Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) table of content:

Capital Improvements

What is an integrated approach in a capital improvement project?

“The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone. The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone….” Generations of children have learned this little anatomical ditty — but it’s a concept that carries beyond the familiar, and simplistic, “skeleton dance.”

Take, for example, your typical building. Whether it’s a single-family home, a townhouse apartment or a high-rise condominium, the structure is composed of connected elements. A homeowner, condo board member or apartment owner could easily update the childhood song: “The window’s connected to the side wall…”

In fact, that’s basically how a builder views those components: They are all related. So it’s not surprising that when a condo board or building owner asks a contractor about replacing a building’s 20-year-old, energy-inefficient windows, the response is likely to include a suggestion that it’s time to look at the siding, too. Replacing the roof shingles? Take a look at the gutters and downspouts that handle the runoff from the roof at the same time — and realize that this isn’t a ploy by the contractor to simply increase the size of the job.

Think about it: You don’t want cold air, or water, leaking in around the windows. And you certainly don’t want to see your beautiful new siding disturbed a year or two down the road when you decide to upgrade your home’s windows.  More than a concern about aesthetics, an integrated approach to dealing with siding and windows, for example, will ensure that the window openings are properly flashed and integrated with the house-wrap material. And all the time spent measuring trim, caulking and sealing the window and door openings can be done once, instead of repeated.

But, you say, you can’t afford to do the whole job at once! Even though you have a repair and maintenance budget, and even though your association had a reserve study done and tucks money away in the reserve fund every month, those major component replacements can be costly.

While it’s tempting to create a “to-do” list of replacement projects, and complete them one at a time as funds become available, that approach is not the most efficient for the building envelope — nor cost effective in the long run.

Fortunately, many contractors today are offering sensible, and affordable, solutions to the funding dilemma. If your association, for example, consists of several buildings, contractors might suggest doing an integrated siding/window replacement in stages; instead of doing all the siding on all the buildings, and then a few years later coming back to replace all the windows, you can set a schedule for doing both components on, say, 20 percent of the buildings each year for five years.

In addition to ending up with a better, more weather-resistant job on each building, you can probably get a fixed price now for the entire job — and avoid the prospect of higher prices down the road.

This integrated approach, incidentally, can be applied not just to siding and windows, or to roofing and upgraded gutters/downspouts, but also to other projects around your property. Consider landscaping: if you’re going to renovate the lawn, or replace hardscaped areas, take a look at your shrubs, trees, even at your irrigation system as well. Why dig up that nice new lawn a couple of years down the road in order to update that aging system?

Are Green Engineering options part of Reserve Funds?

Apartment owners and condominium owners need to prepare an annual budget, and a big piece that factors into the budget is the reserves.   The aspects of a condominium association and a homeowner association have different aspects to each and are not quite the same.

Reserves are integral to any entity’s budget because that is money saved for situations that tend to be sudden or unplanned, such as a construction project that comes out of nowhere. Such maintenance is performed less frequently due to low volume, but it does happen.

Reserves include funds for things like roof replacement, painting of building property, pavement resurfacing, etc.

The usefulness of reserves is that it offers a great planning tool, as long as managers and associations explore proactive options and show responsibility. For example, if a manager knows that a roof will need to be replaced in 10 years for about $100,000, then an annual budget of reserves would ideally contain $10,000 toward that eventual project.

As rules differ in certain states and associations, it is important for people who deal with budgets to be cognizant of not being delinquent in payments. That in turn could cause a cash flow problem down the line that could be detrimental to a financial landscape.

That brings up the question: how much should an association have in reserves?

The answer is that each apartment and condo is unique in its own right, notably in the problems or volume of maintenance that is needed. Aspects like size and location also impact how much of a reserve budget will be needed over time.   Though, there are factors that help mitigate how associations should determine their own budgets.

Some aspects include funding methodology, a five-year capital plan, proper budgeting and assessing, operating an account balance, proactive planning and fiduciary spending.

Then there is the reserve study, which is a comprehensive budget tool that consists of a financial and physical analysis of a particular community that aligns with its respective governing documents. The studies play a role in figuring out maintenance, repair and replacements; the amount of financial hardship or liability that can occur if there is not enough money saved to deal with potentially-hazardous situations can become a serious issue.

Reserve studies should be updated every 3-5 years.

Some would say the primary purpose of reserve studies are that they establish a guideline of fiscal responsibility and allow for entities to not put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak. They can save and spread out costs for major expenditures over time, making general spending more comfortable.

There are green engineering options that go hand in hand with reserves, such as the environmentally-friendly and proactive option of replacing wood fences with composite materials.

Green engineering, according to one engineering company, refers to three main areas: using art and science to create land development designs that are not only cost-sensitive and environmentally friendly, but also exceeding a client’s needs without degrading the natural surroundings of a premises; designing places for people to work, play and cohabitate; and working for both your own business entity and the environment.

The point is, managers must be aware of the overall budget but also note an asterisk next to reserves. Many unplanned things occur in the nature of a business, and rather than scrounge up leftover change from between couch cushions, being able to access stored money that was budgeted and planned is the most viable course of action.

Decks

Maintenance tips for decks?

How do you know if you should be worried about your decks? The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) suggests looking for these warning signs:
• Ledger: Is the ledger attached over siding, stucco, brick or veneer? Has proper hardware been used to attach the ledger?
• Hardware: Is there red rust from corroded metal hardware, such as fasteners, connectors or metal posts?
• Framing: Is any of the wood untreated, decayed or rotted, or are there loose or missing connectors such as joist hangers, guard post-to-joist connections or tension-ties?
• Footers: Are the footers at the proper depth and width using footer to post fasteners?
In connection with its own deck safety program, NADRA has produced a “Check Your Deck” consumer checklist that can be downloaded in PDF form at nadra.org.

Should I hire a Pro?

While suggesting that consumers regularly check their decks for obvious problems, NADRA stresses the importance of getting professional help to ensure safety. “The evaluation/ inspection of residential decks require special knowledge, expertise and experience because of the possibility of the gradual deterioration of structural materials from water, climate factors, and corrosion of structural fasteners and connectors,” the association’s website notes. “In addition to structural materials, numerous deck elements such as guardrails, handrails, lighting, stairs, and landings may not meet current safety standards as the building codes are updated on a recurring basis, typically three years. A professional inspector should thoroughly examine your deck for occupant safety to ensure the deck is safe for future use.”

Whether your decks and balconies are attached to urban mid-rises, suburban townhomes or lakeside retreats, regular inspections are essential.

While construction defects may play a role in some cases, decks that experience failure were most likely originally built to code. Unfortunately, time and the forces of nature tend to affect the vulnerable point where the deck is attached to the building. Corroded or improper fasteners, flashing problems, split or decaying wood — the list of potential trouble spots grows with time.

When beautiful weather lures residents onto those popular outdoor spaces, you won’t have to worry about dealing with disaster if regular inspection of all decks, porches and balconies is a part of your building’s routine.

Which deck style is right for you?

A deck can add flavor and pizzazz to any property due to the numerous additions it instantly provides.  From another place to impress entertainment, or another area to spend time with the family and eat dinners outside, decks are enjoyed by many as a means of settling down and enjoying what life has to offer.

Like most amenities with a building or property, the options for decks are as bountiful as that of roofs and front doors. And like those, decks come in different shapes and sizes.

The first kind of deck is contemporary. It takes a “less is more” mentality that invokes basics and logic into its design, such as straight lines and low-maintenance materials.

A colonial design is a blast from the past, using the infamous white color to create an old-fashioned look. Decorative posts are an underlining feature of the symmetrical design that offers a real homey-type feel.

Traditional styles resemble a cottage in the middle of nowhere, made of different kinds of wood and offering sharp definition. These are perfect for beach homes that aspire for practicality but not sacrifice style.

The mountain style uses heavy timber that fits the mold of a house in the woods. The decks look classier in a way, and the look of it gives an impression of strong construction. It gives a good view.

And coastal decks are good for overlooking bodies of water. A light wood, like cedar, can be paired white a white paint for posts to offer a nautical impression. The best part is that low-maintenance materials can keep such a deck good for a number of years.

Gutters and Downspouts

What is the proper size of a roof drainage system (gutters and downspouts)?

That all depends on the kind of home you have. Smaller homes will be fine with what are called five-inch K-style gutters, as well as 6-inch half rounds – both customary for residential housing because they accommodate the size of the roof and the exterior without compromising any safety.

However, bigger houses – especially ones with steeper roofs or those that are accustomed to heavy rainfalls due to their proximity and location – may need wider gutters and extra downspouts to assure that water goes where it should: on the ground, and in a safe manner.

When you look at your own place of residence, you first need to figure out the square footage of the area where your gutters are (or would be). For a “normal” roof, this would require measuring each of two slopes.

Once that is figured out, the next step involves the roof-pitch factor and maximum rainfall intensity.   Because rain has a tendency to sit longer on a steeper roof, measuring a roof slope with a level and tape can help determine the roof pitch. Then, identify what the average amounts of rainfall are in your area to estimate how your gutters need to perform (especially under pressure). Then, once the roof-pitch factor and rainfall intensity are determined, multiply those numbers by the drainage area to find out the drainage area.

If you’re not entirely good at math or assessing such statistics, it would be wise to ask a professional to measure and determine what the best course of action would be for your specific roof.

Is your roof ready to handle the rainy/snowy weather?

It is important to determine whether your roof has any issues that could pose a problem for you down the road in terms of a leaky roof and extensive damage that result from big thunderstorms and potential snowfall in the later months of the calendar year.

There’s never a bad time to assess the situation and prepare for all kinds of climate-based scenarios. This includes checking for damaged or missing shingles, checking the edging of the roof to make sure it’s adequate, and making sure gutters and downspouts are clean and open for rainfall to move freely from the roof to the ground.

Checking for nearby trees is also a good idea because even if you clean your roof (notably the gutters and spouts), falling leaves and branches can clog up said parts of the roof. They also pose dangerous threats if they get stuck up there during a storm and later have the possibility of falling down on someone at ground level.

These are all aspects of winterizing a roof for the cold season, especially if you live in the Midwest or the East. Caulking shingles and assuring security is also encouraged. Leaks, condensation and ice dams are also a big portion of winter weather effects.

In summation, a roof involves many components that compose your house’s ‘protective shield’. Don’t just focus on shingles, or gutters, or spouts; rather, make sure to look at everything and identify what needs work before it might be too late.

What are the characteristics of a good drainage system (gutters and downspouts)?

Gutters and downspouts sometimes fall in the shadows in terms of the value they possess in maintaining a healthy roof.   It’s true that roofs hold just about all the aesthetic value of a home’s exterior, with different types of shingle placements and designs taking hold of someone’s line of vision.

But what keeps a roof sustainable and a house safe are those gutters and downspouts, as they are responsible for ridding a roof of water and maintaining a home’s foundation. This applies on a year­ round basis, especially in regions where four seasons are a reality and snowfall occurs annually.

