Top rating for excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail. Worked long days to ensure job was completed. Entire crew had good communication with us about installation issues.

We had Unique Tile headed by Wojciech Patkowski (AKA Voytek) tile our front and rear porches at our house in Menlo Park in 2020. The area was around 550sf.

Although it seemed like an easy job because it was over fresh cement on new construction, it was actually quite difficult as the grade needed to ensure adequate drainage when the porches are hosed down.

Voytek and his crew showed up early each morning around 7AM and stayed almost every night until 7pm. The job stretched for a few extra days because the tiling was more difficult than expected due to the inconsistent cement base. Voytek ensured that his whole crew were there every day and he was onsite for most of the time as well.

Unique Tile did a completely professional job on the tile work. All tiles were the same level with a consistent grout line. The stair edging we used, Schluter TREP-E/EK Stair Nosing was solidly mounted and consistent.

Bottom line: if you are considering major tiling jobs Unique Tile does expert work with a great attention to detail.

I would highly recommend them. If you wish to ask for a reference feel free to contact me.

Joe Junkin

Vaccine Appointment

I was able to book a local vaccine appointment this morning.

I went to the Walgreens website yesterday and created an account.

I left the check window up and repeatedly tried without success yesterday.

Then at 9AM this morning I tried and there were plenty of appointments for next week in downtown menlo park

Hopefully they will have supply!

Chegg fraudulent charges and company does nothing about it

We noticed charges on our credit card to a company named chegg.com. We have never ordered anything from them. The charges were 3 times a month starting in march/2020 each one is for $14.95.

We tried calling chegg and were on the phone for almost an hour while the customer support person attempted to find our information. After an hour or so the customer support person was unsuccessful and promised to look further into the incident. We gave them our contact info. They never called back and the charges continued.

Very strange that they would be unable to locate any information on us while they are charging our credit card 3 times a month. How is it possible that they are unable to stop charging our card?

So, chegg is obviously a completely fraudulent company that has no concern for stealing from random people who have never purchased anything from the company and then is unable or refuses to stop charging their credit card.

Please check your credit card for charges to chegg and make sure to contest the charges with your credit card company because chegg is a lying, thieving company that does nothing to stop fraudulently charging you.

chegg has charged us a total of $239.20 and has refunded zero. Our credit card company has contested and refunded many of the charges but not all. Thank you Citibank!

KC Paving front walk install

KC Paving responded to my inquiry quickly, made a fair estimate, offered a quick start date and were fast and professional. The machinery and manpower was impressive and exceeded my expectations. The workmanship is top quality, should last for years without settling and looks great. I *highly* recommend KCPaving in the Menlo Park area.

We needed a front walk installed with a cement landing extension added to our last step – and we needed it in a hurry. I found KC Paving on the internet and received a prompt reply, quick on site meeting and an estimate the next day. A large crew showed up on the expected date with 2 large machines to facilitate the earthmoving process. The work was done continuously in about 3 days. Happy we made this choice.


Thanks KC Paving!

Bell Plumbing for Sewer and Gas

** Highly Recommended **

In May of 2019 I signed a contract for Bell Plumbing to trench and install the Gas and sewer lines for new construction. This work involved trenching from the house out and completely across the street – a major operation. The manager Greg was very familiar with the area having done major sewer work 2 houses away. Bell is extremely fair in pricing, explained all of the options clearly and performed the work fast and professionally. I highly recommend Bell Plumbing for Sewer and Gas trenching from the street to the house in Menlo Park.

I had an estimate from another company that was almost double the estimated price from Bell for the gas line with a one line broken english description of the work – what a joke! In contrast, Bell gave me multiple options and estimates for the sewer and gas with full descriptions of the work needed. Several other contractors simply refused an estimate as they were too busy. In the end I am grateful to Bell Plumbing to squeeze the work in their tight schedule while not taking advantage of us on price.

Thank you Bell Plumbing!!!

Joe Junkin
Menlo Park

The sewer had three options:
Trenchless: the existing line has to be 36 inches below grade around the sidewalk. We were around 32 so this was not an option. Otherwise a great choice.
Liner: The existing line is scoured and an epoxy liner is expanded within the original pipe. This option was cheaper then a full trench but not by much. I worried about the narrower old pipe (approximately 4 inches) vs new and the condition of the old rusty iron pipe as it had a break.
Full trench: In the end I selected this option because the main was fairly close to our house. I was happy to see a massive pipe around 5-6 inches used for the connection to the main. The pipe looked like it will last for forever.

The gas line was designed by PG&E and was a full trench across the street completely to the other side – so it was very expensive. There were steel plates across the road for about a month. First PG&E has to design the trench which takes months. Then the contractor digs the trench and places the steel plates down. Next PG&E has to inspect the trench so the plates need to be moved again after which they are replaced. In 2 weeks PG&E comes back and lays down the new gas pipe – which requires another steel plate shuffle. Finally the line is backfilled and the temporary paving is put in place. Weeks later the city mandated the street to be torn up and repaved far beyond the actual trench. Final job was to seal the asphalt.

