Tag: Lansdale Deck Builder

  • Projects to Add the Most Value to Your Home

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    HouseLogic did a photo slideshow recently on the home projects that will add the most value to your home.  not surprisingly, most of these projects involve your home's exterior siding, windows and entryways.

    Here are some of the projects they mentioned and how they will add value to your home:

    Vinyl Siding

    Famous for its durability and reasonable price, lightweight vinyl siding also is easy to install, which cuts labor costs. Manufacturers keep coming up with new colors that won’t fade, so there are more choices than ever. Good-quality vinyl siding will last 30 years or more.

    National average cost: $11,192
    Value at resale: $8,154
    Percent of investment recouped: 72.9%

    Fiber-Cement Siding

    Fiber-cement siding is a popular choice for replacement siding. Although its initial price is higher than many other types of siding (it’s heavy and labor-intensive to install), the durability and stability of fiber-cement means less maintenance in the long run. It takes paint well, so you can have your choice of exterior paint colors. It’s also fireproof and rot-resistant.

    National average cost: $13,083
    Value at resale: $10,379
    Percent of investment recouped: 79.3%

    Steel Entry Door

    Replacing an older entry door with a new steel model is the most cost-effective project in the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report. A steel door costs less than half of a similar fiberglass door. The steel outer layer is susceptible to denting; a brass kickplate (shown) helps protect the door from accidental dings.

    National average cost: $1,137
    Value at resale: $974
    Percent of investment recouped: 85.6%

    Wood Deck

    A deck is a cost-effective way to increase your living space and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice. A simple deck using pressure-treated lumber is a good DIY project and saves up to 50% of a professionally built deck. Clean and seal your deck annually to keep it in great shape.

    National average cost: $9,327 (professionally built)
    Value at resale: $7,213
    Percent of investment recouped: 77.3%

    Wood Replacement Windows

    Swapping out older, leaky windows for new wood replacement windows is a style upgrade that saves energy. The Efficient Windows Collaborative says you’ll save up to $450 per year if you switch out single-pane windows for new double-pane windows in a 2,150-sq.-ft. house. Not in the market for new? Inexpensive weather stripping will keep out the drafts.

    National average cost: $10,708 (10 replacements)
    Value at resale: $7,852
    Percent of investment recouped: 73.3%

    Want to add more value to your home? Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your exterior siding, window replacement, and deck repair needs.  Call us today at (215) 453-9180 for your FREE estimate.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Deck Maintenance Tips

    Courtesy of HGTV

    Courtesy of HGTV

    When the winter weather subsides, you may notice that your deck is starting to show some wear.  Make it look like new again by following these deck maintenance tips, courtesy of HGTV:

    Wash

    Before making any repairs to the deck, remove dirt and wood fibers with a pressure washer. When using one, be sure to keep the pressure stream moving. Otherwise, you could gouge the wood. Allow the deck to dry overnight.

    Fix nail pops

    If you encounter a nail that has worked loose from a board, remove the nail with a cat's paw or a hammer. Use a screw that's longer than the nail to reattach the board.

    Repair split wood

    If you have a board that's split down the middle, mark the damaged board next to the leading edge of the first support joist that's completely past the split. Be sure not to mark an area that's directly over a joist or you could damage your saw when you begin cutting.

    Cut the board with a jigsaw, remove the nails or deck screws and remove the damaged wood. Use deck screws to attach a pressure-treated 2-by-4-inch support block to the joist. The support block will hold the replacement board in position. Cut a replacement board to size, pre-drill and fasten it to the support block and joists with deck screws.

    Your replacement board may appear to be higher and wider than the existing wood, but it should shrink as it loses moisture. If the board still appears to be higher than the surrounding boards after being in place for a few weeks, you can smooth it down with a belt sander. Be sure that all nail or screw heads are recessed into the wood before you begin sanding.