Precipitation can be a stone-cold killer of a roof, notably when the ice and water have nowhere to go. But before one can legitimately prevent damage to their homes using gutters and downspouts, their use first has to be known. Gutters and downspouts work hand in hand, symbiotically, to maintain a good, solid roof.

Gutters help control the flow of rainwater and prevent  rain damage  to the exterior  of the house, as well as preventing  ground  erosion  and damage  to landscaping  and other  objects  around  the house.  Gutters are also known to keep insects from coming into the basement or into certain crawlspaces.

A gutter system is particularly important in the fall and winter months, where precipitation and more adverse conditions are a bigger reality than during the spring and summer months.   In the fall, a thorough cleaning of the gutter system is usually advised. When the leaves are changing, they are also finding their way onto a wide array of people’s roofs – and that can cause a major problem when leaves jam downspouts and don’t allow for the free flow of water from the gutters to the ground.

The process is important as it’s one of those things where an owner should make sure the system is clean as a whistle in the fall so that various problems don’t arise in the winter. If leaves are plugging up gutters and downspouts in the fall and are left without much urgency or proactivity, then an ice dam in the winter could both freeze a gutter and the leaves and debris that were there from the fall.

If you live in an area surrounded by trees, something as simple as gutter screens can help keep It’s a much better course of action to attack the problem before it forms, and to attack it in the fall rather than during a harsh winter. Just ask yourself, would you rather stand on a ladder when it’s mild temperatures or when it is freezing cold outdoors?

In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Gutters and downspouts are on the lower end of the financial spectrum and they are an integral part of keeping not only a roof in good condition, but also a house’s foundation. It’s not wise to let water build up and sit on the roof, rather than run off properly. With downspouts able to be maneuvered and gutter systems able to be cleaned and maintained, a flurry of problems can be avoided by scheduling annual cleanings and checking on roof conditions.  The roof is like the lid of a house that keeps everything together, and a good gutter system will do that for you.

Maintenance

How to winterize my home?

A large part of a change of seasons is being ready for whatever comes next. That is especially true with the winter season in many parts of the country, as it’s time to prepare and brace yourself for however treacherous the season actually becomes. This can be accomplished with a checklist of sorts, for both residents and managers. Little things like putting stakes next to flourishing plants will let an individual know where the sidewalk ends and the garden begins, or using a econ-friendly de-icing agents —like calcium chloride—can help alleviate a problem before it even starts.

Other simple steps include: closing storm windows, if applicable, to add another layer to keep cold air out of a home; leaving curtains open during a day saves money on heating costs; keeping doors closed minimizes the space that needs to be heated, while also eliminating extra work done to insulate; keep door gaps closed so heat doesn’t escape a living space, such as attaching door sweeps on the bottom; insulate outlets and switches, as they let in more cool air than people realize; make sure the heating system is up to date and working properly; curtain installation may add both beauty and warmth to a space; don’t cover vents so heat doesn’t get caught; and use ceiling fans to their full capability—which means running it in reverse can bring warm air to the floor.

Winterization is important not only financially and health-wise, but also helps the environment by reducing carbon emission into the atmosphere. And along with these tips, investing in items like blankets and candles are little things that go a long way.

How to increase curb appeal?

Along with the mandatory spring clean-up recommended by the experts that includes landscaping, pot holes, street drains, pavement cracks, sidewalk upheavals, clogged gutters and spouts, we compiled a list of easy and fairly inexpensive suggestions to boost the curb appeal of your communities:

  • Repaint/repair entrance signs
  • Repaint yellow curb lines at entrances and intersections as well as ground STOP signs and lines, and speed bumps
  • Replace faded traffic signs
  • Repaint the fire hydrants exactly as they currently are: yellow body and the different cap color, which represents the size of the pipe to the main connector
  • Remove stains and moss from roof
  • Remove stains from siding.
  • Tour the community at dusk to make sure all street lights are operational and try to standardize the fixtures
  • Ask your waste management company to repaint/replace all rusted or deteriorated containers
  • Repaint/replace grills and benches at parks or picnic areas
  • Repaint/replace playground equipment
  • Repaint/replace house numbers, if possible, front and back of units
  • Repaint/replace mailboxes or box clusters
  • Replace broken glass in windows and doors of common areas
  • Replace broken screen in windows and doors of common areas

Options to renovate sports court?

What are the options for bringing life back to an under-used or just plain unattractive sports court?

Suppose there’s currently a resurgence in interest, and residents want to see that decades-old tennis court spruced up and brought into the 21st century. It’s time to get rid of that  tired old synthetic grass, cracked asphalt, bent net posts and poor drainage!

Here are some of the most common tennis court renovation methods being used today:

Sand-filled synthetic turf. If you like the look and feel of a grass court but not the faded-carpet image of yesterday’s synthetic grass, you’re in luck. Today’s grass-like turf is filled with colored sand, providing comfort and safety. And, installers say, the new surface can effectively span structural cracks in existing substrates.

Another new method being touted by vendors is called “post-tensioned concrete.”  In this installation, concrete is placed under compression from steel cables running through the slab to resist cracking and settling. This method can be used both for construction of courts on new sites, or over existing tennis courts.

Suspended surfaces are engineered to provide shock absorption and lateral forgiveness to reduce the stress on player’s joints and back that is commonly associated with hard court surfaces, according to Sport Court, a major player in multi-sport modular sports flooring.

Then there are traditional hard courts with acrylic surfaces, the “tried and true playing surfaces” that American tennis players are familiar with. Hard courts are favored by many communities for their durability, low maintenance and suitability for other sports. Hard courts generally consist of multiple layers of asphalt that are covered with an acrylic coating. This multi-layer paint system seals and protects the asphalt, provides the necessary surface texture for play and provides the court’s color scheme. Hard courts are low maintenance and suitable for other sports such as basketball and in-line hockey.

If your old court looks a bit seedy, renovation may not be as daunting as it sounds. Resurfacing involves the repair of structural cracks, leveling the court to remove surface depressions, and laying down a new acrylic coating. Due to MAINTENANCE freezing and thawing, of course, even well-constructed hard courts will develop cracks and low spots and will require maintenance over time. Experts generally recommend resurfacing on a five- to seven-year cycle.

And if the court is in really rough shape, contractors today can build a new court right on top of the old one. In many cases, the old court can serve as an excellent foundation for a new court. Before you know it, your court will look as good as the day you were attracted to your community with its great curb appeal.

Safety tips for winter season?

Residential communities, with people living in close proximity, can be particularly vulnerable at this time of year — since safety requires the cooperation of many individuals. While a fire might be contained to a single condo unit or apartment, it also has the potential to spread through an entire building, devastating dozens, or hundreds, of families.

While some causes of household fires are recorded throughout the year — like unattended candles, or smoking or cooking accidents — winter fires often have their roots in electrical or heating issues. An unsafe tangle of extension cords, especially around Christmas trees, the use of illegal kerosene heaters, and carelessness in the placement of electric heaters tend to top the list of fire causes.

And as temperatures plummet, managers should remember that improper or insufficient attic insulation can lead to ice damming, and potentially dangerous icicle formation.

It’s also a good time for managers to check that furnaces, fire alarms, sprinklers and smoke detectors are in perfect shape. While residents rarely even think about such things, managers know that fire codes have grown stricter — creating safer environments — over the years.

Communities should regularly update their emergency plan, too, so that residents know how to safely evacuate a building, and where to gather in the case of a disaster.

Other Safety Issues

Of course, there’s more to winter and holiday safety than concern about fires — and even small things can become major hazards at this time of year.

Holiday decorations themselves can cause safety issues. A wreath attached to a door or a deck railing can become airborne on a gusty, stormy day or night, and a danger to anyone passing by.

The sled that was such a hit when unwrapped under the Christmas tree can become a nuisance when left in the hallway to dry off after an afternoon of sliding.

A gaggle of snowy boots left outside an apartment door can create a tripping hazard for unwary residents trying to navigate a narrow hallway.

And youngsters enjoying a boisterous snowball fight on the lawn — or in the parking lot — can become a danger to other residents, especially the elderly.

Managers need to be alert, too, for winter-related dangers like icy spots on sidewalks, which can lead to “slip and fall” lawsuits, not to mention medical disasters for residents and visitors.

Maintaining safety at a residential community is a challenge at any time of the year — but winter, and especially the holiday season, with increased visitor traffic and school vacations — requires extra vigilance by the entire community. For managers and residents alike, a safe winter season can be the best gift of all.

Maintenance tips for autumn?

What should be on your “to-do” list this autumn? Let’s take a top-down look at maintenance steps that can prevent problems down the road.

The Roof. Mid-winter is not a good time to find out that the roof leaks. Before it’s covered with ice and snow, check the roof for loose, missing or damaged shingles, and remove any over-hanging branches that could cause damage during a winter storm.

Chimneys. Whether or not you expect Santa to slide in for a visit in December, a clean chimney is essential before residents begin gathering around the hearth. A chimney sweep will not only clear away creosote, bird nests and other obstructions, but will check for loose bricks and problems that could promote disastrous chimney fires.

Gutters. Clogged gutters and downspouts can lead to cascades of water landing on sidewalks, dangerous icicles and roof-damaging ice dams.

Windows and doors. Properly caulked and weather-stripped doors and windows will not only make homes more comfortable by preventing drafts, but will save energy dollars, too — and checking to see that these components are in good working order can avoid emergency calls on a cold winter day.

Plumbing and Heating. Planning to head south for the winter? Check with your property manager for recommendations on thermostat settings and water shut-offs to avoid burst pipes, floods and related disasters when the temperature plummets.

Lighting. Perform a light check at night and look for potential safety risks resulting from poorly lit areas. Be aware of any city or state regulations that might impact common areas.

Sidewalks. A low spot in a walkway may be a slight inconvenience in the summer — and a dangerous, icy puddle in winter, leading to “slip and fall” accidents, injuries and lawsuits.

Parking lots. Those annoying little pavement cracks aren’t just cosmetic blemishes — they’re open invitations to damaging ice expansion when temperatures drop. Avoid a big paving job in the spring by having cracks filled and sealed before winter arrives.

Drains. Grates that get covered by debris in summer and fall will create icy ponds in the winter. Keep an eye on autumn leaves that drift across lots and against curbs, and remove them before the snow starts to fly.

Engineering and Insurance maintenance recommendations?

Consider the property from two perspectives: Integrity and liability. After all, you want the building and grounds to function properly and at the same time, be free of any potential insurance problems.

If an insurance company sees that a community is letting safety slide, it might go so far as to cancel the insurance policy. And should disaster — such as a fire — strike, the insurance company will be looking to make sure that alarm and sprinkler systems were in good working order.

Starting outdoors, conduct a top-down review. Look for damage to the roof, siding and windows. Water infiltration will not only damage the building components, but can also create problems (and insurance claims) for unit owners and residents.