In the end, PG&E set the level of the gas popup line next to the house too low so a yellow marking was not above ground. This became a problem when realized after the fact. To be clear, PG&E specified the level of fill under the line. Clearly they made a mistake by not ensuring the mark was above grade. Although we worked out a solution where we dug out an area around the riser line so the mark is visible and accessible, the PG&E crew should have been on the ball and verified that the riser was at the correct level. We almost had to dig up and move a portion of the line. If you get this work done, be sure the popup riser is properly above grade before they backfill!


400 Amp panel and delays from PG&E

My electrician suggested a 400 amp panel. He suggested that a solar connection would reduce the amperage rating somewhat. I really was unsure of the need but I went with it. In the end the 400 amp panel required a transformer upgrade from PG&E that head a lead time of more than 2 months. Although the project ran out to the electric date anyway it was a bummer not to know this earlier.

I since have talked to several contractors who said that 400 amp panels are becoming more normal and desirable because of future proofing with electric HVAC and cars. So at first I was unsure but feel like it was the right move for new construction. That said my neighbor has a 200 amp panel with an 11Kilowatt system and has no problem.

PG&E Gas Line Issues

The gas line install was incredibly expensive – in excess of $30K. Given that menlo park is not going to allow gas in new construction – except for a stove – you may want to consider foregoing a gas hookup completely. For us, the planning and construction of the new line was extremely disruptive, expensive, time consuming and caused serious stress.

Design was more than $10K. This for a single page plan that showed the trench from the main to our new gas meter. This process took 1-2 months.

The gas line trench and install in the street took more than a month and for at least that long there were metal plates over the trench which were messy and disruptive.

Once we had the design we were ready to start. But it was months before we actually broke ground.

PG&E Gas shutoff before demo

PGE has caused major delays in our project. Some could have been much worse. If you are doing new construction in menlo park you or your contractor should be aware of these issues.

For starters, there was a 4 month lead time for the gas disconnect. The demolition could not proceed until we had the shutoff from PGE. Fortunately I had warning about this so had started the ball rolling early, but we were still behind schedule because of waiting for PGE to disconnect the gas.

Review of Benitez Concrete for our new foundation

Benitez Concrete

*** Highly Recommended ***

Our project was a new construction 2600 sf home with a 260 sf detached garage in Menlo Park. We needed a perimeter foundation with no basement for the house and a slab for the garage.

I found Paul Benitez’s company online and asked for a bid. He provided an thorough and detailed estimate that was quite competitive in price. We ended up accepting his bid and started the foundation in 9/2018.

Benitez construction built us a high quality foundation on budget and on time. Benitez’s work and craftsmanship were expert with great attention to detail. We had one minor hitch due to a mistake by the architect and Benitez handled the change quickly and fairly.

Overall, I would give Benitez concrete the highest rating and recommendation.

We hope to employ Benitez Concrete for future work on our driveway.

Isomorphic React Platform choices

Finding and utilizing a technology stack for react isomorphic/universal projects has been a difficult process. I have spent a lot of time investigating the many boilerplate projects on github. These mostly non-opinionated projects receive a flurry of interest for a period of time then activity seems to wane. Clearly the idea is that the User will maintain and enhance the stack, but this can become a time consuming issue.

For my latest project that began in the spring of 2016 I utilized the CrocoDillon universal react redux boilerplate. I selected it because it was current, utilized react/redux/react-router and was easy to understand. It had a simple solution to preloading data: utilizing the react-router onEnter functionality. Unfortunately I don’t see further updates or activity on the project at this point. Such appears to be the world of github boilerplate/framework projects, things may look exciting initially and then interest is lost or perhaps the author becomes too busy.

On the other hand there are more extensive frameworks that receive continuous activity. After almost a year of working with a “boilerplate” I am ready to migrate to a more opinionated framework as I don’t wish to be the sole maintainer of the technology stack, although I still like to pick my poison. At this point I have found two react isomorphic/universal frameworks that are clearly supported and continually updated.

Redfin’s react-server which is the server behind some portions of the Redfin real estate site. A real estate website is a perfect example of the need for an isomorphic/universal approach as thousands of cities/neighborhoods/markets need to be indexed to appear on google. react-server not a boilerplate but instead a complete framework that is heavily supported and well documented. Yet core support is lacking: The listen directive has precious little documentation yet is a fundamental component. Nonetheless, the github react-server project has enormous activity and support through many authors. A drawback is that it utilizes Yahoo routr and it’s RootContainer/RootElement approach is certainly different and poorly documented.

The github author Nikolay who appears to be out of Moscow, Russia has a different approach. This is the author of webpack-isomorphic-tools which is used in many react-isomorphic projects. That project has been improved with universal-webpack that is employed along with react-isomorphic-render as framework components that are used together as with this sample project. Investigating the activity of the project shows it is well maintained and actively supported by the author. Documentation is extensive as is github activity. Certainly a smaller framework then Redfin’s react-server, it offers a “settings” approach with it’s integrated server, a packaged approach to redux action creators and reducers and other “integrated” features. One important feature is the Page preloading that will load data before the page is rendered – a prime requirement.

So which to use? Both are actively supported and employ the latest development features. If your goal is a solid framework foundation backed by a large company then Redfin’s react-server is the easy choice. If you like react-router and a more standard approach to react/redux then universal webpack and react isomorphic render might be choices worth considering. At any rate I will be posting an update with more insight as I port the Databreeze project to one of these platforms.