Archive for September, 2010

Different Types of Wood Siding

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

wood sidingCommon tree species used for residential siding include cedar, pine, spruce, redwood, cypress, and Douglas firs. Sometimes plywood is also used. The wood is graded for quality. Clear heartwood is considered the premium wood siding material. Below that, lesser grades include A Clear, B Clear, Select Knotty, Quality Knotty, Proprietary, and Standard. Each type of wood can be used to make various styles of siding.

Clapboard – These are long rectangular boards that are squared off. They are installed horizontally in an overlapping manner. Clapboard is one of the oldest types of wood siding. You see it on many historic homes.

Bevel – Beveled siding is installed horizontally much like clapboard. The major difference is that one edge is thinner than the other on the opposite side. It’s sort of like a wedge shaped clapboard and is just a modern version of that time-honored design. One face of each board is generally saw-textured. On some products both sides are textured.

Wood Plank – Wood plank is installed vertically and can come in a variety of styles and shapes. Some of these include board on board, channel-groove, or tongue and groove.

Shingles & Shakes – Wood shingle siding is very similar to roofing shingles except these are installed over the sides of the building. Red cedar is a favorite material for shake siding. The shingles are wedge shaped. Installation is done with a nail gun and the shingles overlap vertically. Shakes are basically the same, except they are much thicker than shingles.

Wood Composite – Compressed mixtures of glue, wood chips and other types of debris are used to make sturdy boards. In some respects a composite is similar to plywood, except it does not have a nice wood finish. This material tends to be far less expensive than any other kind. It can be cut to look like any type of traditional siding.

Large Windows: Picture and Bay Styles

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

4250861951_e8ae42cf71_mOne of the reasons replacement windows are such a popular home improvement item is that they have an impact on both the exterior and interior of a house. They really set the atmosphere in each room. For rooms that could feature a lovely view, replacing small windows with single larger window can add quite a bit of value and appeal to a home.


A large picture window is one option for enhancing a room with a view. The largest possible picture window you can buy for your home may depend on the type of frame you want. Some manufacturers of residential windows only offer sizes up to 5’x8’ or 6’x7’ in a single pane. Additional panes can be added in geometric shapes at the top or sides of the large pane to increase the overall size of the window. Of course, a local commercial glass company can usually custom make any dimension of double paned picture window glass you’d like.


Unlike picture windows, bay or bow windows are generally made in 3 separate pieces and come in standard sizes as large as 10.5’x6.5’. They can create a much more open feel for the interior of a room because they “bow” out from the wall. Plants or other decorative items that might otherwise take up space in the room can be placed in the sunshine and out of the way on the interior window ledge. So, a deep bay window creates the effect of adding more square footage to the home without the expense of building a new room.

Making a Choice

What style will match the existing architectural feel of your home? Bay windows with inset seats are a typical choice for Victorian styles. In contrast, a large picture window or a series of several picture windows may be more appropriate for the front façade of a more modern home. However, bay windows can still be installed for kitchen, dining, or living room spaces that overlook a back yard.

Diagnosing Leaks In Bathrooms: Part 1

Friday, September 24th, 2010

bathroom-pipesDoes one of your bathrooms have a mysterious leak? It may be difficult to figure out where the water is coming from at first. However, you need to find out as soon as possible if the leak is from a valve, drain or some other place. Otherwise, you may end up spending more money than necessary ripping stuff out and having it replaced.

Follow the water trail to its source

When you find water standing on the bathroom floor, your first though might be that it must be coming from a water pipe or drain. While this is possible, it is not always the case. If the toilet is nearby, it should be ruled out as the culprit. Also, make sure the pool of water on the floor was not simply splashed there by someone using the sink.

Check for moisture around the surrounding drywall. Nine times out of ten, water is coming from behind the wall. If the wall is wet all the way to the ceiling, water might be coming from a source outside of the bathroom. For example, a roof leak may simply end up near the tub.

Inspect the caulking, grout and seals around the bathtub. If they are deteriorated, water may be seeping through these areas and soaking the drywall when the tub or shower is in use. Allow the bathroom tub or shower to dry out for about 48 hours.  If the drywall remains wet, you probably have a constant slow leak from a pipe.

If the area dries out, you know the leak is caused by bathroom use in some form or fashion. Sometimes people unknowingly splash water from the shower or the tub onto the adjacent floor. They simply do not notice until it becomes a large puddle. Adding small rubber dams around the corners of the tub and making sure the shower curtain liner stays inside the tub rim will limit this problem.

Do You Need A Lightning Rod On Your Roof?

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

lightningLightning rods are most commonly installed on the roofing of high rise buildings and houses located on hill tops. These structures are most vulnerable to million volt bolts. Lightning strikes on low houses are rare enough that most homeowners don’t worry much about them. However, when a lightning bolt does connect with an unprotected house it can destroy all the electrical systems present. Phone lines and metal plumbing are potential conduits for electricity from the lightning strike to cause injury to people inside the home.

It’s good to know that most home owner’s insurance will cover damage from a lightning strike. The insurance carrier will investigate the legitimacy of the claim by tracking the weather and checking satellite lightning strike data. However, it will take time to repair extensive damage. Preventing this inconvenience and protecting expensive electronics may be worth the expense of installing a lightning protection system. This is especially true for luxury homes that are several stories tall.

A lightning protection system generally has 5 parts:

  1. A series of Air Terminals (the actual lightning rods) installed along the highest points of the roof
  2. A braided conducting cable that connects the rods with the grounding elements
  3. Ground rods or plates to redirect the electricity into the earth away from the home
  4. High grade metallic bonds to the keep parts together during the surge
  5. Surge arrestors to protect the home from indirect strikes on nearby electrical lines

Lighting protection systems add stress to the roofing system. Care must be taken to ensure that leaks do not occur from mounting the rods and cable. Extra flashing may be needed to ensure a proper seal around the various components.

Walk-In Pantry Design Tips

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

walk-in-pantryWhen homes are designed, the pantry is often simply tucked in a corner that is “leftover” and not useful as open kitchen space. However, this can mean the pantry interior features odd angles and is too cramped to turn around in.

During a remodel that involves making your kitchen larger, don’t forget to convert your pantry from a broom closet into a nice walk-in room. This kind of pantry shouldn’t make you feel like a sardine in a can, so don’t skimp on space. 30” is a comfortable walkway width for most people – but this doesn’t include the area taken up by shelving along the wall. Keep this in mind when you are deciding if you really have enough room for a walk in pantry. The shape of this space should, of course, be rectangular if you want to make use of modular containers, bins, and shelving kits available for kitchens from places like The Container Store or Home Depot.

Tuck Appliances Out of Sight

Strategically placed electrical outlets in your new pantry will allow small counter-top appliances to be hidden away, yet close at hand. These plugs can be located in hidden corners on or near the ceiling or floor. This means quality wall space is not unnecessarily obstructed. Some of these power conduits can be used to recharge batteries and cell phones completely out of the way from open living areas.

Don’t Cram Your Space with Stuff

Some walk-in pantries are large enough to include secondary refrigerators or freezers. Only put one of these in if you won’t have to crawl/reach over it or squeeze by it to access your pantry shelving. Otherwise, you’ve defeated the purpose of having a walk in pantry.

Go Wide Instead of Deep

You may need to make your pantry wider rather than deeper depending on the layout of your home. In that case, you can put accordion doors on the pantry to keep it separate from your kitchen but still allow immediate access when you need to grab some pasta for dinner. A shallow pantry is actually a very efficient design since the shelving will not be so deep that canned goods get lost and go out of date while you’re not paying attention.