Category: Roofing & Siding

Don’t Can Your Aluminum Siding!

Breathe new life into your aluminum siding by repairing, cleaning, and painting it. It's a big project, but a DIYer with a true "can"-do attitude can tackle it.

Painting Aluminum Siding


Aluminum siding first became popular in the wake of World War II, when this metal, which had been so crucial to the war effort, became more readily available. Homeowners valued the material for its weather protection and insulating properties. They also loved that, in comparison with wood siding, aluminum requires little maintenance. But when vinyl siding arrived in the late 1950s, aluminum rapidly fell out of favor, in part because it was prone to denting and its color faded relatively quickly.

Related: Bob Vila’s Guide to Exterior Siding

That’s not to say that if you live in an aluminum-clad home, you should replace your siding. On the contrary, those attributes that once made it a favorite are as appealing today as they were in the 1940s. Aluminum remains a low-maintenance, first-rate insulating barrier against the weather. So long as your aluminum siding is performing to your satisfaction, consider preserving it by cleaning, patching, and painting your siding.

Before painting aluminum siding, you may find it necessary—or merely desirable—to replace any sections that have been dented or otherwise damaged. After all, one virtue of this cladding material is that it lends itself so easily to repair work. Follow these simple steps:

1. Draw a square around the section of damaged aluminum siding that you would like to remove.

2. Cut away the section, using tin snips in combination with a utility knife, leaving a clean, square hole to patch.

3. Cut the replacement patch to size (three inches larger than the section you initially cut out).

4. Use tin snips to take the nailing strip off the replacement patch.

5. Spread clear silicone caulk on the back of the patch.

6. Press the patch firmly in place, tucking its top behind the row of siding running directly above the area you are repairing.

7. Wipe away the excess silicone, using your finger to smooth the joints where the patch meets the original siding.

There’s still more preparation to address before painting aluminum siding. You need to scrape off peeling and flaking paint, and then chisel out any old caulk lines and apply new ones. Scrub away any mildew with a solution of three parts water to one part household bleach. Remove dirt and grime by hand-washing the siding with soap and warm water. Alternatively, if you want to speed up the job of cleaning, rent a power washer. Just be sure to accessorize the tool with a low-pressure tip, being careful to direct the water stream directly at the siding. Never spray upward; by doing so, you may force water behind the aluminum. If you spot any aluminum oxidation or rust, remove that too before rinsing the exterior surface with a garden hose. Do not begin painting until the siding has been allowed to dry completely; it should take about three or four days.

Painting Aluminum Siding - Off White


With painter’s tape and lengths of plastic sheeting, protect items and areas adjacent to the siding. (Once you have completed the paint job, remember to remove the tape as soon as possible so that it doesn’t adhere permanently.)

For best results, begin with an application of galvanized metal etching primer. Coat on the product with a synthetic polyester paintbrush, covering the full surface area before allowing the primer to cure for a minimum of four hours.

Next, apply 100 percent acrylic exterior paint. Use a brush at first to paint the edges, then proceed to “load up” the roller. After pouring a few inches of paint into a tray, dip in the roller. Run the tool back and forth over the ribbed area to ensure that paint gets evenly distributed over the roller, with little or no excess to cause drips.

Wield your paint roller from left to right if the siding is horizontal, or up and down if the siding is vertically oriented. Start painting at the top and work your way down. As you go, smooth bumps in the wet paint with a clean paintbrush.

Continue until you have applied paint to the entire area you set out to cover. Allow at least two hours for the coat of paint to dry. It’s strongly recommended that you add a second coat to achieve a long-lasting and professional-looking finish.

Because they excel in hiding surface irregularities, low-luster (also called satin) finishes usually look better on aluminum siding than do other types of paint.

Bob Vila Radio: Metal Roofs

Metal roofs appeal to homeowners not only for their improved aesthetics, but also for their strength and longevity.

Thinking about putting a new roof over your head? Maybe a metal roof is right for you. Today’s metal roofing—whether made of steel, aluminum, or other metal—is more versatile than ever. It can be shaped to look like wood, stone, or clay to suit a range of styles. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON METAL ROOFS or read the text below:

Metal Roofs


Longevity is one benefit of metal roofing. Depending on the material, a metal roof can last for more than 50 years. This lifespan, however, needs to be weighed against its significantly higher cost. You’re unlikely to recoup this cost unless you plan to stay in your house for a long time.