    Stain and seal

    Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it's still vulnerable to moisture and the sun's rays. To preserve it without changing the color, use s clear wood preservative that contains a UV protector, which will bring new life to the surface while protecting it from the elements. If you want to add color, use an exterior stain first. Exterior stains come in both solid and semi-transparent finishes. Always use the semi-transparent for the decking area, but try a solid color if you want to highlight railings or banisters; it ends up looking like a painted finish. Exterior stains are available in oil or latex, and both provide fade and mildew resistance.

    Wearing protective eyewear and gloves, apply preservative or stain with a roller or a brush. Let the product sit on the wood decking for about 20 minutes so that it has time to penetrate, and then go back over the surface with a brush to give the deck a more consistent finish (this also helps get rid of any puddles that will dry as shiny patches). Apply a second coat for good coverage and protection.

    Allow the deck to dry for 48 hours, and then apply a sealant.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck maintenance, deck repair, deck building, deck installation and deck inspection needs.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate.

  • How to Tell if Your Deck Needs Help

    Courtesy of fairfaxcounty.gov

    With changing temperatures and recent storms, lack of deck maintenance can increase the risk of deck-related injury.

    Check your deck with these following safety guidelines courtesy of HouseLogic:

    Boards: Check deck boards for rot, softness, or major cracking.

    Every Connection: Inspect every hardware connection on the deck. Look for screws and/or nails backing out, red rust, and other signs of corrosion on metal connectors that can weaken the integrity of the deck.

    Structure: Look at the posts, beams, and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?

    Attachments: Most deck failures occur at the attachment site to the home. Ensure that the deck is properly attached to the house with bolts (not nails) and proper flashing for water protection.

    Foundation/Footings: The foundation and footings support the weight, or load, on a deck and the columns that bear on them. Look for sinking or a noticeable sag.

    Exits: Check deck’s exit areas, usually stairs. Are the stair stringers, treads, and risers ok? Do the stairs require a handrail? Is there adequate lighting to safely use the exits at night?

    Rails: Look at rail posts and railing sections to make sure that they aren’t loose or wobbly. All pickets/balusters should be fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck construction, deck maintenance, deck repair and deck inspection needs.  Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for your FREE estimate.

     

  • 6 Tips to Avoid Bad Contractors

    Shopping for the right contractor is extremely important when you are going to have work done on your home.  Check out these 6 question(courtesy of Yahoo! Homes)s to ask prospective contractors in order to avoid a massive headache later.

    Question #1: What's Your Business History (and Much More)?

    You wouldn't hire a surgeon without knowing how many surgeries he or she has performed, would you? Well, your home is about to go under the knife, so you'll want to evaluate contractors with the same level of scrutiny.

    Kruse suggests first asking questions about a company's business practices and experiences with the remodeling project you need. Find out what kind of procedures and rules this contractor would follow to meet your demands.

    Here are a few other things Kruse thinks you should ask contractors:

    • How long have you been in business?
    • Are you licensed by the state?
    • What percentage of your clientele is repeat or referral business?
    • Are you a member of a national trade association?
    • Do you have a list of references from past projects similar to mine?
    • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?

    [Ready to put a contractor to the test? Click here to find one today.]

    Kruse also recommends contacting a client with whom they are currently working. "This way, you can see how things are conducted on a day to day basis," he says. "You can find out if there are problems or issues that have arisen, and ask how well they communicate throughout the project."

    Question #2: Do You Provide a Detailed Written Contract?

    Misunderstandings happen. People forget. Things change. But a contract helps both you and the contractor know what is expected from both parties.

    Every job, no matter how small, should have a signed contract by the contractor and customer, Kruse says. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast - the devil is in the details.

    "A contract should be very specific and point out step by step what will be going on throughout the project and before it even begins," he adds.

    Some things that should be on a contract - all written in great detail - include:

    • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties involved in the project, including vendors
    • Detailed list of the work to be completed
    • List of each product along with its price and model number
    • Who is responsible for pulling permits
    • Where deliveries will go and where the dumpster will be placed
    • What time the workers begin and end their day
    • Project's start and completion dates plus payment schedule
    • All work carried out by subcontractors

    [Ready to look for a home contractor? Click here to find one in your area.]

