Author Archives: Marisa Villarreal

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Bob Vila’s Guide to Roofing

To help you decide which of today's many roofing materials will work best on your home, take a look at our quick, cut-to-the-chase rundown of the most common options.

Roofing Materials - Slate

Photo: advancedroofing.net

Whether you are building a new house or renovating your current home, the roof will be one of the most important choices you make. Aesthetics are important, but so too are your roofing material’s cost, weight, installation requirements, and suitability for your climate. More often than not, if you are remodeling, the existing roof will determine your choice of material. In addition, the condition and geometry of the existing roof may affect the cost. For example, if old roofing needs to be removed or the roof deck needs repair, or if your home has multiple chimneys, intersecting rooflines, skylights, or other elements, you can expect to pay for the additional work required for a quality installation.

As is the case with exterior siding, the style of your house will influence your choice of roofing material. Know, however, that many different types of roofing materials offer similar looks—composite shingles can look like slate, metal roofing can look like wood shakes, and some asphalt shingles can even provide solar benefits. Use this roofing guide to familiarize yourself with the options, then talk with a qualified roofing contractor who can explain the differences between the materials and outline their benefits and costs.

Asphalt

Clay and Concrete

Wood

Slate

Metal

Composite

Green

ASPHALT
Asphalt shingles have long been the go-to standard in residential roofing, and with their affordability, easy installation, and wide availability, their popularity hardly comes as a surprise. Although they used to be considered plain-Jane, these days asphalt shingles can be made to mimic the look of slate, wood shakes, or even tile.

  • Fiberglass shingles are made of a woven fiberglass base mat covered with a waterproof asphalt coating and topped with ceramic granules that shield the product from harmful UV rays. They are available in a full range of styles and colors to complement any home’s architectural style.
  • Traditional organic mat-based shingles are heavier, thicker, and more costly. They are also more absorbent and can warp over time; the additional asphalt content also makes them less environmentally friendly.
  • Manufacturer warranties generally guarantee a lifespan of 15 to 30 years, depending on factors like climate and roof pitch.

CLAY AND CONCRETE
Tile roofs, commonly associated with Southwest-style and Mediterranean-inspired homes, are extremely durable, lasting for centuries in some cases. Whether made of concrete or clay, individual tiles are often molded in barrel shapes for secure, interlocking installation.

  • Clay tiles are more colorfast, durable, and costly than their concrete counterparts.
  • Weight will be an issue, so be sure to ask a structural engineer if your roof framing will support a tile application.
  • While both clay and concrete offer top fire and impact ratings, they are more difficult to install and repair.

WOOD
Wood roofs are made from cedar, spruce, or treated pine, and are especially appropriate for older homes and those based upon historical styles. There are two types of wood roofing: shingles and shakes. Wood shingles are machine-cut and tapered for a trim, crisp appearance. Wood shakes are hand-split, giving them a more rustic appeal.

  • Wood shingles last about as long as asphalt shingles (about 30 years) but can cost six times more.
  • Shakes and shingles have their own specific installation requirements, making them more difficult to install but relatively easy to repair and replace.
  • Wood shingles and shakes require periodic treatments with preservatives and fungicides in order to keep from drying out, warping, cracking, and being attacked by mildew and fungus.

SLATE
Slate quarried for roofing is dense, sound rock, and is exceedingly tough and durable. Although it is labor-intensive and costly to install, a natural slate roof will give a building character that can’t be achieved by any other roofing material.

  • Slate roofing is noncombustible and waterproof, and it requires little to no maintenance over the course of its long life.
  • Most slate roofs have an extended lifespan; those from Vermont and Virginia can last more than 50 years.

METAL
Metal roofing is generally made of steel, aluminum, or copper, and can be stamped into many shapes and styles. There is no material more capable of protecting a structure from wind, rain, hail, fire, or rot than a durable and energy-efficient metal roof.

  • For decades, metal roofs meant corrugated panels, which looked like they belonged on sheds or barns. Today, metal roofing products are available in a variety of styles—from standing seam to shingles—to suit a wide range of architectural styles.
  • Metal roofs are lightweight, allowing them sometimes to be installed directly over old roofs.
  • They are effective in preventing the spread of fire when hot embers fall on them (for example, from brush and forest fires); some insurance companies will give you a discount if you have a metal roof.

