Category: Roofing & Siding


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


How To: Install Gutter Flashing

Install gutter flashing to improve the performance, and prolong the life, of your old wooden gutters.

Here’s a tip on how to increase the life of old wooden gutters. The first step is to lay a new rubber liner along the inside of the gutter. Adding copper flashing along the edge seals the liner, adds extra durability, and allows water to run off easily. Finally, add a second strip of rubber on top of the flashing for extra protection.

For more on gutters and drainage, consider:

French Drains 101
5 Things to Do with… Gutters
Quick Tip: Cleaning Your Gutters


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


How To: Repoint Brick Walls

Repointing brick walls and chimneys with new mortar will not only enhance their beauty, but ensure that they remain secure, stable, and sound for years to come.

How to Repoint Brick

Photo: cottagelife.com

Brick houses are hard to damage. Anyone familiar with The Three Little Pigs knows that. Inevitably, however, there comes a time when the mortar between bricks begins to degrade. The process of repair, known as repointing, is pretty easy (if a bit time consuming). Undoubtedly, it’s a smart thing to do. That’s because crumbling mortar, if not fixed, allows water to seep in between the bricks, causing them to swell and crack and become generally blow-downable.

Here’s how to keep your brick walls standing tall.

Step 1: Remove The Old Mortar
Repointing is all about out with the old and in with the new—and working in small sections. You don’t want to remove all of the old mortar from a wall at once, because you may weaken its integrity. So, working along the wall in an area about three- to five-feel wide, remove the old mortar from both the horizontal and vertical joints. To ensure you don’t damage the bricks, you can use a cold chisel or handheld grout saw to tap it out. You can also use another hand tool known as a joint raker. If you’re confident in your abilities, you can use a 4-inch angle grinder, but be careful not to cut into the brick. You’ll want to remove the mortar to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Use a whisk broom, wire brush or hose to remove all the dust and wear a respirator to keep debris out of your lungs.

clearing old mortar

Photo: easternstate.org

Step 2: Wet The Wall
Give your brick wall a good soaking with a hose and let it sit overnight. This will ensure that the bricks and old mortar are hydrated and that they don’t suck the water out of the new mortar you’ll place between them the next day. When you are ready to put in the new mortar, lightly spritz the bricks one more time before beginning.

Step 2: Mix The New Mortar
If your house is less than 50 years old, you will likely be safe using standard portland cement mortar to refill the spaces between your bricks. If your abode is older than that however, you’ll want to use a different mix, consisting of lime and sand. This is what was originally used in brickwork and it’s best to use the same mix as a replacement. That’s because portland cement mortar is very hard when it dries and can cause older bricks to crack. The lime mix acts almost like disks between vertebrae in the spine: it cushions the brick and moves along with the wall as it flexes. If you want to be sure you’re using the correct mortar replacement, you can check with a mason specializing in restoration work, or you can send a sample to be analyzed to a company like LimeWorks. Otherwise, a general rule of thumb is to make a mortar mix from 6 parts fine white sand, 2 parts lime and 1 part white portland cement.

RelatedBrick Chimney Repair (VIDEO)

No matter the mortar mix you use, be sure to make it in small batches as it hardens quickly. Place the ingredients in a wheelbarrow and mix to a frosting-like consistency whereby the mortar holds its peaks when you draw it upwards with a trowel.

Tip: Mortar sets up best in temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees, so you might want to do this project in the cooler months of the year.

Pointing Trowel

6" Pointing Trowel. Photo: wickes.co.uk

Step 3: Insert The New Mortar
Pick up some mortar on a large trowel and then, using a pointing trowel, work smaller amounts into the horizontal and vertical gaps between the bricks. You might find it easier to fill the vertical joints with a tool known as a margin trowel. Use the flat edge of the trowel to even out your work and scrape off any mortar you get on the face of the bricks.

Step 4: Clean Up
Wait about an hour until the mortar has hardened a bit, then scrape off any mortar that’s remained on the brick face. You can do this with a sturdy wire brush, but be sure to use a horizontal sweeping motion so as to not pull the new mortar out of the joints. For the next three to four days, give the wall a daily misting to allow the mortar to dry slowly and not crack.

All in all, it’s a tedious, detailed job and you may find yourself huffing and puffing during it, but you’ll soon be satisfied that nobody and nothing will be blowing your brick house down anytime soon.


