All You Need To Know About Chimneys

Taking care of chimneys is very important to keep a fireplace burning brightly and cleanly. With an educated eye and regular cleanings, homeowners can avoid the risk of expensive damage from water, animals or fire.

The top of a chimney is covered with a metal chimney cap. The cap keeps out animals and protects the chimney from the weather. The chimney chase is the part of the chimney that shows above the roof. The inside of the chimney, called the chimney flue, is open space, allowing smoke to flow out. The metal lining helps prevent fires.

The damper is a mechanism inside the entrance of the chimney that opens and closes, controlling the flow of smoke. The fireplace faces the inside of the house. It has a mantel, a face made of brick underneath, and a metal plate called a lintel that supports the face and the mantel bricks. The outer hearth and inner hearth form the “floor” of the firebox, where fires are built when the fireplace is in use. The inside of the firebox is made of fireproof brick. Some fireplaces have an ash pit underneath to collect ashes. The ash pit is usually accessible for cleaning from the outside of the house.

Regular chimney cleaning can prevent most fire hazards. Cleaning is recommended at least once every two years. Fires deposit creosote, a flammable black or brown tar, and soot inside the chimney that must be removed by professional chimney sweeps. Creosote is one of the biggest contributors to home fires involving a chimney or fireplace.

Homeowners can make a visual inspection of the outside of the chimney, the area around the chimney in the attic and inside the house to determine if there is visible structural, animal or water damage. Signs of problems include: cracks in the mortar, water stains, leaning of the chimney or house and peeling paint or wallpaper around the chimney.

When a chimney specialist finishes cleaning the chimney, they will examine the interior with a camera to determine if there is damage. These inspections are vital to make sure there are no gaps where fire can enter or animals living in the chimney.

Chimney repair should be an easy process, but to avoid scams always make sure the chimney specialist is certified. Be sure that they can provide real photographic evidence of the problem and explain the repairs needed. Always get multiple estimates on any repairs being considered. Taking these steps should keep the chimney clean and working optimally for many years.

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Skylights- What You Need to Know

Installing skylights in your home’s roof and inner ceilings can be refreshing, bringing natural light to the ambience of a room. Skylight installation can be done by the homeowner, however when dealing with the structural integrity of a roof and ceiling, it is best to contact a professional to do the work properly.

The type of skylights that you choose should depend on the space in which you’d like to put it. The smaller, tubular skylight is ideal for a small space, such as a bathroom. These round skylights are flexible and smaller in diameter, ranging from 10 to 21 inches. The smaller size and flexibility of these skylights makes them ideal for fitting in between joints and rafters. Usually there is no need for extensive carpentry or remodeling work. The homeowner cannot see through the tubular skylights to the sky. Light is reflected into the room from a highly reflective coating along the shaft of the tube, which can bend and flex to maneuver around pipes and support beams in attic spaces.


The traditional, larger skylights can be in the shape of a rectangle, dome, pyramid, or bubble, and are made of glass, plastic, or acrylic. This is often referred to as the glazing. Many homeowners prefer glass glazing since it is resistant to scratches and has more design options, such as shaping. Some homeowners prefer acrylic and plastic because it is lightweight and more affordable, however the drawback with this choice is that there are limited design options since it has to be molded.

The glazing used for either glass or plastic options can be single, double, or triple, and can be constructed with a layer of argon gas to assist in energy efficiency. Some can be coated with protectant to help block UV rays, which will help prevent fading of fabrics in areas exposed to the light.

The frame around the outside of the skylight, on the roof, is usually made of wood or aluminum, but a combination of different materials is becoming more popular. Installing flashing is important to protect from water leaks. The frame on the inside of the ceiling, called the shaft, is made of solid wood or vinyl. The direction of each side of the shaft will determine the direction of the light.

Whichever type of skylight you choose, you are sure to add a touch of style and freshness to your home.

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Gutters got you down? Try these repair tips!

During the Winter, rainstorms and wind can take a toll on anyone’s gutter system. Using a few proactive techniques and preventative measures, homeowners can avoid having to make a major roof repair that could cost thousands of dollars. The following tips are great for any buildings that have to deal with flooding and falling leaves:

Guards, screens, and covers keep a gutter system from clogging.