COMPOSITE
Composite shingles are newcomers in the roofing arena. Made from poly-based products, they are lightweight, fade resistant, fire safe, and generally warrantied for up to 50 years. Some composites are so realistic that they have been approved for use in historic preservation.

  • Several companies have developed composite shingles that successfully mimic everything from slate to wood.
  • Top-tier manufacturers generally boast high fire ratings and impact resistance.
  • Composites can carry a high price tag, and in some regions you may find it difficult to locate a certified installer.

GREEN
Finding increasing use in both rural and urban areas, green roofs are living systems of soil, compost, and plants. In addition to filtering pollutants and offering added insulation, they absorb storm water instead of allowing it to run off. Their requirements are many, however.

  • A green roof system typically comprises as many as nine layers. These include structural support, a vapor-control barrier, thermal insulation, waterproofing, drainage, a filter membrane, a growing medium, and, finally, the vegetation itself.
  • Whether you are able to install and cultivate a green roof will depend on the slope of your roof, the amount of sunlight the rooftop receives, and the structural support available to hold up a living roof.
  • Depending on where you live, government grants may be available to help you offset the cost of installation, and some cities even offer a tax break.

For more on roof maintenance and repair, consider:

Inspecting your roof
Cleaning gutters
Avoiding ice dams
Repairing a leaky roof
Removing old shingles


Enter NOW to Win the Gtech AirRAM Vacuum!

Enter TODAY and every day through September 23rd for your chance to win a new Gtech AirRam Vacuum Cleaner valued at $349.95!

End of Summer SweepstakesDoes anyone really enjoy vacuuming?  The chore of maneuvering the awkward machine is only made more challenging by the nuisance of its power cord. Bring an end to the annoyance by entering to win the new, cordless AirRAM vacuum from Gtech during WEEK 3 of Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes!

 

ENTER BOB VILA’S END OF SUMMER SWEEPSTAKES

 

Starting today and every day through Monday, September 16th (11:59 a.m. EST), you can enter to win the AirRAM cordless vacuum from Gtech, valued at $349.95. And yes, you read correctly— the future of vacuuming is here, and it’s cordless.

 

Summer Sweepstakes - Gtech AirRam

Weighing in at 7.7 lbs., with 28 degree steering and a 3″ profile, the lightweight Gtech AirRAM has positioned itself as a heavyweight contender on the market. A powerful lithium ion battery lasts up to 40 minutes on a single charge (without power fading like some other cordless vacuums), and the removable battery charges easily in a normal home outlet. The AirRAM not only runs twice as long as other vacuums in its class, it’s 20 times more efficient than a wide range of corded vacuums, too.

Don’t be deceived by this formidable piece of smart technology– this vacuum won’t mar and scratch its way through your house. Soft wheels are gentle as a lamb on hardwood floors, a slim 3″ profile navigates around and under furniture, and its lifting handle allows it to be carried easily upstairs. When all is said and done, the top lifts off to reveal compact “bales” of dust and debris ready to be neatly removed and tossed into the trash.

So enter daily through Monday, September 16th (11:59 a.m. EST) to increase your chances of winning the AirRAM vacuum from Gtech. Be sure to check back next week to see our final prize during week four of the Bob Vila End of Summer Sweepstakes!

For more on Gtech, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Thursday, August 30th, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Monday, September 30th, 2013. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


Bob Vila’s Guide to Lawn Care

There is nothing more beautiful than a lush, green, manicured lawn. If you want yours to be the envy of the neighborhood, follow these lawn-care guidelines.

Lawn Care Tips

Photo: shutterstock.com

Americans are not bashful when it comes to expressing their love of lawns—it has been estimated that there are more than 40 million acres of lawn in the United States. But if you really want to show your lawn some love, you’ll have to do more than mow it. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to learn about your soil and climate, and then decide between sod, seed, or a lawn alternative. If you are working with an existing lawn, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the proper way to water, fertilize, and eliminate (or better yet, prevent) unwanted weeds.

If you count yourself among the lucky homeowners with land to spare for a verdant landscape, these guidelines should help you cultivate a beautiful lawn that will reward you year after year.

