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One Day Backyard Ideas and DIY Projects

Creative gardening tips, ideas, & DIY projects

Most of us are really busy, and if we end up spending several weekends in a row having to work on backyard ideas & projects, they tend to not get finished. I like simple, and fast for most of the DIY projects I do…probably because, if you ask Steve, I have an issue with patience. And procrastination. But that’s another post. 🙂 In any case, the first thing I want to do in the garden each year is all those projects that sounded so perfect at the end of last season! So let’s jump right in and find some great DIY one day backyard ideas that are perfect for beginner DIY’ers, and give us all quick gratification. And who doesn’t love that in the garden?

 

 

One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects

 

I Spy DIY‘ must know how much we love a vertical garden! This is an amazing DIY project for a small backyard or a patio space. You can use it to grow edibles that are easy to access from the kitchen, or just to bring your love of plants into your outdoor living area. Jenni also shows you how to make these simple paint markers as well. Tons of other backyard ideas at their site, so spend some time looking around there!

 

We have the perfect backyard idea for you! From ‘A Beautiful Mess‘,  build a fire pit in an afternoon! Here is another fire pit tutorial. Or, make a DIY tabletop fire bowl for a small garden space. These are the kind of outdoor projects that make your family time more memorable. Totally worth a little elbow grease!

 

From ‘Sarah Hearts‘, you have to check out this DIY patio idea. This is simple, eye-catching, fast, and budget friendly. (And, it looks fun!) Go check out her how-to’s for this backyard project. So much better than chalk drawings in the street. 🙂

 

Use this DIY backyard idea from ‘Love Grows Wild‘ to create privacy, or just add some beauty to your outdoor space. This DIY trellis planter has a complete tutorial, is a simple one day project, and requires just a few tools and supplies.

 

Need some outdoor furniture? This DIY project has complete plans and instructions. Build this stone top table from ‘Family Handyman‘ and make your backyard a little more special than it was before!

 

Now if you are looking for a backyard idea or DIY project to fit a larger group, try this DIY picnic table from ‘Dunn Lumber‘. See this petite woman building this outdoor table? You don’t have to be big to hold a saw and a drill.

 

 

Make this DIY AC unit cover with this tutorial from ‘Taryn Whiteaker‘. This is a simple backyard idea that can take a yard that was unfriendly and turn it into an area you can use as a mini patio or play space. No more embarrassing ugliness showing!

 

Love this backyard idea from ‘Shelstring Blog‘. This DIY project is a wooden bench made from logs, lumber… and a few well learned lessons! Read their tutorial, this would be amazing in a shade garden for quiet summer afternoons. Or fall afternoons. Winter mornings. Or…

DSCN2594

This easy outdoor project can change the whole look of a yard. Add a garden walkway in one afternoon! Want ideas? See our post on DIY Walkways & Paths! This tutorial is from ‘ZenSchmen‘.

One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects

 

This is one of our original projects, and still one of my fav DIY garden projects we’ve done so far… It’s come along way since this photo was taken, so Ill try to update this season with all the plants filled in. But if you are looking for something simple and more contemporary, try our DIY Project: Contemporary Garden Water Feature – Less than $30.

water-feature-3

 

Also from here at ‘TGG’, try this outdoor project! DIY concrete garden globes are easy, fun to make and look great anywhere in your yard. We give you a concrete recipe (four, actually!) to make different textured globes as well.

 

Finally, we love this cobblestone path from Home is Where They Love You. Made with a form and pre mixed concrete, this is a budget DIY project as well!

yard 2011 020

Thank you for reading our post on One Day Backyard Ideas & DIY Projects! We know you will also enjoy our posts on 12 Inspiring Backyard Lighting Ideas and How to Build a Backyard Playhouse!

Note: This post has been refreshed with updated projects.

Image Credits: ZenShmen, I Spy DIY, A Beautiful Mess, Sarah Hearts, Love Grows Wild, Family Handyman, Dunn Lumber, Taryn Whiteaker, Shelstring Blog, Home is Where They Love You

Your Home’s Fall Checklist

from Better Homes and Garden Oct 2018

Your Home’s Fall Checklist

It’s time to prepare your home to withstand winter’s frosty bite.

Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home. Most of the tasks listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability. But even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money—and maybe even your life. We’ll walk you through cleanup for gutters, roofs, fireplaces, and more.

More Fall Fix-Ups for Your Home

Get Your Mind in the Gutters

Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning.

How to Care for Gutters

Button Up Your Overcoat

A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This humble material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.

If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.

While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.

Get on Top of Roof Problems

Few homeowner problems are more vexing than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop problems this fall before ice and winter winds turn them from annoyances into disasters.

Start by inspecting your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

Editor’s Tip: Roof-mounted television antennas, even if they aren’t in use, may have guy wires holding them in place. Look for loose or missing guy wires. If you see some, and your antenna is no longer being used, consider having it removed altogether.

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Roof Repair Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Chill Out

If you live in an area with freezing weather, take steps to ensure that outside faucets (also called sill cocks) and inground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.

Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freezeproof ” types, you may benefit from styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.

To freezeproof an inground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.

Freshen Your Filter

Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furniture, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it harded to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can serious increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep these filters breathing free and clear.

Disposable filters can be vaccumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vaccumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

Give Your Furnace a Physical

Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.

Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:

Noisy Belts: Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.

Poor Performance: A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.

Erratic Behavior: This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a misadjusted furnace.

Gather ‘Round the Hearth

Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect Your Flue for Creosote: Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for Flue Blockages: Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the Damper: The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check Your Chimney for Damage: Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Festive Fall Mantel Ideas

Keep the Humidifier Humming

You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off Gas Problems

Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

Keep Wood Fires Burning Brightly

Woodburning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.

Inspect Stovepipes: Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.

Look for Corrosion and Cracks: Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.

Check Safety Features: Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

Walk the Walks

Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.

Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths. Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselver, but save major repairs for experienced hands.

Review Safety Features

At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:

Smoke and CO Detectors: Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Fire Extinguishers: Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Note: Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.

Fire Escape Plans: Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

General Cleanup: Rid your home of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with your state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

Stunning Ceilings: The Latest Eye Candy for the 5th Wall

Ceilings are too often the plain Jane element of a listing, but this element your listing’s structure can assume a starring role and transform a space with minimal effort and expense. Learn about your clients’ options, from millwork to lighting, different shapes, paint, and even wallpaper.

September 5, 2018

Ceilings have long reflected architectural, economic, and other influences of the day. In early American homes, low ceilings were favored to keep spaces warm, even if they made them feel a bit claustrophobic. During the Victorian era, high ceilings—at least nine feet high and often higher—were embellished, integrating handcrafted cast-plaster ornaments, stencilling, and other decorative treatments.

When factory buildings and warehouses in New York’s downtown manufacturing district were converted to loft-style apartments starting in the 1950s, a grittier industrial chic took hold, leaving ceiling ductwork and beams exposed. Lofty heights remained in vogue throughout the 1980s and ’90s, but fancier vaults, peaks, and arches emerged as McMansions became the rage. However, as concern about the high cost of energy consumption gained traction, the idea of heating and cooling all that extra space turned some off high ceilings. They were lowered, though rarely to less than 8 feet, and left unadorned, a nod toward a modern aesthetic that often shunned crown molding and other details.

These days interest in personalizing space has meant ceilings have begun to play a role in helping rooms take on different personas, create memorable impressions on buyers, and solve problems such as adding visual depth to a low room.

Lisa Pickell, president of Orren Pickell Building Group, custom home builders in Chicago, is a fan of maximizing ceilings. “They offer a great opportunity to extend and enhance an aesthetic,” she says. But she also recommends doing so when planning a room’s décor rather than as an afterthought, which can make the project more expensive.

Erin Powell, design director and principal at RoOomy, an online staging firm out of San Jose, Calif., concurs that a well-planned ceiling treatment can help a listing stand out. “It usually won’t make or break a purchase, but it opens up the chance to make a buyer more interested,” she says.

Here are five ways to showcase a ceiling. Use them sparingly—certainly not in every room—to avoid visual confusion. “Otherwise, the concept may lose its specialness,” Pickell says.

dark blue ceiling

© Sherwin-Williams

Paint

This is the least expensive way to make a ceiling stand out and alter its look without major architectural change. New homes often feature the same white color on walls and ceilings, but broker Matt van Winkle with RE/MAX Northwest in Seattle recommends painting the ceiling slightly lighter than what’s used on the walls to add depth. Generally, he advises steering clear of bold colors, except in children’s rooms.

Others, however, like adding more color for different visual effects. Designer Rebecca Pogonitz of Go Go Design in Chicago likes to use darker colors to create a cozy, almost a cocoonish, feeling, which she sometimes pairs with white trim to keep the overall feeling from seeming too heavy. Kristie Barnett, founder of The Decorologist in Nashville, also likes dark choices when staging a home for a memorable impression.

Sometimes, a wildly unexpected hue can be the easiest way to update a room, which was the approach architect Anik Pearson took with a vintage New York apartment that had its footprint and bones intact. “We restored it to its glory but with a modern twist by painting the dining room’s walls and beams a bold teal, filling in the space between beams in white, and running some chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper all around,” she says. Bob Zuber, partner, principal, and head of architectural design at Morgante Wilson Architects in Chicago, finds that tinted Venetian plaster warms up ceilings.

For the best coverage and less splatter, Rick Wilson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams, stresses the importance of using quality ceiling paint. His colleague Sue Wadden, director of color marketing, suggests going with flat or matte finishes to hide imperfections and produce a polished, clean look for any color choice. Otherwise, painting the ceiling is no different from painting walls.

Wallpapered ceiling

© Emily Gilbert

Wallpaper

While many see this option as something of a throwback, wallpaper has found favor among more design professionals of late and for multiple reasons. “A graphic paper can define an activity area in an open-plan space; colorfully patterned papers can pull together a palette in a room, and gold, silver, or pewter leaf paper, which we use often, add stature, drama, and radiance when coupled with the right kind of lighting,” says Chicago-based designer Jessica LaGrange. “Wallpaper can hide cosmetic blemishes or introduce pattern in rooms where all the walls are taken such as a kitchen or family area with copious cabinetry.”

Pogonitz, who likes using bold and detailed patterns on ceilings, says it’s important to do the same prep work as you would for any wall surface—”patch and smooth out the ceiling as needed.”

But many design pros offer caveats with this approach. Powell cautions that wallpapering both a ceiling and walls can look excessive, so she recommends covering one or the other. LaGrange warns against using paper with a definite directional cue, such as those with a clear top and bottom, since it won’t be read “correctly” from a visual standpoint.