    Anything that changes along the way must be written and signed in a change order, which makes sure everyone is in agreement on the change, price, time, or anything else that is adjusted from the original contract.

    Question #3: How Much Do I Need to Put Down?

    If the contractor asks you to pay for all of the project's cost upfront, it's time to find another contractor. An unreasonable deposit is the first sign something is fishy, Kruse says.

    The Better Business Bureau's website suggests going by the rule of thirds: Pay one third at the beginning of the project, one third when work is 50 percent complete, and one third after it is final and you are satisfied with the outcome.

    But chances are your contractor will have a formula to determine how much money is needed to get the job started. "Most contractors go with a 15 percent down payment on larger projects," Kruse says. "My clients usually give me the 15 percent deposit at the same time they hand me the signed contract."

    [Ready to start your home remodel? Click here to find the right home contractor today.]

    Keep in mind that if the job is a small one, it's okay to provide money for the cost of materials - which might be 50 percent of the job or a little more, he says.

    Question #4: Can I Get Itemized Price Estimates?

    Some contractors like to hand you a bid with one price estimate for the entire project because it's less work on their end. Don't let them. You will need details on all the costs associated with the project and each item purchased.

    Here's why an itemized estimate is essential: If midway through the project you decide to put in a less expensive countertop than the one originally discussed, you need to know the exact cost of the first countertop. Without it, you have no way of knowing how much of a credit you should receive.

    An itemized price list should detail the cost of labor, demolition, materials, electrical, plumbing, permits, and more.

    Kruse explains how an itemized estimate is better for client and contractor: "It just makes it easier to track work, and it's transparent to both the client and I of what is expected on the job. I also offer my preferred vendor list to our clients so they know who we are buying their products from."

    Some contractors use their estimates as proposals, but these might be very inaccurate and could mislead the homeowner, Kruse says. Don't assume anything. Be certain that once you sign a contract, what you see on paper is what you will be paying.

    Question #5: Who Will Be at the Site?

    Just hiring your contractor doesn't ensure he or she will be the one hammering and sawing. They might only show up to sign the contract and present the finished product. It's important to know that certain contractors manage their companies by getting bids or supervising many job sites at once and are not hands-on people.

    How do you find out which one you have? "Ask potential contractors who is going to be in charge of your project at all times," Kruse says. "You need to meet with that person, get a feel for what he/she is like and get acquainted a bit. Go check out that person at one of their current jobs."

    [Ready to get started on your home remodel? Click here to find a contractor in your area.]

    In their "Home Sweet Home Improvement" guide, the Federal Trade Commission urges homeowners to ask if subcontractors will be used on the project. If so, homeowners should ask to meet them to make sure they have insurance coverage and proper licenses.

    When meeting the subcontractor, ask if the lead contractor pays them on time. Why is this little detail important? According to the Federal Trade Commission, "A 'mechanic's lien' could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay subcontractors or suppliers," who, in turn, could take you to court to retrieve their unpaid bills.

    Question #6: Do You Think We Can Get Along?

    Just like any good relationship, the one between you and your contractor should have harmony, communication, and collaboration. Some personalities and styles just don't mesh, so don't pick someone just because their bid is the lowest, says Kruse.

    Your contractor will be part of your daily existence for quite some time. They will see how your children behave, how you don't water your plants, and how your breakfast dishes sit in the sink all day.

    Hiring a contractor without much thought can be a big mistake, says Kruse. "Sometimes [homeowners] end up with work that is less than adequate, or they give these shady contractors a large chunk of money upfront and then they never show up again."

    Protecting yourself from these nightmares means knowing exactly who your contractors are before you hire them. After all, it doesn't hurt to ask - but it sure could hurt if you don't.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your roofing repair, window repair and deck construction needs. Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for your FREE estimate today!