Should You Replace or Repair Your Roof?

Making the right decisions about your roof ensures your home's optimal performance and safeguards your peace of mind.

Repair or Replace Roof

Photo: CertainTeed Asphalt Shingles

Making good decisions is the key to minimizing near- and long-term costs related to any home improvement. This is especially true for large, complex jobs like reroofing. In this particular case, some of the most important decisions should be made before you hire a contractor or choose a shingle manufacturer.

The first decision is whether to simply patch leaks and damaged areas or whether partial or complete reroofing is in order. If you choose the latter, you’ll also have to decide whether to roof over your existing roof or whether to remove it. There are cost consequences either way.

Replacing shingles due to wind damage or a fallen limb is a relatively easy and inexpensive. Torn or damaged shingles can be removed, and new ones can be slipped in place. The downside is that unless your roof is relatively new and you happen to have saved some spare shingles from the job, your patch job may not match the existing roof. But that is a small price to pay if the repair would extend the life of your current roof for another 10 or 15 years! However, if you plan to sell your home in the next few years, ask your contractor to order shingles that match as closely as possible. A roof with a prominent patch is unattractive and will not inspire a potential buyer’s confidence.

Repair or Replace Roof - Asphalt ShinglesIf the damage is more significant but confined to one side of the roof, partial reroofing is an option that will cost thousands of dollars less than doing the entire roof. Repairing a section of roofing will also make it easier to blend new with old, because slight color differences will be less noticeable.

Counter to intuition, partial reroofing jobs are more expensive on a cost per square (a 10′ x 10′ area) basis. They can create added problems, too. For example, if an asphalt roof already has two or more layers, all layers will have to be removed in order for the partial re-roofing to proceed. So in addition to increased labor and disposal costs, you may face the possibility of a lopsided effect at ridges, with the old roof ending up a couple of inches higher than the new one. Even when built up with a course of shingles and covered with a ridge cap, the hump may still be noticeable.

A New Roof—Cheaper in the Long Term?
Even if only part of your roof is showing signs of wear, it’s wise to consider doing the entire job while the crew is on-site with its scaffolding, ladders, and equipment. This will likely be less expensive than doing one part now and the remainder in a few years. I recently had a quote to repair one side of a four-sided hip roof for $2,800. For the entire roof, meanwhile, the quote was $9,000, or $2,250 per side. Given that the previous owner had reroofed 17 years before with shingles that only carried a 20-year rated life expectancy, I decided to spring for a complete reroofing.

Slideshow: Asphalt Shingles: A Showcase of Roofing Styles, Colors, and Options

When to reroof depends on several variables, including the shingles’ wear and age, the climate in your area, and your home’s susceptibility to future damage. I patched my own roof after Hurricane Irene blew off six or seven shingles in 2011. The replacement shingles were off the rack at the home center and lightweight, but they matched the existing three-tab style, were somewhat close in color, and saved me from having to buy more shingles than I needed. Added a few extra dabs of roofing cement under the patching shingles, I hoped for the best. The job cost $160.

A little over a year later, Hurricane Sandy blew away another dozen or so shingles. Reroofing with a more durable shingle, one with vastly improved adhesives, held a lot of appeal. The fact that the new shingles would have six nails per shingle instead of four, as now recommended by the shingle manufacturer for high-wind areas, was also an incentive.

Tear Off or Roof Over?
Once you’ve decided to reroof, you’ll have to decide whether to install your new roof over the existing one or whether to tear the old one off. Once again, the choice comes down to saving a little money now and risking greater expenses down the road, or spending more now to do the job right and minimize future expenses.

Repair or Replace Roof - Removing Shingles

If you already have two layers shingles, the decision is made for you. The International Residential Code (R907.3) says that you cannot put a new roof over two or more applications of any type of roof covering. Part of the reason has to do with weight and its effect on the structure of your home. A shingle in your hand may not feel as though it weighs much, but cover a roof with 1,500 square feet of them, and it’s nearly the equivalent of parking a two-ton SUV up there!

If you have only one layer of asphalt shingles, you may decide to have them removed even though you’re not required to. Doing so may save you money in the future. For example, if you live in an area that is subject to high winds, keep in mind that shingles will hold better if fastened directly to the roof deck. In addition, removing the old shingles will allow you to inspect the roof deck or sheathing.