Barnett, who trains stagers, suggests avoiding wallpaper on the ceiling when selling. “It’s so taste-specific and many are still scared of paper,” she says. One way to hedge bets is to suggest one of the newer easy-to-remove papers from sources like Chasing Paper.

vaulted ceiling

© Lexington Homes

Shape

Ceilings don’t have to be a flat plane, though it’s certainly easier and less costly to make this decision before construction or during a major remodeling and in a one-story space. Van Winkle has found coffered ceiling treatments are attracting a lot of attention these days among consumers. That could mean a pitched, vaulted, or arched shape that rises upward and provides a greater sense of airiness, drama, and light.

Homebuyers who purchase townhomes in communities developed by Chicago-based Lexington Homes are increasingly requesting to upgrade to ceilings with volume, particularly tray designs in master and secondary bedrooms, says sales director Todd Lesher. “Ceiling upgrades are one of the most common selections we encourage buyers to make, as they do not add a lot of cost, but make a big impact,” he says. “Buyers like that the volume helps open up the space and make the rooms seem larger and more expansive.”

Key to adding any volume to a ceiling is carefully considering the relationship of the elements to the size of the room to maintain proper visual scale, says Zuber. “You never put a tall ceiling in a small space or a short ceiling in a large room,” he says.

ceiling with millwork

© Emily Gilbert

Millwork

Woodwork is used for all sorts of interior spaces—doors, floors, walls, and the trim detailing that’s used in crown molding at the top by the ceiling. Such architectural trim, especially when wider and thicker, makes a house look more luxurious, says Barnett. It can also be used in more elaborate ways, atop a ceiling in recessed grids for a coffered effect or in one large central portion that’s recessed and higher, in what’s called a tray design. Merritt Woodwork, in Mentor, Ohio, often designs these complex arrangements of wood in clients’ homes. The company recently fashioned an elaborate grid pattern from American white oak for a large Hamptons, N.Y., home. Haver and Skolnik Architects, in Roxbury, Conn., known for building and renovating traditional homes, frequently uses beams and other millwork to add coziness and an aged character. And Pearson recently used millwork to define an area in an open-plan New York apartment and baffle sound. In an adjacent kitchen, she added trim to bring extra drama to a skylight.

But simpler uses of crown molding or ceiling trim can achieve effects such as unifying adjoining rooms for less than $1,000, says Julie Whitley, director of architecture design at homebuilder Red Seal Development Corp. in Northbrook, Ill. One DIY technique that’s attracted wide attention and adds an updated farmhouse feel is to use shiplap, basically manufactured boards with grooves that fit together snugly. The look picked up steam after celebrity TV couple Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” show began using them in countless projects, including on ceilings. For a more modern vibe, Zuber of Morgante Wilson Architects recommends trim with an angled or slanted profile rather than straight rectangular boards. He advises keeping millwork in the right proportion to the ceiling’s height. “Four-inch crown is good for an 8- or 9-foot ceiling,” he says.

Whether the millwork is left natural or painted should depend on how much homeowners want it to stand out or complement a certain period or style. Winkle recommends keeping millwork white, which makes it easy to live with over time and appeal more universally, especially to buyers. For traditional homes, however, Powell​​​​​​​ favors dark hues that more readily reveal texture. But she cautions that going dark can visually bring a ceiling down.

ceiling lights

© RoOomy Virtual Staging

Lighting

Ceiling lights have changed a great deal in recent years; even housings for recessed cans reflect trends with different trim colors, materials, and diameters. Zuber likes placing them strategically around a ceiling rather than peppering a line of cans in the more common shotgun approach. Some also suggest eschewing the expected fixture at the center of a room, particularly in dining and master bedrooms, which gives greater flexibility when arranging furniture, says Amber Shay, national director of design studios for Meritage Homes, a Scottsdale, Ariz., builder of single-family homes.

In general, oversized fixtures are more on trend, along with ceiling fans with lights built in, and almost all bulbs are LEDs for better performance, greater efficiency, and new smart-home applications, says Joe Rey-Barreau, an architect, lighting designer, and education consultant for the American Lighting Association. Among some of the new LED uses are in linear strips that can be installed easily inside or on top of cabinets, in bookshelves, along toe kicks in kitchens and baths, and in ceiling coves and cornices. For sellers who want to update fixtures before listing to improve how rooms show, Rey-Barreau says the number of attractive, affordable options has increased. That’s especially helpful if they must leave such upgrades behind, which of course depends on the sales contract.

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance For Under $100

By: Cara Greenberg

Wouldn’t it be nice to approach your home’s entrance with a grin instead of a grimace? Take our tips for beating a clear, safe, and stylish path to your front door.

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

1. Clear the Way for Curb Appeal.

The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

2. Light the Route.

Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are surprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online. 

3. Go Glossy.

Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

4. Pretty Up the View.

A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

5. Replace Door Hardware.

While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

6. Please Knock.

Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

7. Ever-Greenery.

Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

8. Numbers Game.

Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot Traffic.