  • Preparing Your Deck for Winter

    In order to keep your deck in tip-top shape for next spring, take a little bit of time and do some preventative maintenance on it before the winter hits.

    Here are some tips courtesy of localhelpfinder.com:

    Tip #1: Clean it Thoroughly

    The first thing you need to do to prepare your deck or patio for winter is to simply clean it thoroughly. Be sure to remove all of the fungus, dirt, mildew, algae, rust stains and anything else that has accumulated on the deck or patio. Use a formulated deck cleaner to thoroughly remove the grime before doing anything else to prep your deck or patio.

    Tip #2: Strip Away Unwanted Finish

    After cleaning the deck or patio thoroughly, you should strip away any finish that is deteriorated or otherwise unwanted. Again, there are products available that you can use to remove oil or latex paints as well as semi-transparent stains and clear finishes that might need to be removed.

    Tip #3: Reapply Finish and Stain

    If you had to remove finish that was deteriorating, you will need to replace it in order to protect the wood and to keep your deck or patio looking great.

    Tip #4: Seal it Up

    Finally, you should seal your deck or patio with a water repellant. This way, it will be able to withstand all of the moisture, snow and ice that it will endure throughout the winter months. If you do not seal your deck or patio, the wood surface may start to crack and become warped.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck maintenance, deck repair and deck construction needs. Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for your FREE Estimate!

  • How to Spice Up your Deck

    Improving or replacing your deck is one of the most cost-effective home improvement projects that can be done.  According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report via Houselogic:

    a wood deck project returns an average of about 70% of the investment cost — one of the highest values in the survey.

    In order to make sure you get the biggest return on your investment, look into these low-cost add-ons, courtesy of Houselogic:

    Hidden fasteners for decking

    For years now, deck screws have been the fastener of choice. (Nails, prone to popping out over time, are old news.) Deck screws come in a useful range of colors, won’t corrode, and hold exceptionally well. However, even when installed carefully, they cover the deck with rows of little pockmarks—tiny depressions that may have splintered edges and trap dirt.

    Enter the hidden fastener. This clever innovation holds deck planks down while leaving the surface looking sleek and minimalist. There are scores of hidden fasteners on the market, each of a slightly different design. One category fastens with a screw to the framing and grips the side of each plank with barbs. Another fits into a groove in the side of the plank (some composite planks come with this groove) before being fastened to the joist. Yet another type fastens from underneath the deck, firmly snugging the decking onto the joists.

    Hidden fasteners are labor intensive to install, which adds a premium of about $4 per square foot compared with the cost of an installation using deck screws. However, many deck owners find the investment worthwhile, especially if they have selected composite, vinyl, or premium wood decking and want to show off these materials to best advantage.

    Adding style with planters

    Planters give a deck character. The various shapes and sizes of planters add texture and color. Built-in versions, often made of the same material as the decking, can be positioned to separate seating areas from cooking areas. When planted with tall plants, such as ornamental grasses, they can act as living privacy screens.

    Wood planters typically are lined with galvanized sheet metal, plastic containers, or are built to conceal standard pots that are easily removed for cleaning or planting. Planters made of pressure-treated wood sometimes forego the liner altogether.

    With all built-ins, some means of drainage is necessary, which may mean you’ll have to bore holes in the bottom of the container. Because excess water will drain from the bottom of your planter, you’ll need to be mindful of where you position the planter. If you hire a pro to custom build your deck planters, assume a cost of $150 to $250 labor and materials for each lineal foot of a 2-foot deep and 2-foot high built-in planter.

    Built-ins aren’t your only option. Home centers offer a wide variety of planters available at prices from $10 to $200. Ceramic or cement pots can be a decorative feature, running $50 and up for a 2-foot tall container. Hanging planters (about $25 each) are a great addition to a pergola or trellis. Planters that attach to the railing ($70 for a 40-inch-long terracotta planter with metal holder) all but disappear when filled with plants.

