Roofing & Siding - 3/12 - Bob Vila

Category: Roofing & Siding

How To: Clean Exterior Siding

Even the sturdiest siding requires some regular maintenance and attention. Here's how to keep the most common siding materials clean and in tip-top condition.

How to Clean Exterior Siding


Day after day, year after year, exterior siding protects your home from the elements. It’s the first line of defense against an array of natural challenges, including howling winds, driving rain, hot sun, and bitter cold. Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder that grit and grime tend to accumulate over time. Savvy homeowners, as a result, incorporate exterior cleaning into their semiannual maintenance routines for a number of compelling reasons.

First, it cannot be ignored that the condition of your siding significantly influences the curb appeal of your home—that is, how it appears to visitors and casual passersby. Second, giving your siding a good once-over a few times a year gives you the chance to identify and address any problems early on, before they pick up steam and become extensive, expensive-to-resolve headaches that could steal years from the expected lifespan of the siding.

Indeed, from both an aesthetic and pragmatic perspective, it’s never wise to go long without giving a thought to the wood, brick, stucco, or vinyl that clads your home. Generally speaking, experts recommend seasonal inspection and cleaning as needed. But according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, it’s essential to remember that “different siding materials carry different—often very different—care requirements.”

Continue reading below for expert advice on cleaning and caring for many of today’s best-known and most widely installed types of exterior siding.


A perennial favorite, wood siding boasts timeless, undeniable beauty, but of all siding types, Eldredge says, “it’s probably the most demanding.” For one, it needs to be painted (or stained) approximately every five years. Also, because wood naturally expands and contracts, “you regularly need to check all the windows and doors, reapplying caulk if and when appropriate,” he adds. Plus, for wood siding to not only perform well but look good too, it requires annual or twice-yearly cleaning. Mostly, Eldredge says, “you can get away with using soapy water and a soft-bristle brush.” But in special cases—say, to remove mold, mildew, or algae stains—you need to scrub with a solution of bleach (one part) and water (four parts). A note of caution: “Don’t use a pressure washer,” Eldredge warns. “It’d be faster and easier than cleaning by hand,” he continues, “but a lot of times, it does way more harm than good.”

A centuries-old siding material that typically lasts a lifetime, brick has long thrilled homeowners with its historical appearance, stately impression, and aura of strength. That said, as durable as brick may be, Eldredge points out that “its longevity partly depends on annual cleaning.” Under ideal conditions, so long as the siding remains in decent condition—with neither chipped, flaking brick nor cracked, crumbling mortar—maintenance involves thoroughly spraying down the entire house. Complicating matters is that, according to Eldredge, “parts of the structure that don’t receive much sun may get mold, mildew, or moss growth.” Double-check those shaded areas, and if you discover a problem, don’t hesitate to bring out the bleach. After thoroughly soaking the area to make the brick more absorptive, scrub in a mixture of bleach and water—about a cup of the former and a gallon of the latter.

Portland cement, sand, and lime or gypsum combine to create stucco, a material with an ancient heritage that today remains as popular ever. Versatility ranks as one of its main advantages—the material can take on a wide variety of colors and textures. The downside? Its rigid composition makes it vulnerable to chipping and cracking. Competent do-it-yourselfers can patch small areas on their own with store-bought stucco fillers, but for larger repairs, “it’s wise to hire a pro,” Eldredge recommends. Like plastering, properly applying stucco takes, as Eldredge puts it, “the kind of skills you develop only after years of experience.” You don’t need to be an expert to clean the material, though. Spray the exterior with warm, soapy water. It’s important to “start at the foundation level and work upward,” he says. “That way, the stucco near the base of the building doesn’t absorb gallons of dirty water.”

“There’s a reason vinyl has become the most popular type of siding in America,” Eldredge says. “It’s virtually maintenance-free.” Continuing, he notes that options like WeatherBeater vinyl siding, installed exclusively by Sears Home Services, actually “deliver the look of traditional wood siding, just without all the hassle.” For instance, vinyl doesn’t need to be refinished; it remains colorfast for years. Plus, vinyl is not susceptible to many of the factors that harm other materials—rot, for instance, and pests like termites. If your vinyl siding has gotten a bit dirty, don’t worry—cleanup couldn’t be easier. Even tough stains tend to come out with a solution of water and mild detergent, but as Eldredge attests, “more often than not, cleaning vinyl means nothing more than rinsing with a garden hose.” In the end, “that’s what makes it a great choice for people who don’t have the time or energy for home upkeep.”


