Vinyl Shingles and Shakes: What Do They Offer a Traditional Home?

For decades there was no good alternative for homeowners who wanted a low maintenance siding for the exterior of their home with the traditional look of shingles or shakes.  Many style houses such as Cape, Split-level and even some Ranches were build with cedar shingles or larger cedar shakes.  Homeowners often determine that it would not be fitting to the style of the home to install a clapboard or lap style siding.

In recent years, the manufacturers have been able to develop alternatives that solve this problem.  Companies such asCertainteed with their Cedar Impressions line, and Nailite with their Rough Sawn Cedar and Cape Cod shingles line have bridged the gap between the traditional cedar look and the desirability of a low maintenance vinyl product.

Although it’s impossible to fully replicate authentic cedar, these products have become a reasonably attractive match.  The way manufacturers such as Certainteed and Nailite have achieved a traditional look is by using real cedar shakes and shingles to make a mold.  The vinyl or polypropylene is then pressed into the mold to create an accurate replica of the original.

Finally homeowners with cedar shingles or shakes have a nice option with both the traditional appearance they desire without the maintenance of wood siding.  Read here for more information about the products in this category we install.

Simonton Windows in Massachusetts

United Home Experts is a local installer of Simonton Windows serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Southern New Hampshire.  Request a Free Window Quote Here

Simonton Windows:

  • Is one of the largest vinyl window company in the United States
  • Have the AAMA Gold Label Certification
  • Have been awarded JD Power and Associates highest mark in customer satisfaction over Pella and Andersen
  • Have won the “Best in Class” Award

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But then why isn’t Simonton a household name in New England? The reason is simple.  Simonton spends money and energy on the development of windows and relies on    knowledgeable home improvement contractors to promote and sell their windows and  doors. Simonton also privately labels windows for larger companies.

Simonton windows are not available on the shelves of any big box stores or local lumber  yards in New England.  They are only sold through larger distributers to home  improvement companies and contractors that deal in larger quantities on an annual basis.

At United Home Experts we’ve done extensive research into what windows and doors are available for homeowners in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and we offer several different brands including Simonton.  Our customers are consistently impressed with the quality materials Simonton delivers and their devotion to standing behind their windows and doors with excellent warranties.

Exterior Painting in Massachusetts: Which is the Best Season?

Whether you are taking on the task yourself or hiring a local painter for the job, there are certain factors to consider when painting the exterior of a Massachusetts home. One of those factors is considering the best time of year to do the project.

The two main variables in determining the best time to paint are moisture and temperature.

Spring

In New England, the climate is generally very moist in the spring with intermittent days of rain.  However, that does not mean there is no opportunity to paint between the months of March and June.  Assuming the surface has been dry for a couple days, latex paint will adhere just fine.  To be extra cautious, purchase a moisture meter that can detect moisture levels of the wood in question. Some homes in Massachusetts have a chronic moisture problem that will not be remedied by applying even the best quality paint.  In this case consider replacing the problem areas before painting.

Summer

The issue in summer becomes heat and humidity.  An average Massachusetts day with 80-85 degree temperatures and moderate humidity is perfect weather for painting with latex products.  However, when the temperature begins to exceed 90-95 degrees, latex products may dry more quickly then desirable.  In this situation the speed and experience of the person applying the coating is an important factor.

Fall

The fall in New England can be similar in temperature and precipitation as the Spring, and therefore the same precautions should be taken.  Consider using a moisture meter.

Winter

Although traditionally it is not recommended to paint under temperatures of 50 degrees, major paint manufacturers such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore have developed products such as Resilience and Aura that can be applied in temperatures as low as 35 degrees.  However it is imperative that the paint have sufficient time to bond to the surface before the temperature drops below the recommended level.  When in question, read the product label carefully.

We’re a Massachusetts Painter

Exterior Painting in Boston: What are the major challenges?

As an Exterior Painting Company in Boston, MA we’ve done it all.  Boston and the surrounding towns have such an eclectic assortment of buildings that we have to be prepared to handle a variety of different tasks.  Here are some of the challenges we face on a regular basis.

