Natelli Homes Blog

altA new custom home built by Natelli Homes for the Darvish / Fallahi family was recently featured in Bethesda Magazine. The details and character of the home fit the client perfectly. Take note of the spectacular iron railings, the tile-work in the bathroom and the enormous kitchen with stone and marble countertops and WoodMode cabinets.


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In case you missed the New York Times recently, as I did, there was a feature on Marvin Windows that tells the story of this family owned company in our currently challenging economy. The article confirms not only why they are a good employer, but gives me affirmation that their commitment to their employees translates into the exceedingly high quality of their product.


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It is late Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, a very quiet business day, many people are traveling to their families for the holiday and we plan to close the office early so our employees can get some extra time at home.  This is one of those days when you can catch up on all the busy work without interruption - even e-mail traffic is slow.

Then I get the call.  Not one of those calls about an accident or an emergency regarding someone's health, but an emergency call nonetheless.  A client calls about a sink in a granite top that has an issue and they can't use the sink.  My immediate thoughts wander through the true urgency of the call, but the more I listen the more I understand this could affect the pending Thankskgiving holiday for our client.  But it is close to 11:00, late in the morning, the day before a long holiday weekend - how in the world can I realistically help?

All I can do is call Greg, the supervisor who built the home, and see if he can put a band-aid on the problem, enough at least to get them through to Monday.  Greg is probably having the same day as I am, things progressing in order, somewhat quiet and many discussions about the weekend plans, football games and time with family.  I hate making the call to Greg, but what choice do I have?  The problem with this client's sink could effect their whole Thanksgiving weekend.

Within 4 hours of making that call on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Greg had the sink repaired and the house ready for the holidays for our client.  Greg could have easily said, "this is impossible - it's the afternoon of the day before Thanksgiving and I don't have any of the subcontactors at any of my jobs that can fix this problem".  But without any hesitation, Greg rallied the necessary vendors, dropped what he was doing and got  the sink repaired.  Credit also goes to the team at R. Bratti & Associates, who did the same as Greg, recognized the nature of the situation, knew the value of our clients and dropped what they were doing to fix the sink.

Looking back over that afternoon, I realize that I all did was call Greg.  I did not demand anything of Greg except to inform him of the call I just received.  I don't know what Greg did, how R. Bratti pulled crews off of other jobs and what hurdles everyone did to help our client.  What I do know is this:  what took place was engrained in Greg, his assistant, Luis, R. Bratti's employees and anyone else who lent a hand.  Our client's situation was most important - our client called with an urgent issue and our employees and vendors reacted approproately.  Not one person questioned if this was warranty work, something caused by the homeowner or simply not our problem.  The timing of the problem could not have been worse; it was the afternoon before a holiday and things were going pretty well otherwise.

I have a lot of these stories over the years.  Ron and Pete help a client when a storm drain overfows in hurricane like rainfall, Bob comes down from Hagerstown in over 24" of snow to ensure our client has access to their home during a renovation and Tom and John often help clients on weekends or evenings when the call comes to them. 

From an employer's viewpoint, I am very blessed.  Not only because I have such a great team on my side, but because my team knows the value of our clients.  We many not be able to pull off the miracle that Greg did on the afternoon before Thanksgiving, but we know how important our clients are and that we should always try to assist when we can regardless of the timing, ease or responsibility.

Thanks for reading.  I can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our website at www.NatelliHomes.com

Arlington, Virginia is such a great location for anyone in the metro DC area.  Quick access to downtown Washington, great neighborhoods, interesting regional restaurants and an abundance of good schools make this one of the most desired places to live in D.C.  Unfortunately the age of the housing stock makes it more difficult for a family to find exactly the right fit for a home.

One of the many strengths of Natelli Homes is the ability to provide exceptional value without sacrificing quality.  Builders have many way to cut costs during construction, but our standards are not going to change whether we are building a custom home for millions of dollars or a home for a client with lower budget.  In fact, many of the vendors and subcontractors used on projects at both ends of the price spectrum are often the same.

altEspecially in Arlington and Bethesda, we work with clients to evaluate the potential to renovate verses the possibility of tearing down an existing home and building new.  Building new does not mean building expensive; one just has to be smart about making the right choices.

altThis home will have  engineered floor systems spaced at 16" on center, not 24" on center just to meet the minimum code requirements, clad aluminum windows with Low-E high performance glass, hot water recirculating water lines and many other features that are always included in a Natelli home.  The home even incorporates a split zone heating and air conditioning system to address the needs of particular rooms when needed, not just blast air throughout the home when the fan comes on.