A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

10. Go for the glow.

Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

11. Snail Mail.

Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

7 Pro Tips To Help Your Home Sell Faster, For More Money

7 Pro Tips To Help Your Home Sell Faster, For More Money

It’s overwhelming to clear and sell a home that’s been occupied for many years—the piles of papers, trunks full of tchotchkes, mountains of miscellany. Nobody knows this more than Glendale, Calif.-based Betsy Wilbur, who professionally “stages” homes for sale. But with a small investment of time and/or money, homes that are set up to sell can reap more rewards than ones that haven’t been staged —and even vacant houses.

Wilbur recalls a recent client, the daughter of the owner who’d lived in a house for 50 years. The home had fallen to “fixer” status. “She was a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of selling the home and didn’t know if she wanted to prepare and stage the home or just sell it as is,” Wilbur said, adding that if there were no changes, the home would have gotten lowball offers from contractors ready to flip it after making cosmetic fixes. “But by doing some simple upgrades and staging the home we could reach another buyer pool—first-time home buyers who could see the potential.”

Betsy Wilbur photo

Betsy Wilbur photo

Wilbur outlined the client’s options, which ranged from $3,500 to $10,000. The clients wanted the works, so Wilbur:

  • Removed tile covering the original hardwood floors
  • Painted interior walls, front door and trellis, bathroom cabinets and shower tile
  • Updated the kitchen floor and light fixtures
  • Provided landscaping for added curb appeal with landscaping
  • Brought in temporary furniture, art, plants and accessories

In the end, the home had 16 offers, and sold in 14 days for $62,500 over asking price–not a shabby return on investment.

Betsy Wilbur

Betsy Wilbur

Which is not unusual for a seller who stages her home. Wilbur says her clients’ properties sell for an average 6.3% over asking price in 12 days. The area average is 97% of asking price and 56 days on the market.

According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400 . Compare that to the average sale price, which is a reduction of 10-20% from asking. So an average home with a $400,000 asking price will be reduced by $40,000 to $80,000.

“Staging can save you from a costly price reduction,” Wilbur says. “A staged home will sell for 17% more on average than a non-staged home, and 95% of staged homes sell in 11 days or less. That is statistically 87% faster than non-staged homes.” 

How Home Staging Works

Home staging is considered a marketing technique that turns the home into something that will appeal to the greatest common denominator or buyers so it will sell quickly. “This involves ‘neutralizing’ the home and portraying a lifestyle that buyers want to have.” Wilbur says. So even though you may love your beautiful and expensive taxidermy collection, not everyone else will, and it can have a negative psychological effect on a potential buyer.

Betsy Wilbur photo

Betsy Wilbur photo

Stagers will use specific techniques to highlight the home’s architectural features , and make rooms feel large and inviting, Wilbur says. The stager will also take into account the target market for the home: Spaces designed for young singles, empty-nesters and families will all look different.

A stager will do a walk-through and make recommendations on which existing pieces in the home will be assets and which should be removed, and come up with a list of high, medium and low budget options for re-design. Stagers will bring in some of their own pieces, or rent them.

7 Simple Rules for Staging a Home

One of the hardest things to do is to get out of your own habits and preferences and into the mindset of a buyer seeing the home in person or on the Internet for the first time. Maybe the TV has always been the focal point for the living room, for example, but for a buyer, the fireplace would need to be highlighted. “When we are getting ready to sell, we want to rearrange that so the room is balanced and furniture is not blocking pathways, windows or great features of the home,” Wilbur says.

She offers these tips for staging:

  • Keep décor neutral: Neutral does not mean boring, but it does mean staying away from shocking colors, and even avoiding all-white and all-beige walls. “I’ve staged some fantastic rooms with deep purple or black walls – it’s all about knowing how to make it work.”
  • Remove personal items: All personal pictures, family plaques, framed certificates, etc., should be packed. “I also suggest packing up anything smaller than a cantaloupe. We want the buyer to envision themselves living there right away, and a house full of someone else’s pictures doesn’t do that.”
  • Never put an empty home on the market: “One of the challenges of trying to sell a vacant home is that buyers can often have a hard time visualizing themselves living there.” When rooms are unfurnished they actually feel smaller than they are; so a buyer might be unsure how to position furniture or if their current furniture will fit.  Buyers also notice more flaws when a home is vacant and might incorrectly assume a home needs a lot of work when it really needs minimal cosmetic updating. Finally, a vacant property can give buyers the impression a seller is desperate, which could result in lower offers.
  • Don’t remodel before you sell: You may think you have great taste in kitchens, but the new owner may not agree. It’s better to spend the money doing cosmetic fixes than worrying about getting the full return on the investment of an extensive remodel.
  • Avoid divisive décor: When staging an occupied home we are always careful to remove religious and political items, as well as any other items that might be offensive.
  • Stay timeless: It’s good to be “on trend” with pops of color in, say, pillows and curtains, but avoid anything that’s too trendy. A stager can help draw the line.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that staging isn’t creating illusions—it’s about revealing truths . “We are simply showing the buyer the potential of the home through simple and inexpensive upgrades,” Wilbur says. “A buyer reaching to the top of their price range might not have additional money for remodeling, so if the home looks ‘good enough for now’ and doesn’t seem like an overwhelming project, then they will throw their hat into the bidding ring, resulting in higher offers for the seller. I had one home where the agent told me going into the project that it was probably going to be considered a tear-down property, but when we were finished it ended up selling for $110,000 over asking price.”