Seed

Sod

Lawn Alternatives

Watering

Fertilizing

Mowing

Weed Control

SEED
Before you decide on a Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda or rye, find out which grass is best for your climate by consulting the USDA plant hardiness zone map. Perform a soil test to see if you need to make any amendments before planting seed, and then follow these guidelines:

  • Till the soil and remove weeds, rocks, and plants. Consider adding fresh topsoil mixed with an organic material to improve water retention, and a fertilizer to stimulate germination.
  • For small areas you can sow the seed by hand; for larger areas use a seed spreader. Cover the seeded soil with straw to protect the seeds and help them retain moisture. Section off the area to avoid foot traffic.
  • Water daily and do not mow the grass until it is at least three inches high. Water less frequently as the grass matures.

SOD
Laying sod is a great way to have a lawn without the wait, but it’s a big job. Best done during the fall or spring in the North, or during spring in the South, lay sod during cooler weather so the grass can take root and avoid the risk of burnout. Familiarize yourself with this how to before deciding if sod is right for your lawn.

Related:  Artifical Turf: 7 Reasons to Consider the New “Grass” Alternative

LAWN ALTERNATIVES
Lawn alternatives provide as much greenery and coverage as a regular turf but can be lower maintenance, hardier, and even scent-filled. There are many varieties to consider—from micro clover to Corsican mint—so be sure to check to see which is best for your lawn, climate, and upkeep.

WATERING
Most lawns require about one inch of water per week. It’s better to give your grass a good soak every three days than to water a little bit every day. Your lawn will tell you when it needs watering, provided you know the signs. As you walk over the grass, your footsteps should readily disappear; if they don’t, you need to water. A bluish-green color and curling glass blades are also indicators of dehydration.

  • Watering less frequently encourages roots to grow downward (in search of water), which makes your lawn more stable.
  • In most climates, a deep, thorough watering twice a week should be enough to keep your lawn happy.
  • Water your lawn in the early morning, so there will be less evaporation. Grass will also have a chance to dry out before the sun starts beating down.

FERTILIZING
Grass requires small amounts of many nutrients (calcium, magnesium, and sulfur to name a few). Macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are needed in larger quantities. A soil test performed by your local extension office will reveal what your lawn needs to succeed. The results of the test will include a range of information, such as your soil’s pH.

    • Cool-season grasses (including Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue) benefit most from fertilizer in the fall, at which time the added nutrients go a long way toward bolstering root growth.
    • For warm-season grasses (including zoysia and Bermuda), springtime fertilization is appropriate once the lawn is actively growing, about six weeks after the last frost date.
    • Using slow-release fertilizer prevents nutrient overload and lowers the risk that your application will contribute to shoot, not root, growth.

Related:  Need a New Lawn Mower?  10 Top-Rated Grass Guzzlers

MOWING
When choosing a lawn mower, take into consideration the size of your lawn, the presence of inclines and obstructions, comfort (if you decide to go with a riding mower), safety, and maintenance. You want a mower that will suit your unique landscape, and be user-friendly. When you mow,

      • Never cut more than one-third of the blade; any more will shock the plant.
      • During hot summer months, cut your lawn higher than the recommended rate.
      • Switch mowing directions to prevent turf wear and soil compaction.

WEED CONTROL
Familiarize yourself with these common lawn-care problems, from dandelions and ants to brown patches. Learn to mitigate— or better yet, prevent— these pesky predicaments to keep your lawn healthy and lush all year long.


INFOGRAPHIC: DIY Pest Prevention

While there is no single cure-all solution for pest problems, together these strategies can help you stop uninvited guests from compromising your quality of life.

Fighting pests at home? The best offense is a clean, dry, and air-tight defense. The importance of sanitation cannot be overstated, but cleaning up after yourself is only half the battle. Ultimately, success depends on whether you can stop rodents and insects from getting into your house to begin with. While there is no single solution, implementing these strategies in tandem will help you safeguard your home against all uninvited guests.

DIY Home Pest Prevention

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Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Kids’ Room Storage Solutions

Corral the chaos in your kids' room with DIY storage projects that are easily affordable—and easily completed.

LEGOs underfoot, G.I. Joes behind your seat cushions, and Beanie Babies up on the rafters? This weekend, return a semblance of order at home and restore your sanity in the process. These DIY kids’ room storage ideas offer fast, inexpensive, and stylish solutions to your clutter-run-amok quandaries.