We will keep you posted about the progress and features of this fine new home in future posts.  Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our website at www.NatelliHomes.com

One of the most rewarding parts of home construction is learning about new products and techniques and using them in our homes.  Our clients are the beneficiaries of our research and the progressive nature of innovative manufacturers.   In the past decade, immeasurable improvements have been made in window standards, waterproofing materials, adhesives, drainage products, plumbing products, electrical devices, heating and air conditioning and the list goes on.  Building products manufacturers recognize the advantages they gain by listening to builders and learning from home owners and users of their products.  Consumer awareness grows exponentially with increased information via the internet and vast amounts of information available in the media.  A recent improvement relates to the reduction of formaldehyde in building products.

Formaldehyde is a very simple molecule (H2CO) consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It occurs naturally and is readily broken down by microbes that live in the soil and water. It also degrades in the presence of sunlight. The human body contains low levels that are regulated by physiological functions. H2CO is also part of the medium in which vaccines are suspended, which extends their shelf-life, and allows them to be delivered worldwide to fight childhood diseases including cholera, measles and polio.

Many consumer products contain low levels of formaldehyde, where it acts as a foaming agent, prevents bacterial growth, and preserves the quality of finished products, among others. Its use as a precursor component to many of the products used in the residential and commercial building industries has been second-to-none for decades. It is exceptional at creating long-lasting glues and adhesives for manufactured wood products. It is also used in the production of urea formaldehyde foam insulation.

altAs consumers and builders have become more educated to indoor air quality issues, greater attention has been directed at reducing the airborne concentrations of irritants in both the home and workplace. In response, manufacturers of building products are perfecting products manufactured without the use of H2CO.

altKnauf Industries currently produces a building insulation called EcoBatt that is formaldehyde free and offers superior energy retaining properties. John Mansville also offers building insulation that is formaldehyde-free.alt

altRemarkably Knauf combines sand and post-consumer recycled bottle glass to produce the EcoBatt insulation.  It does not contain phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics or artificial colors used to make traditional fiberglass insulation.  Its not the consistent orangey color we used to know of insulation, but who would care about that?

Natelli Homes is pleased to offer our clients smart products that contribute to the overall health of our homes and renovations.  We continue to look for the leaders in the building products field like Knauf Industries and John Mansville to develop new means of producing quality materials.  Innovative manufacturers combined with an informed builder makes for a very healthy home.

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You can find additional information on building insulation at the links below:

"Just do it!" - a notable trademark of Nike that catches everyones eye.  I always wanted to make tee-shirts for my employees that said, "Just do it right!"  I paused for fear of trademark infringement, but still like the message.  I am confident that our team thinks that way, even though we don't have the tee-shirts.

altIn the case of replacing a dormer window, it would have been easy to plug the new window in and consider the job done, but that would have been a huge disservice to our client.  The trim around the window was rotting and the siding was all but deteriorated.  I wonder how much water was getting into the home through the trim and siding alone.

altWe chose to remove everything, down to the exterior sheathing so we could observe the flashing and ensure that the dormers were flashed, sealed and water and air infiltration were managed properly.

The new finished product assures our client of a weather-proof installation that will stand the test of time.  We used synthetic exterior millwork, 70% Kynar 500® cladding on the Marvin Windows and a cement based siding on the sides of the dormer.alt The Kynar cladding from Marvin Windows and Doors comes with a 20 year warranty.  The synthetic trim and cement siding takes paint well and resists rot and deterioration for years to come.  The future maintenance requirements will be minimal.

Always look at the bigger picture and don't cut corners on a significant investment such as window replacements.  Find a contractor that is familiar with the best products and procedures in your marketplace.  Evaluating all the issues for a client up front is a detail that can't be overlooked.

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Minimizing noise transmitted from various rooms is an often overlooked component of construction - whether a new home or a renovation.  Theaters, bathrooms, laundry rooms, family room and offices all emit a potentially significant amount of sound.  For the most part, home-owners hope to keep those sounds within each room and minimize the amount of sound that travels to other rooms.

The construction industry has a standard to measure the effectiveness of a wall partition or assembly in reducing sound transmission to an adjacent room.  The Sound Transmission Class (STC) is a numeric rating of the sound reduction for a given partition type.  In general, the higher the STC rating, the more noise or sound is eliminated from room to room.  For example a typical 2x4 wall with 1/2” drywall on both sides has an STC of approximately 25 - 30.  By simply adding batt insulation in the wall one can increase the STC rating of the wall by about 5 rating points to 30 - 35.

