• Quarterly Roof Checks Can Save You Time, Frustration and Money

    Just as we set New Year’s resolutions to accomplish specific goals, we should update our calendar with reminders to perform quarterly maintenance of our roof.  Being vigilant and maintaining your roof throughout the year will increase the life of your roof, as well as save you money down the road.  No one likes surprises!   


    In the spring, you will want to do a visual check of your roof for loose or missing shingles.  You don’t necessarily need to climb on your roof, but can use a set of binoculars for a visual inspection.  You can certainly replace any missing shingles yourself, but we suggest giving us a call to make sure they are properly installed and sealed.

    Heavy snow falls can contribute to loose or leaky gutters.  You will want to have them replaced or fixed as soon as possible if you notice any issues.  Not doing so can cause drainage issues, such as water pooling in your crawl spaces or basement.  You will also want to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris.


    Inspect nearby trees or large shrubs to make sure that they are not leaning on your roof.  They can create excess debris in your gutters, allowing for water to back up during large downfalls of rain. Cutting them back before the winter comes will also reduce the possibility of tree limbs creating damage on roofs and/or gutters due to a build-up of heavy ice or snow.

    Summers can also be brutal on shingles.  Before the end of summer, you will want to do a visual check of your roof again to determine if there are any shingles that have popped up.  Loose shingles can allow water in to the sub roof, in turn creating water damage within your house.


    Leaves and other debris quickly clog gutters and downpours during the fall months.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain your gutters to reduce your risk of water improperly draining near your foundation or creating other issues with your roof. 


    Most winters we see ice, snow and heavy wind.  Each of these elements can create unique issues with your roof.

    It is important to have a professional inspect your roof prior to the winter for potential issues that could create ice dams.  An ice dam can happen when heat escaping your home melts and refreezes the ice or snow, which causes the ice dams.  These dams then block off your drains and allow water and ice to continually build up on your roof, which then can possibly build up underneath your roof.  Ice dams can weaken the roof and create major issues. Insulating your attic and making sure the attic is properly ventilated will help decrease the chance of ice dams occurring.

    And if you didn’t take care of pruning back your tree limbs earlier in the year, take the time to do it before the first winter storm.  Broken limbs and shrubbery due to ice, wind or snow can create all types of damage.  Spending a few hours in advance or hiring a landscaper can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

    In the end, spending a few hours a year to conduct visual checks of your roof and maintaining clean gutters can save you frustration, time and costly repair bills.

    Please call us if you have any questions or would like us to perform a visual check of your roof.  As always, we provide free estimates.

  • Can You Replace Your Roof During the Winter Months?

    There is often the misconception by homeowners that they cannot replace their roof during the winter months.  While there are challenges that are unique to installing a new roof during the frigid temperatures, it is certainly not impossible.

    We often see homeowner’s wait until they have significant issues before making the decision to replace their roof.  While there are myriad of reasons why this happens, it often seems to creep up more so during the winter months.  Especially when there have been major snow or ice storms.  The weight of snow and ice quickly escalates already existing issues and leaves homeowners with little choice but to replace the roof.  The benefit to replacing their roof during the winter months is typically because contractors have more flexibility with dates and can accommodate the homeowner’s schedule more so then during the warmer seasons.  In addition, sometimes the manufacturers decrease the cost of materials.  However, there are certain aspects that need to be considered.

    Most manufacturers of shingles have detailed requirements regarding the temperature at which the materials can be installed.  Often the temperatures need to be 26 degrees Fahrenheit or above for normal installation practices, but it is possible to install shingles in lower temperatures. Certain tools and most adhesives cannot function properly when the temperature is below specific thresholds. Therefore extra precautions and different processes need to be taken during the installation process on the more frigid days. In addition, most manufacturer’s warranties are not compromised when the shingles are installed below a certain temperature.

    Some types of roofing materials should not be installed at all during the winter months.  For flat roofs, PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) materials can safely be installed.  However, rubber roofs (and their alternatives) should not be installed in temperatures under 40 degrees Fahrenheit because the adhesives cannot set.   For the sloped roofs, as we mentioned above shingles can be installed with caution.  Metal roofs can easily be installed with little interference due to the temperatures.

    Overall, it is best to regularly check your roof at the beginning of each season to get ahead of any potential issues.  No one wants to deal with the surprise of a complete roof installation no matter what time of the year.  As always, call us if you may suspect an issue.  Estimates for repairs and roof replacement are always free.