When properly cared for, exterior siding can last for decades. But no siding lasts forever. There comes a time when cleaning and repairs won’t cut it anymore—a time when, in order to guarantee continued protection from the elements, you need to install brand-new siding. Fortunately, there are many benefits to be gained from an upgrade. Eye-catching curb appeal, higher home resale value, improved energy efficiency, and dramatically lower maintenance requirements are just some of the reasons homeowners choose a category leader like WeatherBeater. Though re-siding can be an overwhelming prospect, companies like Sears Home Services guide you through the entire project, all the way from selection of the new material to the final installation. Best of all, in contrast with many local contractors, the Sears brand offers a Satisfaction Guarantee. Schedule a free in-home consultation as soon as you’re ready.


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Remove Vinyl Siding

Does your façade need a facelift? Skip the pricey pro and take off old vinyl siding yourself with the right tools and these smart steps.

How to Remove Vinyl Siding


Buckles, splinters, and cracks, oh my! These are all clear-cut signs that your vinyl siding needs to be replaced. Despite this material’s widely extolled reputation for superior strength and durability, it doesn’t last forever. After 10 to 15 years of exposure to the elements, your siding will no doubt reach its expiration date, but having the panels removed professionally can cost up to $3,000. So why not DIY and put the money you save towards a new exterior? It should only take a day or two to remove siding from a typical house—and this guide will help you get the job done.

Zip tool
Scaffolding or ladder
Claw hammer
Carpenter’s pincer pliers
Dumpster (optional)

How to Remove Vinyl Siding - Home Exterior


First, understand the system. Siding, which is generally sold in 12-foot panels, is attached via an interlocking strip-and-lip channel system, with the strip (at the top of the panel) nailed to the wall and the lip (at the bottom of the panel) locking onto the panel below. Removal requires you to unlock or “unzip” each piece from the one above, so to perform this part of the task efficiently and effectively, invest in a $5 vinyl siding removal tool—also known as a zip tool. You’ll work a panel at a time, first unzipping and then removing the nails.

If you’re not using temporary scaffolding (which can be rented from a home center for about $25 a day), position your ladder securely against a top corner of your home and climb to the top. To remove the uppermost piece, start at one end of the bottom of the first panel and push the end of the zip tool up under siding until it hooks onto the underside of the lip. You won’t be able to see the lip but should feel it lock on.

Once the zip tool is latched onto the lip, pull the siding piece downward and slide the tool horizontally across the entire length of the panel, unhooking the lip. Working in one direction, unzip the channel lock across the entire length of the piece of siding. Be careful not to extend beyond your reach. If you’re not using scaffolding, climb down and reposition your ladder as necessary. Once that’s done, the panel will hang loose, exposing the nail strip.

After unzipping the first panel, pry off the nails from the top strip using the claw end of the hammer. (Although nails on the uppermost panel will already be exposed, don’t try to remove them before unlocking—always unlock first and remove nails second.) Find any stubborn nails? Grab your carpenter’s pincer pliers to loosen.

Once all the nails are removed, unhook the siding piece by pulling straight down and out. Carefully bend the panel to free it from the receiving channel. Continue working in one direction from the top down, one panel at a time—unzipping, then removing the nails—until you’ve got them all down.

Once the vinyl is removed, determine how to dispose of the unwanted exterior properly. If you’re only removing a few damaged panels for replacement, disposal isn’t such a big deal. But if you’re taking on your entire house, renting a dumpster might be your best bet for cleanup. Though most companies only rent by the week, the average national cost runs about $400. Seems a fairly small price to have the cumbersome panels hauled off to the landfill.

Now, don’t jump the gun on your home’s new look! Because vinyl siding is notoriously vulnerable to water penetration, be sure to check for moisture damage, which could lead to underlying wood rot and pest infestation. Do a thorough repair before putting up new siding or any other exterior.

All You Need to Know About De-icing Systems

Blistered paint, damage to your ceilings, roof, and walls, and structural issues—these are just some of the potentially disastrous effects of ice dams. Learn how to take action now, before you get caught by surprise.