Check to be sure that handrails and deck/balcony railings are secure. Warm weather lures residents onto their decks and balconies, and every year brings news articles about serious injuries that could have been avoided with proactive maintenance.

Stroll along all sidewalks, keeping an eye out for trip-inducing cracks or heaves. While slip-and-fall accidents are generally associated with winter conditions, trip-and-fall accidents throughout the year are equally painful to both people and the community’s insurance rating. If the property has a mailbox station, check its condition after a season of buffeting winds and snowplowing.

Landscaping takes a beating during the winter; look for branches that could fall and hurt someone, as well as limbs that over-hang the building and could damage the roof or siding. Shrubs should also be trimmed so they don’t provide cover for potential criminal activity.

Make sure that all drains and catch basins are clear of debris and moving water off the property.

As evening falls, survey the lighting around buildings, parking lots and garages — and this might be a good time to consider upgrading lighting to new bulbs that are not only more energy-efficient, but last much longer, requiring less-frequent replacement work.

With your outdoor tour done, take the clipboard inside.

Safe at Home
Check all exits, to see that they are clearly marked and unobstructed. In the event of an emergency, you want to be sure that residents can leave the building quickly. Make sure the lights in interior stairwells are working, that handrails are solid and that the stairs themselves are clean and safe.

Are the fire extinguishers in the mechanical rooms accessible and up-to-date? Check tags to be sure they’ve been inspected and approved. Inspect the chains and padlocks on main valves. Review the HVAC systems; when those first warm days arrive, residents will expect the air conditioning to be in working order.

Elevators, too, require regular inspections and certifications. Make sure yours are up to date.   As your community prepares to enjoy a delightful spring season, it will be good to know that they can do so safely, and that you’ll have plenty of time ahead to repair any damage left behind by Old Man Winter.

 Energy-efficient maintenance tips for summer?

Between air conditioning and overheating appliances, people can take steps to diminish costs of energy while still maintaining a comfortable and reliable environment.   First of all, avoid high air conditioning costs by doing something as simple as opening all the windows in a home or working area.

Of course some days will be hotter than others, and sometimes it can be unbearable on a summer afternoon when the sun is at its highest point. But opening windows, especially at night, can prevent air conditioning from running all night and costing the owner extra dollars.   A thermostat kind of fits that whole theme as well.

There are three steps anyone can take to save money: setting the thermostat so it’s nearly identical to the temperature outside, which keeps the cooling charges lower; avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal because it doesn’t even make a room or living area colder any quicker; and only turn on air conditioning when you are home, which is easily accomplished with a programmable thermostat that runs on pre-set times.

Ceiling fans and even regular plugin stand-up fans can cool you off at a cheaper clip. And if your home has a fan in the bathroom, turn it on while you shower to rid the area of humidity.

When it comes to hot items, avoid them when possible. That includes using stoves and ovens on abnormally hot days, as well as using incandescent light bulbs — of which only 10-15 percent of the light is actually used while the rest is turned into heat.

Is your home ready for spring?

When the spring season comes and finally allows for maintenance to be completed, it can sometimes be overwhelming because many people don’t know where to begin.

One thing owners can do is wash the siding. It’s only done a couple times per year anyway, and doing it in the spring is optimal to rid of all the dirt, debris and winter leftover that can accumulate in many parts of the country. Clearing residue is important because it prevents more laborious tasks in the future.

The dangers of siding lie in the possible accumulation of mulch and mildew, which requires even more eventual cleaning.   Proper way to clean siding includes using warm, soapy water and scrubbing with a soft brush of some sort, or even an adequate sponge. It is as simple as extending the life of your siding.

And, finally, it’s important to inspect siding and observe any unsanitary signs. This means checking for moisture, dirt or grime that has accumulated – and the best method of doing this is to get up close and personal. Who knows, a close look may find that leaks are forming or have the potential to form. That can eventually lead to staining or streaking, which are both just headaches for an owner.

Windows are also a huge priority, probably more so than siding in terms of visuals.

Like siding, windows are often washed a couple times per year so as to rid of salt and other mildew. It doesn’t accumulate too much and, honestly, it’s just a major task that will leave owners exhausted when it’s all said and done. Still, it needs to take place.

Bigger windows, or picture windows, demand larger cleaning supplies to reach the entire glass area and get rid of all the dirt without scratching the glass. You want to use soap, but not an overwhelming amount. It’s simple and to the point.

A device like a squeegee, followed by a thorough drying with a towel should do the trick.   And if unfortunately you find that one of your home’s windows didn’t make it through the winter for whatever reason, it’s as good a time as ever to explore other possibilities.

 Exterior maintenance tips?

Nothing lasts forever when it comes to houses.   The physical, tangible materials that make up a home’s development are always improving with time, but different factors can make or break a home due to certain scenarios.

Owners will soon realize (if they haven’t yet already) that quick fixes are not always the correct answer when it comes to home safety and keeping the best type of structure for you and your loved ones. Besides general safety purposes, the visual look of exterior repairs is also important when it comes to possibly raising the value of your home or just creating a more beautifully aesthetic environment.

Maintenance is not the same for every owner. Aspects like home location – such as living in a very warm climate or a notoriously colder climate – and home size have a large impact on what is doable and what is needed. Sometimes, exterior repairs are something as simple as fixing an outdoor fence or a porch.

One such item is gutters. No matter what climate, gutters play an important role in the overall working success of a home. Often viewed as an afterthought, gutters could really open the eyes of owners when they fail and lead to even bigger repairs and growing costs.

A failed gutter could lead to other problems like drywall repairs, roof leaks and interior water damage. Gutter cleaning entails the removal of leaves and twigs/branches that may plug up gutters and stop proper rain flow.

But sometimes, even such removal isn’t enough. If a gutter is in bad shape, it may need to be completely replaced due to corrosive damage that is unrepairable (or unable to be repaired with an easy fix). Having the right equipment and understanding the problematic areas of your gutter system may be more important than you think.

There are a plethora of other outdoor maintenance repairs than can be performed during their respective seasons.

An owner could decide that they want a new fence in their backyard, be it a new style or a higher blockage from pestering neighbors. While it seems like a doable project, it may become quite tedious and require professional installation for best results.

Exterior doors are important to the look and feel of a house, whether it’s seen by passersby or the mailman. A nice front door can add a lot to a home, while doors that lead to a back porch – especially if used often – may need an update over time after opening and closing for a while, especially if pets are around. Also, a potential dog or cat door is something people may want to install as well.

For homes that have stucco, regular rate of repair might be required to prevent more costly financial measures down the road. Stucco is often forced to be repaired when moisture builds up and seeps behind walls, causing cracks or deterioration.

Then there is other kinds of external maintenance, such as power washing and deck maintenance. Power washing can instantly alter visual aesthetics by the removal of stains and dirt. Deck maintenance, especially for those who spend a more-than-average time outdoors, can update an older looking deck or just maintain a newer deck that has had recent improvements.

Other possibly forgotten aspects of general house living and maintenance includes chimney sweeping, repainting or staining outdoor wood or metal, repainting masonry, waterproofing masonry, replacing old systems (like air conditioners that may not be cost effective) and cleaning out septic systems.

The amount of repairs that come along with living in a home of your own can be drastic and sometimes overwhelming, but it is in your best interest to be proactive instead of reactive, it pays in the long run. A clean home is a happy home, after all, and taking care of everything in proper fashion will keep your home financially viable and more enjoyable to live in each and every day.

 Winter maintenance improves safety, security

Temperatures are dropping rapidly, you are dressed in three layers of clothing and you can barely feel your fingertips.

Winter is officially here, and sometimes that can lead to more problems than you anticipated. However, if you have a regular routine or know the right professionals to call, maintenance in cold­ trodden months doesn’t have to be a major headache.

Let’s start talking about winterizing decks. After original evaluation is done by the owner -which includes sprinkling water on the deck to find out if water soaks into the boards- it’s time to find out if a deck needs to be resealed. For example, if a puddle forms, then the deck should be fine for another winter season. Cleaning a deck in the fall is advised, and sanding or painting a deck can also be done to prevent more expensive or time-consuming maintenance.

Energy-efficient doors can also keep your home warmer during inclement weather. Materials such as wood, steel and fiberglass all have advantages and disadvantages as far as aesthetics and value. For example, a fiberglass door will probably save the most money, while wood is the most expensive but probably offers the most appealing look and design options.

On top of deciding what door to put up in your home, weather stripping can also be a useful tool for saving money with energy costs. It decreases the chance of heat (or air conditioning) escaping from your home, and the right stripping will be firmly installed and fit the decor of the existing home.

These and other methods can help prepare a owner for more rigid seasons, all the while allowing for a clearer conscience come those winter months.

Taking advantage of the summer season

It is summer and you are outside enjoying everything the season and your home has to offer. But if you are a responsible owner (or want to be viewed as one), then summer is prime time to start looking ahead in terms of possible repairs and maintenance.

With the temperature much higher during the season, it offers better availability to make any necessary changes –     as well as additions or subtractions that have been on the agenda for a while but have not been completed.

This list can include many things, such as maximizing outdoor space, installing a deadbolt, maintain gutters, installing a fire pit, adding or improving a storm door, and updating the overall look and feel of a deck.

Having a plan for the general three-month summer period of June, July and August can be quite beneficial in the long run. It allows for owner(s) to address certain needs with a particular schedule that will allow for flexibility, all the while knocking out different aspects of general home care that will improve the house as a whole.

For example, sealing a deck in June will allow an owner to take advantage of a string of consecutive sunny days. Drying, cleaning, scrubbing and applying the sealer will be that much easier. Then, one can focus on detergent and water to clean mildew and other residue off the deck, porch and house siding. Painting can also be done in a snap during such months.

In July you might want to check for cracks or peeling and take care of such issues in due time. Important places to check for such things include exterior walls and roofs, which includes bad shingles and possible chimney deterioration. That’s not a problem you want to deal with during the winter.

And in August, you can inspect your foundation for possible infestation or for an incompetent plumbing system. Nobody wants to enjoy a nice summer night while watching bugs go in and out of random holes in the house.   These and other things can help prevent bigger problems down the line.

Simple tips for improving my home?

Improvements need to be made and you want to find the best person for the job.

First, it’s important to follow community standards. That includes not breaking or violating any zoning ordinances associated with the property at hand. You want to start strong and not be indicted by your local government.

Once that is a go, it is important to find a certified contractor that can fulfill all your hopes and dreams. Unless you’re a master interior decorator, it may be the best way to successfully address your concerns.

Then, make a checklist of what needs to be done and what could possibly wait in terms of improvements. This method is helpful when owners are on a budget and don’t want to spent more than they have, essentially on something they may not need.

Part of that is pricing. Different places ask for different prices, so it’s important not to settle on the first good price you see because there could be something better down the street.