Metal roofs are also durable. They won’t corrode or crack, they can withstand high winds, and some are even impact resistant. They’re particularly attractive in wooded, fire-prone regions, since they’re unlikely to ignite from stray embers. (In fact, some insurance companies offer discounts if you have a metal roof.)

Metal roofs are also eco-friendly. They can contain anywhere between 25 and 95 percent recycled materials, depending on the product. And at the end of their useful life, they’re fully recyclable.

Remember: A metal roof—or any roof—is a big-ticket investment. To ensure the greatest benefit and satisfaction, proper insulation and installation are crucial.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Apply Stucco

Do as the contractors do in order to ensure quality results the next time that you apply stucco.

Here are the steps professionals follow to apply a stucco finish. After installing a 15-pound felt moisture barrier on the side wall, nail on wire-key lath, which looks like chicken wire. Next, apply a 3/8-inch-thick scratch coat. When cured, apply the textured brown coat. The 1/8-inch color coat goes on last.

For more on siding, consider:

Stucco 101
Applying Stucco (VIDEO)
Bob Vila’s Guide to Exterior Siding

Bob Vila Radio: Solar Shingles

It is now easier and more affordable than ever to purchase and install solar shingles on your roof, as a means of saving energy and reducing electricity costs in the long run.

When you think about solar power, do you picture bulky panels protruding from rooftops? If so, think again. With the advent of solar shingles—photovoltaic cells designed to look like asphalt roofing shingles—home-based solar power is becoming more appealing, both aesthetically and economically.

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Thanks to advancements in thin-film photovoltaics, these slim-profile shingles are lightweight and flexible. They integrate almost seamlessly with traditional asphalt shingles, although, because they tend to be dark in color, they blend in best with dark roofs.

Solar shingles are most commonly used in conjunction with the existing power grid. This ensures that your home has power even when the sun doesn’t shine. It also means that if you’re lucky enough to generate more power than you use, you may be able to sell the excess back to the power company.

Solar shingles must be installed by a qualified roofing contractor, and you’ll need an electrician to hook them up to your electrical system and install an “inverter,” which converts the direct current they generate to standard AC power.

These shingles make solar a more accessible and attractive option, but they’re still pricey. As with any big purchase, do a careful cost analysis, and don’t forget to look into solar tax credits.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Quick Tip: Installing Clapboard Siding

If you're installing clapboard siding, these tips on hanging the material can help you ensure that it looks right and remains watertight.

When installing clapboard siding, it’s important to overlap all joints. Here’s a way to get started that will ensure staggered joints every time. Create a pyramid effect by cutting different lengths every 16 inches. We’ve chosen 16 inches, because we nail directly into wall studs, which are spaced 16 inches on center. This method also makes use of more of your siding material, leaving less waste.

For more on siding, consider:

Wood Siding Options
Bob Vila’s Guide to Exterior Siding
Installing Clapboard Siding and Cedar Trim (VIDEO)

Bob Vila Radio: Gutter Cleaning

When all the leaves have fallen, but before it gets too wet out, clean your gutters— and remember these helpful tips.

Cleaning the gutters tends to be a relatively inexpensive task to hand off to a professional, who has the equipment and the experience to get this messy job done quickly and correctly. But if you want to save some money and you’re nimble enough to climb a ladder up to your highest gutter, you can do it yourself. The most important thing is to do it regularly—you don’t want to wait until your gutters are overflowing to start unclogging them.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GUTTER CLEANING or read the text below:

Gutter Cleaning


What fills up gutters is a mix of leaves, twigs, dirt and other debris that runs off your roof during the rain or drops in from nearby trees. If you or your neighbors have trees that shed leaves in autumn, wait until the trees are bare before you clean your gutters, or they’ll just fill up again when the leaves start to fall.