Of all the hazards that strike fear into the heart of the average homeowner, surely ice dams must rank near the top of the list. Making the phenomenon all the more menacing is that unlike many other home disasters—a downed tree, for instance—ice dams aren’t obvious threats. Often, it’s not until after the damage has been done that a homeowner even becomes aware of the problem. Therefore, the key isn’t to eliminate ice dams after they’ve formed, but rather to prevent them from forming in the first place. There are several ways to do this, but homeowners seeking the greatest protection often opt to install de-icing cables along the roofline. Here’s why.

Ice dams form in winter, in the days and weeks following heavy snowstorms. Warmed by heat rising up from below, accumulated snow on the roof begins to melt. Before the melted snow runs off the roof, however, it refreezes right near the edge, over the eaves. After repeated freeze-thaw cycles over the course of the season, a thick barrier of ice forms along the roof overhang. Once this dam has formed, any snow melting on the roof collects and puddles behind it. Eventually, this trapped, standing water works its way beneath the shingles, causing leaks and, in many cases, extensive (and expensive) damage.


Once bitten, twice shy: Indeed, the homeowners most likely to take measures against ice dams are those who ignored the risk in the past and wound up paying the price. But even if you’ve never had to deal with ice dams before, if you live in a region with extreme winter weather, it’s only prudent to minimize your vulnerability. Affordable, easy-to-install de-icing cables offer perhaps the most direct and effective protection. Fastened into position over the eaves (and often within the gutters as well), these cables output heat to prevent melted snow from refreezing before it has the chance to run off the roof, into the storm drainage system, and finally into the yard.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with, “De-icing cables are insulated electric heating wires specially designed for roof and gutter applications.” Made to resist exposure to sunlight, moisture, and impact, such products provide dependable, long-term ice dam prevention. “Once it’s up there, consider the de-icing system up there for good,” O’Brian says. “In theory, homeowners could take down the installation every spring, but you really don’t need to do that.” Secured with strong, durable clips, the cables stay in place for years and years and, O’Brian continues, “they’re virtually maintenance-free.”

It’s important to note, however, that the performance and longevity of a de-icing system hinges on proper installation. For that reason, O’Brian recommends hiring a contractor. “A do-it-yourselfer may not have any trouble climbing onto the roof and laying the cable, but since it’s critical to position and fasten the cable correctly, there’s a lot of room for error.” In addition, cables typically require an outdoor GFCI electrical outlet. “If you don’t already have one, then you’ll at least need to bring in an electrician.” It helps to work with someone experienced: With so many options available, it can be tricky to choose the right product.

De-icing cables are designed for use primarily with the most common roofing material—asphalt shingles. If you’ve got, say, metal roofing, special considerations come into play. You must account for the size and, more importantly, the shape of your roof. Plus, there are environmental variables to consider, such as the solar orientation of your home and the prevailing wind direction. Finally, bear in mind that features vary from one product to the next. As O’Brian notes, “The basic stuff simply plugs in and turns on.” But if you’re concerned about energy savings, “opt for a system that self-regulates in keeping with the temperature outdoors.”

Experts at are on hand to help you find a de-icing system that suits both your needs and your budget. Of course, there are other steps you can take to protect your home. For instance, attic insulation and ventilation can help to control the temperature of your attic, which in turn decelerates snowmelt. If an ice dam forms despite your best efforts, ice-and-water barriers often prove to be a valuable safeguard, blocking the intrusion of water into the home and thereby mitigating the worst damage. But no measure addresses the issue quite as directly as installing a course of de-icing cables. In the end, though, which strategy you choose to employ is less important than acknowledging the risk and proactively pursuing a workable solution.


This post has been brought to you by Its facts and opinions are those of

All You Need to Know About Roofing Materials

With the variety of roofing materials available, it can be difficult to know what's best for your home. Use this guide to discover which is right for you, and to get a few tips on how to maintain your roof for long-lasting success.

Types of Roofing Materials  - Asphalt


You probably don’t think much about the durability of your roof until you absolutely need to. But waiting until a leak or other noticeable damage occurs could result in costly (and lengthy) repairs. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a long-time homeowner, educating yourself on the pros and cons of various roofing materials is vital to both maintaining and protecting your home’s exterior and ensuring it lasts for years to come.