If you live in a place where weather is inconsistent and always fluctuating, it’s important to schedule a project when it’s warm and not freezing out. Both the owner and the certified contractor will be happy in the end.

Exterior Painting

Can exterior painting change a home’s character?

When it comes to sprucing up a home, nothing adds more flare than a complete color redesign.   Colors are everything when it comes to visuals, and it’s usually the first thing people notice about both home interiors and exteriors.   Great color symbiosis can be achieved with a brush and a few cans of paint. As most people who have visited a local hardware store or called a painting company know, the options are pretty endless when it comes to schemes and impressions. You grab your little color tabs and hold them up against a wall of another color, showing the possible improvements that will occur with a fresh new coat of paint.

Sometimes, it takes a while for a couple to agree on a certain color because both want different things. Maybe the man of the house wants a forest green bathroom while his female counterpart thinks it’s an abysmal color choice, but that’s just part of the decision-making process.

Actually, painting gives a house new life – especially on the outside. It’s like a visual transformation that appeases not just the eyes but all the senses. Also, it’s not as expensive when compared to other home remodeling projects, not to mention exterior painting can actually keep your house ‘healthy’ in the long run.

New paint, if properly applied against an already prepared surface, should last around 15 years.   Sometimes weather may impact the lifespan of a paint job, but that’s up to nature and the elements.

There are three main steps when it comes to exterior painting, and they could be called the “Three P’s”: planning, preparing and painting.   Planning is the ever important first stage that gets all the thoughts and ideas into play. Do you want to completely redo your entire home exterior, or you are trying to just touch it up with the same or similar colors? Will certain colors make your house look smaller or bigger? Do the owners agree with the new direction?

Figuring out how to do something is sometimes more difficult than physically implementing such ideas into reality. People don’t always agree all the time and that slows the process, but that kind of discussion is integral to achieve the best final result. Professionals are also helpful in this regard, offering tips and tricks for reaching a mutual decision. They can help people decide what color to choose, what kind of brush to use, selecting a sheen and even finding the right ladder for the job.

After the planning stage gets resolved, the next step is preparing to get the job done. This involves the all-important step of applying primer to the exterior (which is only relevant if the surface is in mediocre-to-bad condition), which leads to a longer lasting finish and a better overall look. There an array of things to focus on when painting, including: achieving a smooth finish; ridding the material of stains and black marks; preventing peeling before, during or after the job; using as few coats possible to still get a great finish; and improving the final touches if applicable.

Then, the painting finally ensues. Testing the paint is a good first step of advice, just to see how it looks in person and not on a piece of paper. T hen, a paint scraper or power washer should be used to rid the exterior of contaminants, such as oil, grease, dirt, rust, mold, etc. Cracks should be caulked as well.   Once that is all taken care of, it’s all about smooth strokes that will create a perfect finish.

Exterior paint jobs can change everything about a home’s character because it’s the first thing people notice about a home, whether a stranger is driving by or a relative comes over. Using nice colors and completing the job by resorting to the “three P’s” will lead to a better looking home.

How to pick out the right exterior painting colors?

For starters, exterior painting does not have to become a huge money grab. It is a common misconception that buying paint and brushes will land you in a money hole, even if you factor in labor. With the right preparation and hiring the right people if desired, cost can stay quite reasonable.

Some things not to do include focusing time and materials on things that don’t require it, such as downspouts or air conditioning units. If you have extra time and money, then it’s up to the owner. But the main focus should be on the actual house.

The same goes for color styles and how it meshes in your neighborhood. Do you really want to live in a home that looks identical to the person next door or across the street? Probably not. It looks tacky and might even confuse you when you’re trying to find your own home.

The most important thing is to realize how important colors are and what kind of impression they make on others. A unique, creative scheme can separate your abode from that of your neighbors, while in the long run increasing home values and possibly resale value should you ever choose to sell. It’s all about perspective; a little observation can go a long way when it comes to adding a little paint here or there. Painting window panels and frames can also make a world of difference.

Draw color schemes from your own imagination and dare to be different. It is, after all, your home. You should love how it looks, inside and out.

Tips and tricks for novice exterior painters?

From the outside it seems pretty simple to pick a color, grab a brush and go to town with some exterior painting fun. But it’s not always that easy, at least for some. Sometimes people need a push in the right direction.

For example, there are two kinds of paint that can be used when painting: water-based latex and oil-based alkyd. Latex cleans with soap and water, doesn’t smell as bad and is less likely to crack. Alkyd paints require paint thinner for cleanup, though many professionals still prefer it because it’s durable and dries quicker.

When it comes to aspects like preparation, it’s important to clean the surface prior to painting on it. Ridding a surface of residue, knocking in any necessary nail heads and filling up cracks with caulk or putty is an important piece of the painting puzzle. The goal is to paint on a clean surface, rather than let dirt and grime live under a fresh coat.

Some may also ask whether they should use a brush or roller, and the answer is to actually use both to the best of their abilities. A brush is good to use for easier-to-reach places like edges and narrow surfaces, while a roller should be utilized for siding up high.

Finally, start from the top and work your way down. Avoid painting on wet surfaces and get the rough part out of the way first so that the job gets easier as you go along. Above all, practice makes perfect.

Pergolas / Porticoes

Pergola or Portico?

A pergola sort of goes hand in hand with a deck, depending on how a building owner decides to utilize it.

As for a pergola, it is a garden or backyard feature that offers shading or a passageway in certain instances. It can be an extension of a house or living space that opens up to a wider area, perhaps like a terrace or walkway. Or perhaps they link things like pavilions.

The Latin terms stands for a projecting eave, which makes sense once you see it. It is bigger in height and scope than a deck or just the general ground. Modern-day pergolas are made of wood, fiberglass and aluminum, as opposed to older methods like brick or stone pillars because the former is more affordable.

Pergolas can be customized as well because of how it’s designed. An owner could hang a light or chandelier from the top of the pergola for artificial light during summer nights, or perhaps the use of a pergola could act as an accent rather than a main feature. This can be accomplished by limiting the amount of space dedicated to it, creating an interesting backdrop that adds to the conversation but does not completely overtake it.

Different architecture and designs make pergolas individualized, including adding fabric (perhaps on a line, similar to drapes) or using different architectural styles like overlapping wood frames. Colors can really highlight a backyard, too.

Then there’s a portico, which is a porch that leads to the entrance of a building whose walkway is covered by a large roof. Famous porticos include the Pantheon of Greece and one at the United States Capitol.

On the other side of the building as a deck or pergola, a portico is situated in front of a home and offers style, substance and practicality. Often situated on the front porch, covering the front door, it is almost like an extended roof.

Home porticos don’t need to render classic Greek or Roman architecture, either. They can be modified to fit current housing trends, taking the feasibility of the initial design and creating an updated one that takes into account the building owner’s preferred tastes.

That is accomplished by using modern geometric lines and materials to stand out, simultaneously improving a building’s façade for present and future value. Maybe a portico can lead to a deck, and a hot tub or sofa is sitting under the roof. Eating outside can become easier as well with the extra shade, comfort and privacy.

There is never a shortage of what can be done to make a building more desirable, notably on the outside. That way even if people don’t physically go inside a building, they can still enjoy the view and the amenities.

Roofing

Why are there black and/or green stains on fairly new roofs?

When it was first installed, your new roof looked clean, fresh and sharp.  But over time, you’ve noticed something unsettling: dark stains, streaks, or maybe blobs of black or green fuzz seem to have been poured down from the peak of the roof to the gutters.  Suddenly, it seems, your home’s crowning glory looks old, tired and unattractive. What happened?

Buildings on the shady side of the street and high humidity facing north develop black stains
from algae and fungi and in worst-case scenarios, green build-ups from moss and lichens. These organisms, which actually feed on the crushed limestone that is part of the shingle composition, travel on the wind to land on your home.

The dirty appearance caused by the roof mold or roof algae can be eliminated by washing — preferably by professionals, to avoid personal injury and damage to the shingles. But if cleaning the streaks or stains becomes a regular maintenance issue, you might want to look for a more permanent answer.

There is a cost-effective long-term solution: install copper or zinc strips at the peak of the roof.   As water interacts with the metals, it produces a chemical reaction that kills the uninvited guests.

Though primarily a cosmetic measure, this simple solution will not only eliminate the unsightly stains, but protect the shingles, help them to reach their intended useful life, and increase curb appeal.

 Why do we have water stains hiding in the attic?

Out of sight, out of mind.   Let’s face it: Unless a problem arises — like a wet spot suddenly appearing on a living room ceiling — attics are pretty much ignored.  So when a problem rears its head, leading to a trip to that forsaken spot, seeing dark, ugly stains on the rafters can come as a surprise. Clearly, the stains were caused by water saturating the wood.

But how did those stains get there? The roof sheathing is solid, the roofing shingles are relatively new, and there’s no obvious source of water infiltration. And yet there’s obviously a moisture problem. The next question is: How do you solve it?

First, let’s look at the source: In winter, moist air is transported from the heated area of the home into the unheated attic space, where it not only settles on the wooden rafters and plywood roof sheathing, but also melts the snow on the roof, leading to ice dams. On a cold day, you might even see frost on those wooden components.

The secret to a healthy attic keeping it the same temperature as outside!  This is accomplished by a combination of ventilation and insulation.  Attic vents will keep air circulating, and help keep humidity down.  Fresh, cool air is drawn in through the vents installed in the eaves or soffits.  Hot, moist air is expelled through the roof ridge or gable vents. Some vents include fans that move the warm air, but you shouldn’t have both systems at once, because that will defeat the purpose of expelling hot air.

Of course, the less moisture there is in the air that’s traveling from the heated home to the cool attic, the less moisture there will be to cause a problem in the first place. Excessive use of humidifiers and failing to use a bathroom fan that’s vented to the outside can contribute lots of unnecessary moisture to the attic dilemma. Keep the moisture in the house down, and the moisture in the attic will stay down as well.

The other factor in the healthy-attic equation is insulation. The goal of insulation in winter is to keep the house warm and the attic cool. The recommended level of insulation today for climate Zone 5 is R-49; that translates to about 13 inches of cellulose and 22 inches of fiberglass.

There’s another benefit to insulation: Not only will the living space stay warmer and the attic stay drier, but better insulation will cut heating costs, too. Stay warm, stay dry, save money. It’s a win-win-win answer to those ugly attic stains.

 Maintenance tips for roofs?

Most people have heard the expression, “At least you have a roof over your head.” The part that people forget is that the roof over their heads may be in dire straits.   NRCA Executive Vice President William Good says: “Too often, roofs are ignored until they leak — and often, at that point, they have to be completely replaced.”

Shingles and their discoloration have been a major point of emphasis.   There are two styles of shingles that sit upon rooftops: architectural shingles (also called “dimensional shingles”) and three-tab shingles. One way architectural shingles differ from the traditional three-tab shingle is in appearance. Architectural shingle tabs have various sizes and shapes that offer a more dimensional look to them and can make a roof look more distinct.