A 5 point change in an STC rating will be clearly noticeable. A 10 point change in an STC rating will drop the sound transmission through the wall by about one-half.

In sensitive areas, one should try to get an STC rating for a wall between 40 and 50.  An easy way to accomplish this uses a 2x6 wall plate and 2x4 wall studs staggered on each side of the wall. Staggered Stud WallFiberglass batt insulation is then woven through the staggered cavities of the wall studs.  This wall configuration, which is easy to construct with common framing materials and standard insulation, produces an STC rating close to 50.

Sound travels easily through the weaker structural elements like doors, windows and electrical outlets.  Builders should focus on ways to add additional insulation or separate the structural components wherever possible.

In one of my next posts, I'll describe how to achieve a similar if not greater STC rating in a ceiling at very little cost.

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We have all been in homes in winter months, perhaps our own, when we feel a bit colder than the temperature seems to indicate.  The wood joints have opened up in the mouldings, doors, cabinets and furniture.  Interior doors and cabinet doors don't quite close or lock as they did a few months ago. We generally shock one-another or objects when we touch them.  Our skin gets rough and itchy, our eyes are irritated and our throats and noses are dry.  Those homes are begging for more humidity.  Winter dries everything out in a home because the relative humidity is low and our furnaces are blasting hot air needing a healthy dose of water vapor.

A given volume of air can contain a fixed amount of water, but when that same volume of air is heated up it can contain a greater amount of water.  So when our furnaces crank out heat in the winter, the potential amount of water contained in the air is increased.  If we don't add water vapor to the heated air the relative humidity goes down and we feel cold.  Our bodies are very sensitive to relative humidity.  A temperature with only 10% relative humidity feels colder to us that the same temperature with 45% relative humidity.  For example a heat index table tells us that a 70 degree temperature with 10% relative humidity feel like 65 degrees, but if we increase the relative humidity to 40% it feels like 68 degrees.  That is a 3 degree increase in comfort by just adding water to the air!

With that in mind, we need to ensure we give our homes the ability to add humidity properly.  One should carefully evaluate whole-house humidifiers in a new home or renovation.  altHumidification is not always one of the top boxes to check in a home project but one should know the benefits and work diligently to include the proper equipment.   A typical evaporative humidifier is attached to the ductwork near the furnace as shown in the adjacent photo on the right.  These humidifiers are effective but require periodic maintenance because they remove particulates and minerals from the water.  These evaporative humidifiers are used in the vast majority of homes in the Washington, DC area, and perhaps nationwide, but there are other cost-effective options.

altI prefer a steam humidifier (shown in the photo on the left and installed by Tri-State Home Services) which is dedicated to a zone or individual furnace in a home.  These steam humidifiers are incredibly effective and have the ablity to increase the relative humidity measurably in a home.

Steam humidifiers , as opposed to units that operate by evaporation, have several advantages including lower water consumption, much higher capacity, and increased flexibility in installation.  While a typical humidifier might have a capacity of 8-12 gallons per day, depending on how much the furnace runs, Residential Steam Humidifiers can have capacities of as much as 50 gallons per day, independent of the furnace operation.

Steam Humidifiers operate by heating a container of water causing steam to be formed, which is then distributed into the home. Most units can be mounted directly onto the ducting like standard humidifiers, and in the case of units like the Honeywell TrueSTEAM or the GeneralAire Elite Series they can be mounted remotely with the steam delivered to the forced air duct system via a hose, with a nozzle installed in the duct system.

Humidity is important to your home and your health in the winter months.  Make sure you consult with your building professional or your trusted Heating and Air Conditioning contractor.  I have several that I recommend - feel free to contact me.

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There are many fine contractors in the world, but what separates a good builder from a great builder is service; and service starts with communication.  When a building agreement is signed with a client, we ensure that the client knows what he or she is getting.  We even provide a detailed list of exclusions, almost as a reminder of items they might have considered so there are no mis-understandings.  Natelli Homes goes to great strides to ensure the client has written specifications, an understanding of the variables (allowances) in the contract and clear knowledge of the materials we will use and the length of time the project will take.

It is important that the client knows what his / her decisions will be, the timingalt for those decisions and the budget for any remaining variables.  Natelli assists the client to make complete decisions at the beginning of a project so we can execute sub-contracts earlier, build the project quicker and coordinate the myriad number of items with more accuracy.  No matter how large or small a project may be, if a client can focus on the details and decisions early, the project's success based on building quality, coordination between the trades, minimizing errors and speed of construction will grow exponentially.