You’ll need to scoop out all the gunk, so wear work gloves to protect your hands from the edges of the gutter and from any sharp objects inside. Use a large bucket to collect it all, then use what you’ve collected as mulch or dispose of it as you would grass clippings. When you’re finished scooping, use a hose to flush the last of the debris through the downspouts and make sure there are no clogs anywhere. Most importantly, be careful on that ladder!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Clean Gutters Now to Avoid Big Problems Later

Gutters are crucial in keeping water away from your house, but to do their job properly, they need to be free of clogging dirt and debris. Fortunately, you have a number of options for cleaning them out—and some don't even require a ladder!

How to Clean Gutters


Of all the necessary evils that go into a diligent fall maintenance routine, cleaning the gutters may be the most dreaded of all. Tedious though this task is, homeowners are wise not to neglect it: Properly functioning gutters, after all, help ensure that storm water does not find its way inside.

There are several ways to get the job done. No matter your chosen approach, the first step is to assess the state of the gutters, determining whether any clogs exist, and if so, their cause. Twigs and dry leaves are easy enough to clear away, but if your gutters are obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter (or even small seedlings), a relatively aggressive removal method may be in order. Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to clean gutters:

How to Clean Gutters With a Leaf Blower
Many leaf blowers come with a nozzle attachment designed to release a narrow stream of air, perfect for the purpose of gutter cleaning. Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.

How to Clean Gutters With a Wet/Dry Vacuum
To remove heavier debris from your gutters, experiment with a wet/dry vacuum. Your local home improvement retail store likely carries the hoses and curved attachments you need to reach the obstructed gutters from a standing position on the ground. Stubborn, stuck-on dirt may need to be moistened before it succumbs to the vacuum. Again, once you’ve removed the bulk of the material, flush the gutters and downspout with water from a garden hose.

How to Clean Gutters - By Hand


How to Clean Gutters With a Power Washer
Has it been a long while since you last cleaned your gutters? A layer of dirt and debris may have built up over time. Blast it away with the fine-spray nozzle of your power washer. (This type of cleaning can get messy; be prepared to rinse the roof and exterior walls afterward.) For clogged downspouts in particular, there’s no better recourse than a power washer. Simply point the nozzle down the hole and rinse the shaft until water can run freely through it.

How to Clean Gutters With a Garden Hose
So long as they are not thoroughly clogged, you can clean your gutters successfully with a garden hose. If the hose is equipped with the right attachment (a rigid tube with a curved end), you can stand on the ground, not on a ladder, as you work. Again, start at the end farthest from the downspout and flush the length of the channel; remove any residual material by hand before it dries out.

How to Clean Gutters by Hand
To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, bucket, gutter scoop (or garden trowel), and heavy-duty gloves. Little by little, take out the leaves and debris, placing what you remove into the bucket. Finally, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you are certain both are functioning properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a power washer, try busting through the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, then rinse with a hose.

Consider installing a screen or barrier on top of your gutters to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating over the course of the year. Remember what they say about an ounce of prevention!

Stone Veneer 101

Rock your home and garden makeovers with the natural look of stone veneer—a material that's surprisingly manageable for determined DIYers who have a little time or patience.

Installing Stone Veneer


The pharaohs capitalized on the beauty and strength of stone, overseeing the construction of architectural gems whose magnificence has endured into the modern age. Fortunately for do-it-yourselfers, stonework has changed a great deal since Ancient Egypt, and we no longer toil with monolithic blocks hewn from raw earth. Today, stone veneer is a lightweight and user-friendly option for home interiors and exteriors, and available in numerous colors and textures.

You can add stone veneer to a host of surfaces, both inside and outside your home. One popular choice is to use stone veneer to cover a fireplace mantel for an earthy look of permanence. Elsewhere in the home, stone veneer can be used to stunning effect in kitchen islands, eye-catching backsplashes, and spa-like showers. Stone veneer succeeds equally well as a house siding material, imparting an Old World look even to new construction. Yet another area where stone veneer can be put to good use is the backyard, where it can soften the transition between natural surroundings and manmade features, such as the patio or pool.