Types of Roofing Materials - Slate


The roofing material that’s right for your home should work for both your architectural style and your climate. Making the smartest choice in material is the first and best way to avoid pricey repairs down the line.

Asphalt shingles are durable, easy to install, and will last around 25 years. Available in a wide variety of colors and offered at the least expensive prices comparatively, it’s no surprise that asphalt is the most common roofing material. As a bonus, zinc or copper granules can be found in some, which prevents algae growth that plagues climates with higher humidity.

Wood shingles and shakes are a favorite in both the Pacific Northwest and Western regions. Featuring a price that’s twice as much as asphalt (but with the same life expectancy), these uniformly machine-sawed—and sometimes handmade—materials offer a timeless, rustic charm to any home. If you’re drawn to this look, however, be weary; some municipal fire codes forbid the use of wood shingles, even though some now have a factory-applied treatment that makes the wood resistant to fire.

Fire-resistant and extremely durable, tile, clay, and cement roofing are often seen outfitting Spanish-style homes in the Southwest. But with the unique look also comes a steep price tag, as they are around triple the cost of asphalt. The high cost is equalled by a high lifespan, however, lasting anywhere between 50 to 100 years.

Slate is among the most durable roofing materials due to its heavy, natural stone composition. Although these qualities make it the most expensive—rounding out about 12 to 20 times the cost of asphalt—it may be worth the extra cost, as it can last over 100 years.

Popular for flat or low-slope roofs, aluminum, steel, and copper models can be molded or pressed to mimic other types of materials, like shingles and tiles. Durable, lightweight, and weather- and fire-resistant, these roofing styles can last about 35 years and are similar in cost to tile, clay, or cement.

If you want a slate or wood look, but don’t want to overspend, try synthetic, polymer, or composite roofing. These man-made options are offered in lookalike styles that copy the popular albeit expensive materials. Synthetic, polymer, or composite tiles are also lightweight, durable, and comparable to the lower price of asphalt. This material can last up to 50 years and requires little effort to maintain.


No matter the material you pick, there are a few safeguards you should put in place to avoid costly damage down the line.

Proper ventilation is critical to ensuring a long-lasting roof. If none is put in place, heat and moisture can build up underneath the roofing and cause structural damage or rot. Louvers, roof vents, and soffit vents can help prevent these problems.

Leaks are an obvious issue to avoid. Consider installing metal sheathing called flashing at the points where different materials join, like around skylights or vents. Proper overlap and staggered joints are other ways you can prevent leaks.


Your climate and the elements will be a factor in the lifespan and performance of your roof. If you live in a rainy area, you could suffer from roof deck rot if the proper steps aren’t taken. If rough winters plague your city, ice dams along the roof might be a common occurrence. Even strong winds can blow or break off shingles.

To prepare for these unexpected issues, start a regular inspection, both annually and following any major weather event. This will help you catch little problems that could turn into huge repairs. When reviewing your roof, look out for these red flags:

• Shingles that aren’t lying flat. Another surefire sign that you’ll need to make repairs are shingles that show signs of cracking, curling, buckling, or other obvious damage.
• Sagging areas of the roof could be a sign of rot or other moisture damage. The underlying decking may need to be repaired to stop a larger issue.
• If you discover shingle granules in the gutters or downspouts, it might be a warning sign that your roof is at the end of its life.

Keep in mind, a few misshapen shingles or a little leak may not be cause for concern—it may just need some TLC. If you’re worried, contact a roofing contractor to ensure everything is safe and secure.

Genius! DIY a Roof Rake with Hardware Store Supplies

Letting snow pile up on your roof can lead to ice dams, leaks, and other costly repairs. Make this easy avalanche roof rake for the winter, and let a clever DIY design do all the work for you.

DIY Roof Rake - How to Clear Snow Off of the Roof

Photo: Bill Bachand

When the snow started to pile up on handyman Bill Bachand’s roof, he did what any responsible homeowner would do: run to the nearest hardware store to find just the right tool before the pileup could cause any damage. Unfortunately, the rest of the town did the exact same thing, so by the time he got there, the seasonal section was emptied of every last roof rake. Instead of scouring all the stores in the area, he set off to make his own roof rake out of a handful of dependable, readily available hardware store staples—a resourceful move that saved him more than $100.