 

1. PEG IT DOWN

Kids Room Storage - Pegboard

Photo: mandyphoto.net

A common fixture in garages, tool sheds, and woodworking shops, pegboard is a storage favorite that homeowners appreciate for its versatility and low-fuss installation. Mandy painted hers a soothing gray before making it the home base for several nursery essentials, plus a few objects of sentimental value.

 

2. SPIN A WEB

Kids Room Storage - Cargo Net

Photo: shelterness.com

Cargo netting: It’s not just for camper vans! For an easy kids’ room storage pouch, affix a net to a wall, the back of a door, or even the side of a bed. Shop online or at your local sporting goods store; choose netting that can hold smaller toys but is wide enough to make its contents plainly visible.

 

3. RACK ‘EM UP

Kids Room Storage - Pallet Rack

Photo: shelterness.com

Finding a shipping pallet free of chemical treatment, termite infestation, and mold growth is no easy trick. But if you can procure one, you’re halfway to completing this kids’ room storage rack, perfect for sneakers and athletic shoes. Coat on a stain, then fasten your pallet to the wall. No woodworking required!

 

4. MAKE A SLING

Kids Room Storage - Book Sling

Photo: pennycarnival.typepad.com

Megan of Penny Carnival came up with a kids’ room storage solution adoptable by any parent of a young bookworm who has a tendency to leave scattered books in her wake. Combining wooden dowels, curtain rod brackets, and patterned fabric, Megan fashioned an inventive “sling” that mounts at children’s eye level.

 

5. HACK IT UP

Kids Room Storage - Bookcase Hack

Photo: apartmenttherapy.com

No closet? Eschew the traditional, floor space-hogging chest of drawers in favor of a clothing storage ”hack” like this one. In a stroke of genius, its creator simply removed one shelf from a modular bookcase, replacing it with a rod upon which her daughter’s sweaters, dresses, and overalls hang within easy reach.


Enter to Win a New Saber Grill in Our End Of Summer Sweepstakes!

Enter daily until September 9th to win a new Saber grill worth $1399! Don't miss out!

End of Summer Sweepstakes - Grill GiveawayWhile Labor Day weekend unofficially signals the end of summer—it’s not over yet! There are still several more weeks of warm weather, outdoor fun, and al fresco dining to enjoy. That’s why we teamed up with Saber grills for WEEK ONE of our four-week End of Summer Sweepstakes, to give you an opportunity to up your grilling game (and be the envy of the neighborhood) — just by entering to win!

 

ENTER BOB VILA’S END OF SUMMER SWEEPSTAKES

 

Starting today and every day through Monday, September 9th (through 11:59 a.m. EST), you can enter to win this Saber three burner, stainless steel infrared grill, valued at $1,399 (MSRP).

 

End of Summer Sweepstakes — Saber Grill

Designed by a team of outdoor cooking experts, Saber grills are manufactured to offer premium performance and efficiency at competitive price points.  But there’s more to this grill than meets the eye:

  • Three burners and a 500-square-inch cooking surface feature an advanced infrared cooking system that dispenses heat evenly across the cooking surface, and performs zonal cooking— so foods that require different cooking temperatures can be cooked side-by-side.
  • A rapid pre-heat system goes from 0-700 degrees in 10 minutes with no flare-ups— and grate-level temperature gauges allow for monitoring heat when cooking with the lid up.
  • All grills use commercial kitchen grade stainless steel— that includes the burners, grate systems, and adjustable warming racks, too.
  • Seeing green? That’s probably because Saber was awarded the Vesta Green Award for its commitment to reduce its environmental impact. Saber grills lead the pack, using 30% less gas than comparable gas grills, and emitting less carbon over their lifespan.
  • Never mind dusk— this grill boasts two halogen lights for night-time cooking, so you can cook well past sunset.
So enter daily through Monday, September 9th (11:59 a.m. EST) to increase your chances of winning a brand Saber grill.  And check back next week to see what other prizes you could win in the Bob Vila End of Summer Sweepstakes! Good luck!

 

For more on Saber, click here.

 

For mouth watering recipes, outdoor entertaining ideas and grilling tips, visit Saber’s Facebook page.