The opportunity to evaluate the condition of your roof deck is valuable, insofar as you can check for wood rot and the presence of inadequate sheathing fasteners. By making any necessary repairs and adding fasteners to sheathing (especially annular nails or screws), you will avoid the dramatic losses caused when sheathing blows off the roof, allowing rain to cause extensive interior damage. Beginning your roofing job with a clean roof deck (old shingles and roofing felt removed) also means you have the option of adding ice-and-water-shield membrane along the eaves. It can only be applied to a clean deck but will help prevent damage due to ice dams.

A new roof is a big expense but should last you for decades. Do it right and you’ll have one less thing to worry about when storm winds blow. In the long term, you’ll also end up with more money in your pocket.


Metal Roofs 101

With styles that now imitate the look of wood, stone, and clay, metal roofing is finding renewed popularity in homes of all types.

Metal Roofs

Photo: tamko.com

The metal roofing industry has taken a page from vinyl flooring manufacturers. They’ve started with a ‘plain Jane’ material—in this case steel or aluminum—and made it look like wood, stone, and clay. The introduction of metal roofing in shingle, shake, slate and tile styles has reinvigorated the metal roofing industry.

For decades, metal roofs meant corrugated panels, which looked like they belonged on sheds or barns, or standing-seam applications, which often had a commercial appearance. Today, metal roofing products are available to fit every architectural style, whether a Spanish Colonial in Southern California or a Victorian in New England.

METAL ROOFING MATERIALS
Residential metal roofing is generally made of steel, aluminum, or copper. Rolls of 24- or 26-gauge steel sheets are given a metallic coating to prevent rust, followed by a baked-on paint finish. Aluminum sheets don’t require the metallic coating but do get painted. Copper, often called a natural metal product, is neither coated nor painted, because it weathers without corroding. It is sometimes used for special features, such as the roof of a prominent bay window.

Steel roofing products are coated with either zinc (galvanized) or a mixture of aluminum and zinc (galvalume or zincalume). Of the two, galvalume offers the longer service. The coatings are offered in several thicknesses—the thicker the coating the longer the service, and the higher the cost.

The Metal Roofing Association (MRA) recommends a galvanizing thickness level of at least G-90 for residential applications and an AZ-50 or AZ-55 designation for galvalume coatings. In areas by the sea, opt for an aluminum-based panel. Paint finishes vary in quality, as well. An inferior coating may fade or chalk. Some manufacturers participate in a certification process developed by the MRA. Standard certified products may be used in most areas. In areas with high exposure to UV light, opt for a premium certified paint coating.

Metal Roofs

Photo: standingseamroofs.com

TEXTURES AND FINISHES
Metal roofing products can be stamped into many shapes and are typically installed as interlocking panels with hidden fasteners. Viewed from a distance, they offer fairly convincing renditions of shingles and tiles. Some ‘stone-coated’ products receive an acrylic coating, in which stone granules are embedded. These offer a less metallic look.

Slideshow: Debunking 5 Metal Roofing Myths

Standing-seam metal roofs look exactly like what they are–long sheets of painted steel with vertical seams. From a design perspective, they are a purer product but not suitable for every home. Standing-seam roofs are perhaps best matched to the simple lines of cabins and contemporary home designs.

BENEFITS OF METAL ROOFING
The primary benefit of metal roofing is longevity. Manufacturers routinely offer 50-year warranties and even lifetime, non-prorated warranties. They claim their products will last two to four times longer than roofs with asphalt shingles. By avoiding one or two re-roofing jobs during the life of the metal roof, you will more than offset the higher initial cost. Near term, a new metal roof recoups a bit more of its installation cost upon home resale (6% according to Remodeling Magazine) than does a new asphalt roof.

There are other advantages, as well. Metal roofs are lightweight, sometimes allowing them to be installed directly over old roofs. And when metal roofing is painted with specially formulated “cool pigments”, solar energy is reflected and emitted (rather than radiated as heat into the attic).

Additionally, metal roofs are effective in preventing the spread of fire when hot embers fall on them (i.e., from brush and forest fires). In fact, some insurance companies will give you a discount if you have a metal roof. In addition, metal roofing is made with a large percentage of recycled metal—often 95 percent—and when its useful life is done, it can be recycled again. No worries about it filling up dwindling space in landfills.