 

 

Vanessa McGrady would be thrilled if you’d visit her new blog, www.greenmeansgotravel.com. You can find her on Twitter (@VanessaMcGrady) and learn more about her work at www.vanessamcgrady.com.

Go From an Old Deck to New in 4 Steps

Go From an Old Deck to New in 4 Steps

There’s no secret to deck maintenance—repair the deck, clean it and protect it. But learning tricks the pros use can make the job go faster and the results last longer

decking slide-show

BEFORE: The damage and the appearance were bad enough for the Johnsons to consider ripping the whole thing up and starting over.

Barbara and Phil Johnson, of Mobile, Alabama, faced the same problems other deck owners do. Over the years, the elements as well as their kids and pets took a toll on their backyard deck. The damage and the appearance were bad enough for the Johnsons to consider ripping the whole thing up and starting over.

But before taking that drastic step, they spoke with Danny Lipford, owner and president of Lipford Construction in Mobile, for advice. According to Lipford, the Johnsons’ deck was in better shape than many others. “This area of the country is tough on decks,” he says. “I’m sometimes asked to replace pressure-treated decks that are less than eight years old.” He adds, “Most of these decks are victims of neglect. With regular maintenance, a deck will easily last for twice as long.” The good news is that most decks, like this one, can be rejuvenated for a lot less than the cost of replacement.

Following are some techniques you can use to give an old deck a new lease on life, or to help maintain the look of a new one. For this project, we enlisted George Graf, a lead carpenter with Mobile’s Lipford Construction, and John Starling, owner of John the Painter. Hiring pros is easy on the schedule but hard on the budget—the cost of repairing a 700-sq.-ft. deck is $700, or about $1 per square foot. Restoring a deck yourself will cost a third as much.

A deck rejuvenation project like this can be done in two days, but it’s best to spread the work over two weekends to ensure the wood is completely dry before you apply stain.

 

decking slide-show

AFTER: Most decks can be rejuvenated for a lot less than the cost of replacement.

Step 1: Making Repairs

Begin by inspecting the entire deck. Pay special attention to any part of the deck that is in direct contact with the ground, such as the posts, stair stringers or joists that are at ground level. Graf uses a screwdriver to check for structural damage. “If you can sink the tip of a screwdriver into a post or joist, it means the you’ve got rot and it’s time for a major renovation,” Graf says.

Also, inspect the deck-to-house connection. “Screws and bolts can loosen and rust,” he says. “Without the proper use of spacers and flashing, moisture can cause your band joist to rot.”

Tighten the fasteners that attach the deck to the house, look for any missing, bent or rusted flashing and carefully inspect inside and out for any telltale black stains that suggest moisture is working its way into your home.

Next, look for any cosmetic damage. For example, tap down any popped nails or consider replacing them with screws. For the Johnsons’ deck, Graf used galvanized ring-shanked nails when he replaced a few damaged boards. “Screws don’t pop like nails, ” he says “but we want the new boards to match the rest of the deck.”

Tip: If you need to rip replacement decking to match existing boards, use a tablesaw. Ease the sawn edge using a router fitted with a ⅜-inch roundover bit.

Carefully inspect railings and decking for loose wood. “No one likes to catch a 2-in.-long splinter on the hand or foot,” Graf says.

prying wood

Use a pry bar to pull damaged boards. Remove fasteners and lift the board straight up to avoid damaging adjacent boards.

Step 2: Cleaning the Surface

Here’s the bad news: Every deck should have an annual cleaning. Assuming they have been maintained regularly, most decks can be revived with just a deck cleaner. Some products, like Thompson’s Deck Wash ($10, 1 gal. covers 250 sq. ft.), you mix in a bucket and apply to the deck; others, like GE’s Weathermate ($30, 1 gal. covers 500 sq. ft.), come in containers with integral applicators that you hook up to a garden hose. Once on the deck, most still require a stiff-bristle brush and a lot of elbow grease to work the mixture into the wood.

Always wear eye protection and gloves when working with concentrated chemicals. You’ll also want to protect nearby plants. The level of plant protection depends on the type and concentration of the chemicals you choose. For weak solutions and “plant-friendly” cleaners, you may need to only mist the plants before and after using cleaning. Powerful deck restorers can burn leaves on contact; in that case you should cover nearby plants with plastic sheeting.

For tackling tough stains, use a pressure washer (about $70 a day), which is the best way to remove sun-damaged wood fibers and tackle scrub-resistant stains. Graf recommends using a fan-type nozzle instead of a pinpoint nozzle that can dig into the wood. For removing the mildew, Graf mixes his own cleaning solution (see “Choosing the Right Cleaner,” on the facing page), which he feeds into the intake hose on the washer.

Go over the deck with a stiff-bristle brush to work the cleaner into the wood fibers, and then rinse. The boards should be kept damp in order for the cleaning solution to work effectively. Allow the deck to dry thoroughly before staining.

Choosing the Right Cleaner
There are dozens of deck-cleaning products on the market. Most contain one of the following four chemicals as their main ingredient. Each is effective for different types of stains.

Sodium hypochlorite: This chemical—chlorine bleach—is good for removing mildew but isn’t effective on dirt or other stains. So mix it with an ammonia-free detergent. Thoroughly rinse the deck after using this chemical because it can eat away at the wood, resulting in fuzzing and premature graying.