The inspired DIYer’s roof rake design capitalized on the durability and versatility of PVC pipe by using it for the snow tool’s H-shaped frame. One half of the frame holds a 12-inch-tall piece of sheet metal, which is attached to the frame by multiple screws. This large, flat metal surface does the heavy lifting, easily clearing snow piled up on the roof. Plus, when tapped against the roof, this portion of the tool speeds up the chore by knocking heavy snow and ice loose from the shingles. The other half of the frame holds a length of metal chain. On a sloped roof, this side of the rake lets you harness the effects of gravity: When you pull the length of chain along the shingles, the resulting “snowball” effect makes winter way less work.

You’ve probably heard that you get what you pay for, be it a house or a handsaw. But when a budget build is paired with a genius design, that old rule just doesn’t apply. To see for yourself, give this $40 DIY a try! Your wallet—and your roof and your back—will thank you.

FOR MORE: Snow Ripper


Photo: Bill Bachand

Bob Vila Radio: Replacing a Damaged Gutter

In the war your home wages against the elements, the gutter system serves as a first line of defense. If a section gets damaged, act fast to replace it—before the next storm hits!

Wind, rain, snow, hail and falling tree branches can wreak havoc on your rain gutters. After an especially severe storm, if any section of guttering appears damaged beyond repair, you can always replace that one part of the system. It’s a relatively straightforward job. Here’s how it’s done.

How to Replace Gutters


mp3 file

Once you’ve got your ladder safely positioned under the damaged section, use a screwdriver or a pry bar to remove the gutter hangers (assuming they can be reused). Then, with a hacksaw, cut away the section you wish to replace. Before you do so, however, consider wedging 2×4 spacers into the adjacent guttering; that way, you can be sure those sections keep their shape while you’re working. Now, cut the new section to size, allowing for about two inches of overlap on either side. (Note that it’s often easiest to cut gutters when they are upside down, and that it can also be helpful to position a spacer within the gutter you’re cutting). Finally, proceed to add the new section into the gap. Having cleared away leaves and debris, apply caulk at the seams where the replacement section joins with the existing gutters. Install rivets, reinstall the gutter hangers—and you’re done!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Exterior Motive: 3 Ways to Put a New Face on Your Home

You have plenty of options for improving the look of your home's exterior, from a simple paint job to new siding. Fortunately, whichever route you choose, one company can help you get the results you want.

Home Exterior Updates


As a well-known quip notes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The saying applies first and foremost to our relationships with others, but sure enough, it also applies to home exteriors. In the eyes of first-time visitors and anyone driving or walking by, the outward appearance of your home can communicate a great deal about who you are, including your personal style and your priorities in life.

Are you dissatisfied with how your house looks from the curb? Don’t fret: You have a big range of options for giving your home the facelift it may sorely need. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, however. The right choice depends on several factors, including the condition of your home and its geographical location. But ultimately, it all comes down to you and your specific goals for the project.

For instance, if you’re concerned only with aesthetics, a fresh paint job may be the most satisfying approach, not to mention the most cost-effective. You may, however, wish not only to refresh your home’s appearance but also to improve its longevity and structural integrity. In this situation, installing new exterior siding could be the best way to go. A third option—particularly appealing if you’re tired of sky-high utility bills—would be to expand your efforts to include maximizing energy efficiency. Today, you can do so by selecting an advanced exterior coating that dramatically reduces solar heat gain. These coatings help you remain comfortable indoors, even while using (and paying for) less air conditioning. Best of all, these exterior coatings come in many colors, allowing you to upgrade both the curb appeal of your home and its performance.

A highly ambitious homeowner-handyman might try doing it all on his own, but for the rest of us, there’s Sears Home Services. Managing the entire process from start to finish, Sears ensures professionalism throughout the project and, in the end, quality results. A nationwide service provider with a decades-long history, Sears backs its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee. So, regardless of which exterior update you choose for your home, getting it done with Sears means getting it done by experts, from a generations-old brand that you trust. Unsure of how best to achieve your goals? Sears can help with that too. To learn more about three common exterior improvements that homeowners like you undertake, we spoke to a product manager with the company, Jim Eldredge. Continue reading to benefit from his expert advice.