    Cable railings

    Railings are typically required on any deck when the decking surface is more than 2 feet above ground. Railings are the most visible part of the deck from ground level and offer a great opportunity to echo the colors and architectural details of your house. However, if you are lucky enough to a have a scenic vista (or just an awfully nice yard) you won’t want the railing in the way.

    One solution is a cable railing—thin stainless steel cables strung tautly between wood or metal posts. This alternative looks great, preserves the view and, at a cost of about $70 per lineal foot for a pro installation, is about $1,200 more expensive than a standard wood railing for a 16x20-foot deck. To further spare the budget, consider using cable only where the view is important and use wood elsewhere. Or, if you are handy, do it yourself for a materials cost of about $25 a lineal foot.

    Taming the sun with shade sails

    Overhead structures like wood pergolas and trellises help shield a deck from the sun, adding a pleasantly dappled shade pattern. However, they can be costly to install and challenging to maintain over the years.

    Shade sails are a cool, eye-catching alternative. Made of UV-resistant polyethylene knit fabric, sails are triangular, square, and rectangular, and come in a variety of colors. They produce a muted, diffuse light, cutting the glare of full sunlight while still permitting light into windows adjacent to the deck. Shade is not all the sails offer. Many homeowners consider shade sails a form of aerial sculpture and delight in watching them rise and fall gently in the evening breeze.

    Shade sails for a 16 x 20-foot deck would cost about $5,500 when professionally installed. (Expect to pay at least 30% more for a custom-built pergola of comparable size.) If you have a smaller installation in mind, you can buy a 12-foot triangular shade at your home center for as little as $200. However, bear in mind that a sail can exert a mighty force on a windy day and must be attached to the framing of the house or to steel or wooden poles set in concrete. A professional installation is recommended.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck construction, deck repair and deck building needs. Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for a FREE estimate!

     

  • Does your Deck Need Repairs or Replacing?

    After using your deck all summer, it may be a good idea to check out your deck before the winter months to see if you'll have to make any repairs on it. According to Houselogic "There are more than 40 million decks in the United States that are more than 20 years or older, according to the North American Deck & Railing Association, and hundreds of reported deck accidents occur annually."

    Here are 7 deck safety inspection tips courtesy of Houselogic:

    Boards: Check deck boards for rot, softness, or major cracking.

    Every Connection: Inspect every hardware connection on the deck. Look for screws and/or nails backing out, red rust, and other signs of corrosion on metal connectors that can weaken the integrity of the deck.

    Structure: Look at the posts, beams, and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?

    Attachments: Most deck failures occur at the attachment site to the home. Ensure that the deck is properly attached to the house with bolts (not nails) and proper flashing for water protection.

    Foundation/Footings: The foundation and footings support the weight, or load, on a deck and the columns that bear on them. Look for sinking or a noticeable sag.

    Exits: Check deck’s exit areas, usually stairs. Are the stair stringers, treads, and risers ok? Do the stairs require a handrail? Is there adequate lighting to safely use the exits at night?

    Rails: Look at rail posts and railing sections to make sure that they aren’t loose or wobbly. All pickets/balusters should be fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here for all of your deck repair, deck replacement and deck construction needs.  Call us at  215-773-9180 for your FREE estimate

  • Should I go with Wood or Composite?

    One of the major questions for people building a deck these days is whether it is better to go with wood or composite material for it's construction. Which one is the best in terms of maintenance? In terms of longevity? In terms of aesthetics?

    The answer, although it depends on your individual preferences, is that going with composite is probably the best choice.

    Although wood decks are often aesthetically pleasing, they require an increased amount of maintenance. You have to reguarly sand and paint your deck just to maintain it. With composite, this is not necessary. Although it may cost more during the construction phase, it actually saves you money in the long run. Plus, today's composite materials offer a great variety of designs, including ones that mimic the look of wood.

    When comparing the two, composite is almost always the better choice. However, at Exterior Specialties of PA we can and will build any deck you desire! Call us today for a free estimate!