Sodium percarbonate: When mixed with water, this chemical forms hydrogen peroxide (an oxygen-based bleach) and sodium carbonate, which acts as a detergent. It is good for removing dirt, mildew and weathered wood.

Oxalic acid: This is effective in removing iron stains and the brown-black tannins that frequently occur with cedar and redwood decks. This acid is commonly found in deck brighteners. Oxalic acid isn’t effective against mildew, so you may want to use it after cleaning the deck with a bleach-based cleaner.

Sodium hydroxide: Also known as lye, this is the key ingredient in most finish lifters or removers. Don’t leave it on too long, or it can eat away at the wood.

Be very careful when working with any of these chemicals, especially when they’re in their most concentrated (premixed) form. Wear the proper safety equipment and follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter. Rinse the surface thoroughly and allow it to dry before refinishing.

DIY CLEANER
Here’s a deck cleaner you can make yourself. Recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory, it’s good for mildew and dirt.

• 1 qt. sodium hypochlorite solution (household bleach)
• ⅓ cup powdered laundry detergent
• 3 qts. warm water

In a 5-gal. plastic bucket, add the bleach and detergent to the water, then brush the cleaner onto the deck. Rinse thoroughly before applying a finish.

Caution: Do not use a detergent that contains ammonia. Ammonia and bleach react to form a poisonous gas.

cutting wood

Trim the replacement boards with a circular saw. Using adjacent boards as a cutting guide is faster and more accurate than measuring.

Step 3: Applying the Stain

Once all of the repairs have been made and the deck is clean, it’s time to apply a protective finish. Clear finishes and transparent stains are fine for new wood, but for older decks, Starling recommends using a semitransparent stain.

“The grain still shows through, but the pigment gives the old wood a clean, uniform color and helps the new wood blend in,” he says. The pigment also provides extra protection from the damaging effects of the sun and will last longer than clear finishes. Unlike paint, stain is absorbed by the wood and does not form a film on its surface, so it will not peel or chip.

Starling uses a sprayer and 2-in. brush to apply the stain. “Spraying is fast, and puts more stain on the wood than rolling or brushing,” Starling says. Most painters and homeowners are better off spraying on a generous coat of stain and then following up with a roller or brush to spread out puddles and work the finish into the wood. Starling, however, uses a modified technique. “Rollers push the stain off the wood and down the cracks,” he says. “I don’t get paid to paint dirt beneath the deck.” Starling sprays on a light coat, most of which is quickly absorbed into the wood. He uses the brush to remove puddles. “If the stain’s too thick, it dries blotchy,” he explains. Starling recycles the excess stain for use on exposed end grain.

Starling recommends starting at an inside corner and working out, applying the stain parallel to the deck boards. To avoid staining the nearby brick, he uses a small piece of cardboard as a spray shield; the brush provides even more control around deck railings and posts.

This 700-sq.-ft. deck required about 5 gal. of stain — almost twice as much as the estimates indicated on the can. Explains Starling, “Old wood can get thirsty. On some decks, I’ll need to apply two or three coats of stain in order to get a uniform finish.”

Subsequent coats should be applied while the first coat is still wet or they will not be absorbed into the wood. Stain won’t peel, but it can wear away, especially in high-traffic areas. Starling recommends applying a fresh coat every other year. A clear water repellent can be applied between stainings for extra protection.

pouring paint

Mesh filters (about $1 each) catch any particles that could wind up clogging the nozzle on the washer.

Step 4: Redoing a Railing

Because the original railing on their deck was in such bad shape, the Johnsons decided to replace it with a maintenance-free railing system. They chose Fiberon, a vinyl-coated wood-plastic composite. It’s available in premade panels or as kits. The Johnsons liked the contrast the white railing offered.

Tip: After cutting the end post flush with the deck using a reciprocating saw, remove the old railing in sections.

For an existing deck or concrete slab, Fiberon makes a surface-mount bracket, as shown below. For new decks, the manufacturer recommends installing the posts before the decking and using metal brackets that attach to the joists. To conceal any minor gaps where the balusters meet the bottom rail, Graf recommends using a mildew-resistant acrylic caulk.

Paint a Candy-Colored Staircase

A secondary staircase becomes a visual treat when painted a handful of unexpected hues

staircase painted in a variety of bright pastel colors
Photo by Jeremy Coulter/Polsky Perlstein Architects

Certain utility spaces in a house generally get overworked and underdecorated. Not so in this Southern California house, where an array of playful paint colors brighten the back stairs, while chunky wood treads and neutral gray trim keep the  look sophisticated.

The most difficult part in pulling off this project? Putting together the palette. “One color shouldn’t look like an uninvited guest,” says architectural color consultant Amy Wax. If you stick to colors from a small collection, says Wax, they’ll probably be complementary. Or, if you’re picking from paint-chip strips, go for shades that have comparable density, or depth of pigment—whether they fall at the top, middle, or bottom of the strips—and make sure there’s some contrast between each one. Another approach: Try attaching a single adjective to your selections, such as energetic, historical, or “sweet”—like the intensified pastels at right. If one pick doesn’t fit your descriptor, it likely won’t go with the flow.

Wax advises using an odd number of colors in a seemingly random pattern, as shown. Before you commit, paint a large swatch on each riser and live with the colors for a few days—you may find that in certain lights, some blend too much with their neighboring shades. When you arrive at a combination you’re happy with, it takes just a few quarts of semigloss or satin—scuffs wipe off more easily when the paint has a little sheen—to seriously step up your stair game.