 

The “Bob Vila’s End of Summer Sweepstakes” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Thursday, August 30th, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Monday, September 30th, 2013. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.

Weekend Projects: DIY Dorm Room Decor

The weekend you move into your new home away from home, add panache and personality to the space with easy, inexpensive DIY dorm room decor.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic: These are the cornerstones of education, and they’re important. You know what else is important? Things like style, storage, and seating. The weekend you move into your new dorm room, make the space your home away from home with these quick and easy DIY decor ideas.

 

1. TAPE A FRAME

DIY Dorm Room Decor - Washi Tape Frame

Photo: designsponge.com

Forego nails and thumb tacks—instead, use washi tape to put funky borders around your favorite photos, magazine clippings, and posters. As easy to put up as they will be to take down, these easy to rearrange “frames” come in countless colors. Plus, rolls are inexpensive, so you can make as many of these as you want!

 

2. LIGHT A LETTER

DIY Dorm Room Decor - Marquee Letter Lights

Photo: greylikesnesting.com

Ashley from Grey Likes Nesting created this simple and modern lighted letter, adding ambiance as well as a personalizing touch. Make a series—one for each of your initials—or concentrate on your single favorite alphabet member. No weird tools or advanced skills are needed, only a knife and your choice of bulbs.

 

3. SEW A POUF

DIY Dorm Room Decor - Poof

Photo: designsponge.com

When visitors pop in for a cup of noodles, an impromptu study session, or a five-hour spree on your roommate’s Xbox, offer seating on a homemade pouf. That’s right, it’s a pouf—more sophisticated than a bean bag chair but cheaper to make. If you can’t sew, why not ask that cute guy or gal down the hall for a little help?

 

4. BRAID A BASKET

DIY Dorm Room Decor - Basket

Photo: bloggingcornerblog.blogspot.com

Say goodbye to cheap plastic laundry baskets and boring canvas bags. You can store dirty laundry in style with a braided basket like this one from Corner Blog. The steps involved boil down to this: You braid old T-shirts and jersey fabric into braids, then sew the braids together into coils, forming a basket. Magic!

 

5. IRON ON A DESIGN

DIY Dorm Room Decor - Bedding

Photo: designsponge.com

Ready to enter college with more style and maturity than you exited high school? Absolutely not? Well, fair enough. But if you’re not crazy about the bedding your mother bought, consider using iron-on transfers to update its look. These instructions from Design*Sponge can be applied to T-shirts and curtains, too.


Weekend Projects: 5 Tricks for Enhancing Hallways and Stairs

Use these staircase strategies and hallway ideas to amuse your eyes as you move between the different rooms and levels of your home.

As conduits between the different levels and rooms of your home, staircases and hallways are self-effacing and strangely invisible, adequate for their purposes but rarely meriting a second look. This weekend, focus your design and DIY energies on these stylish strategies for stairways and handsome hallway ideas. The most enviable houses, after all, surprise and delight occupants and visitors along every passage and in every corner.

 

1. CHALKBOARD-PAINT WAINSCOTING

chalkboard-hallway

Photo: nestofposies-blog.com

Among the many hallway ideas floating around the net, this family-friendly concept from Nest of Posies stands out: Coat a wainscoting panel with chalkboard paint in order to create a centrally located notice board for school bus schedules, wifi passwords, and day-to-day reminders.

 

2. INSTALL ROPE RAILING

Hallway Ideas - Rope Railing

Photo: buzzfeed.com

Even if your stairs already have a banister, consider making a wall railing out of rope. DIY Network provides a video tutorial on the simple steps involved in this low-cost, high-impact project. The result is a nautical, non-traditional look, which can wake up your sleepy staircase with a clever and fresh design jolt.

 

3. ADD HALLWAY HOOKS

Hallway Ideas - Hooks

Photo: remodelista.com

Fun yet practical, these simple and geometrically satisfying DIY hangers are ready to hold those items you often grab on the go—keys, hats, and so on. To make your own version of this hallway idea, dip wooden blocks (sold online or at your local toy store) in your choice of paint, then screw them into the wall.

 

4. RE-FACE STAIR RISERS 

Hallway Ideas - Risers

Photo: decoist.com

While painting stairs is one popular way to make the trip between floors more memorable, there’s no shortage of charmingly offbeat DIY ideas out there. Start your search for inspiration with this washi tape instructional, continue on to this tiled riser tutorial, and don’t miss this lovely wallpaper approach.