There are several types of guards, screens, and covers that provide protection from clogged gutters. Reverse curve style guards utilize a small opening that lets water through while pushing leaves over the edge of the roof. For people in climates with snow or freezing temperatures, nylon guards prevent ice build-up and avoid the warping or cracking other types of guards might experience. Mesh guards allows water to filter through while keeping leaves out; however, decomposing leaves, dirt, and other particles can clog the filters. Finally, foam gutter guards work much like mesh, letting water seep through without the plant matter.

A gutter cleaning service can stop damage before it happens

Unfortunately, even the best filters can clog if not maintained. There’s cause for hope, however: professional gutter services are a great resource for taking care of investments in roof protection. Bringing in professionals allows for efficient repairs that will extend the life of gutters and keeps drainage systems flowing smoothly. A professional cleaning saves homeowners in the long run.

Bi-annual gutter checks are essential

Never underestimate how many leaves can fall on a single Autumn day. Checking gutters at least twice annually makes refuse removal much more manageable, and helps home owners to catch small clogs before there is any damage to the gutters structure, like bends and tears in the metal. If damage is found, frequent gutter checks means a gutter cleaning service can take care of the problem for the homeowner before the issue becomes costly.


Finally, getting on a ladder isn’t without some inherent risk. When climbing a ladder, having another person to spot the climber can prevent serious injury. Making sure the ladder is on stable, preferably dry ground can prevent a hefty hospitable bill later on, not to mention damage to the roof. Responsible homeowners should be proactive about their safety, but also about their gutter’s health. Following these simple tips can help you save money and avoid an unnecessary roof repair.

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The Value of Purchasing Replacement Windows

If the windows in a home are fifteen to thirty years old, the homeowner may want to consider replacing them with more cost efficient ones. This can not only save money, but add value to the home if the owner is thinking about putting the house on the market. There are several other reasons for purchasing replacement windows such as:

  • The current windows are outdated or in disrepair

Older windows can become worn or faded and begin to look outdated. This can hurt the overall appearance of the home.

  • Outside elements are affecting the windows.

As a home settles and ages, areas around the windows can form small gaps. Rainwater sometimes enters through the windows, causing damage to the home’s interior. Condensation can also form between the glass panes of the window due to the rainfall or from the varying degrees of temperature inside and outside the home. This can also cause mildew to form, making the windows appear dirty.

  • To make the home more energy efficient.

Energy efficient windows can literally save the homeowner hundreds of dollars a year by reducing overall heating and cooling costs.

How to Get Overall Energy Efficiency When Replacing Existing Windows

There are a few factors to consider when replacing windows in the home:

  • Look for an NFRC label

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), is a non-profit independent organization that has a recognized performance rating system for doors, windows and skylights. An NRFC label means a window has been tested and approved by the organization as energy efficient. Listed on the labels are measurements that can help in determining the overall energy efficiency of the window. The U-factor, which refers to the window’s insulating properties and the Solar heat gain co-efficient (SHGC) rating. The SHGC indicates amount of heat the window can block out that comes directly from the sun.

  • Consider double or triple paned windows

Both double and triple paned windows help to greatly reduce heat loss because each kind comes with a vacuumed and sealed insulating air space between each layer. Make sure the windows also have glazing and coating which can help to further reduce heat loss or gain.

  • Hire the right contractor

Although there is several methods available for replacing existing windows, hiring a competent contractor will ensure the new windows are installed to be as energy efficient as possible.

Replacing windows is a huge investment. However, if done correctly, it can literally save thousands of dollars in energy bills over the years and can also significantly improve the overall appearance and value of the home.

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Insulation Basics

Most of us spend the majority of our time in our homes (and for those of us who spend the majority of our time at work, we wish we spent more time at home.) So, of course, we want it to be as comfortable as possible and affordable to maintain. Insulation is one of the most important components of a home that can help to affordably keep you and your family comfortable year-round. In the “Insulation and Air Quality” article, we talked about how insulation is like a home’s clothes. Just like you need to bundle up on a cold day, so your home needs to also be bundled up against the elements.

For example, if the air temperature outside the home is 95 degrees F, and you’ve cooled the inside air temperature to 72 degrees F, proper insulation will help to keep the hot air outside and the cool air inside. This keeps you comfortable and keeps the air conditioning bill to a minimum. While the concept may sound simple, a home’s insulation system is quite complex — entire books have been written about the subject. So, in this article we’ll give you the basic facts so that you can talk knowledgeably with your builder about how your new home will be insulated. And if you’re planning on remodeling the home and want to know more about insulation, this article will give you an overview to start you out.


How Heat Moves

The main function of insulation is to control heat flow. So in order to understand how insulation works, you need to first understand how heat moves.