MYTHS ABOUT METAL ROOFING
Myths and legends get started about all sorts of people, places, and building materials…. Metal roofing has more than its share, perhaps because it has undergone so many transformations over the years. Here are the most common myths about metal roofing:

* It will increase the likelihood of a lightening strike. Metal conducts electricity, but electricity is not drawn to it.

* Metal roofs are noisy in the rain. Not so. They may even be quieter than other roof types.

* Metal roofs are susceptible to damage by hail. While extremely large hailstones can dent a metal roof, normal hailstorms will not. With textured roofs, minor denting is not readily visible.

* You cannot walk on a metal roof. You can, but you have to know how to do it without causing damage. Check with the manufacturer of the product you choose.

* A metal roof will make your house colder in winter. Actually, a metal roof has no effect on the temperature of the typical vented attic in winter. It’s the insulation under (or on top of) the floor of your attic that keeps you warm.


Gutters 101

Avoid water intrusion in your home with the right storm drainage system.

Gutters 101

Photo: shutterstock.com

When shopping for a gutter system, a homeowner will have to choose among a variety of materials, including aluminum, galvanized steel, vinyl, copper, and wood. Installers price gutter systems per linear foot, but this price should include all the necessary components for a gutter system, including the gutters, downspouts (the vertical section), corner joints, end caps, and hanging brackets.

Gutter Materials and Pricing
Aluminum is the most popular gutter on the market, as it is relatively inexpensive, durable, and easy to work with. Unlike steel, aluminum will not rust over time, and is available in a wide range of colors. Gutter installers will often quote a price (which includes installation) at a “per linear foot” price; although costs for an aluminum system will vary, homeowners may expect somewhere around $3-6 per linear foot.

Steel gutter systems are usually galvanized, although stainless steel options exist as well. Galvanized steel gutters will eventually rust after 20-25 years, but steel is strong and durable, making it a popular option for regions that experience extreme weather, heavy rains, and snow. Steel is slightly more expensive than aluminum; with prices averaging around $8-10 per linear foot. Stainless steel, which doesn’t rust, sells for upwards of $20 per linear foot.

Copper is also one of the more durable gutter options. Copper brings a certain aesthetic to a home’s facade, appealing to property owners looking to customize their home. “Copper is one of the strongest metals,” says Mike Milliman, a partner with the RainTrade Corporation. “It is suitable for any region.” Copper sits at the high-end of the gutter market, selling for anywhere from $12-25 per linear foot. Homeowners who are interested in a copper gutter system should consider the “patina” aspect of copper, which gradually ages and changes color with exposure to the elements. “A copper gutter system will only stay shiny for the first month or two,” Milliman says. “It will turn brown, dark brown, purple, and eventually a greenish color. Homeowners need to expect these changes.”

Vinyl is one of the least-expensive gutter options on the market, and is also very easy to cut and work with, making these gutters suitable for DIY installations. Vinyl gutter systems are prominent in home stores because of the easy of assembly and availability of component parts. At around $3-5 per linear foot, vinyl is most affordable option for gutter installations. Vinyl tends to become brittle and break in colder climates. It is also not as sturdy or durable as metal counterparts.

Shape, Size, Seamless
Homeowners will have two main gutter shapes to choose from: half-round and K-style. A smaller K-style gutter will drain the same amount of water as a larger half-round gutter. Half-round (also called U-shape) gutters are typically considered a traditional shape, as this was the original gutter shape dating back to the early 1900′s. K-style gutters didn’t emerge as an option until around the 1950s. Downspouts generally come in round or rectangular shapes.

When it comes to size, a homeowner will have to choose from gutter size (the measurement of the top opening), downspout size (length and width or diameter), and thickness. The most common gutter sizes are 5 inches and 6 inches, although 4 inches is available as well. Downspouts are commonly 2 x 3 inches and 3 x 4 inches in size or 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

When determining the size of a home’s gutter system, a homeowner should consider the area’s rainfall density. Such facts can usually be found on gutter supply websites. A home that sees a lot of rain or has a steep roof pitch should have a larger gutter system. Similarly, a home surrounded by tall trees will need a larger system to accommodate falling leaves without clogging.