Home Exterior Updates - Trim Painting Shot


“Painting the exterior gives your home an all-new look, and it’s a great option for those on a tighter budget,” explains Jim Eldredge of Sears. As a low-cost, high-impact project, exterior painting holds appeal for anyone, from a new homeowner to a decades-long resident. That said, Eldredge points out that painting may be a particularly smart choice for a homeowner who’s planning to sell. The added curb appeal grabs the attention of prospective buyers, and in Eldredge’s view, “helps your home stand out from all the others on the block.”

Of course, painting a house entails much more than just brushes and rollers. Beautiful, enduring results come only as the result of a thorough, comprehensive process. According to Eldredge, “the most important steps in painting don’t even involve paint.” On the contrary, a successful paint job hinges on careful preparation of the exterior surfaces. To that end, Sears Home Services “follows a rigorous 10-step method” exclusive to the company and its pros. The only downside? Paint doesn’t last forever. Even the best paint job requires upkeep. Plus, though a coat of paint may be powerful, it cannot repair the sort of deficiencies that leave a home vulnerable to moisture, pests, and the extensive, expensive problems such issues often create.



Home Exterior Updates - Vinyl Siding Replacement


Like paint, new siding transforms the look of a home’s exterior. Unlike paint, however, new siding can do much, much more. On top of superficial improvement, Jim Eldredge of Sears says that “new siding delivers a battery of performance benefits, from enhanced energy efficiency to protection against nature.” Wind and rain, carpenter ants and termites—these are just some of the threats from the outdoors that will remain where they belong—outside your house—only so long as your siding remains effective. As Eldredge puts it, “the habitability of your home depends on the ability of your siding to perform its role.”

Is your siding falling down on the job? Sears Home Services can help you assess its condition and offer guidance on how to proceed. Should it be necessary to install new siding, there are many replacement materials to consider, but for the average homeowner, “it’s tough to beat vinyl,” Eldredge says. “If you want the look of wood, without all the maintenance, go with vinyl,” he concludes. Exclusive to Sears, the Weatherbeater line of vinyl siding includes three levels, each rated by Energy Star for efficiency. With certified pros carrying out the installation, you get the company’s trademark Satisfaction Guarantee as well as a limited lifetime product warranty.



Home Exterior Updates - Energy Efficient Coating


If it’s hot outside, it’s hot inside. That’s why air conditioning exists—to make indoor spaces comfortable, even in extreme heat. Comfort comes at a cost, though. If you’re sick of paying through the nose for summertime climate control, Sears Home Services offers a solution that can help. Known as the CoolWall system, it’s a heat-reflective coating for home exteriors, one that leverages a technology used by the military to lessen the heat signature of its vehicles. How does it work? CoolWall reduces the solar heat gain that would otherwise force your air conditioner to work harder to reach the target temperature. With CoolWall, your home remains, well, cool, so you don’t need to rely so heavily (and spend so much on) air conditioning. In appearance, CoolWall coatings “look a lot like paint,” says Jim Eldredge of Sears. “They come in a variety of colors,” he continues, “from Cape Cod Blue to Whisper Gray.” That means, in addition to helping lower your bills, CoolWall can give your house a new look.

There’s no doubt more than one way to update your home exterior. But although numerous variables come into play, there’s one certainty: No matter what you think your home needs or how you wish to alter or improve it, one company can help you determine the best course and get the job done right: Sears Home Services.

Home Exterior Updates - Rear View


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila Radio: Is a Mossy Roof Cause for Concern?

It doesn't matter whether you live in coastal Oregon or landlocked Illinois. If yours is a shady lot, moss may grow on your roof. Be wary. Though it may not seem like a threat, moss can shorten lifespan of shingles and leave your roof vulnerable to damaging leaks. Fortunately, it's easy to remove. Here's how.

You might like the look of moss on your roof, thinking the soft, green fuzz adds a bit of rustic charm to your curb appeal. But the fact is that invasive moss tends to wheedle its way under the shingles, eventually prying them up and creating a perfect opening for rot- and mold-causing moisture. In other words, no matter how you feel about its looks, there’s nothing to like about the consequences of a mossy roof. Act sooner than later to manage this all-but-benign threat to your home.