Lead Paint:  Any homes or buildings the predate 1975 and have not been previously refurbished or de-leaded contain lead paint.  Our challenge is to abide by the strict state and local regulations for handling lead paint, while keeping the cost as reasonable as possible.  In many cases we advise home and business owners to consider replacing the siding on the exterior of the building with something lower maintenance and longer lasting such as fiber cement or vinyl.  Often times this alternative is not much more expensive then using approved methods of stripping the paint from the existing home.  In addition, the new lower maintenance siding will last a whole lot longer.

Historical Regulations: Many neighborhoods in and around Boston have restrictions of what one can do with the exterior of their homes.  Often this is handled on a case by case basis, but we have had some success getting approval to install synthetic products such as Fiber cement clapboard and Azek style PVC trim on homes in Cambridge, Somerville, and other cities in the area.

Height and Access: Many homes in Boston exceed a height that’s workable from regular ladders.  In this case we bring in scaffolding, or lifts to help us access the high areas.  Of course this can add to the cost of the project but in many cases there is no other option.  Small spaces, sidewalks and alleys can also cause problems when painting in Boston.  Many times we have to obtain permitting with the city to block the sidewalk while we are working.

These are the major challenges we constanlty face when exterior painting in boston.

Visit cityofboston.gov for more info on lead paint removal regulations.

Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficient Windows

The Federal Government recently announced a tax credit for energy efficient home improvements Homeowners will receive 30% of the cost of an approved project up to $1500. On the list of energy efficient improvements are replacement windows. However, the guidelines for acceptable windows are very stringent and it’s very important that homeowners know which windows will get them the tax credit and which will not.

The government is requiring that the windows being installed must have a SHGC of .30 or less, and a U-value of .30 or less. SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) determines the amount of heat gained from the sun through a window. U-Value is the measurement used to determine how well a material allows heat to pass through (it’s the inverse of R-value). The lower the U-value the better insulated a window is.

The confusing part is that not all Energy Star rated windows qualify. This can be tricky to homeowners who are not aware of the specific requirements. In the window industry right now, most double pane windows will not qualify for this tax credit and those that do tend to have extra layers of Low-E giving the glass a more shaded appearance. Most triple pane windows already qualify, but buyer beware. Not all triple pane windows are built to last. Most manufacturers are scrambling to develop new windows that will meet the federal guidelines.

How Will the Home Improvement Industry Weather the Tough Economy?

The news these days speaks mostly of recession, the suffering economy, struggling industries and individual businesses.  Given the state of our country’s economy one would expect that the Home Improvement Industry will also suffer.  However, that may not be the case.

In New England and other parts of the country, new construction housing has all but come to a halt, and housing sales in general are down significantly from the first half of this decade.  In the past most families occupied a residence for an average of 5-7 years.  But in a difficult economy that number is rising.  Many homeowners are choosing to sit tight in the house they currently reside.  This is great news for the Home Improvement Industry.

This phenomenon should positively affect established and professional remodeling and replacement contractors in 2 significant ways.  The first way is that essential systems that tend to break down over time such as roofing, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, windows, and appliances, still need to be replaced.  In the past some homeowners may have passed the cost and duty of replacing these systems to the next owner.  But in many cases that is no longer an option.

The second way home improvement companies in New England may reap some benefits is the “don’t move improve” mentality.  Instead of upgrading to a newer larger home many people are opting to add on or remodel their existing home to suit their families needs.  These types of projects often include additions, finished basements and attics, low-maintenance siding upgrades, garages, and kitchen and bathroom remodels.

Homeowners still need to do their homework and consider carefully who they hire.

Although well established companies will survive this tough season, less professionally run businesses and “fly-by-night” contractors most likely will not.  If you are interviewing a contractor and they seem desperate to have your business and do not have a list of recent references to provide, consider this; There’s a high likelihood that contractor will not be around for the long run.  Do you want someone handling a project for you that will not be able to honor any warranty or service any issues that might arise it the future?  Furthermore, consider the low level of workmanship you will receive from someone who is barely making money, if any, on your project.  They will cut any corner possible.

