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Check Grout and Caulk inside the House

Caulk is an important barrier against water and air leaks but it does not last very well.  If the caulk is dried and cracked or if it has come loose you will need to replace it.  When repairing caulk clean all of the old caulk out and clean the surfaces.  Use a hair dryer to make sure that the surface is very dry before you apply caulk. If you are dealing with a gap of 1/8” or larger, we recommend that you use backer rod before applying caulk.  If you are not experienced with a caulk gun, it is a good idea to run a piece of tape along either side of the caulk line, leaving enough room for the caulk to make good surface contact.  Once you have smoothed the caulk you can pull the tape and have a very clean professional looking caulk joint. With the grout you will be checking for a few things. First check to make sure that it is clean.  Dirt and grime can discolor grout.  Often when grout is dirty it will take on more of a modeled look.  Using a cleaning solution scrub a small section of grout to see if it changes color.  If it does it will need to be cleaned.  Depending on how dirty it is, this process will determine how you will need to clean it.  There are specialized, often toxic, grout cleaning products.  Almost always the most important ingredient in cleaning grout is elbow grease.  Once the grout is clean you can check for loose and cracked grout that will need to be removed and repaired.  If the grout does not seem to be overly dirty or in need of repair, check to make sure that the sealer is still working.  If water beads up on it, the sealer is working.  If you have to scrub the grout, clean it or if water did not bead up on it you will need to reseal it.  There are many different sealers on the market. While we specify penetrating grout sealers in new construction they are usually not a good choice for resealing because previously sealed grout will not allow absorption.  In most instances we recommend an acrylic surface sealer for regrouting. Read the instructions carefully and follow all of the recommended steps accordingly.  This is not difficult but attention to detail is important.

Changing AC filters

It is our recommendation that you change AC filters once a month when you are leaving your system on all the time, so you will see this task on our list for most, but not all, months. Changing out the AC filters will extend the life of your system, allow it to operate more efficiently, and even help keep the house clean.  That’s right – the filters collect dust that would otherwise be spread through the house.  It is a good idea to buy a carton of filters at a time.  Pay close attention to the direction arrows when installing each filter.  We also recommend writing the date on the filters so that you will know at a glance when they were last changed.
 

How to Choose the Right Siding for Your Home

Like many building products in existence, choosing the right siding for your home is never as easy as Eenymeenyminy-moe. Each material comes with its own set of pros and cons, based on price, climate appropriateness, aesthetics and sustainability, if that is an issue for you. The type of siding to be chosen is only one of the considerations when thinking about the exterior cladding of you home.  In this article we will only consider this choice.

Wood

Wood is the real thing, the original authentic siding.  Many consider wood the ultimate sustainable material and renewable resource. It has a long history as an exterior finish and has an established appeal.  You cannot beat the look of real wood… when it is new. Unfortunately in our hot humid climate, it does not hold up so well.  And, to make matters worse, modern, fast grown wood does not hold up as well as the wood of even 15 years ago.  It rots easily and it does not hold paint well.  But if you are a purist and insist on wood, there is a lot that can be done to give your siding a fighting chance.  There are quite a few details involved doing wood siding properly that tend to get skipped.  To start with the siding should be primed on all sides before installing.  It is especially important to prime the grain at the ends of each piece of siding.  It is also important to provide an air space behind the siding for proper drying.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement has become our siding of choice, due to its durability and the fact that it replicates the look of wood but is easily maintained and holds paint well. Fiber cement siding and trim consists of cement, sand, and cellulose fiber. Also fiber cement is non-combustible and is resistant to rot and termites. Many types of fiber cement include warranties as long as fifty years and cost less than brick, wood or stucco. For the hot humid climate of the Brazos valley, fiber cement siding is our top choice.