Removing Moss from Roof


mp3 file

Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING MOSS FROM YOUR ROOF or read the text below:

To remove moss from your roof, grab a ladder, a spray-nozzled garden hose, and a long-handled scrub brush. Plus, for your safety and comfort, be sure to wear slip-resistant shoes as well as rubber gloves. On a steeply pitched roof especially, you may also want to secure yourself via rope to a fixed object like the chimney.

Now, starting from the peak and working your way downward, wet small sections of the roof before using the scrub brush to loosen the grip of the moss. Once it becomes detached from the shingles, hose the moss down and off the roof, taking care not to let it settle in—and clog up—your gutters.

Don’t be tempted to use a pressure washer for the task, as its high-powered spray can do about as much damage as the moss you’re removing. Additionally, note that if water alone doesn’t do the trick, you can repeat the process, this time with a store-bought cleanser. If using a chemical treatment, however, remember to protect the plantings around your foundation with a thin layer of plastic sheeting.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Bob Vila Radio: Be a Pro at Patching Stucco

Stucco's a lot of things, but it's not invincible. If and when it becomes damaged due to moisture, use the following procedure to patch the area in need of repair.

Stucco is a wonderfully versatile wall treatment—durable, weather-resistant, and attractive. It’s been used in countless different applications, both indoors and out. Today, however, it mostly appears on home exteriors, where, like any material exposed to the weather, it requires periodic maintenance.

Repairing Stucco


mp3 file

Listen to BOB VILA ON REPAIRING STUCCO or read the text below:

If you see cracks developing, use a chisel and hammer to chip away the loose stucco. Once you’ve done so, check the wire mesh beneath the stucco. If it’s damaged, cut a new piece and use galvanized nails to fasten it in place. Now, mix a batch of stucco patching compound and use a small trowel to work it into the hole you’ve chiseled. Next, run a flat board across the patch and surrounding area to ensure that they’re level with one another. With the patch still moist, use a finishing tool to make the texture match the rest of the wall. For smooth finishes, a trowel works best. For stippled textures, a sponge. Copying a swirled effect? Try a whisk!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

5 Questions to Ask Before Replacing Your Roof

Replacing your roof? The contractor you hire sets the trajectory of the project, determining whether it becomes a success story or a cautionary tale. To arrive at the right choice, be sure you ask the right questions.

Installing a New Roof


Replacing the roof: Many people do it only once, if at all, in their tenure as the owner of a home. For that reason alone—simply because it’s unfamiliar—re-roofing can be a daunting prospect. Aside from the stress of hiring a contractor, there are new terms to learn and tough decisions to make. Then, of course, there’s the financial dimension: A major home improvement job, roof replacement typically costs thousands of dollars, enough to make any budget-conscious homeowner hesitate. When you dig a little deeper, though, you begin to understand that replacing the roof doesn’t just take money out of your pocket; the upgrade often adds considerable value to the home. Upon resale, owners typically recoup more than half of the amount they invest in a new roof, according to Jim Eldredge, a manager with Sears Home Services. Still, anxiety comes with the territory whenever you undertake a high-price-tag project, even if the component at issue serves a vital purpose in safeguarding the integrity of your home.

Certainly, more glamorous home improvement projects exist, but there may be none more essential than securing a sturdy, impervious roof. Besides keeping out the weather and preventing water damage, a sound roof offers a suite of less obvious benefits, including but not limited to improved energy efficiency and curb appeal. It’s a “functional upgrade,” says Eldredge. Simply put, a newly roofed house performs better, generally speaking. The variable here is that hiring and working with a reliable contractor are key to success. Everyone has heard horror stories of amateurish crews doing a slapdash job (or not even completing the work). You can avoid such terrors by asking a series of simple questions at the outset of your relationship with a given pro. Unless you are an ambitious do-it-yourselfer handling it all on your own, the quality of your new roof largely depends on the people you entrust with the task at hand. So, before spending a penny, make it your business to find out the details of how contractors conduct their business. In your interviews, be sure to hit the following topics.