In addition to heat from the sun and burning fuel, heat is also generated by people, animals and lights. In fact, as much as 30 percent of heat produced inside a home can be caused by lights and appliances.

The heat generated by all of these sources moves from place to place by three basic principles:

  • Radiation
  • Convection
  • Conduction

For ease of understanding, we’ll discuss these concepts one at a time. In reality, however, radiation, convection and conduction typically are working simultaneously.


One way heat can move is by radiation. “Radiate” literally means “to send out waves; to shine brightly.” When heat moves by radiation, it’s moving in the form of waves. Imagine you’re camping in the mountains. The evening air is cool, so you decide to build a campfire. As you stand in front of your campfire, your face and arms begin to warm. The heat you feel is moving by radiation from the flames to your body.


Another method of heat transfer is convection. Convection uses the principle that warm air rises and cool air falls to transfer heat via the flow of air. To continue with our camping scenario — imagine it’s dinner time. You begin to prepare dinner by placing a metal pan over the campfire grill. In a few moments, the metal pan is hot, even though it’s not directly touching the flames. How has this happened? Flames have heated the air, and the heated air has risen to heat the bottom of the pan. This heat transfer occurs via convection (with some help from radiation).


A third method of heat transfer is conduction. Conduction is the method heat uses to move through a solid material. For heat to transfer from one surface to another by conduction, the surfaces must be in direct contact with each other. Back to our camping scenario — to cook your dinner, you throw a fish into the hot metal pan over the campfire. The heat transfers by conduction from the pan to the fish, cooking it.

How Heat Flow Affects Your Home

Heat transfers through walls, windows, and roof of a home using a combination of radiation, conduction, and convection. Heat moves from warm to cold. In the summer, when it’s warm outside, heat transfers through exterior walls, roof, and foundation of a home to the inside of the home. This process is referred to as heat gain. In the winter, the opposite will happen. Heat generated by the HVAC system moves through the building enclosure and is lost to the outside of the home. This process is referred to as heat loss.

In the summer, uncontrolled heat gain can cause you to be uncomfortably warm. Your thermostat will react to the warm temperatures, and the air conditioning system will have to run more often and for longer periods of time, resulting in higher utility costs. The same thing can happen in the winter, when uncontrolled heat loss can make your home drafty and chilly. To keep warm, you’ll need to turn up the thermostat, and the heating system will have to run more often and for longer periods of time, again resulting in higher utility costs.

How Insulation Works

A carefully considered insulation strategy that takes into account the house’s characteristics and the climate it’s in is essential for controlling heat gain and loss through the building enclosure, which includes the roof, walls, and foundation. It does this by slowing the rate of heat flow through the building enclosure — which has a significant influence on how comfortable you and your family are in the home.

Insulation is typically referred to by its R-value. R-value is the measure of a material’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more resistant a material is to heat flow. If you lived in Minnesota, for example, you’d want R-19 insulation in the walls instead of R-13, because R-19

insulation is more resistant to heat flow, and will hold in the heat longer. If you’re remodeling the home, you’ll want to find out the ideal levels for your region. A good resource is the Department of Energy (DOE).

The building enclosure should be insulated continuously without gaps. Having gaps in the building enclosure is similar to wearing a warm coat, but no gloves or hat. But keeping the insulation continuous is tricky. There are numerous openings in the building enclosure, like for windows, doors, electrical outlets, plumbing pipes, and lighting fixtures. All gaps or openings need to be sealed so that the insulation is continuous.

Choosing an insulation material and installing it right are critical steps in the insulation strategy. Now that you know the basics about how insulation works, and why it’s critical in your home, start talking with your builder about the insulation strategy they’re choosing for your home, and why. You should do this in the planning and design phases of your home.

Staff Writer (2013 December) Insulation Basics. Retrieved on December 27, 2013 From

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A Home’s Exterior Materials

The first thing you see when you approach a home is its outermost surface, usually brick or siding. You may be surprised to know that what you see is only the final element in the make up of the home’s exterior. While the brick or siding helps create an attractive outer finish for your home, and serves as its first line of defense against wind and rain, the materials underneath it ensure that your home stays safe and structurally sound for your family. So what’s the fun part? Deciding what your home will look like by choosing the type of exterior finish, types of doors, and the color of windows and trim.

