $50-75K with Heath tile and custom cabinetry and mid-high level finishes. A larger bath with architectural detail (vaulted ceilings, ridge skylights etc. could drive this price up dramatically).

The best contractors all have an excellent grasp at the underlying intent of the project; they will not cut corners and perform work and historical detail to a very high level. They usually work with the better architects as well. Their subs will all be outstanding. They will keep jobsite clean, use quality materials, carpenters will be detail oriented with lots of experience and they won't be rushed. Execution level will be top-notch in all areas with an outstanding finish quality. All of the contractors on this list would require working drawings etc. from an architect.

Very Good: Carlen and Co.; Zanderbuilt; Cerami Builders; Jetton Construction (a larger firm if you want a lot of customer service and price will reflect this); Swan Builders; Breska Associates; Cameron Habel Construction

Good: Mario Santilli Construction; Oliver Builders; Alward Construction (expensive and overall value not very good)

Budget: Marco Fortier Construction (very good value). And when I say budget I don't mean super cheap.

I recommend Keir Lenihan (Lenihan Builders). Keir is a former foreman at the highly regarded Jetton Construction and he also ran the shop at Zanderbuilt. He has been on his own now for many years. He has worked on my house and the execution and level of thought that go into his work is outstanding. He takes his time to do the job right. He also wears a tool belt and is constantly onsite working and interacting with any subs that are required of the project. He studied mathematics at Cal and is very sharp. No website. His business is all from referrals from previous clients. CA Contractor Lic # 760979.  keir.l [at]