Thickness is rated differently, depending on the material used. A thicker gutter system will be sturdier, more durable, and more expensive. Aluminum systems range from .019 to .032 inches in thickness. Copper is usually rated in weight, with a heavier weight indicating greater thickness. It is common to see 16-ounce and 20-ounce options for copper systems. Steel may be rated in inch-thickness or gauge.

Finally, a homeowner will have to decide between a sectional or seamless system. Traditionally, gutters came in sections that had to be pieced together, leaving seams. Today’s aluminum sectional systems require gutter sealant at the seams to prevent leakage. This sealant usually has to be re-applied as regular maintenance. Sectional copper or steel systems are actually soldered together at the seams, eliminating the need for a sealant. Proper installation of a sectional copper or steel system should include soldering, although some installers will use a metal sealant. Seamless systems are growing in popularity, and require professional installers. In a seamless system, an installer will use a special machine on-site to form long stretches of gutter (usually copper or aluminum) that will run the length of the roofline without a seam.

Proper Pitch
Gutter installation should follow a couple basic rules. Gutters must be pitched so water will flow to the downspouts. The rule of thumb for this slope is a vertical 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of horizontal run. If the run is more than 35 feet long, some specialists recommend installing the high point of the system in the middle and sloping the gutter downward in both directions to downspouts on both ends of the run. Water exiting the downspout must always be directed away from the foundation.

Gutter Add-Ons
The gutter industry has seen an explosion in the accessory side of the business. Screens, barriers, and other devices used to keep foreign objects out of the gutter are literally everywhere. When considering such accessories, homeowners will want to evaluate the types of debris that may land on or in their gutter. “Homeowners will want to consider everything from the number of trees to the types of leaves,” says Milliman. “Will there be whirlybirds, or pine needles?”

Hybrid products that combine solid hoods with screens exist, as do the more recent gutter foam products like Gutter Stuff and GutterFill. These foam products actually fill the length of the gutter, allowing water to run through and drain while keeping solid objects out. Additionally, homeowners may look into splash blocks on the ground that guide water away from the foundation or “rain chains” that replace traditional downspouts with Japanese-themed decorative links or chains. Rain chains are aesthetically pleasing, and come in a number of design options.


Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber Cement Siding - Installation

Photo: Flickr

Fiber-cement siding is an alternative to real wood, engineered wood, and vinyl siding options. Although fiber cement has endured some largely unwarranted criticism concerning moisture issues following faulty installation, it remains one of the more durable siding products in the industry.

Strength and Durability
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 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. “The added cost of fiber-cement is made up by the fact that once it’s up, you don’t have to worry about it,” says Lisa Santerian, marketing director for CertainTeed WeatherBoards fiber-cement siding.

Fiber-cement siding is low-maintenance, impact-resistant, and available in finished or painted options. Most companies warranty their product for 50-years, which is proof of its durability.

Designs and Profiles
The fiber-cement siding industry has spent years perfecting the look and finish of its product. Surface designs are created during manufacturing, when the surface is embossed with a wood grain or left smooth. “We can do any sort of architectural shapes and styling, and the consumer can pick any color they want,” says Santerian. In addition to stained, prefinished, painted, or unfinished faces, fiber cement is available in every siding type and profile, including vertical and horizontal laps, shingles, trim planks, and soffit panels. “You can even get half-rounds and octagon shapes if you want,” adds Santerian.

Both James Hardie’s ColorPlus line and CertainTeed’s ColorMax line of pre-finished fiber-cement siding products come with a 15-year warranty on the finish. This warranty covers the product against cracking, chipping, and peeling. The ColorMax line also includes a 100 percent SureStart protection, which covers the cost of materials and labor in the event of a manufacturer’s defect. “Again, consumers save money by not having to re-paint the product—the paint is covered for 15 years,” Santerian says.

Fiber Cement Installation
Fiber cement may be heavier than vinyl siding or engineered wood, but it is still lighter than real wood or stone, which means it is not terribly difficult to install. Installation guidelines should be closely followed, particularly when it comes to cutting the product and keeping it dry. Cutting fiber cement is harder than cutting real wood; it requires pneumatic or handheld shears, a dust-reducing circular saw, or a diamond-tip miter saw. Cutting fiber cement will release silica dust into the air, so you should wear a mask when cutting.