  • Homeowner’s Insurance and Your Roof

    rooferclimbingInsurance companies consider your roof to be the most important part of your house.  Why? The roof is the greatest barrier to protecting the rest of your home from harsh weather elements such as high wind, hail and water.  Therefore, insurance companies have a vested interest in making sure your roof meets certain requirements, while also requiring additional policy endorsements that minimize their financial risks.


    Often insurance companies will refuse to cover certain materials.  For instance, if you live in a wildfire prone area, they most likely will not cover cedar shakes since they burn easily.  They may require flame retardant materials to be used instead such as asphalt shingles or metal roofs.  Working with a licensed professional is key to ensuring that all materials being used during your roof replacement will meet the local code, while still meeting the requirements for your insurance policy. 


    For areas that are subjected to specific weather elements, an insurance company may require additional coverage to an existing policy.  Homes along the coastal areas often require additional endorsements due to the increased predictability of high wind damage that hurricanes cause. It is important to understand what additional costs for coverage you could incur prior to purchasing a home near the water.

    Unpredictable Scenarios

    Many companies are moving to ‘actual cash value’ policies versus paying for the full replacement costs. This is another way for insurance companies to minimize their financial risk for weather related damage that may be unpredictable and cause massive damage.  A hail storm is a good example of an unpredictable scenario, which can happen anywhere and cause a varying degree of issues. 

    What does this mean for your wallet?

    If your coverage is for ‘actual cash value’, the insurance company looks at the age of your roof to determine the amount of money you are given to put towards the repairs or replacement of your roof.  This can be a real shock to many homeowners who did not read the “fine print” of their policy and thought they were fully covered.  It can be especially surprising if their roof is older and they only receive a fraction of what it costs for true repairs or replacement.

    You will want to closely examine your policy to understand if it covers a flat deductible or if it will require a percentage-based deductible.  For a $25,000 roof replacement, you could have $2,500 out of pocket costs with a percentage-based deductible of 10%.  Contrastingly, in this scenario, having a flat $1,000 deductible would minimize your out of pocket costs.

    It is important to talk to your insurance agent or broker regarding your coverage on a yearly basis to fully understand policy changes before needing to make a claim for roof damage.  Due to the often changing insurance industry, shopping around might make sense to make sure you have adequate coverage based on your personal situation.

    This information is not intended to replace your insurance policy language or local code requirements.  You should seek guidance from your insurance professional regarding your specific coverage and requirements.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help you with all of your roofing needs, from roof replacement to roof maintenance.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate.

  • How to Protect Your Roof during Hurricanes

    Hurricane season is among us.  While we typically are not directly affected in our area, we all can remember the damage that was caused by Hurricane Sandy a few years ago.  Although most of the damage was along the shore lines of New Jersey and New York, many of us in the Pennsylvania area experienced high wind damage, power outages and flooding.  High winds typically represent the largest amount of damage due to hurricanes.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency outlines steps that you can make now to minimize the wind damage to your roof, whether on the coast or inland:

    “During a windstorm, the force of the wind pushes against the outside of your home. That force is passed along from your roof to the exterior walls and finally to the foundation. Homes can be damaged or destroyed when the energy from the wind is not properly transferred to the ground.

    The first thing you should do is determine what kind of roof you have. Homes with gabled roofs are more likely to suffer damage during a hurricane. A gabled roof looks like an A on the ends, with the outside wall going to the top of the roof. The end wall of a home with a gabled roof takes a beating during a hurricane, and those that are not properly braced can collapse, causing major damage to the roof.

    Gabled Roof

    In most homes, gabled roofs are built using manufactured trusses. Sheets of roof sheathing, often plywood, are fastened to the trusses with nails or staples, and roofing material is fastened to the sheathing. In many cases, the only thing holding the trusses in place is the plywood on top.

    This may not be enough to hold the roof in place during a hurricane. Installing additional truss bracing makes your roof’s truss system much stronger.

    To inspect your roof’s bracing, go into the attic. While working in your attic, you should wear clothing that covers your skin, work gloves, a hat, eye protection, and a dust mask. If your attic does not have a floor, be careful to walk only on the wood joists, or install boards wide enough to walk on as you work. Notice how the plywood is attached to the truss system. If most of the large nails or staples coming through the sheathing have missed the trusses, consider having the sheathing properly installed.