Installing a New Roof - Budgeting


Is the estimate comprehensive? It’s one thing to invest thousands in a new roof. It’s another to shell out much more than you were prepared to spend. Do yourself the favor of reviewing estimates in full, rather than skipping to the section that specifies the project total. Keep an eye out for anomalies, but just as important is to walk away if you encounter an estimate that doesn’t seem complete. Give seriously consideration only to written estimates that factor in all costs, from the permits and inspections on down to the fasteners and flashings. In addition, look for allowances made to cover miscellaneous unexpected expenses, such as the repair of the plywood sheathing beneath the shingles. Everyone knows the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That wisdom certainly applies to estimates, but equally suspicious is any contractor who isn’t willing to explain an estimate in depth. Bear in mind that the project consultants with Sears Home Services take the homeowner through every line of a work proposal. The reason? When client and crew are on the same page, unpleasant surprises are rare.



Installing a New Roof - Asphalt Detail


What materials are going to be used? You get what you pay for. While that’s true in virtually every home improvement project, it’s never truer than in roofing. Often, when a roof fails prematurely, sub-standard shingles are to blame. Cutting corners simply doesn’t work. In fact, you’re likely to spend more over the long term if you try to scrimp at first. Explain your quality concerns to the contractors on your radar, and in turn, expect each to offer insight into your options. Before work begins, get a materials specification in writing. Then later, once the materials have arrived, double-check that they match what was agreed. In general, be wary of any contractor who does not recommend the best. In its commitment to lasting results, Sears Home Services works exclusively with Owens Corning, a leading shingles manufacturer since the 1930s. In addition, Sears consults with the client to select shingles that complement the house style, boosting its outward appearance. Re-roofing can be as much about aesthetics as it is about performance, if you have the help you need to make the right choices.



Installing a New Roof - Cutting Shingles


What methods does the installer plan to employ? To save you money in the short term, some contractors may suggest applying new shingles directly over the existing layer. Cutting a step out of the process may be enticing, but there are compelling, legitimate reasons to pursue the correct order of operations. Basically, shingles are more secure when fastened directly to the roof deck. In addition, removing the existing roof materials brings about the valuable opportunity to inspect the roof deck. Ignore the opportunity, and it may only be a matter of time before currently concealed issues make themselves known in the form of extensive, expensive water damage. That’s why, in every re-roofing job it undertakes, Sears Home Services strips away the old shingles to reveal the underlying sheathing and, if necessary, repair it. Before applying the new shingles, installers add an ice-and-water shield to protect against ice dam damage. Along the way, important accommodations are made for adequate attic ventilation. The wise course is to hire a contractor eager to do not the easiest thing, but what’s best for your home.



Installing a New Roof - Liability


What happens if something goes wrong? When the average homeowner hires out a roof replacement job, he or she does so on the assumption that final responsibility for the project now falls to the professional. The harsh reality is that, while most states and municipalities place reasonably strict requirements on contractors, not everyone in the industry follows the letter of the law. That means it’s in your best interest to confirm that your contractor has bonding and insurance certification, in addition to the relevant licenses. One virtue of choosing a larger, firmly established company like Sears Home Services is that in addition to foremen and workers, there are team members focused not on the construction work, but on the paperwork. That way, you can enter into the project with peace of mind, fully confident that you’d be protected in a worst-case scenario. Most small, local contractors are licensed, insured, and bonded, but before hiring one, triple-check that you wouldn’t be liable for any accidents.



Installing a New Roof - Warranties


How long can the new roof be expected to last? Typically, asphalt shingle roofs last for decades, but whereas some must be replaced after about 20 years, others remain viable for a lifetime. For instance, the Owens Corning shingles installed by Sears Home Services come with a guarantee of problem-free performance for a full 50 years (view details). Of course, if the shingles were improperly installed, even a generous product guarantee would be of little help to the homeowner. Sears Home Services sets itself apart here. Very few local contractors offer warranties on their workmanship. But Sears knows that, when it comes to such a large-scale investment, the customer service received post-installation often matters most of all. For that reason, the company provides a written limited warranty on labor, not to mention a Satisfaction Guarantee. Hire well, and you can expect your chosen roofer to get the job done on time and on budget. With Sears Home Services, you can expect that and more—namely, a commitment to your satisfaction that extends long after the installers have packed up their things and left.

Other home improvements are purely elective, but roof replacement is something different. It’s not so much a choice as it is an essential step forward in defending the structural integrity of your home, while giving a tremendous boost to its resale value. Don’t just flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed. Instead, do your due diligence, ask good questions, and devote thought, care, and attention to your selection of whom you trust to put a roof over your head.


This post has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of