Architectural shingles weigh more and cost more than three-tab shingles. However, they are meant to last longer — decades in certain instances — and help improve or maintain home values. Three-tab shingles are on the decline in popularity.

Joan Crowe, a director of technical services for the NRCA, said algae often cause discoloration.   “Algae is an aesthetic problem and typically not a performance problem,” Crowe said. “However, if cleaning the shingles is desired, NRCA does not recommend high pressure or power washing, or using solutions with high concentrations of bleach. Shingles may be washed using a sponge or hand-held sprayer and a mild solution of eco-friendly solutions and water, or mild detergent, followed by a thorough rinsing with water.   Keep in mind that this is only temporary; the algae most likely will reappear unless metal strips are installed at the top of the roof.

Age is an issue, obviously. If you have a home/building that is surrounded by trees, trimming the branches and exposing the roof to sunlight will help prevent discoloration from occurring. (In the) long-term, it depends on age.”

The role of chimneys may be forgotten, too, in the overall structure of a healthy roof.    Paying attention to the chimney is especially important when it comes to older houses — 50, 60 or 70 years old. The mortar between bricks may be crumbling, and if it’s not maintained, leaks could occur that require a big renovation project.   It is advised to check the chimneys every five years, at least. Having a chimney cap installed can improve durability.

Sometimes, there isn’t much else to do than call a professional company to inspect a roof; it is the best way to go, in terms of safety and precision.   A certified and licensed contractor with a good reputation would be a wise investment on the condition of the roof.   Insurance companies are doing their own inspections, and if they see a roof that is showing signs of aging, they will press the owners and managers to take care of the roof or would cancel their policy.

Here are a few best practices in the industry: (1) update your information files, when the component was installed, inspected, repaired, etc.; (2) define a systematic approach to inspect twice a year; checklists are easy to follow; and (3) schedule the preventive and corrective maintenance, documenting the file.   The best time to inspect a roof is during the gutter and spout cleaning, generally performed in spring and fall.

Save money with consistent and preventive maintenance, rather than spend a lot of money fixing holes, leaks or an entire roof altogether with corrective maintenance.

How important is insulation in the attic?

Owners can stay comfortable year round by properly insulating their attics.   Prices fluctuate almost every year in terms of gas and heating homes. Rather than hang out around the house in big, fluffy sweaters all day long, a simple and effective way of coping with outdoor freeze is to insulate your attic and reduce that energy bill.

So, it begs the question: why insulate the attic at all? The simple answer is that insulation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, can cut 10-50 percent off of a home heating bill in the fall and winter months — and the insulation helps keep your home cold when you may be running air conditioning in the spring and summer.

The first step in the process is to pick your insulation. You have a choice between two kinds of insulation: loose fill or batt (or blanket).   Loose fill consists of insulation fibers that are packaged in bags and blown in place to the desired depth and density using machinery. Or, you can go the manual labor route and spread the insulation manually; however, the results will probably be less than satisfactory. The blanket form of insulation — which is one of the most wide-used forms of installation — revolves around measuring surfaces and making them fit between certain studs, or joists.

A point of note: if the insulated area is going to be a living space, regulations exist as to how much insulation should be installed. This could be because rafter depth is not overwhelmingly adequate, and it could lead to other work which may include insulation-backed drywall, framefoil stapled ahead of installation and the creation of an air gap — which is done by battening the framefoil.

Insulation is wildly important, especially in an attic; ii is almost like a safeguard for a house. The attic is exposed to all kinds of weather conditions due to its location within a home, and that can pose problems down the line if it is not properly taken care of — including being insulated in the correct manner.

Safety precautions are also important, so not being able to do the job right may accompany the increasing prospects of a potential injury.   Thus, have a plan in place to make sure your home is in good condition to withstand rain, sleet, snow or humid warmth. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your attic.

Roof Ventilation? Attic Insulation? Or both?

Weather changes not only affect mood, but they also have a big impact on how people work and live. Gone are the days when air conditioning is blasting, or when windows are wide open while the shades stay open all day.

From a ventilation standpoint, it’s important to keep air circulating in whatever kind of room is inhabited by residents. For example, some living spaces are windowless and are perhaps offices spaces or spots for washers and dryers, etc. But standards and guidelines usually exist in that regard.

For windowless rooms, it’s important to try to find a way to let air move from one room to another via vents, rather than just keeping a door ajar. In smaller rooms and spaces, portable fans can make a vast improvement if they are pointed in a direction that leaves a room. Rather than creating a cooled off area, fans are equipped to remove stale air in an effective manner.   Vents are helpful in places like windowless bathrooms, too, as they reduce mold, mildew and humidity-related damage.

Basically, a vacuum is what should be accomplished in a living space. When pressure and two openings are designed in an apartment or condo, it allows for air to enter and exit on an even keel. To measure air flow to satisfy the needs of residents, a floor diagram could help to determine how air might flow through the home. Knowing factoids helps as well, such as the fact that air does not cut across hard angles.

Insulation is also a point of emphasis that goes hand in hand with ventilation. Insulation is important in buildings that are old, as they tend to be draftier and might have warm air leaks around a home. When you realize that heating and cooling costs can increase hundreds of dollars when leaks exist, it’s important to understand that that money can go towards something useful — such as filling the leaks yourself.

Natural sunlight can be a great way to warm up an apartment or condo. It’s free, of course, and keeps tenants warm in colder months where the sun sets much earlier than in the spring and summer. Doing something as simple as opening kitchen and living room curtains can make a difference.

For those living spaces that have drafty windows, using heavy-duty plastic and taping it to the outside of a frame can help reduce infiltration. Drapes and shades also help.

Adjusting building temperature can also make a difference. Something as simple as turning a thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours can reduce energy cost by 10 percent.   Sealing leaks around utility cuts for pipes, sometimes known as “plumbing penetration,” chimney gaps, recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets, is helpful.

 What are the advantages and disadvantages among different roofing materials?

To help with those discussions, here’s a simple chart laying out the good, the bad, and the potential price tag of several popular roofing options.

Do flat roofs fit modern architectural styles?

When it comes to style over substance, a flat roof may fit someone’s ideal vision of a trendy looking home.

Flat roofs are kind of an enigma when it comes to home architecture: they add a different style to almost any house while sacrificing amenities like sufficient rain and snow drop off.

When one compares sloped roofs with that of flat roofs, the difference is quite vast based on how each type of roof deals with weather elements.

Sloped roofs are notorious for the progression of runoff that is a result of precipitation of all kinds, and because of that runoff it allows sloped roofs to usually last a lot longer than flat roofs because deterioration and other effects don’t plague them as such.

But it would be remiss to say that every home has a sloped roof; actually, the construction and development of flat roofs takes place in both modern homes and homes of yesteryear. Even some traditional homes have parts of their roof that are both sloped and flat – such as flat portions that exist above porches, garages, windows and balconies. That is especially prevalent in homes in the western United States.

A flat roof can thrive, though, if the right people work on it. With proper adherence to detail, which includes keeping it clean and using proper sealant, home roofs and home values increase.

Actually, a common misconception is that all flat roofs are actually flat – and that’s not the case. They are often built with slight inclines that are not always noticeable to the human eye, but that incline allows for proper water runoff and the lack of ‘pools’ of water on a roof due to precipitation.   Those inclines can also slope in different directions, demonstrated in styles like squashed hip roofs and toward downspouts.

Flat roofs are not confined to one particular area, however, and are seen all over the world. They are actually born out of styles seen in Egyptian, Persian and Arabian styles of architecture.  In warmer climates, major precipitation is not a large factor when it comes to flat roof construction. The main goal is to block out heat from the sun’s rays and be built well enough to live normally without much extra materials.

But in colder climates, such as in the Midwest and on the east coast, rain and ice plague many owners every winter and a flat roof is not the most ideal form of safety due to saturation and deteriorating materials.

So, what are the benefits of flat roofs as opposed to slanted roofs?   One benefit is space. If you imagine a flat roof construction on a house, you can realize that more space becomes afforded -both in terms of above and below the roof. The smaller amount of surface area requires less material and is still sturdy enough for protection.

Maintenance can help extend the lives of flat roofs. In addition to removing aforementioned water pools on such surfaces, flat roofs should also be checked almost annually just to confirm that the roof is firmly in place and does not pose any kind of threat to the owner. It should also be checked after major storms impact the material.

Different materials have different lasting lives when it comes to flat roofs, or any kind of roofs.

When you have proper construct ion and maintenance performed by a reputable company like ours, you and your family can stay safe and still enjoy the style of roof you prefer.

At the end of the day, a owner has to ask his or herself what they want: style or substance, or a good mix of both while still being able to make sure they’ll stay safe and have less maintenance to do as years pass by.

Flat roofs are not for everyone, especially in certain parts of the world, but it is possible to live under a flat roof in New York City and still live a normal lifestyle. It’s just important to recognize what makes roof styles different from one another, and in the end personal preference will usually always take precedent.

Flat roof styles: which one is for you?

Most of us are aware of the amount of choices that have to be made when owning a home.   From picking out paint colors for the inside to installing the preferred kind of front door, there are so many different sets and subsets that have to be envisioned to work for a particular owner.

The same theory applies to roofs, whereas styles like sloped roofs and flat roofs are only the first level of choice that has to be made.   Specifically, when it comes to flat roofs, the amount of types is more than most people probably expect. Asphalt and synthetic rubber are specific forms of roof types, but here will focus on three ‘main’ types of flat roofs.

The first is known as a built-up roof, which is a traditional tar-and-gravel roof built from multiple plies of waterproof material layered over smooth stone. The pros of such construction is that gravel is a good fire retardant and it’s the cheapest of the four types of roof mentioned here. The cons are that the material is heavy and can be messy to install.

The second type is the modified bitumen. It is a single-ply rolled roof that acts similar to an ice shield, and newer configurations of the material are safer and easier to install. The pros with this are the peel-and -stick material, as well as its light mineral surface that reflects heat and saves energy costs for owners. The cons are that it’s not as scuff or tear resistant and may pose a fire hazard for some commercial buildings.

Finally, the last type we are mentioning is rubber membrane. The main material is called ethylene propylene diene monomer and is a true rubber that resembles a tube. Its main focus is to resist sunlight and it can be mechanically anchored. Pros with this is that the material is light, is not prone to scratches and leaks can be easily patched. The cons include the material absorbing sunlight, which in tum raises energy costs a large amount in the long run. It’s also vulnerable to lesions.

Did you know… about flat roofs?

Flat roofs are something that some individuals don’t know a lot about. They know the basics, such as their shape and look and that they aren’t prevalent in certain regions of the United States, but there are other aspects of them that may surprise people.

There are three general styles of flat roofs: single-ply, built-up and spray on –  and each style offers advantages and differences that determine specifically on what owners want, like easy installation or lower energy costs.