    Truss bracing

    In gabled roofs, truss bracing usually consists of 2´ 4s that run the length of the roof. If you do not have truss bracing, it should be installed. You can do this yourself or hire a professional. Install 2´ 4s the length of your roof, overlapping the ends of the 2´ 4s across two trusses. Braces should be installed 18 inches from the ridge, in the center span, and at the base, with 8 to 10 feet between the braces. Use two 3-inch, 14-gauge wood screws or two 16d (16 penny) galvanized common nails at each truss. Because space in attics is generally limited, screws may be easier to install.

    Gable end bracing

    Gable end bracing consists of 2´ 4s placed in an “X” pattern from the top center of the gable to the bottom center brace of the fourth truss, and from the bottom center of the gable to the top center brace of the fourth truss. Use two 3-inch, 14-gauge wood screws or two 16d galvanized common nails to attach the 2´ 4s to the gable and to each of the four trusses.

    Hurricane straps

    There are many types of roof design. Regardless of your type of roof, hurricane straps are designed to help hold your roof to the walls. While you are in the attic, inspect for hurricane straps of galvanized metal. Hurricane straps may be difficult for homeowners to install. You may need to call a professional to retrofit your home with hurricane straps. Check with your local government building officials to see if hurricane straps are required in your area.

    The recommendations provided are not intended to replace local building code requirements or to serve as the only options for protecting your home from hurricane wind damage. For more information on protecting your home from hurricane wind damage, contact your local building official or a building professional, such as an engineer, architect, or experienced contractor.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help you with all of your roofing needs, from roof replacement to roof maintenance.  Call us at today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate.

  • Attic Fans: Do More Than Keep Your House Cool

    Courtesy of BobVilla.com

    Most people consider an attic fan as a partial solution for maximizing the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling resources. While that is true, an attic fan is used for a variety of reasons.  BobVilla.com discusses the benefits to installing an attic fan,

    “Measurements have shown that, given the right weather conditions, typical roofing materials can reach up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat eventually transfers from the outside of the roof to the sheathing. From there, it penetrates the insulation and roof framing materials, raising the temperature of the attic to a precarious extreme.

    In winter, when windows are shut tight, there’s considerably less ventilation for the humidity generated by cooking, laundry, and showers. With nowhere else to go, that moist air accumulates in the attic, where it can bring about a battery of risks.

    Indeed, no matter the time of year, there are good reasons to give extra attention to your attic and the stresses that it undergoes.

    A blisteringly high attic temperature isn’t uncomfortable only for the unfortunate soul standing in the unfinished space. If it goes high enough, the temperature in the attic can influence other rooms and make them hotter. Such inefficiency forces the air conditioning system to work harder than would otherwise be necessary, and of course, you must pay for that extra effort when the energy bills arrive every month.

    Beyond the extra cost, trapped heat and moisture can end up doing real damage to your home by fostering mold growth. In extreme cases, excess moisture can even rot away portions of the key structural framing found in the attic.

    Another possible consequence of runaway attic temperatures: The most common types of shingles—asphalt shingles—are plenty capable of withstanding heat when it comes from the sun. But when heat comes into contact with their undersides, those same shingles can fail prematurely.

    Fortunately, there’s a straightforward solution to heat and moisture problems on and under the roof. For money savings, a more comfortable home, and reliable protection for your roof (both its structure and shingles), consider installing an attic fan. Designed to reduce both heat and moisture, a roof-mounted attic fan operates by a simple principle. The fan pulls warm air out through a roof vent, drawing in cooler outdoor air through existing vents located along the soffits (on the underside of the roof overhang). That exchange of stale, warm air for fresh, cooler air relieves the added pressure that had been put on the air conditioning. Now, the system can run more efficiently—and you can pay less on your monthly utility bill.”

    There are a number of electric and solar powered options available at your local home improvement store and through online retailers.  Federal or state tax credits may apply, so be sure to check the manufacture’s website prior to purchase.  You can also access tax credit information for federal programs at www.irs.gov and state programs at www.dsireusa.org.

  • Why You Should Consider a Metal Roof

    Courtesy of Huffington Post

    Courtesy of Huffington Post

    In considering a new roof for your home, installing a metal roof should not be overlooked.  Many have generally thought of metal roofs for commercial buildings or for barns only.  However, there are several types of metal materials, including aluminum, steel and cooper, that are more commonly used today for residential roofs.  Although each type of metal has its own unique features, they tend to have similar benefits in general.