How the Home’s Outer Shell Comes Together

Just as each component of the home’s exterior is important to its safety and comfort, so, too, is the order in which each component is installed. Though both walls and roofs are part of the exterior finishing process, we’ll focus only on walls in this article. Following is a discussion of the process of installing each piece of a home’s walls, presented in the order in which each is installed.

Wall Sheathing — Wall sheathing encloses the home and is the first thing that’s installed as part of the exterior. It strengthens the walls and allows water to drain away from the home. Two materials commonly used for wall sheathing are 1/2″ plywood and 1/2″ oriented strand board, or OSB. In some colder areas, where additional insulation is needed, 1/2″ rigid foam is used in combination with the sheathing material.

Drainage Plane — For better drainage, the wall sheathing can be taped at the seams, wrapped with an additional material — or both. When the home is wrapped, a layer of building paper or house wrap is added to create a continuous drainage plane. House wrap, a relatively new material, also allows moisture vapor to escape, helping to minimize mold and mildew growth.

Windows — To prevent water from leaking into the home through the openings around windows, many windows have plastic fins around the outside that repel water. But because windows are particularly susceptible to water leaks, a material called flashing should also be installed around the window opening. (The term flashing also refers to
the practice of installing the material.) Two types of flashing material should be added around the window opening when the windows are being installed: flexible and rigid. The fins and flexible flashing create a continuous seal around the outside of the window, and the rigid flashing helps to direct water away from the opening between the window and the wall
Many windows are double-glazed to keep your home more comfortable. Double-glazed means the window glass is actually two panes with an air space between them. Windows also can be vinyl- or aluminum-clad on the outside to help reduce the amount of outdoor maintenance you have to do. For these windows, a specific color can be used in the manufacturing process that doesn’t fade with time or sun exposure, eliminating the need for painting.

Exterior Doors — Similar to windows, doors can have flexible and rigid flashing on all sides, to seal the exterior of the opening against water leaks and direct water away from the door. Exterior doors generally are reinforced with steel for security, and have some type of insulation inside them to keep your home comfortable.

Flashing Along Walls — In addition to the flashing around windows and doors, flashing is added at several other places along exterior walls to help direct water away from the home. When siding will be used, starter-strip flashing is added where the bottom course of the siding will meet the top of the foundation wall. For a brick or stone facade, masonry flashing is installed where the brick meets the top of the foundation wall.

Facade Materials — Facade materials protect the wooden wall sheathing from the direct impact of weather. They also give a home its own unique look. Vinyl siding and brick are two of the most common facade materials. Many facade materials today are engineered to be low-maintenance or maintenance-free for the homeowner. Brick facades also have weep holes, which enable water to drain from behind the brick to the outside.

Trim — Trim is added as the final step and adds the finishing touch to the outer appearance of the home. In many cases, trim can be ordered already painted with enamel.

The decisions you make about your home’s exterior will help keep your family safe and comfortable — and your home looking good. When discussing exterior finishes with your builder, ask the following:

  • What type of shingles will be used on the roof and why?
  • What type of windows will be installed in the home?
  • Can I upgrade them to higher efficiency units?
  • Do I have a choice as to what material will be used on the outer facade?
  • Are there any neighborhood or community restrictions or requirements?

Staff Writter (2013 December) A Home’s Exterior Materials. Retrieved on December 27, 2013 From

To find out how TriCounty Exteriors can improve your homes appearance click contact us.

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PVC Decks – The Beauty of Wood Without All the Fuss

Choosing a deck material can be a difficult and confusing process. With so many options like wood, composites, PVC and more, it means there are many factors that weigh in the decision. Traditional wood decks are beautiful when maintained and are the most common when you think of decks. However, the PVC decking market has made great strides over the last few years to give you the same look of even the most exotic hardwoods without all of the cost and maintenance. In fact, a traditional wood deck can cost up to $3,000 every 5 years in maintenance costs alone like sanding, staining, power washing, and replacing warped or damaged boards. With PVC decking, you don’t have all of those maintenance costs. All you have to do is hose it off and you are ready to go.

To create the perfect outdoor living space PVC decking from Fiberon is as smooth as interior hardwoods (and no splinters) and extends your home’s living space. Great for enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, relaxing with a good book, or celebrating life’s special moments in a beautiful and personal space that keeps its good looks. With its patent pending Lumenite technology that helps protect your deck and make it easy to clean, PVC decking is a great solution to your decking needs.