There are essentially two types of stone veneer. The first involves genuine stone, so it comes at a relatively high cost. For those with deep pockets, however, it’s a gorgeous, long-lasting choice. Traditionally, natural stone veneer has been heavier than engineered products, but recent advancements have all but eliminated that issue. Manufacturers nowadays are able to cut the stone so thinly that its weight is not out of line with that of its artificial cousins.

Faux stone, sometimes known as cultured stone, is the second type available to homeowners. In years past, artificial stone veneer looked, well, artificial, but times have changed. To the eye and even to the touch, manmade stone veneer now convincingly emulates the real thing. (Sure, you can tell the difference if you look closely, but you really have to look closely.) Lighter and a little tidier to work with, cultured stone veneer is the more DIY-friendly of the two options.

Installing Stone Veneer - Fieldstone


The process of installing stone veneer remains the same, more or less, whether you are applying a natural or cultured stone product, and whether you are working inside or outside the home.

First things first: The surface to which you are adhering the stone must be clean and free of paint, dust, or dirt. If the stone veneer is going to cover an installation of brick or concrete, it can be directly applied. Any other surface must be sheathed beforehand with metal lath. Note that on exterior walls, it’s recommended that a weather-resistant vapor barrier be installed behind the lath.

Next, apply a scratch coat of mortar composed of two parts washed sand to one part Portland cement. Layer on a thickness of about a half inch. While the mortar is still soft, use a metal scraper to lightly carve horizontal grooves across the surface. Then allow the scratch coat to cure for 24 hours.

You now have a masonry surface over which you can install stone veneer. Here’s the procedure.

1. Mix an appropriate quantity of mortar using two parts washed sand to one part Portland cement. Stir the mortar for at least five minutes, until it has a thick and creamy consistency.

2. Lay out the stones in the pattern you wish. If necessary, trim individual stones to a usable size by means of a masonry hammer (or a skilsaw outfitted with a masonry blade).

3. Remove all dust, dirt, and loose particles from the stones, washing with water if needed. Once the stones are clean and dry, moisten (but do not saturate) their rear sides with a masonry brush. Doing so helps to ensure a strong bond between the stone and mortar.

4. Spread a half inch to one inch of mortar over the back of the stone. Press the stone to the wall. As you press, rotate slightly, forcing some of the mortar to squeeze out around the edges of the stone. Before the mortar has a chance to set, remove any excess from the surface of the stone with a rag or brush. Keep the joint lines as narrow as possible between adjacent stones for the most attractive appearance.

5. Once you have installed the stone veneer over the scratch coat using the technique described in Step 4, proceed to grout any large gaps between the stones.

Approximately four weeks later, apply a quality sealer to the stone veneer in order to protect the surface. Once applied, the sealer must be reapplied periodically, especially in an outdoor installation. Keep in mind that a sealer may change the coloring of the stone, so experiment with the sealer first in an inconspicuous area; if you aren’t thrilled with the result, try a different product. One great thing about stone veneer is how easy it is to clean: If the hose fails to do the trick—or if you’re cleaning indoors—water and a stiff brush will almost always produce satisfactory results.

How To: Clean Gutters with a Wet/Dry Vac

Believe it or not, you can use a wet/dry vac to make quicker and easier work of the fall maintenance task that homeowners love least—gutter cleaning.

A wet-dry vac is a great tool to have—and not just for cleaning up the workshop. They come in handy for those tedious seasonal chores, as well. With a few special attachments like these, cleaning the leaves out of your gutters becomes much easier, often eliminating the need for ladders, gloves, and an extra mess to clean up.

For more on seasonal maintenance, consider:

Gutters 101
Bob Vila Radio: Fall Checklist
10 Fall Home Maintenance Musts

Quick Tip: Metal Roofing

An alternative to asphalt shingles and other popular materials, metal roofing offers high performance under harsh conditions and can last as long as a lifetime.

When roofing your house, consider using a metal roof. Available in a variety of colors and styles, metal roofing is made of recycled materials and can be recycled itself, saving space in landfills. A metal roof lasts four to five times longer than asphalt and it performs better in fire, snow loads, hail and high winds.

For more on metal roofing, consider:

Metal Roofs 101
Metal Roofs on the Rise
Debunking 5 Metal Roof Myths