Cover Story

Give Your Home A Makeover

by Deborah R. Huso, Contributing Writer

If you’re thinking about updating the look of your home or wondering how you can combat the rising cost of energy these days and maybe decrease your home-maintenance load at the same time, you may benefit from giving your home a fairly simple face-lift. With new technologies in siding, paint, windows, and doors, you can increase your home’s value and energy efficiency or get it ready for the real-estate market without tearing down walls, putting on additions, or breaking the bank.

 Re-siding for Beauty, Energy, Savings, and Less Maintenance

One of the most common ways homeowners upgrade the look of their homes is by replacing the siding. Siding options today hold up longer and require less maintenance than ever before.

Vinyl remains one of the most popular siding options because it’s virtually maintenance-free and is among the most affordable ways to change the exterior look of a home. “Customers today can get a wide array of colors and styles in vinyl siding,” says Bob Foreman, president of Energy Saving Exteriors in Virginia Beach, “and it now mimics the look of natural wood, brick, stone, and even cedar shakes.” Foreman says many vinyl-siding manufacturers also offer lifetime warranties.

“Your main advantage to using vinyl siding,” explains Ed Swersky with WISCO Aluminum Corporation in Norfolk, “is that it’s maintenance-free. It covers walls from exterior elements.” No painting is required, and if Styrofoam insulation is used underneath the siding, it can also help decrease the homeowner’s energy bills.

“Vinyl siding is durable and can withstand just about any type of abuse,” Swersky adds, “and it comes with a limited, lifetime transferable warranty, which means the warranty will protect a second owner of the home for another 50 years.”

Homeowners looking for a maintenance-free product that’s even tougher than vinyl can spend a little more cash and cover their homes in Hardie plank siding, a fiber cement product that is 90 percent cement and virtually indestructible. “You can get the real look of wood,” says John Aaron with James Hardie’s Richmond office, “without the maintenance of wood.” As with vinyl-siding products, Hardie siding can mimic just about any exterior look a homeowner desires, and it can come pre-finished with a 15-year paint warranty.

“Moisture does absolutely nothing to the product,” explains Aaron. “It will not burn, and termites won’t eat it.” As for its advantages over vinyl, Aaron says that Hardie siding’s color won’t fade like vinyl siding will, and it’s paintable if a homeowner wants to change the color down the road. It’s also resistant to fire.

Aaron says Hardie siding costs about 35 percent more than vinyl siding, in part because contractors have to tear off existing siding in order to apply it. It comes with a 50-year warranty against cracking, rotting, delaminating, and hail and termite damage.

Cut Down on Maintenance with Durable Paints and Spray-on Siding

Homeowners who don’t want to go through the hassle of changing the siding they already have or who have siding that’s in good shape but requires too much maintenance may want to consider spray-on siding. While it looks like paint, it’s really a polymer resin made into a coating. Like paint, it can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed onto the exterior surface of the home.

Larry Smith with Spray on Siding of Virginia, which has offices in Richmond, Woodbridge, and Roanoke, says spray-on siding has high penetration and also expands and contracts with the exterior surface of the home, something paint doesn’t do. “It also allows moisture in the exterior surface to escape into the outside air,” Smith notes. “It provides a one-way vapor barrier.”

Spray-on siding is typically 10 to 12 times thicker than paint, drying at 12 mils, and it comes in 1,800 colors. “It has a warranty against corrosion, chipping, and peeling,” he adds, “and it has only a 1 percent fade factor over 10 years.”

Smith says homeowners can use spray-on siding on just about any type of surface from wood and aluminum to stucco. He says spray-on siding is used on Home Depots everywhere. Smith explains that it’s also a good product for historic homes with gingerbread trim and lots of exterior detailing because it provides the protection of vinyl, but has the versatility to be applied anywhere. “Vinyl siding changes the way a home looks,” Smith says, “but spray-on siding just looks like paint.”

While spray-on siding costs about three to three-and-a-half times what a professional paint job costs, it’s designed for a one-time application. The homeowner will never have to paint again.

But paints are becoming tougher all the time. Sherwin Williams recently introduced Duration Paints, which carry a lifetime warranty against chipping, blistering, and peeling. “You can apply two coats in one application, too,” says Dan Giddens, district sales manager for Sherwin Williams in Norfolk. “It’s more expensive than the average house paint, but you can finish the job in one coat versus two.

“We literally have thousands of available colors in Duration Paints,” Giddens says. “These paints will not noticeably fade and will last longer than normal paints. People generally want a color change before they wear out.”

Paints can also help improve a home’s insulation. Sherwin Williams offers a product called E-Barrier, which can be sprayed in an attic as an insulative coating. Because it reflects heat, it saves homeowners on their energy bills.