Speaking of installation, flat roofs cost less than sloped or pitched roofs because of the cost of materials. That’s because materials can be purchased at a higher clip for the same amount of money, including tar, asphalt and rubber.

However, total roof costs are determined by a multitude of factors that include roof size, complexity and geography. For example, flat roofs in the west regions are probably more likely to be cheaper than those in the east because of lack of precipitation. Also, adding materials or complexity to a roof installation project can instantly raise a bevy of costs.

Durability can play a big role in longevity. Some types last longer due to materials and withstanding thermal effects, while others may be more prone to smaller shelf lives based on leaks and other kinds of weather damage. Tar, gravel, modified bitumen and asphalt don’t protect very well against leaks and water buildup.

Ice dams can cause a major winter headache

Winter is in full swing and temperatures are dipping to painfully cold degrees. When you combine the climate with the possibility that snow might (will) tum to ice, a real problem can occur.

Ice dams are a real culprit when it comes to houses in the winter season. Ice dams are ridges or build ups of ice at the edge of a roof, and they form when snow gets trapped behind snow melts and lead to puddles on the roof.

Shingle roofs are usually designed to shed water, but they are not waterproof. And when ice dams form the water often has nowhere to go but down, possibly leaking into a home and damaging the interior and exterior.

Ice dams can actually form in a variety of ways, though. The most common way, as previously mentioned, occurs when large amounts of snow fall and accumulate on a roof. When melting commences, water runs down the roof and underneath the snow blanket. By the time the now-liquid snow hits the cold edge of a roof, freezing occurs and a form of ice pocket builds up and traps all that melting water.

Hot areas on a roof can lead to interior damage, too. Areas in an attic, for example, that have strong lighting or ventilation can melt snow and lead to refreezing.

How much snow is too much?

When the worst of winter hits, are you ready to deal with it?   Sometimes meteorologists aren’t right and certain forecasts don’t live out as planned, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry -especially when it comes to your home.

When snow falls at high rates, it can leave a owner wondering if all that accumulation is too excessive for their particular to contain. Obviously, everyone has different types of roof components that include different shapes and materials. Some shingles will be more protective than others.

But depth of snow may not be the ultimate decider in whether roof problems may occur; actually, it’s the weight. And when wet snow falls at high rates and builds up, it creates a bigger issue because the weight of that wet snow is more potentially damaging than light, slow snowfall.

Some warning signs a owner may encounter when it comes to levels of snowfall include the ‘sticking’ of interior door walls, due to heavier weight that overpowers the frame of the house. Drywall and plaster around such frames should be checked for visible cracks and fissures.

But many roofs are not readily accessible for owners and can lead to possibly dangerous scenarios for those who try to take control into their own hands.

 What is ice damming?

Ice dams form when cold climates combine with water and form ice accumulations on a roof, especially one that is sloped and on an angle. Typically, the frozen water (snow) builds up on a slope and when it melts, there is a layer that forms that stays a very cool temperature. So, the melting snow will tum into ice because of the cold temperatures and form a dam –      one that prevents snow from properly melting and falling off the roof because an ice dam is in the way.

The repercussions of an ice dam can cause a major headache to a home or business. Different factors can cause the sitting snow to melt through a roof and into a house or attic, usually because of either excessive heat (from lighting or mechanical equipment) that forms from below the roof or inadequate ventilation. And because of the ice dams that exist on the eave(s) of the roof, the snow has nowhere to go but down.

While many regulations today call for more adequate protection for homes and businesses, such as longer shingles and having an underlying ice shield, the problem still occurs -especially in inclement weather. Finding water inside a home can be agonizing, especially when it comes from above and not from below.

In a case like this, it is important to immediately call a professional certified contractor and inform them of the situation. They are well-versed in how to deal with such situations, and a preventive approach to address possible ice dam concerns will minimize the cost of the repair. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

However, owners can conduct their own due diligence when it comes to preventing ice dams from forming in the first place. That is, however, only if they feel safe enough to do it. To prevent ice dams from forming, or decreasing the possibility of one forming, it is integral to not let snow build up on a roof during cold, winter months. Experts say that getting the first three feet of snow off a roof will help spur the process in a positive direction, and that’s because the literal dam doesn’t form and snow can safely melt and fall off the roof.

Calcium chloride can also provide an easy and safe way to melt snow on top of a roof. Make sure to avoid using rock salt because it could potentially damage shingles and cause another headache in the process.

A modem and up-to-date roof is also something every owner should look into if possible. A newer roof will be more sustainable in the long run, allowing for better materials and construction to alleviate pains like ice damming from continuously occurring. Bigger shingles and a nice sloped roof could be an easy solution to what can be a big problem.

Why are metal roofs gaining popularity?

Like a car or an airplane or even a pontoon boat, a house does not do much good without a stable roof.   Roofs are the golden piece of every home puzzle, providing durability and safety while also creating a different aura of attraction.

Of course there are different roofs for different needs, and an owner or business owner will want to make sure they can get the most bang for their buck. Some styles of roof aren’t enjoyed by all, and that’s OK. Not everyone will agree on everything associated with a building structure.

But for those who seek efficiency and durability, look no further than a metal roof.

Metal roofs have gained enormous popularity in the past decade alone, with sales numbers increasing and still showing growth. A big reason for sustained success and continued growth can be attributed to durability and investments.

A metal roof may cost an owner some extra cash, but that metal roof will surely pay for itself over time –   maybe even a lifetime in some instances. While an asphalt-based roof may require reproofing every decade or two (and lasts an average of about 17 years), a metal roof should be durable enough to last many decades.

It may also add to the resale value of a home because potential buyers will realize that roof work will be either minimum or nonexistent because of the makeup of the material.

There are misconceptions that exist about roofs of the metal variety, such as that they will make a home look like an industrial plant or a barn. Actually, it’s not really the case because of the multitude of ways a metal roof can be designed and installed.

Today’s metal roofs can be designed to look like other varieties of roofs, such as asphalt, shingle, clay tile, cedar shake or slate – and the best part is that metal lasts two or three times longer than the aforementioned materials. So, there is no sacrificing of the attractive roof just because metal is being used in construction because of the way roofs are designed nowadays.

The energy effect is also important. Metal roofs reflect hot sun rays in the summer and keep homes cool, while in the winter they insulate homes – which is integral for houses in cold winter climates. It’s music to an owner’s ears when they realize energy costs decrease because a substance like  metal helps cut energy costs and invoke efficiency in ways that they never imagined. The metal material is often composed of recycled material and is 100 percent recyclable.

Metal-based roofs can be composed of a variety of materials, including galvanized steel, seam metal, metal tiles, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, etc. While metal roofs may be prone to rusting, they still perform their job admirably. It is important to ask a certified contractor whether certain kinds of metal are more or less prone to rust, discoloration and other factors that may cause concern.

Like anything else, metal roofs have their positives and negatives. The positives seem to outweigh the negatives, which include rusting potential, being prove to metal thievery and poor phone reception. But when an owner can choose the exact style of metal roofing they want – just like any other style and material of roofing – it allows for diversity to remain.

Also, the life and durability of metal roofs is paramount. When a owner can notice energy savings build up month to month because of metal roofing, those financial statistics add up and save money in the long run. It’s also environmentally friendly and gives people another reason to say, “How soon can my new metal roof be installed?”

How do metal roofs improve safety and durability?

People want a house that will be a home for a long, long time.   If time is money, a house is a good representation of that equation. When people buy a home, they want to live in something that proposes great and positive opportunities over a long period of years.

If you replace old furniture and appliances with new ones, you want it all to last a decade or two or three.   Durability is key when it comes to choosing what will last and look good at the same time, and that works for roofs too -especially metal roofs.

Sal Alfano of “Remodeling Magazine” reported that homes that were renovated standard-seam metal roofing showed a rate of 85.9 percent in cost recoupment on a national scale, and 95.5 percent for homes in the eastern United States -a full 1 and 6 percent resale value gain.

It’s because a metal roofs a durable, long-lasting roof that requires little to no renovation over its life span.  When one factor in the safety associated with such roofing models, it’s no surprise that metal roof sales have skyrocketed in the last 10 years or so: people want the most bang for their buck, and metal is keeping the money in their pockets without sacrificing style or safety.

 Can a Roof Maintenance Program reduce complaints and work orders?

Roof maintenance is a part of life that is sometimes overlooked.   While people continuously check and excessively take care of their cars, electronics and other daily items, roofs are often an afterthought once they are in place.

But it’s not that simple. Owner Associations and business owners need to be aware of their roofs’ condition, taking control of the situation before something might go awry.

This includes looking and identifying aspects like proper attic ventilation and insulation, debris­ free gutters and proper installation of flashing, which helps prevent interior water damage.

Proper attic ventilation and installation are important for multiple reasons: limiting moisture inside the home; decreasing energy costs and preventing moisture. And in a state that experiences snow on a yearly basis, it is important to be proactive with your roofs to prevent snow and ice freezing that can seep into the attic and possibly damage your roof.

Making sure that the gutters’ outer edges are lower than the roof’s slope is integral as well, allowing for an adequate slope for snow and ice to fall off the roof and home.   And when most people imagine a roof in their heads, many probably see two connected slopes that are covered with shingles. What some people may not realize is that there are different kinds of shingles to choose from: three-tab and architectural (or dimensional).

Not only are three-tab shingles losing popularity among consumers, their lowest cost doesn’t equate to the same overall quality of an architectural tab. Architectural shingle tabs comes in a myriad of sizes, offering a more distinct and unique look to a roof.   And although architectural shingles are more expensive, they are also meant to last quite a bit longer than the three-tab models.

There are a number of practices regarding roof maintenance and supervision, such as checking for fungi and algae or clearing clogged gutters.   But, what just about any professional would tell any average owner is the same: let roof work be done by someone who is knowledgeable and has experience in the professional realm.

When seeking proper certified contractors, it is important to make sure they have years of skill and proficiency in the field, that they are bonded and insured and that they are licensed. Once that is confirmed, it is up to their expertise to find any issues or cite any concerns regarding a roof and its condition.

A roof can realistically cost a pretty penny if it is not properly taken care, especially after years of wear and tear and possible neglect. Roofs have shelf lives, and some roof designs are better than others. Also, as previously stated, sometimes you end up paying for better quality in the long run.

So, rather than letting the roof wither away, proper and gradual check-ups are the right way to go. Save money with consistent and preventive maintenance, rather than spend a lot of money fixing holes, leaks or an entire roof altogether with corrective maintenance.

What is proactive roof maintenance?

Roof maintenance is a part of life that is sometimes overlooked.   While people continuously check and excessively take care of their cars, electronics and other daily items, roofs are often an afterthought once they are in place.