Paint is Changing: Green Products to Consider in Massachusetts

How to be friendly to the environment when re-decorating and still have a beautiful and long lasting interior paint job.

How Are Paints Changing?: the optimal coating - harmony paintPaint companies in the US and the world have been working feverishly to come up with the optimal coating to do two main things: minimize the impact on air quality and deliver maximum performance. They are also developing compositions without deadly or carcinogenic components, such as lead, in their paint products. No lead compounds have been used in paint since 1977.

 

Clean Air Act: In 1996, Revisions to the Clean Air Act demanded that paint manufacturers do something about volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOC’s are solvents that help paint dry quickly, provide a smooth finish, flow easily and promote leveling and curing. They helped control thickness, hardness and smoothness of a typical application.

 

What’s wrong with VOC’s?: The problem with VOC’s is that when they evaporate, they contribute to the creation of ozone, a common pollutant and potential safety hazard. The amount of VOC’s in traditional latex paint typically falls between 200 to 300 grams per liter. Traditional solvent-based alkyds may have 400-500 g/L, and clear finishes, varnishes, shellacs, stains and lacquers are generally in the VOC range of 350-750 g/L.

 

Paint Products to Consider: An few excellent examples of high quality paint products with low VOC’s are:

  • Sherwin Williams® DurationTM Interior
  • Sherwin Williams® HarmonyTM Interior
  • Sherwin Williams® PrepRiteTM Primers
  • Benjamin Moore NaturaTM
  • California ElementsTM

Regarding performance, generally, as the VOC content goes down, the flowability and dried smoothness reduces and the overall ease of painting goes down. However, scrubability and abrasion resistance is much improved for the paints listed above. Products are improving rapidly and may become what we as painters desire for our customers very soon.

It’s vitally important that you consult with and only hire painters who have taken the time to educate themselves on the laws that recently changed. You as a homeowner can be held responsible if an uncertified product crosses state borders and is opened by a painter on your property. Rest assured the local heath departments will be more vigilant than ever in the upcoming season. Expect to see them checking labels for old and non-local (non-conforming) products. Choose your products and painting contractors wisely.

The Daunting Task of Choosing Paint Colors

Choosing paint colors for your house painting project can be one of the hardest and most stressful decisions of a home improvement project.  Nobody wants to make a mistake that they will have to live with for years or pay for an expensive re-do.  paintbrush-pallet_94495How many times have you chosen a color thinking it would look one way and then when it is up you realize it looks totally different than you expected?  This sometimes causes people to pick “safe colors” (a.k.a. boring) or to stick with the existing color.  With a little bit of time and planning you can be sure to pick colors you will not only be happy with but actually truly love.

Be Open Minded

You need to be willing to experiment and think outside of the box.  Sometimes color schemes that you would never dream of, actually look fantastic when you see them on a house.  One of the best places to start is by taking a drive around and observing other houses to see what colors appeal to you.  You should be careful however, not to match your color choice to houses that are nearby.

Narrow it Down

Once you have found the basic idea of what you like, you can visit a local paint store and pick up some color charts.  You can also check online as many websites such as SherwinWilliams.com and BenjaminMoore.com offer color visualizers where you can actually play around with different colors on a house.  Just keep in mind you are looking at a computer screen and the colors may not be exact.  Once you have narrowed down your color choices it is time to test it out.

Sample and Test

Purchase a few samples of the actual paint colors you are considering.  (Trust me it is worth the few bucks.)  You can apply the paint samples directly to an area of the house or you can paint a poster board and tack that up to the house.  It is best to check the color after it has fully dried and at different times of day.  Sometimes a color will be just what you expect or it may “grow on you” as you give it a chance, other times you may know immediately that it is not right for you.

Go For It!

Color selection is very much based on individual tastes and preferences.  Remember one man’s “Smurf House” is another man’s “Beautiful Blue”.  As long as you are comfortable and happy with the color, go for it.  Just make sure to do your homework so the end result is exactly what you expected!

Get a quote here for house painting

Roofing Products for New England, What Are My Options?