Thanks to: Amy Wax, Architectural Color Consultant

18 Ways to Turn Unused Space Into the Rooms You Need

Why add on when you can add under or over? Give your home bonus rooms without drastically changing its footprint

For the Love of Vinyl Siding

Look beyond the never-to-be-settled debate over siding’s merits/sins. It’s an affordable, energy-conscious update. It can even look good.

vinyl siding
Photo by Kolin Smith
vinyl siding
Photo by Kolin Smith

The Benefits of Vinyl Siding

There are few subjects in the whole arena of residential construction products that draw battle lines as sharply as vinyl siding.

Proponents harp on the fact that it never needs painting, while its detractors insist that houses should never be covered with anything but real wood.

As a building material, vinyl siding is relatively new — it was introduced in the late 1950s as a substitute for aluminum siding. But its reputation was tarnished in the early days when it cracked, faded, buckled, and sagged.

Ongoing changes in the product’s chemistry and installation techniques have improved its performance and furthered its acceptance by builders and homeowners.

In fact, vinyl has captured 32 percent of the U.S. siding market for new homes, with no end in sight to its growing popularity. The reason, in part, is because it’s often (but not always) cheaper than red cedar or redwood and takes less time to install.

A mid-grade vinyl costs about $1.60 per square foot to install, not including the necessary trim pieces, while the installed price of mid-grade cedar clapboard, exclusive of trim and paint, is about 2.5 times higher. (Some premium vinyls cost about the same as the best grade of cedar, but the installed cost is still lower because it goes up faster and doesn’t need painting.)

For many people, price isn’t the issue at all; the real seduction of plastic siding is reduced maintenance. That’s exactly why a wood guy like This Old House general contractor Tom Silva put vinyl on his house 20 years ago.

“I don’t have time for painting,” he explains. “I’d rather spend weekends on my boat.” Of course, with the right maintenance, wood will last indefinitely. Vinyl can’t match that claim because no one knows for sure how long it will last.

Installer Joe Fagone slides a cut-to-fit, 4-foot-long panel of embossed-shingle siding around a window.

All Plastic Siding is Not the Same

Vinyl is a polymer formed during a chemical do-si-do between ethylene gas and chlorine, which produces a fine white powder called vinyl resin. When it’s melted and mixed with different additives, the resulting compound can be as rigid as pipe, as supple as a shower curtain, or durable enough to survive the heavy foot traffic on a kitchen floor.

New, so-called virgin vinyl siding has a greater complement of the key additives that impart flexibility and resistance to UV degradation. Some manufacturers will tout their product as 100 percent virgin (along with a mention of its supposed superiority), but most siding is made with a core of remelted vinyl top-coated with virgin material.

Typically, vinyl siding is extruded through a die, but to produce the deepest patterns and crispest edges, panels must be molded from polypropylene, a more expensive plastic. Molded panels are typically no more than 4 feet long, while vinyl extrusions can be virtually any length.

Rap on a vinyl-sided wall with your knuckles, and it will flex and sound hollow. That’s because, in most cases, only a relatively small area of a vinyl panel is actually resting against the sheathing.

A thin panel, or one without support, is more likely to sag over time. The thinnest siding that meets code is .035 inch thick. Premium siding can be .044 to .048 inch, and a few manufacturers sell .055-inch siding. The thicker sidings tend to be stiffer, and therefore more resistant to sagging, but stiffness depends on other characteristics as well.

Panels with a folded-over, doubled nailing hem and a relatively deep profile tend to be stiffer than others, as do those with narrow “clapboards”: The more bends the better. Although claims are made that thicker siding is also more impact resistant than thin siding, test results suggest that it has more to do with its chemical makeup, which, unfortunately, is not available to consumers who want to compare products.

Thinner, less-stiff sidings can also be sucked off a house when high winds blow. Reading the manufacturer’s warranty should give you a good indication of the product’s ability to handle heavy weather. Some even comply with the 146-miles-per-hour wind code in hurricane-prone Miami, Florida.

One siding, Wolverine Millennium, comes with a “won’t-blow-off” warranty, and its literature states that it will withstand 180-mph winds, when nailed properly.

Photo by Kolin Smith

A panel of polypropylene siding slips into a grooved “corner board” of the same material. Panels expand and contract with temperature changes and shouldn’t be installed tight to trim pieces.

While wood siding is fastened tightly to the house, vinyl siding literally hangs from nails driven through horizontal slots at the top of a panel’s nailing hem. The reason for the loose nailing has to do with the vinyl’s (and polypropylene’s) need to expand or contract as the temperature changes: A 12-foot length of plastic siding can expand as much as 5/8 inch with seasonal temperature swings. If nailed tight to a wall, it can buckle on hot days.

“The worst thing you can do is nail vinyl tight,” says Tom Silva. To ensure that the panel is free to move, the nailheads shouldn’t contact the hem, but should be left about 1/32 inch proud. Conversely, if nailed too loosely the panels will rattle noisily whenever the wind blows.