DIY-ers and contractors alike should follow handling and storage recommendations closely. Saturated or moist fiber cement siding can shrink at the butt ends if installed prior to drying. “All our packaging states very clearly: ‘Do Not Install Wet Product,’ ” Santerian says. “Unfortunately, we still hear tales of installers spraying the product down prior to installation.” Proper storage of the product before installation is essential if the siding is to stay dry. A sheltered storage space is best.

Creating a Green Product
Fiber cement may enjoy even greater popularity now that consumers are looking to use green building products. As a wood alternative, fiber cement has forest-saving properties and environmentally friendly qualities. CertainTeed takes the wood fiber needed for its fiber-cement siding from a sustainably managed forest. They also use fly ash (a byproduct of coal-burning) to replace the sand and silica, thereby adding post-industrial recycling to its list of attributes. Fly ash also makes the fiber cement lighter than its sand and silica counterparts, so it can be easier to handle and install.


Everything You Need to Know About Engineered Wood Siding

An eco-friendly alternative to wood that does not sacrifice looks for affordability.

lpcorp.com

Whether it’s called SmartSide, Catawba, or TruWood, engineered wood siding products all claim to have a technological edge over their real-wood counterparts. These products are engineered to eliminate flaws, resist deterioration, and be cost effective to install and maintain.

LP Building Products’ SmartSide line of siding and trim is made up of wood strands that are coated with a resin binder and compressed to create a board of superior strength. Each SmartSide piece is also treated using LP’s SmartGuard zinc-borate treatment system to protect against termites and rot.

The boards are coated with a moisture-resistant overlay that is embossed with a cedar-grain pattern for an authentic appearance. “The process of treating each wood wafer with zinc borate, using a heavy-duty exterior glue, and pressing the product under heat and pressure, results in one solid piece of wood,” says Ben Skoog, Business Marketing Manager for LP’s SmartSide. Both LP’s SmartSide and Collins Products’ TruWood siding are sold in longer 16-foot boards for fewer seams and less waste.

Engineered wood siding is easier and less costly to install than real wood siding. It is lighter in weight than wood and features advances that make installation easier, like LP’s SmartLock self-aligning edge design. Engineered wood siding can be purchased pre-primed, ready to paint, or pre-finished in any number of finish options, which reduces the field and labor time once installed.

Collins and LP products both offer 30-year transferable warranties on their engineered siding systems. LP’s SmartSide also adds a seven-year, 100 percent labor and replacement warranty.

Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement has been around for nearly a century and, like engineered wood siding, has certain advantages over natural wood. While it was once made with added asbestos, fiber cement siding today is made from a mixture of Portland cement, cellulose or wood fiber material, sand, and other components. It can be formed into a variety of siding patterns, have a smooth or embossed face, or be textured for a cedar look. A special curing process leaves the final product with a low-moisture content, making it resistant to warping and conducive to paint application.

The product’s main selling point is its durability: It is resistant to harsh weather, insects, and rot. CertainTeed and Cemplank back their products with warranties comparable to those offered by engineered-wood siding companies—CertainTeed’s WeatherBoards fiber cement siding comes with a 50-year limited transferable warranty. Fiber cement is also marketed as fire-resistant, making it an ideal siding choice for homes in wildfire regions. Installed much like real wood siding, fiber cement siding comes in the same lengths and widths as wood siding and is installed the same way. It is more difficult to cut than real or engineered wood, and manufacturers insist that installers wear masks and goggles to protect against the harmful dust produced by cutting.

Affordability
Affordable building products are defined by purchase price, installation costs, and maintenance. Engineered wood siding costs about half the price of real wood, is available in 16-foot lengths, and can be ordered pre-primed. This all adds up to huge savings in time and money on the building site. Fiber cement siding also costs about half as much as real wood, is virtually maintenance-free, will hold paint three times as long as real wood, and is easy to clean. With strong warranties for durability, homeowners can be assured that little additional money will go into maintaining the siding.

Not Yet Perfect
Engineered siding does have its flaws. Moisture remains a common enemy, and the engineered wood siding industry has suffered a number of class-action lawsuits due to moisture-related problems stemming from product imperfections and installation errors. “Our earlier attempt at engineered wood siding, called Inner-Seal, was not made or treated the way SmartSide is and the result was product failure,” explains Skoog, Since the revamping of their siding line, SmartSide products have been installed on more than 1.5 million homes.