Outdoor Flooring from Fiberon also resists stains and fading and is backed by a limited lifetime performance warranty and 25-year stain and fade warranty. It is a lighter product compared to wood and can be easily installed without the need to pre-drill holes. PVC decking has the added benefit of hidden fasteners so you have a beautiful deck without all the screws showing. It comes with a Class A flame spread rating that meets requirements for fire prone areas. PVC decking products give you the look of exotic hardwood without all of the upkeep. These decks are perfect for anyone looking for the ideal combination of beauty, durability and low maintenance.

With its patent pending Lumenite technology that helps protect your deck and make it easy to clean, PVC decks are a great solution to your decking needs. Let us help you design the outdoor living space of your dreams with a beautiful natural looking deck without all the fuss. Outdoor Flooring from Fiberon is durable, beautiful and is redefining decking as we know it.

Cummins Jennifer (2013 February 15) PVC – The Beauty Of Wood Without All The Fuss. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 From

How to Hire a Contractor

The signs are there. The recent winds associated with the heavy thunderstorm tore loose several areas of shingles from your roof. You have been noticing that the corners of the shingles are starting to curl up. While cleaning out your gutters you notice that you are removing more shingle granules than leaves from the gutters. Problems are apparent. They continue to grow before your eyes. It appears that you cannot delay the inevitable. It is time to replace the roof on your home.

Replacing your roof can seem like a daunting task. The goal of replacing your roof system has a lot of tasks involved that need to be addressed in order to have a successful project. Without addressing these tasks, you can compromise your project and ultimately put your home at risk.

The first question that you need to ask yourself is “Should I replace my own roof system or should I contract with a professional contractor to complete my project?” This question may be simple to answer just by walking out your front door and looking up at your roof. Depending on your answers to the following questions you may be able to come to a decision very quickly.

  • Do you have a fear of heights?
  • Is your roof complex?
  • Do you have the proper equipment?
  • Do you understand how to address some of the complex details on the roof system?

Even if you feel comfortable with the complexity of your project and have access to the equipment that you need to complete your project, you may not be able to complete your own roof replacement project. Certain states may prohibit homeowners from replacing their own roof systems due to building code requirements. It is strongly recommended that you check with your local building code official to determine the requirements for building permits and licensing if you intend on replacing your own roof.

If you decide that it is best that you have a professional roofing contractor complete your roof replacement project instead of attempting the endeavor yourself, there are some key points that need to be addressed. By looking into these issues before you choose a contractor to complete your work you will increase your chances of having a successful and quality installation of your new roof system.

1. Insurance Coverage

Ask prospective contractors about their insurance coverage. A professional roofing contractor will carry sufficient insurance to protect your home as well as their equipment and employees who are involved in performing the work. Insurance coverage and limits may vary. The standard coverage includes General Liability, Automobile and Worker’s Compensation Insurance. It is recommended that you request a copy of their Certificate of Insurance before you sign a contract with the contractor for your project.

2. Contractor License

Request to see the company’s or individual’s contractor license if applicable. Some states require contractors to have a state contractor’s license or to be registered with the state as a home improvement contractor. In some states licensing is specific to the roofing trade. In other states, the requirement is limited to registering with the state as a home improvement contractor. Each state is unique and it is
recommended that you research the licensing requirement in your area. Most states and municipalities have information readily available on the internet.

3. Manufacturer’s Certifications

Many roofing manufacturers now require their authorized roofing installers to be certified in order for the product warranty and system warranty to be valid for the installation of a roof system. Request that the prospective contractors provide copies of their manufacturer certifications for their proposed system.

4. Manufacturer’s Warranty

Most roofing manufacturers will issue warranties for their products and sometimes for the full system being installed on a residence or building. It is recommended that prior to executing a contract with a professional roofing contractor that you request copies of the manufacturer warranty for the product and system being proposed. Review the warranty and confirm that the warranty provides adequate protection for the finished project as well as for the extended life of the product.

5. Building Permits

In most locations building permits will be required for the replacement of a roof system. In most situations, the contractor completing the project will be required to have a license or to be registered with the local municipality. The contractor may pull the permit on behalf of the homeowner prior to the start of the project. In addition, if applicable, the contractor will coordinate all building code inspections as a result of the permit process. It is best to ask the contractor if they are willing to pull the permit for the project.

By addressing these key elements of a project as part of the overall process of selecting a professional contractor and choosing a product to be installed on your roof, you will increase your chances of having a safe and successful installation of your new roof system.

Jurin Christopher (2013 December) How To Hire A Contractor. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 from