 

5. HANG MAP WALLPAPER

Hallway Ideas - Map Wallpaper

Photo: theinspiredroom.net

There’s a poetic justice to the concept of wallpapering hallways with old maps or atlas pages. Hallways, after all, enable you to travel around the different parts of your house. Use wallpaper paste to set your chosen paper, or opt for a temporary installation, using flat-headed tacks like in the installation pictured.


Enter Round 2 of Our GE Appliances Big Summer Blowout!

We've already given away a new refrigerator, but there's still more to win in this month's GE Appliances Give-away, so enter TODAY!

GE Appliances GiveawayReady to give your laundry room an overhaul with a new washer and dryer combo? If you like the sound of fully customizable settings and a stupendously high level of energy efficiency, then, well, you’re in luck: Round 2 of our GE Appliances Big Summer Blowout begins today!

ENTER OUR GE APPLIANCES BIG SUMMER BLOWOUT

TODAY and every day through Friday, August 23 (11:59 a.m. EST), you can enter to win the second in our trio of give-aways: a brand new GE® RightHeight™ Design frontload washer and dryer, valued at $2,799!

GE Washer and Dryer - GE Appliances Giveaway

GE has put a little enjoyment back into laundry day by designing a frontload washer and dryer built for maximum comfort and efficiency. This dynamic duo features the industry’s largest openings and the first Built-in Riser™, adding an extra 7″ of height to help minimize bending and reaching. The ENERGY STAR®-qualified set also hosts a variety of features designed to meet today’s most-advanced home trends:

  • The Stain Removal Guide helps get rid of grass, wine, blood, tomato and dirt by adjusting the water temperature, spin speeds, wash action and soak time for any cycle.
  • Ditch the environmental guilt with Single-Item Wash cycle that offers great wash performance for single items, without wasting any water.
  • To wash and dry a small load without having to transfer any clothing in the middle of the night, use the Overnight Dry™ setting.
  • Utilize Steam Assist to loosen difficult stains.
  • The dryer’s Detangle Assist feature prevents the tangling of clothing and speeds up drying! That’s a win-win.

Enter daily to increase your chances of winning, and remember there is still one more incredible GE Appliance to win during the final week of August, the GE Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher (from noon EST August 23rd through 11:59 a.m. August 31st).

For more on the full line of GE Appliances, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Big Summer Blowout” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) Thursday, August 1st, 2013 through 11:59 a.m. (EST) Friday, August 31st, 2013. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


Bob Vila’s Guide to Exterior Siding

The siding of your home needs to look good and perform well over many years. If you are shopping for the material that will best suit your home (and you), this guide to house siding options will come in handy.

House Siding

Photo: sidinginnovations.com

The exterior of your home faces a ceaseless barrage of threats from the hot sun, strong winds, precipitation in all its forms, and the bitter winter cold. As such, your house siding must be strong and durable. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful even decades into its life. Advancements in the manufacture of siding materials and their installation have improved both the look and longevity of products for the exterior of today’s home.

Stucco

Stone Veneer

Fiber Cement

Wood

Brick (Masonry)

Vinyl

If you’re in the market for house siding but don’t know where to begin your search, this guide can help you learn more about the pros and cons of the most popular materials, so you can make an informed choice about which option best suits your house style and local climate, not to mention your availability or willingness to perform ongoing maintenance tasks as the seasons come and go.

NOTE: Some siding is better suited to certain house styles than others. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a the look of traditional wood lap siding in a fiber cement or vinyl product. Do your research on house style before you set out choosing new siding. You’ll also want to consider your climate—including average temperatures throughout the seasons, proximity to salty ocean air, likelihood of exposure to severe weather, such as blizzards or hurricanes, plus other environmental factors like wind, rain and humidity.

Here is a list of the most popular exterior siding options, with features, benefits, pros and cons:

STUCCO
Don’t be fooled into thinking the only look you can achieve is that of the typical hacienda- or tudor-style house. Although stucco is most often whitewashed, a varied range of textures and colors is within reach.

