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Nowadays, many are choosing to live in their homes longer.  As a result, a growing number of homeowners are investing in home improvements they can enjoy themselves.  

One of the best home improvements homeowners can make is replacing  tired, old, faded siding.  According to the National Association of Realtors, replacing your siding offers an 80 percent payback or return on your investment.

One reason that new siding is such a solid home improvement investment is it instantly enhances the curb appeal of your home. There's nothing quite like the warm feeling of driving up to your home every day and admiring its beauty.  

Siding also is a critical link to the well-being of your home. Siding is the first layer of defense against the elements, protecting the walls and interior of your home from moisture, heat and cold.

From wood clapboard and brick used widely to side homes decades ago to today's innovative materials, such as patented Ultrex pultruded fiberglass used in APEX siding and trim, siding materials have evolved to deliver higher performance, more cost efficiency and enhanced aesthetics.  With so many choices available to homeowners today, it's important for homeowners to do their homework when shopping for home siding.  Here are seven tips to consider when shopping for home siding:

1. Do your homework. Not all siding options are created equal. There's a huge difference between lower cost vinyl siding products and high-performance fiberglass siding. Lower priced options often come with tradeoffs, such as a higher risk of damage in a severe storm from hail or wind, faster color fading, or lots of maintenance (repainting, caulking, etc.). Premium siding products may cost more initially, but may be far less expensive and hassle-free over the course of homeownership.

2. Have a plan. Now is the time to coordinate other exterior elements with your new siding and trim to give your home a more contemporary, updated look and feel. Consider new energy-saving windows, such as Integrity windows, a new garage door, new roof shingles and enhance your landscaping through the use of pavers, wall systems and perennial plants and shrubs.

3. Get referrals. Ask your neighbors, co-workers and friends for referrals of remodelers who specialize in replacing siding.  Interview several remodelers and always get detailed estimates before committing to any remodeler.

4. Visit homes. Replacing siding isn't like replacing an appliance. You may only do this once or twice in your lifetime. To make sure you get exactly what you want, make sure to visit homes that have recently been resided by your contractor or remodeler. This will help you compare how different types of house siding actually look on a home.

5. Take your siding green. When replacing your siding, use siding material that is made from sustainable materials, such as sand, which will reduce the use of harmful chemicals and paints needed to manufacture and maintain it.

6. Select your colors. Choosing a color for your new siding may be the most difficult decision you'll have to make. The good news is that today's top-of-the-line siding offers a wide variety of bold colors from which to select. In contrast to traditional wood and fiber cement siding that requires painting and caulking every few years, new pultruded fiberglass siding offers an acrylic finish that is thicker and more durable than paint, and it resists chipping and fading. This allows homeowners to enjoy the satisfaction of their new siding with virtually zero maintenance.

7. Better moisture management. The number one thing you should expect of your new siding is it should protect your home from the elements, especially moisture. Unfortunately, some types of siding, such as fiber cement, wood and stucco, are more prone to moisture because they trap or absorb moisture behind the siding material. Instead, look to a siding that is inherently resistant to water.  Then, look to how that siding will manage moisture - behind the siding, when it's up against the wall of your home. A siding system that provides a continuous, natural drainage plane (moisture drains harmlessly away), and allows air to circulate to provide natural evaporation is critical to decreasing trapped moisture, which creates rot and mold.

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