Home and business owners need to be aware of their roofs ‘ condition, taking control of the situation before something might go awry.  This includes looking and identifying aspects like proper attic ventilation and insulation, debris­ free gutters and proper installation of flashing (which helps prevent interior water damage).

Proper attic ventilation and installation are important for multiple reasons: limiting moisture inside the home; decreasing energy costs and preventing moisture. And if you are an owner in a state that experiences snow on a yearly basis, it is important to be proactive with your roof to prevent snow and ice freezing that can seep into the attic and possibly damage your roof.

Making sure that your gutters’ outer edges are lower than the roof’s slope is integral as well, allowing for an adequate slope for snow and ice to fall off the roof and home.

And when most people imagine a roof in their heads, many probably see two connected slopes that are covered with shingles. What some people may not realize is that there are different kinds of shingles to choose from: three-tab and architectural (or dimensional).

Not only are three-tab shingles losing popularity among owners, their lowest cost doesn’t equate to the same overall quality of an architectural tab. Architectural shingle tabs comes in a myriad of sizes, offering a more distinct and unique look to a roof.   And although architectural shingles are more expensive, they are also meant to last quite a bit longer than the three-tab models.

There are a number of practices owners could do regarding roof maintenance and supervision, such as checking for fungi and algae or investigating clogged gutters.   But, what just about any professional would tell any owner is the same: let roof work be done by someone who is knowledgeable and has experience in the professional realm.

When seeking certified contractors, it is important for owners to make sure they have years of skill and proficiency in the field, that they are bonded, insured and licensed. Once that is confirmed, it is up to their expertise to find any issues or cite any concerns regarding a roof and its condition.

A roof can realistically cost a pretty penny if it is not properly taken care, especially after years of wear and tear and possible neglect. Roofs have shelf lives, and some roof designs are better than others. Also, as previously stated, sometimes you end up paying for better quality in the long run.

So, rather than letting your roof wither away, proper and gradual check-ups are probably the right way to go. A owner will save much more money with consistent and proper maintenance, rather than spend a lot of money to fix holes, leaks or an entire roof altogether.   And, remember: it’s only a roof if it protects you from the outdoors.

 Staying warm (or cool): the importance of attic insulation

As seasons turn, especially in the eastern and Midwestern United States, many people find that warmth and sunshine become more uncommon in exchange for colder bursts of weather.

But owners can stay comfortable year round by properly insulating their attics.

Prices fluctuate almost every year in terms of gas and heating homes. Rather than hang out around the house in big, fluffy sweaters all day long, a simple and effective way of coping with outdoor freeze is to insulate your attic and reduce that energy bill.

So, it begs the question: why insulate the attic at all? The simple answer is that insulation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, can cut 10-50 percent off of a home heating bill in the fall and winter months – and the insulation helps keep your home cold when you may be running air conditioning in the spring and summer.

The first step in the process is to pick your insulation. The Do-It-Yourself Network said it’s a choice between wanting a ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ roof space. A cold roof requires insulation at the supports to stop the escape of heat through the roof, while a warm roof is insulated between and under the roof’s rafters.

Then, owners have a choice between the two kinds of insulation: loose fill or batt (or blanket).   Loose fill consists of insulation fibers that are packaged in bags and blown in place to the desired depth and density using machinery. Or, you can go the manual labor route and spread the insulation manually; however, the results will probably be less than satisfactory.   The blanket form of insulation – which is one of the most wide-used forms of installation – revolves around measuring surfaces and making them fit between certain studs, or joists.

Whether you do it yourself or hire a certified contractor to do it for you, the process will be the same. It will be determined whether a vapor barrier will be needed and, if so, that barrier will be rolled out, cut and laid out between joists. Once stapling takes place, holes are cut and the insulation is tucked in against the sides of the joists. Layers are also built as well.   That process of the blanket insulation is only part of it. If you are doing the loose-fill insulation, you still have to go through pipework and storage decking, pipe insulation and deep filling.

Also, a point of note regarding insulation: if an area being insulated is going to be a living space, regulations exist as to how much insulation should be installed. This could be because rafter depth is not overwhelmingly adequate, and it could lead to other work which may include insulation-backed drywall, framefoil stapled ahead of installation and the creation of an air gap – which is done by battening the framefoil.

Basically, the job of insulating attic is big or small, depending on who is doing it. Professionals in the industry are experienced in such an area, and odds are that they can probably do it more quickly and efficiently than the average person.

Insulation is wildly important, though, especially in an attic that is almost like a safeguard for a house. The attic is exposed to all kinds of weather conditions due to its location within a home, and that can pose problems down the line if it is not properly taken care of-       including being insulated in the correct manner.

It is advised that if someone attempting to install installation is not familiar with the process, from filling in holes to properly covering joists to sealing air leaks, the best course of action is to hire someone. Safety precautions are also important, so not being able to do the job right may accompany the increasing prospects of a potential injury.

Thus, have a plan in place to make sure your home is in good condition to withstand rain, sleet, snow or humid warmth. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your attic.

Skylights

Maintenance tips for skylights?

Here are a few tips on keeping that window on the world in good shape.

Wood maintenance: At least every two years, remove the varnish or paint, and when dry, apply a coat of water-based acrylic varnish/paint. While doing this maintenance, be sure to cover gaskets to protect them and ensure proper operation.

Cleaning the window pane: Use a soft, clean, lint-free cloth/chamois leather/nonabrasive sponge or a clean non-metal window squeegee to remove any accumulated dust or dirt. Avoid the use of chemicals and water.

Cleaning the filter: The filter can be removed and washed with ordinary household cleaners. New filters are available from the dealer’s website.

Cleaning the flashing: Through the year, leaves, pine needles and other wind-blown debris may accumulate around the skylight exterior. That debris should be removed from the flashing around the window, at least once a year.

Removing snow and ice: In areas with prolonged cold periods with heavy snowfall, the skylight will become covered. When the temperature changes, it will start melting and re-freezing; if there’s any chance of a leak, this cycle will exacerbate it. Be wary, however, of scratching the glass during any roof snow-removal operations.

Condensation: When condensation forms, it is a warning sign that the home needs better ventilation. Close the doors of kitchens and bathrooms, and use exterior-vented fans to move moist air out of the home. The optimum temperature to avoid condensation problems is 68°F.

Do skylights cut energy costs?

 Why do you people choose skylights when they could very easily have a home complete with artificial lighting?   There is not one answer to that question. For some, a skylight offers a completely unique and different perspective that is more inviting to everyday life. Instead of perhaps opening blinds or flipping a wall switch, the light presents an almost encompassing feeling over certain parts of an entire structure. That is a welcoming feeling that is not so much overwhelming as it is beautiful.

A skylight also create a disparity between what some may consider a ‘normal’ home complete with artificial lighting and a variety of incandescent lighting , and that of a home with natural lighting that enters rooms at different angles. When one perhaps walks into a home and sees a skylight up close and personal, it can be a wondrous experience.

There variety of styles of skylights that exist also encourage owners to maybe build or modify their homes in different ways. Skylights can be sloped, fixed (not able to be opened or modified), operable (able to be modified by individuals to alter lighting and venting) and retractable (opened for heating purposes and transparent).

Also, energy rates and personal views on conservation play a role in choosing skylights over artificial lighting.   As energy conservation has become more important on a global scale the past few decades, new designs and options continue to enter the market and offer a plethora of options.

Solar lighting, in particular, is becoming a huge part of the “green movement” that continues to gain steam in the United States. Studies have concluded that natural lighting can cut energy costs by as much as 80 percent in some places, and that is a byproduct of how long natural daylight lasts. It lowers prices, decreases environmental impact and saves energy for other particular uses. Even on days that are not as bright due to sunlight, natural light still makes a major impact in terms of vision and energy savings.

Skylights may be an acquired taste, but their use is palpable when it comes to not only cutting energy costs but also illuminating a home or any other type of architecture. Skylights can be of different shapes and sizes, can be used in different-sized rooms and offer a variety of options for someone to choose from.   If anything, purchasing less light bulbs for lamps and ceiling lights may sway someone to go the skylight route.

What to consider when installing a skylight?

So you as an owner have pondered whether a skylight is what you desire.   What’s the next step?   First, you have to figure out what you want and where you want it.   Maybe you want a smaller skylight in a den area that adds just enough natural light, or perhaps it ‘ s a wide open skylight looming over a large living room.

Either way, there are many brands and styles to choose from. Some people may be inclined to go the less expensive route while sacrificing aesthetics, which in the long run may not be worth the headache because cheaper materials won’ t last long.

There a wide variety of options to consider when installing a skylight. Daylighting is used for elements that allow direct or indirect sunlight while sustainable building options provide a solar element.

A fixed unit skylight is non-operable, or provides no ventilation. An operable skylight, or roof window, is supported by a frame window.   Then, there is the retractable skylight. It rolls on a set of tracks so that the outdoors can properly enter a structure, while also not being blocked. A tubular daylight device, or TDD, condenses light and is often used in darker areas.   Materials for skylights range from glass to plastic, although glass is more durable and long lasting.

 How to choose which skylight is right for you?

Skylights offer natural illumination and a great alternative to energy-hogging artificial lighting, and the arguable best part is that each room and skylight can fit an individual’s specific vision.

It used to be that installing skylights in a home posed somewhat of a perilous decision due to how they were constructed, what materials they were made of and possibly eliminating heat loss.   Those days are long gone, though, and there is now a plethora of pragmatic and alluring options.

First, owners must understand their roof slopes, notably ceiling style and frame configuration. A ceiling style and configuration is important to know and understand because that leads to how the skylight will be constructed. Sometimes, a wider skylight can be achieved by adjoining two smaller skylights.   Ceiling styles include flat, cathedral, sloped and flat walls.

Then, the fun part starts: deciding which kind of skylight to construct, choosing from styles that include tempered, laminated, impact, snow load and others. Also, considering a mounting system is important because different models save money for owners while sacrificing the actual style of skylight they want.

After all the details are sorted out, little things have to be thought about as well, such as making sure more light comes in through a bathroom or a den. A skylight is not just about an open window on a ceiling; it’s about a transformation to a home that can pay dividends.

Wall cladding: siding and masonry veneers

How to choose between siding (vinyl, fiber cement, wood) and masonry veneer (stone, brick, stucco)?

Like it or not, a building’s exterior surface speaks volumes to all who pass by — and if that surface is faded, dingy, dirty or damaged, the message sent about the building, its residents and management is a negative one.

But there’s no way around it: wood clapboards, vinyl siding, even seemingly solid stucco, will eventually show their age. Wood may splinter or warp; vinyl may fade or crack; stucco may flake and peel. At some point, building boards and managers will realize that it’s time to bite the bullet, give up on the never-ending rounds of maintenance, and replace the well-aged cladding.

That gives rise to the quandary: What’s the best material to install today in order to give a building the bright, new look that will make residents happy to call it home?