    Benefits of a Metal Roof

    • Increased Longevity – Warranties of 50-years are routinely offered.
    • Lightweight – Can sometimes be installed directly over existing roof materials.
    • Fire Protection – Metal roofs are very resistant to burning.
    • Environmentally Friendly – Can include up to 95% recycled material and be recycled at the end of lifetime.
    • Energy Efficiency - Can reduce heating & cooling costs by reflecting radiant heat from the sun.

    Myths About Metal Roofs

    There are many myths surrounding metal roofs.  Here are the most common myths according to Bob Villa:

    • It will increase the likelihood of a lightening strike. Metal conducts electricity, but electricity is not drawn to it.
    • Metal roofs are noisy in the rain. Not so. They may even be quieter than other roof types.
    • Metal roofs are susceptible to damage by hail. While extremely large hailstones can dent a metal roof, normal hailstorms will not. With textured roofs, minor denting is not readily visible.
    • You cannot walk on a metal roof. You can, but you have to know how to do it without causing damage. Check with the manufacturer of the product you choose.
    • A metal roof will make your house colder in winter. Actually, a metal roof has no effect on the temperature of the typical vented attic in winter. It’s the insulation under (or on top of) the floor of your attic that keeps you warm.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your metal roofing and roofing needs.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate!

  • Custom Windows 101

    Courtesy of BobVIla.com

    Courtesy of BobVIla.com

    Choosing windows isn't just about all the cookie-cutter options out there.  There's not an one-size-fits-all option for every home.  Some homes require windows that are more customized for them.

    There are a couple of reasons to decide to go custom:


    According to BobVila.com, "If the openings are an irregular size, compare how much it will cost to make the hole bigger or smaller to accommodate a stock window. This is a better option if you’re putting in a smaller window, but since it will still require patching, filling, and trimming or the services of a contractor, this option may cancel out any savings from buying off the shelf. If you’re making the opening larger, you might have expensive adjustments to the load-bearing parts of the wall. In all, it’s best to have a professional review the situation and give you an estimate so that you can really compare numbers"


    If you don't think your existing windows complement the shape or design of your home, custom windows could be the way to go since they provide more shape and style options.

    Eco-friendly, but stylish

    If you want to upgrade your windows to a more environmentally-friendly kind, but don't like the styles available, custom windows can allow you the ability to have the best of both worlds

    Before you Choose Custom Windows

    You'll want to do some extra homework if you are looking into custom windows.  Here are some tips to make sure you've found the right ones, courtesy of BobVila.com:

    Before you place your order be sure to check out different manufacturers. A size, option, or shape that is non-standard at one company may be standard at another, says Jeffrey Lowinski, vice president for technology marketing at the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. A third company may have a standard size you can use with minor modifications. “Shopping around to find a standard size that fits your opening may save you some money,” Lowinski says. You may also want to see if using several standard windows, instead of a large custom one, works in your space.

    When ordering custom windows, make sure you have them made with the energy-efficiency and performance options best suited for your climate and region. Custom windows are generally available in the same materials as standard windows—vinyl, wood, aluminum, fiberglass or composite—and with the same options, including coatings, gases, impact resistance and light-transmittance values. Also, ask about the warranty: Most companies provide the same warranty on their custom windows as on their standard ones. The custom windows should also maintain the same performance ratings assigned by industry groups as the standard products.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your custom windows and custom window installation needs.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate!



  • Stucco Siding Tips

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Stucco siding is an option homeowners don't always consider. However, while stucco isn't the least expensive siding option out there on the market, it can be very versatile in appearance, making it easily customizable look for your home.

    According to BobVila.com, Stucco is made of, "Portland cement, sand, and either lime or gypsum. Combined, these ingredients form a plaster that protects and beautifies home exteriors."

    Here is the lowdown on what you need to know about Stucco, courtesy of the site:

    With any kind of masonry, whether it’s fieldstone or concrete block, stucco can be applied directly to the structure. With wood structures, the story is somewhat different, in that lathe must be added, so the stucco has something it can adhere to.

    Stucco application typically requires three coats. The initial “scratch coat” provides adhesion to the building. The “brown coat”, which comes second, is responsible for creating an even surface. Finally, the “finish coat” determines the stucco’s outward appearance.