Vinyl’s tendency to move means that panels can’t be butted tight to trim, either. Quality-conscious installers leave about 1/4 inch of clearance (3/8 inch in temperatures below 40°F) at the end of panel courses; at corners and door and window openings a trim piece called J-channel covers and conceals the resulting gap. Other proprietary trim pieces, made by manufacturers to fit their own brand of siding, include soffits, rake boards, and crown moldings. All help to improve the appearance of an installation, giving it a more custom look.

In addition to J-channels, one characteristic that distinguishes vinyl from other siding is its overlaps. While lengths of wood (or cement) siding meet in an unobtrusive butt, vinyl panels must be overlapped by about 1 inch wherever they meet, resulting in telltale vertical lines. The thicker the vinyl, the more obvious the overlap. Compounding the problem, most vinyl siding panels are molded to represent double or even triple widths of clapboards. This slashes installation time dramatically, but it also makes panel overlaps even more visible. A good installer will orient overlaps away from dominant views, for example, by running the siding from a back corner to a front corner. On the front of the house, panels should be installed so seams are least visible to someone approaching the front door.

Contrary to what many people expect, vinyl is actually less likely than wood to trap moisture, Tom says. “There are tiny weep holes in the butts of the panels. And because it’s hung loosely, air can move behind it.” Just make sure your siding contractor first installs flashing and either housewrap or builder’s felt, just as he would under wood siding.

Every quality vinyl siding job starts with the contractor. Dont hesitate to ask potential installers for their certifications — most of the large manufacturers certify installers in proper installation techniques — and for the names of satisfied customers. Also check complaint lists established with local and state business associations, as well as with state contractor licensing boards.

Photo by Kolin Smith

Siding is nailed loosely through horizontal slots in the hem at the top of each panel. Tightly nailed plastic siding can buckle on very hot days. The L-shaped clip under the nailing slot hooks into a channel in the butt of the panel above.

Not Entirely Maintenance Free

To keep vinyl siding looking its best, it should be washed periodically to remove the mold, mildew, dirt, and chalky oxidation that collects on the surface. Tom uses a soft-bristle brush and a bucket with a 30/70 mix of vinegar and water. (If that doesn’t do the job, the Vinyl Siding Institute suggests mixing 1/3 cup laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner, 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, and 1 gallon water.) He just brushes it on, working from the bottom up, and gently hoses it off. Tom discourages homeowners from using a power washer on their siding; the high-pressure equipment is likely to drive water behind the panels.

Repairing a damaged panel is simple. With a zip tool and a flick of the wrist, Tom simply unhooks it from the ones above and below, then pulls out the nails. A new panel can then be snapped in place, nailed, and rehooked. The biggest problem is matching the replacement to the surrounding pieces, which will undoubtedly have faded. “What I’ll do,” Tom says, “is replace the damaged piece with some siding from a less conspicuous part of the house.” Then he replaces that piece with the new, unfaded length.

All vinyl siding will fade somewhat. After 10 to 15 years, the change can be significant. When that happens, or if you simply want to change its color, vinyl can be painted, as self-defeating as it may seem. (Check with the manufacturer first; many companies void the warranty if siding is painted.) Wash the siding first, and use latex paint, which will flex with the vinyl’s movement. But don’t count on changing a pale-yellow house to hunter green; dark colors absorb more heat than lighter ones and can cause panels to expand too much and buckle. (For that very reason, vinyl’s color palette is limited to lighter shades.)

Tom is well aware of the fact that plastic siding draws strong opinions from his clients. “It’s pretty hard to convince someone who wants vinyl to use wood siding instead, and vice versa,” he says. “Some people like it and some don’t, just as some people like Fords and some prefer Chevys.” Whether vinyl siding is good or not depends a lot on the quality of the product and the installation job. “Would I put it on my house again, if maintenance issues weren’t a factor? Probably not,” Tom says. “I really prefer wood.” But he really, really doesn’t like to paint.

Photo by Kolin Smith

Plastic siding is quick to install. The seven-man crew from Hansen Home Designs trimmed and sided this 3,200 square-foot house in less than two days. Photo taken April 4, 2002.

Re-siding with Vinyl

Much of what appeals to us about older historic houses, apart from their architectural style, is the graceful moldings, well-proportioned trim, subtle shadow lines, even the slight irregularities in the spacing of the siding — testaments to the skills of this country’s housewrights. But in countless slipshod re-siding jobs, where vinyl is slapped up over the existing shingles or clapboards, these details have been obliterated, making the facades of handsome gingerbread houses as plain as sheet cakes. “I’ve seen a lot of cases where they’ve sawed off moldings, window trim, cornices, even knocked them off with hammers,” says Tom. “It looks worse than terrible. And it takes away what makes old houses special.”

For those contemplating having a house re-sided, Tom recommends finding a contractor who specializes in old-house work, not just in vinyl siding, and insisting that all the architectural details remain in place. “Run J-channel around them and butt the siding into it,” he says. “Of course, it takes more time and money to do it this way.” A proper paint job may make more sense, if that’s the case. Sometimes, re-siding jobs are sold as a way to “tighten up” the house and reduce energy bills. The installers simply nail up a layer of foil-faced foam before the vinyl goes up. Tom doesn’t think much of this practice. “The foam panels are only 3/8 inch thick; they don’t add much R-value,” he says. “You’d be better off packing the walls with blow-in cellulose.” The final word: If you have any doubts about its effects, don’t put vinyl siding on your old house.