Vinyl

Vinyl siding is often used for its affordability. There are few products that have made more dubious claims than vinyl siding.  It was not supposed to crack, yet we have seen numerous homes with cracked vinyl siding.  It was supposed to hold its color yet we see dingy faded vinyl siding frequently.  It contracts and expands so much that we have seen it droop off the side of a house. The process of making polyvinyl chloride is very dirty and it releases dangerous materials when it ages and, worse, it releases dioxins when it burns. One positive attribute to vinyl siding is that it can be recycled. Though that, too, is a high energy and dirty process.

Brick

Brick attracts many home buyers for its aesthetics, low maintenance, and resale value.  Brick can also be ground up for road base, landscaping or can be used as clean fill.  For energy efficient building in hot humid climates brick should be used sparingly and only in well shaded areas or on the north side of a building.  As a thermal mass, brick absorbs heat through the day.  Because the nights do not cool down enough in a humid climate, most of that heat will eventually migrate into the building. For this reason we discourage the use of brick, stone and other thermal mass cladding on the outside of a home.  Unfortunately more neighborhood require large amounts of masonry, which, more often than not, means brick.

Manufactured Stone

Manufactured stone is a lightweight, lower-cost alternative to brick. The products are durable, offering long warranties similar to those of fiber cement. Like other cement based products, manufactured stone does require a higher amount of energy in production. At the end of life, manufactured stone can be grounded up and reused for roadways and sidewalks.

Stucco

Most stucco today is made with Portland cement and sand, and, the surface is considered low maintenance, affordable, and durable. Stucco offers very versatile design options, a variety of color choices, and is very easily repairable. However, color matching the stucco can be difficult. In terms of energy efficiency stucco has less thermal mass than brick and is in this way preferable.

IEFS

There are also artificial stuccos known as Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems (IEFS ) These systems have received a bad rap because they were the source of a lot of litigation.  But these cases were brought due to a failure in the application of the material, not because the material is bad.  If properly installed, EIFS can be a great choice. Unlike traditional stucco it does not transfer heat easily.

The siding on your home is like the skin on your body it is a large, vital organ that will help maintain the health of your home if properly cared for.

Why We Recommend Metal Roofs

Why We Recommend Metal Roofs

There are many advantages to standing seam metal roofs, which is why we recommend them to our clients for most home projects.

Traditional composite roofs absorb a lot of heat much of which gets transferred into the home. Light metal roofs do a great job of reflecting radiation. They also do not hold heat. These features make metal roofs especially appropriate for homes located in hot climates.

Metal roofs also lasts about two to three times longer than conventional roofs.

Another thing that we like about standing seam metal roofs is that most profiles accept a clip to provide connection for solar panels and to water systems without penetrating the roof.

Metal roofs can also be attached to lathing or a series of narrow strips of wood, used with other strips to form latticework to create a support for many types of roofing material thus allowing for increased ventilation under them, providing even more cooling.

Not everyone likes the look of metal roofs but for most home styles we think they work very well. And they have a broad popularity in the design community.

The primary drawback is that metal roofs cost more than traditional roofs do. But when considered over their entire life, they are a bargain. The value of metal roofs is well recognized in home appraisals, which means that their life long value will be considered when your home is put on the market.

To view an example of a metal roof on one of our very own Stearns Design-Build homes, check out our beautiful bright yellow custom built house soon to be completed on our Houzz site.

All State’s Maintenance Reminder

You will not often hear me saying something nice about an insurance company.  But here goes. All State’s Maintenance reminder provides you with home maintenance reminders. This is a very smart move on their part.  So often we are hired to do expensive repairs that could have been avoided with a very small amount of maintenance. Homeowners often lack the confidence to tackle home maintenance task. Some of these tasks are best done by a professional, but many can easily be done by a homeowner.  But even if you choose to pay a professional do everything down to changing your air filter, it will be cheaper to have the maintenance done than not done.  All States maintenance reminder can help you stay on top of these tasks.
By the way, our Facebook page also offers reminders and instruction on doing household maintenance.  Like us and we, too, will be an aid to helping maintain your home. Thanks to Mark Healey for bringing this to my attention.