Windows and Doors Can Enhance Beauty and Provide Better Insulation

One of the most inexpensive and effective ways to upgrade a home for a more stylish appearance is changing the front door. Thanks to new technologies, upgrading exterior doors or selecting doors that reflect the unique architectural style of a home is easier than ever, and beauty will no longer cost a homeowner the headache of moisture damage commonly associated with wood doors. Many new composite doors offer the beauty and insulating capacity of wood with higher resistance to rot, while a number of manufacturers of wood doors are improving their technologies to ensure wood doors last longer.

As with siding, more and more people are looking for doors that last longer and require less maintenance. Fiberglass doors have provided the answer with surfaces that are resistant to dings and dents as well as rot and moisture. Many mimic the appearance of wood and are paintable and stainable.

Many of the same technologies are also being used in windows, and replacing old, drafty windows can provide homeowners a significant savings in energy costs. Until the last decade, wood was the most popular material for window-frame construction, holding 48 percent of the market share, according to the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA). But the tables have quickly turned toward vinyl as the market leader. New technologies have enabled vinyl to carry many of the same style properties as wood while offering greater resistance to weather and rot as well as better insulation.

Most vinyl-window products today use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which allows vinyl to be formed into a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for many of the same design features as wood. At the same time, PVC windows can withstand extreme temperatures and weather. Vinyl windows also don’t require regular maintenance like painting or staining. “Vinyl is non-biodegradable,” says Energy Saving Exterior’s Bob Foreman. “It’s always going to be there. It’s also a non-conductor. It doesn’t transfer heat and cold.”

Window glass also makes a big difference. Homeowners should look for windows with a low-emissivity (low-E) coating, which will reduce the heat radiation of glass as well as block the ultraviolet and infrared light that often leads to carpet and furniture fading. While low-E products typically prevent the transfer of cold indoors, many window manufacturers now also offer low-E2 glass, which protects against cold as well as heat.

Education Is Key in Choosing Replacement Windows

Foreman says homeowners should educate themselves before looking to purchase replacement windows, however. “There are huge differences between vinyl windows,” he explains. “You can go from cheap to very high cost. Pay attention to the thickness of the frame and its construction. Welded is preferable to mechanically fastened, and pay attention to whether or not the frame and sashes are insulated.

“Since a window is mostly glass,” he adds, “it’s important to look at whether it’s double- or triple-paned and whether or not it uses inert energy-saving gases between the panes.”

Whether you want to replace something as simple as the front door or want a complete overhaul of your home’s exterior, be sure you know what your goal is in upgrading your home before you start shopping for products or contractors. Some products may improve your home’s appearance, but won’t have a big impact on your energy bills. Educate yourself on the options available, and make sure you know that your initial capital outlay in your home-improvement project is going to pay for itself in the long run, whether by improving your home’s value or its energy efficiency.

Choosing the right siding

Vinyl               

bullet

• Comes in a variety of color options, but is not paintable

bullet

• Color may fade over time

bullet

• Virtually maintenance-free; can be washed with pressure washer

bullet

• Rot resistant

bullet

• May melt when exposed to heat or flame

bullet

• Comes in a variety of styles and can look like wood, stone, or brick

Hardie Plank siding

bullet

• Can be painted any color, just like wood

bullet

• Virtually maintenance-free; can be washed with pressure washer

bullet

• Resistant to rot, fire, and impact from hail and flying debris

bullet

• Comes in a variety of styles; looks like wood

bullet

• 35% more expensive than vinyl, but half the price of brick

Spray-on Siding

bullet

• 1,800 color options; looks like paint

bullet

• 1% color fade rate over 10 years

bullet

• Maintenance-free; can be power washed

bullet

• Designed to last a lifetime

bullet

• Doesn’t change the look of house and can be applied to detailed trim work

bullet

• Can be applied to any type of surface

bullet

• Costs about 3 times what a professional paint job costs

Choosing the right replacement windows

Vinyl

bullet

  No painting or staining required; maintenance-free

bullet

• Can be formed into many shapes, sizes, and styles

bullet

 • Can withstand extreme weather and temperatures

bullet

 • Rot and termite resistant composite

bullet

 • Has look of real wood

bullet

 • Exterior baked-on finishes are resistant to cracking and peeling

bullet

 • Maintenance-free

bullet

 • Resistant to rot and termite damage

bullet

 • Interior windows can be made of real wood

Wood

bullet

 • Can be painted or stained

bullet

 • Can be formed into just about any shape, size, or style

bullet

 • Requires regular maintenance to prevent rot and termite infestation

bullet

 • May warp or expand in response to temperature or moisture 

 

Home ] Up ] [ Cover Story ] Down Home ] Reader Recipes ] Say Cheese ] Food For Thought ] Dining In ] Editorial ]