    Throughout this three-stage process, the surface to which the stucco is being added must be kept wet. In a very hot climate, since stucco gets stronger the longer it’s allowed to dry, it’s best if the work can be done late in the day; even better is if the house can be shaded.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking the only look you can achieve is that of the typical hacienda-style house. Although stucco is most often whitewashed, a varied range of textures and colors is within reach. Options include but are not limited to stucco that resembles wood timbers, bricks, metal, granite or aged limestone. Indeed, the Technical Services Information Bureau lists 30 different finishes on its website.
    Photo: shutterstock.com

    Pros and Cons
    Compared to other siding types—vinyl, for instance—stucco involves, if not pricey materials, then high labor costs. Balance the expense against the fact that, because stucco can be finished in so many ways, it’s one of the most aesthetically versatile materials available, enabling homeowners to create unique looks.

    One attribute that is simultaneously both positive and negative is stucco’s permeability. In rainy parts of the country, wood framing under stucco may be susceptible to rot. But by the same token, in regions with normal levels of precipitation, the breathability of stucco allows moisture to evaporate quickly, leaving the home safe and dry.

    Because stucco is less flexible than other siding choices, it’s likely to crack in situations where the ground shifts on account of tremors or settlement.

    Stucco can be cleaned with mild detergent and a rinse from the garden hose. Using a power washer is not recommended, as the force of the spray can result in damage to the plaster.

    While it’s cheaper than re-stuccoing, painting stucco can lead to a host of moisture problems down the line, since the majority of exterior paints are designed to form a non-breathable membrane through which water is unable to escape.

    Stucco typically lasts between 50 and 80 years. When it’s time to refresh yours, sandblast away the old layer and start from scratch.

    Patch small cracks with commercially available stucco fillers. (Never use caulk; it flexes differently than stucco and can wind up causing damage, not alleviating it.) For larger repairs, chip away any loose portions of the material and re-plaster.

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

  • Improving Skylight Installation

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Skylights can be a beautiful way to bring natural light into your home.  However, if not installed properly, they can ended up leaking, increasing your electric bills.

    There have been advancements in skylight design that benefit both your aesthetics and your wallet.

    According to BobVila.com, "These new-and-improved skylights can benefit a home in several eco-friendly ways. For starters, they beam 100% free light into a room, and if vented, they improve air circulation. Additionally, skylights can help regulate a home’s climate. (Rising hot air escapes through them in the summer, and in the winter, they admit warming sun rays.) Not to mention, the natural light admitted by skylights ultimately promotes good health. Sunlight balances your circadian rhythms, wards off Seasonal Affective Disorder, and replenishes vitamin D levels."

    Instead of the "bubble-style skylights" of the past, new skylights are often the same high-quality standard as windows. According to the site, " Many are Energy Star-rated and feature dual-paned, argon-gas-injected low-e glass that not only insulates well, but also blocks UV rays that can bleach furniture and carpets."

    One of the more advanced skylight systems out on the market  is the solar-powered “Fresh Air” Skylight from Velux:

    An operable window-on-your-roof, it features solar cells built into the frame, so there is no need to hook up the skylight to your home’s electrical system. Using the preprogrammed remote control, you can either open and close the skylight at will or program it to lift and lower automatically throughout the day. Conveniently, a built-in rain sensor closes the window in wet weather.

    If your attic takes up a lot of the space under your roof, it may seem impossible to get a skylight.  Thankfully, there are new ways to let the sun shine through.  According to BobVila.com, tubular solar lighting system, "are simple enough to install yourself, consist of a skylight on the roof and a fixed or flexible tube that channels the light to wherever you need it. The resulting installation indoors often looks like a recessed ceiling light fixture."

    Also, according to the site, "In the past few years, one of the brightest advances in skylights has come, not from a research facility, but from the federal government. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 allows homeowners to claim a 10% tax credit—up to $500—on certain components of skylight installation, so if you do install any of these systems, be sure to check with your accountant! That way, you’ll not only save on electric, heating, and cooling costs, but on your taxes as well."

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your skylight installation and skylight repair needs.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate!

  • Composite Decks Can Be Beautiful

    There is a certain allure to a wood deck, but they can take more to maintain and may not be in your price range.  But just because you want a composite deck, doesn't mean your deck can't have the same aesthetic.

    Composite decks can look natural.  According to BobVila.com, "EverNew by CertainTeed features distinctive grain patterns in a variety of dimensional, natural colors that capture the beauty of real wood at a fraction of the cost."

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Also, "Trex decking offers a protective shell that blocks out stains and scratches, so you can enjoy your deck worry-free! Their new Transcend product comes in three tropical-inspired shades and five rich earth tones that won’t fade like real wood can," according to the site.

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    You won't have to worry about splinters with composite decking, like the one below offered by Wolf.  It won’t warp or splinter, so you can enjoy your deck sans sandals!


    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

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