Archive for March, 2010

Cedar Shake Roof Considerations

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

cedar-shakesWood roofing used to be the norm but fell out of favor with the introduction of asphalt shingles. Today, a wood roof is a specialty item. There are two varieties – shingle and shake. If you are springing for a custom roof, be aware that wood shingles don’t last too long (usually 15 years or less).

It makes more sense to invest in a thicker, high quality shake roof that can last 30-40 years. This material has excellent insulating properties. It also adds natural beauty to your home. Cedar can be sealed to preserve the original color or allowed to weather to a silvery grey over time.

Is Cedar Safe?

Cedar can be pressure treated and impregnated with fire retardants to make it fairly resistant to burning. However, its fire resistant rating is not as high as that of other materials such as cement, tile, and slate.

Some municipalities that experience frequent wildfires prohibit the use of cedar shakes; but in most areas they are permissible as long as they meet fire codes. When you look for materials, make sure the wood isn’t simply treated with a spray-on or brush-on flame retardant – those may wear off over time.

What About Moisture?

A properly installed cedar shake roof with appropriate underlayment and flashing doesn’t pose a leakage risk. A good power washing every few years will actually help keep the roof in good condition.

If you live in a particularly humid area, look for materials that have been pretreated with a fungicide. This should prevent excessive mold or mildew growth on the exposed surfaces of the shakes. Algae may also grow on the wood but doesn’t damage it.

Bathroom Window Privacy Options

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Does your bathroom have one or more walls that look out on the outside world? This gives you a perfect opportunity to let in some natural light. Of course, you also want to retain privacy in this room. Heavy drapes make a small space look cramped and gauzy sheer curtains won’t give you enough opacity. However, there are plenty of window options that will let the sun in while keeping out prying eyes.

Location Specific

Consider placing casement (awning style) windows close to the ceiling. These let in the daylight and can even be opened to air out the bathroom and keep humidity low. They are too high for passersby or neighbors to peer through. If you prefer a window that doesn’t open, consider a nautical style round window.

Partially Opaque

Frosted panes are a good option for bathrooms if you want a large picture window. Just make sure the etching is consistent enough to provide your desired amount of coverage. For smaller windows, consider decorative stained glass. These work best in a bathroom that is painted a neutral ivory or white color to really show off the colored light from the artful window panes.

Bend The Light

glass-block1

Glass Block Window

Glass block windows (made of cubes of thick glass) are another choice that provides a “distorted” view of the outside while letting in the sun. Some installers can even build shower stalls out of this type of material allowing you to carry the motif from the window to the rest of the bathroom.

Old Painted Cabinets – New Wood Look

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Do you want the look of wood veneer kitchen cabinets without the expense? Refacing the cabinets and replacing the doors and hardware is much easier and more cost effective than remodeling. You don’t even have to strip the paint off your existing cabinets. You can cover the paint with wood veneer or laminate panels.

First, remove and discard the old doors. Then, sand the boxes just enough to make the painted surface rough instead of slick. Fill in the holes where you removed the hardware with wood putty (scraping it even with the rest of the cabinet) and let it dry. Measure and write down where the holes were. That way, you can avoid installing the new screws in the same spot – they won’t hold well in putty.

Cut your selected veneer panels or self adhesive laminate sheets to the correct size and shape for your cabinet fronts. The end panels usually come in standard sizes, but you can also alter these if required. Glue or press the refacing materials in place over the sanded paint. Trim off any excess with a sharp utility knife. Sand down the edges just a little to make them smooth to the touch.

Stain the surface of your new cabinet doors to match the veneer. If you can’t get an exact match, consider going for contrast with a full shade darker or lighter. Take your time selecting the perfect hardware – all the money you saved on this project can be put to good use here. You will be able to afford ornamental handles and hinges in brass or other top quality materials.

Install the hinges no more than 1/2” from where the original hinges were – taking care not to drill into the old holes. Locate the handles at the bottom 1/3 of the door for upper cabinets and at the top 1/3 for lower cabinets.

Additional Tip:503812115_8936651fd7_o2

Are you refacing the interior of your cabinet boxes too? Consider installing glass front cabinet doors to show off the wood grain on the interior. This will make your kitchen appear more open.

Double Hung Window Basics

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

double-hung-window1If you are looking for replacement windows in fairly standard sizes, one of the most common styles you will find is the double-hung window. These feature two panes of glass – each in a separate frame or sash. With a true double-hung window, the bottom pane and top pane can both slide up or down independently of one another.

Some cheaper models only allow movement of the bottom pane. In these cases, there is generally only a screen on the bottom half of the window. Either style works equally well to ventilate your home with fresh air and reduce the accumulation of indoor air pollutants.

These windows may be placed on either side of a larger “picture” window that doesn’t open. That way, the room has a view and plenty of sunlight along with a nice breeze. Double hung windows that open easily may also play a role in an emergency fire exit strategy.

Compression weather-stripping, springs, or counterweights are used to hold the open sash firmly in the desired position. If these components become worn or damaged, they need to be repaired or replaced. Otherwise, the open window sash may slide down into the sill forcefully enough to cause the pane to shatter.

Double hung windows can be purchased with vinyl, wood or metal frames. Energy efficient styles often feature double paned glass and UV radiation protection. Installing replacement windows that are the same size as your current windows is relatively easy. However, making sure the seal around the jambs and sill is airtight takes some attention to detail. Always read the manufacturer’s warranty before attempting a DIY window replacement to make sure you aren’t voiding your coverage.

Aluminum Siding Painting Tips

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

When residential aluminum siding was first invented in 1947, it represented a giant leap forward in ease of maintenance for the average homeowner. Before that point, a wooden façade was the most common option. The downside of using wood was the constant maintenance required to keep it in good repair. Moisture could cause the siding to swell and contract making nails come loose. Infestation with termites and other bugs was common, paint peeled and flaked, and rot was a constant threat.

Aluminum changed all this. It is impervious to insects and can’t be damaged by water. However, this type of siding isn’t completely maintenance free. Besides the occasional dent repair, homeowners must repaint their siding after it has been in service 20+ years. The initial paint job will have faded and/or become chalky by this point. It may even be worn away completely in some places.

Prepping and Painting Aluminum Siding

house-painting1A good power washing is the best way to clean aluminum siding prior to painting. This gets rid of dirt, bird droppings, tree sap, and other types of gunk. Any dents should be fixed during the prep phase. Gutters should be repaired as well.

After this, a coat of primer must be applied. If the previous coat of paint is chalky, a primer that contains oil may be used to provide better adhesion. When there is bare aluminum showing, latex primers that contain ammonia should be avoided. They may cause bubbling as the ingredients interact with the oxidized metal. It’s a good idea to get a professional opinion when choosing a primer since the results will affect how well the paint goes on.

After the primer has dried, apply high quality latex paint. Invest in the best paint you can afford – it will last longer than cheap products. You can use a roller or brush to apply this final coat; but a pressure sprayer offers the smoothest coverage. It does take a skilled hand to minimize overspray with this equipment. If you aren’t experienced with using a compressor and spray gun, it’s a good idea to leave this job to a professional