Fiber cement siding is also vulnerable to moisture invasion, particularly if installed incorrectly. Failure to properly install fiber cement siding can lead to mold and rot in the sheathing or structural supports. Installation is also a concern with fiber cement siding—it weighs about 1.5 times as much as wood, and requires special tools for cutting.

Green Products
These engineered products are considered environmentally friendly since they help to prevent widespread clearing of trees for building purposes. Both fiber cement and engineered wood use wood wisely and have little negative impact on our forests. In fact, Collins Products TruWood engineered wood siding is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent organization that recognizes wood products taken from forests in a managed and socially responsible manner.


Wood Siding Options

Style, location, and budget should drive your selection of wood siding.

Wood Siding Options, Cedar Siding

Wood is a perennial favorite choice for siding options throughout the United States and Canada. Whether it is vertical siding like board and batten, or horizontal siding like clapboards, shakes, and shingles, there are a few species and grades commonly used for all applications.

A local builder or installer knows what species are readily available in the regional market. If you set your sights on wood that comes from a distance, is not frequently harvested, or is not suited to your region, you could hold up a project and raise the budget considerably. Before settling on a siding material, ask questions about rot resistance, splitting, checking, or cupping. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best grade of siding you can afford. Look for clear grains whenever possible, and make certain that the wood acclimates on site, is properly sealed, and is thoroughly protected upon installation.

Pine
Pine has long been a standard for exterior siding. Pine and its related softwoods—spruce and fir—can be less expensive than other species. Knot-free pine can be difficult to get in longer lengths, though, which can make a project more labor-intensive and costly. Pine holds a finish well, and is preferable when painting or staining horizontal siding. It is typically used for clapboards, but some contractors are wary of fast-growth pine for siding because it can be prone to cupping, splitting, and checking. Pine is not a rot-resistant wood, so it is important to keep it sealed and well maintained.

Spruce
A member of the pine family, this softwood is readily available in East Coast markets as a substitute for pine. It comes in longer lengths than pine, and has many of the same characteristics. It is typically used for board siding, especially clapboards. Again, since it is not a naturally rot-resistant wood, it is important to regularly maintain and seal the wood.

Fir
Like pine and spruce, fir is used as an economical siding option. It comes in long lengths, is easy to cut and install, takes a finish well, and is readily available regionally in the West. Like the other softwoods, fir is easily milled to a pattern, be it shiplap, tongue-and-groove, or board-and-batten.

Cedar
Cedar siding is known for its grain and its rot resistance. It is straight and resists splitting. Cedar takes a stain well and reveals a rich character. It is commonly used in shakes and shingles because it is dimensionally stable, resists swelling, and has less cupping and splitting. Cedar clapboards are popular, too, but clear grade A cedar can be costly. Still, for its grain and texture, cedar is preferred for stain applications. Cedar siding is naturally more moisture and insect-resistant than pine, but must be treated and maintained to retain these qualities. All woods must be sealed and stained or painted to resist moisture, damage, and decay.

Redwood
Perhaps the hallmark of rich texture and tone, redwood is a good choice for siding in all climates. Redwood resists shrinking, so it holds its profile and keeps its joints with little warping or cupping. Redwood has little pitch or resin, so it absorbs and retains its finish very well and requires less maintenance than some other species. Redwood is also naturally insect resistant, not just on the face but throughout the wood. Grown in the West, redwood can be difficult to obtain in other regions.

Price and Options
Wood pricing varies depending on the market. It may be difficult to get some native western woods on the East Coast, for example, because consumers buy it up in the local markets. And because some woods cannot be harvested as quickly as others, the supply is naturally lower. Check with your builder or local lumberyard before making a final decision.

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. These boards and shingles may be dipped or factory coated. Before installing, make sure that edges and ends are properly sealed. Freshly cut ends must always be primed and sealed before nailing.

A good wood siding should last for many, many years, but it must be properly maintained. Proper maintenance includes power washing, staining and sealing whenever the heat of the sun fades the finish, or moisture starts to turn to mold or mildew. Always allow wood to dry well before applying a new stain or finish.