  • While materials are not pricey, labor costs can be. Stucco application usually requires three coats. The initial “scratch coat” provides adhesion to the building. The “brown coat”, which comes second, is responsible for creating an even surface. Finally, the “finish coat” determines the stucco’s outward appearance.
  • The breathability factor of stucco allows moisture to evaporate quickly, making it ideal for areas of the country  with normal precipitation. Not so much in rainy parts of the country, where the wood framing can be susceptible to moisture and rot.
  • Stucco typically lasts between 50 and 80 years. When it’s time to refresh yours, sandblast away the old layer and start from scratch. Painting it can lead to a host of moisture-problems down the line.

STONE VENEER
Made from a mixture of portland cement, lightweight aggregate, and iron-oxide pigments, today’s manufactured stone veneer products have become a popular siding option for many homeowners. While the look is a dead ringer and the cost is considerably less ($5 to $10 a square foot cheaper), the product does not offer the durability of natural stone.

  • Manufactured veneer is less expensive to install than natural stone, and much lighter in weight.
  • Drawbacks include durability— because the siding is made of concrete, it breaks more easily than natural stone.

FIBER CEMENT
Fiber-cement siding composition may vary from company to company, but the basic recipe is Portland cement, sand, and cellulose (wood) fibers. Wood fiber helps prevent cracking, as does a special curing process that leaves fiber cement with a low moisture content. Fiber-cement siding is low-maintenance, impact-resistant, and available in finished or painted options.

  • Fiber-cement siding has the durability of cement, a class 1A fire rating, is impervious to wood-boring insects, does not rot, and is resistant to deterioration from salt and ultraviolet rays.
  • After about 15 years, refinishing becomes necessary, but maintenance duties are light otherwise.
  • A host of textures can be found as well, and the siding may be colored to virtually any hue the homeowner desires. Some fiber cement siding products are made to resemble wood, natural fieldstone, stacked flagstone, or brick.

WOOD
Wood siding boasts a timeless beauty, and many homeowners value the way its appearance gradually changes in subtle ways. Whether it is vertical siding like board and batten, or horizontal siding like clapboards, shakes, and shingles, there are various wood species and grades to consider. Wood will, however, require a high level of maintenance to retain its beauty and effectiveness.

  • Before settling on a siding material, ask your builder or installer about rot resistance, splitting, checking or cupping. The choices of wood will be many—pine, spruce, fir, cedar, redwood—but only a few might be good for your region.
  • Some companies offer pre-primed planks, shakes, and shingles. These boards come primed on one or both faces and are sealed and protected from the minute they arrive on site.
  • A good wood siding should last for many, many years, but it must be properly maintained. Proper maintenance includes power washing and staining and sealing whenever the heat of the sun fades the finish, or when moisture starts to turn to mold or mildew.

BRICK (MASONRY)
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, durability makes brick siding a popular choice. Under normal conditions, brick siding will last the life of the building with little more than an occasional wash with the hose. Although brick siding is considered permanent, masonry does deteriorate, generally at the mortar joints, which are the gaps between bricks that are filled with mortar.

  • Masonry veneer walls consist of a single non-structural external layer of masonry work, typically brick, backed by an air space.
  • Because the masonry veneer is non-structural, it must be tied back to the building structure to prevent movement under wind and earthquake loads.
  • Buildings with masonry veneer walls can be better at cooling down during extended periods of hot weather than framed and sided buildings.

VINYL
Long saddled with a bad reputation, today’s vinyl siding is weather- and insect-proof, fade-resistant, and virtually indestructible under normal circumstances. It also remains one of the cheapest materials to install.

  • It comes in a range of colors and designs, some of which closely resemble wood grain, suitable not only for new construction, but also for replicating the look of vintage siding in renovations of older homes.
  • Although it’s often touted as maintenance free, vinyl siding does require some occasional work. Depending on how your house is situated, mold or grime might accumulate. Vinyl siding will eventually fade, but usually only slightly.
  • Though colorfast and resistant to insects and rot, vinyl siding is not maintenance free: Its vulnerability to weather damage makes occasional repairs necessary. The price tag is low enough to have enticed many, and another big selling point is its relative ease of installation.

For more on house siding and exterior maintenance, consider:

10 Superb Reasons to Consider Vinyl Siding

Fiber Cement Siding 101

How to: Repoint Brick Walls