MORE OPTIONS THAN YOU THINK

Most people assume they only have one option when it comes to replacing their roof, and that is asphalt shingles with either a fiberglass or organic base. However, there are many other less common options available for roof replacement. The question our customers ask us is, “are these roofing types right for my home?” Here is a list of pro’s and con’s for each category to help you decide.

1. ASPHALT SHINGLES:

A base material combined with either an organic fiber mat or fiberglass core. Each type is impregnated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules to add color and texture. An adhesive back combined with nails is the fastening method used.

PROS
 CONS
Largest variety of color and style, Many warranty options through certified companies, Generally the least expensive option Less impact resistant than some other options, Does not reflect heat

2. METAL ROOFING:

Once limited to low-slope structures, standing seam steel roofs can now be used on steeper roofs as well.

PROS
 CONS
Durability, practically maintenance-free, heat reflective Aesthetics are not pleasing to most people, more expensive than asphalt, Noisy, Limited options

3. SLATE TILE ROOFING:

One of the oldest forms of roofing in New England, it is still used today on certain more traditional homes and in specific neighborhoods.

PROS
 CONS
Traditional appearance for older homes, Long lasting Requires reinforced roof to handle the weight, Difficult to repair, Limited styles and colors, Very expensive

Start here if you’re in need of a roofing contractor in MA.

4. COMPOSITE SLATE:

The composite slate market is on the rise in the roofing industry. Lamarite® Slate composite shingles seem to be leading the pack.

PROS
 CONS
Accurately resembles slate tiles, Less expensive than slate Limited styles and colors, Few roofers in New England have experience with it

5. INTERLOCK:

Interlock roofing is a composite roof system made mostly from recycled materials.

PROS
 CONS
Durability, Longevity, more variety than other types of roofing except asphalt Aesthetics, Much more expensive than other options, short track record

6. WOOD SHINGLE ROOFING:

 

PROS
 CONS
Natural aesthetic beauty for country style homes Quality and longevity can vary significantly, attracts moss and algae, more expensive than asphalt roofing


Find out how much does a new roof cost.

Asphalt Shingle Roof Warranty – Am I Really Covered?

roof_knowledge_curled-shinglesThere are many manufacturers of asphalt roofing materials in business today, such as GAF and CertainTeed, and they offer many different types of shingles, from 3-tab to architectural, from designer to luxury shingles. The most popular type of shingle being used today is the 30-year architectural. Most people have the misconception that “30-year” means “I am covered by the warranty on my shingles for 30 years”.  Unfortunately that is far from true.  The term “30-year” has nothing to do with the performance of the shingles and most roofing companies are only able to offer their customers a 30-year limited material warranty through the manufacturer.

If during the 30 year period the shingles fail, the limited warranty offered by the manufacturer only covers the homeowner if the manufacturer determines such failure was caused by material defect. The manufacturer would then pay the homeowner a certain pre-determined amount generally not exceeding $.40 per square foot on day one of the warranty, and then prorating equally from that time.  However, if it is determined by the manufacturer that the problem is not from defective shingles, then the warranty is void.  There are many other limitations which void the warranty such as an improperly vented roof deck, improper nailing, and failure of the surface to which the roof is applied.  Even if one is successful in claiming this type of warranty, the homeowner still has the burden of hiring a roofer, pulling a permit, disposing of the shingles, and purchasing any other miscellaneous materials needed for the repair or replacement.

But there is some good news! Some manufacturers make it possible for certain roofing contractors to achieve a level of certification allowing them to offer more inclusive warranties. For example, CertainTeed offers the “ShingleMaster Company” and the “SELECT Shingle Roofer” certifications. There are very strict requirements for a company to be awarded any of these statuses. A CertainTeed “SELECT Shingle Roofer” company, CertainTeed’s highest level of certification, for example, is able to offer homeowners 100% of the costs of the repair for 20 years, including tear-off and disposal of the old shingles, new materials, labor and workmanship.  So fellow homeowners, when hiring a roofer, do your homework. Find out the exact details of the warranty being offered to you.  You don’t want to invest thousands of dollars in your new roof, just to find out the hard way that your investment went kapoof!