Unfortunately, as with so many things in life (and in construction), there’s no single or easy answer. Every material has pros and cons, costs and benefits to weigh — and the considerations go beyond the building’s skin-deep beauty. Factors to consider include ease of maintenance, fire resistance and anticipated lifespan.

As owners and Boards debate ways to get the biggest bang for the buck, questions that arise can include: What’s the material’s track record? How much will regular maintenance cost? Is the product environmentally-friendly?

To help with those discussions, here’s a simple chart laying out the good, the bad, and the potential price tag of several popular cladding options today.

What is insulated siding?

Well, it basically takes the normal siding approach and makes it more effective in terms of home insulation and siding support. It involves expanded polystyrene that fit the different contours of siding panel that are on a house/building.

The effects are even greater: it provides outstanding insulating properties that are five times higher than the average of conventional insulation. The benefit for the people inside the house may be even more remarkable, whereas the insulation creates a cozier atmosphere that adds strength and an instant thermal improvement. And as the temperature in the home becomes more adequate, so will the dollars that pile up in your wallet.

The best bet is to consult a professional installer, to find out all the information relating to the advantages and disadvantages of insulated siding.

Maintenance tips for siding?

There are certain do’s and don’ts, when it comes to keeping siding in top shape without destroying the material or minimizing its life.

One thing any owner or maintenance crew can do is wash the siding. A project that can be done a couple times a year, it helps get rid of dirt and grime that builds up over time. The key is to wash the residue before buildup forms and then it becomes a huge, laborious project.

Another tip is pretty self-explanatory: take care of it. Don’t let your kids ram their bikes into the siding, and watch not to accidentally brush up against it with your car or golf clubs or what not. While siding like vinyl doesn’t dent, it can crack or break — especially if you live in a colder climate. Also, be careful not to leave grills or other hot material near siding because it may melt the siding.

And, finally, it’s important to not only check out the siding from time to time, but also to inspect it. This means getting close to the siding and checking for moisture, dirt or grime that has accumulated and is not seen by the naked eye from a distance. Inspecting may conclude in the discovery of leaks, which may lead to staining or streaking — an even bigger problem because that may say bigger problems are ahead. Nails or screws that may be loose might give you a hint that other problems are awry.

Extreme maintenance is not warranted in most cases, but it’s important to check up on and inspect siding every once in a while for the most positive results.

 How to pick the right siding for your home?

Let’s face it: looks are everything in our society.   Whether you are a big timer in the corporate world or a talented athlete or a supermodel, appearance means a lot – whether we like it or not. The same thing applies to inanimate objects like, say, your home.

That’s right. The interior and exterior of a house says a lot about who you are, and it gives others a glimpse into the kind of person(s) living in such a place. If you are driving down a street and see a rundown home that is not taken care of, you are bound to make some assumptions about the people who live or own that house.

And when it comes to the exterior siding of a home, the options are plentiful.

First, people have to know what they want in terms of water resistance, ease of installation, energy efficiency, aesthetics, versatility and durability. It is ultimately up to personal taste, though, as to how the siding will add character to your home.

Siding, after all, adds color and definition to any home. But beyond how something looks is how it performs, so the person with the most beautiful siding may also have siding that is not as durable or was a pain to install.

The good part is that there are many different types of wall cladding to choose from, including: Siding -vinyl, wood, fiber cement, PVC (like a vinyl-plastic combination), or Masonry Veneers -brick, stucco and stone.

Fiber-cement siding has gained popularity over the years due to its affordability, low maintenance, and how it is anti-flammable and prevents termites. Available in a wide array of styles and textures, fiber-cement siding may pose problems that result from high levels of moisture. Older homes may also need more construction if fiber-cement siding is to be used.

Stone siding, like granite or limestone, presents a visually appealing look to a home’s exterior. Stone is on the higher end of the price spectrum due to the materials needed, as well as the possible difficulties associated with adding stone to an existing exterior. However, stone-veneer siding may be more cost affordable and comes in both natural and synthetic forms. Also, stone siding should last an almost infinite amount on most houses.

Windows and Doors

Why do new replacement windows/doors leak?

No matter how good-looking, or how high their energy-efficiency ratings they are, when they’re in place, they’re only going to be as good as the installation job. When looking at such a major— and often costly — project as replacing a houseful of windows, it’s important to make sure the job is done right.

It is a common practice to replace windows and doors by removing the old component(s) without inspecting the frame and the surroundings.  It is easy, quick and cheap — but not necessarily professional.

The best way to ensure an air/water tight installation is by removing the entire window and frame, replacing deteriorated wood, adding house wrap, flashing the sides and leaving the bottom free to breathe.  Make sure the new window or door has flanges and that a mechanical top has been added, and that a material like QUAD Advanced or its equivalent is used instead of silicon caulk.

After all, homeowners want their new doors and windows to look sharp, work properly, and last a long time. As with many home improvement projects, spending a little extra time and money to do the job right will pay off in the long run.

What is the right style of window for my home?

Choosing a window style is about as important as choosing what car you drive: everyone will see it and have an opinion on what you decided.

First, one has to identify what they want in house windows. That can include windows that easily open and close, bringing sunlight into a home while simultaneously ventilating the home and keeping it a brisk temperature. Or maybe practicality is second to aesthetics, which include going the traditional route or choosing something more modem and fresh.

Double-hung windows are really popular because they are made up of two layers of paneling that can either open from the top or bottom. The panels remain in the frame to give the owner options, including the ability to “pop out” the window and achieve even more ventilation.

Casement windows look modem and are operated by a crank. Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outward to let air inside. A picture window is just as it sounds, offering a stationary, picturesque view of the outdoors. And slider windows are commonly seen in many homes, sliding on a track “over” stationary windows. Transom windows are located above windows and can be stationary or operative. Stationary windows do not open but they can be adjusted to fit a certain shape or angle. Finally, bay windows are somewhat fancy and give owners more space because they protrude outside.

It all depends on what the owner wants in terms of size, shape and materials. Some will want vinyl while others prefer aluminum or wood. Personal preference or practicality will win out in the end.

Why a door is more than just an opening to another avenue?

Doors are often on the latter part of any home improvement list. A door is often akin to the same mentality that goes along with owning an old car or not replacing a semi­ functioning refrigerator: if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.

However, that mindset shouldn’t always be used when it comes to home aesthetics. An older, wooden door can add flavor to your bungalow, while a new patio door that coincides with the color of your siding may draw cheers from your closest friends.

Remodeling a door is also a great money saver for the average owner, especially when you consider that remodeling an existing door can save you half the financial heartache of buying a completely new door.

Doors come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. The best thing is that people will notice a change in entry, which makes an impact on how people perceive your home and how it looks overall.   For example, let’s say you are changing your front door because you haven’t done on work on it in four years of living in that house and it’s time for something fresh and new. You could go in a variety of directions: you could get a similar style door with a peephole intact; you could snag yourself a door with see-through glass panels that let you see much of what is happening outside; or maybe you can get a big cellar-type door to let people know you think of your home as a castle.

One of the more recent trends in interior (and exterior design) is remodeling entry doors with a type of decorative glass. This process has gained traction and popularity because of two main reasons: the look and the possibilities.

Adding glass paneling to a door instantly adds another level of attraction and increases the status of a home. That visual change adds plenty in the way of perception, for both the owner and those who see such doors. And the many custom combinations that are possible also make glass paneling a reasonable addition to any home, as people can pick their own desired panels by specifics (size, design, and style) and transform elements of existing aesthetics.

When you imagine all the possibilities that come along with a door change –   whether it be that of a front door, side door, and bedroom or bathroom door: it can be just as exhausting as picking out a dining room table and living room sofa. You need to think about color, how the color of the door interacts with the walls and rest of the house, whether you want see-through elements and what kind of material you seek.

And you can even decide whether or not you want your home to have screen doors (in the warmer months) that keep insects out but let you keep your doors open freely and without worry. If you live in a colder climate and don’t obviously want cold air blowing through the screen, just swap in the glass fixture and your problem will be solved.

Owners are always looking for that next improvement, something will stand the test of time while adding a new flavor that is cost-efficient. With the endless amount of designs available, along with the value that comes out of each addition, craftsmanship should mold with personal selection.

So, make the investment and take the plunge towards something that people unfortunately forget to think about in the long run. Doors are often forgotten because they only serve the purpose of cutting humanity off on two different sides, but people do notice and will complement a door that adds a touch of splendor.

Whatever door you walk through next, remember that it took some thought for whomever put that door there in the first place.

Storm doors:  What fits your needs?

So, you’ve finally decided that you want to purchase a storm door that will not only improve ventilation in your place of living, but it will also keep away those pesky flying insects that so often try to sneak into the house.

First of all, you have to decide what kind of door you want. There are different types of materials storm doors are made from, ranging from wood to aluminum to plastic (vinyl and fiberglass).

Then, you have to decide which of the three styles of doors you want installed. One is the full­ view door that includes a full glass panel and an interchangeable full screen. Another is the retractable door that has a screen that literally rolls up into the frame when there is little or no use. Finally, you can get the ventilating door that includes a full or half screen that is always in the storm door.

With wood doors, you have the aesthetic value. Wood is universal and has existed since the dawn of time, and wood has and probably never will get old. Fine wood has a classy feel about it while still sustaining durability. However, the problem with wood is that weather can and ultimately will cause corrosion, which will require painting and other physical labor, and maybe even a new door.

Aluminum doors, on the other hand, battle corrosion and weather elements quite well. They don’t need much maintenance overall and stay durable for a long period of time. The only concern is the door’s thickness and how it would embattle a heavy storm, and in turn keep your house safe and dry.

Then there are the plastic, fiberglass and vinyl. Let’s start with the good: they battle corrosion the best of all door styles named, and they are also able to be molded to look pricier based on appearance (such as getting a plastic door with a wood covering). The possible issues stem from safety and price, whereas production of these kinds of doors have been known to leak toxins while the cost of getting a fiberglass or vinyl door may break your bank.

The choice is ultimately yours, but it’s important to choose a style and door that fits your budget, keeps you safe and adds visual value to your existing home.

Adding style to substance with French doors?

French doors, as they are commonly called, allow individuals to add style to the interior or exterior of their homes -all while still being able to see clearly.

The seeing part is a huge reasons why such doors sell on the market: light can get in without resistance. That ability for someone to walk from their kitchen into the living room while light passes through a French door creates a whole new environment.

That connection that forms between different rooms of the house enriches a living experience.  When one decides what kind of door they are looking for, be it a patio door or a front door, the decisions must continue as the different options of doors expand.

One could go with the in-swing French door that brings in that natural light element while simultaneously adding an attractive piece of aesthetics to the home. Then, the different styles that can be used are aplenty, such as translucent glass with a walnut backing or an oak siding with a fancy glass display.

French doors have long been a feature of different housing styles for many, many years all over the world. There is a reason the popularity of such doors have been a constant for so long, and they are still used today. And we pride ourselves on keeping that tradition alive.

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