Composite Decking For Your Outdoor Living Needs

When building any type of deck, the choice of decking materials is an important variable in the equation. In recent years, engineered wood products such as composite decking have become increasingly popular as an alternative to pressure-treated lumber. Manufactured from a mixture of plastic and wood, composite planking is a revolutionary building material that’s changing how homeowners look at deck construction. In many ways, it’s the ultimate solution to a wide array of problems associated with deck construction.

The Advantages of Composite Decks

Composite deck building materials have many advantages over competing construction options. For one thing, composite boards don’t soak up moisture in the same way that traditional boards do. As a result, moisture-related problems like cracking, warping and rotting are virtually eliminated. Furthermore, composite planks maintain their beauty and aesthetic appeal as they age. Finally, composite building materials are made from recycled products, which prevents plastic and wood from ending up in a landfill.

Downsides & Drawbacks of Wood Decks

As attractive as composite decks appear at first blush, the downsides of wood make them even more compelling. In humid climates, wood warps and buckles easily. More importantly, wood requires more effort to maintain its appearance. It’s also more susceptible to damage from insects such as termites. Though cheaper at the outset, wood costs more over time when maintenance costs are tallied up. It’s also heavier and less resistant to dings than composite materials.

Composite Decks in the Real World

There are two main categories of composite deck boards: solid and hollow. As the name implies, hollow composite deck boards contain internal pockets that reduce weight at the cost of stability. Solid composite boards are heavier but provide superior structural integrity. They also tend to look more like real wood than hollow boards. Both types of composite deck boards use a wide array of pigments, preservatives and plastics such as polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride. All composite boards share one thing in common: they alleviate the vast majority of problems associated with using wood in outdoor deck projects.

The Key to Regret-Free Installation

Constructing a deck with composite deck boards presents its own set of challenges for those not familiar with the material. Employing an expert outdoor deck contractor to do the job correctly the first time is the best way to avoid unfavorable outcomes. A Bucks County deck builder that knows the ins and outs of composite construction techniques is the ideal choice. In any event, few homeowners that opt for composite decks regret the choice.

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Why You Should Choose Vinyl Siding

When looking for options in a home renovation or new build, you should think of all your options. When doing so, you can choose the best setup for your needs. For this reason, a homeowner who wants to improve the house should use vinyl siding and here are four reasons why this is true.


While a homeowner who has a house made of wood will have to paint it, people with vinyl siding do not have to worry about this costly and time-consuming proposition. This is a huge benefit if you are older or simply do not want to spend your life painting the house and keeping things in order. Without a doubt, if you want something that works for a long time, you should consider vinyl siding.

Easy to wash:

Not only can you avoid using paint, but you will not have to work hard to clean your vinyl siding. In fact, the low maintenance factor is a big reason people love vinyl siding. Think about it, when you put this one your house, you will not have to spend a lot of time cleaning it off. In fact, with an inexpensive rag and some dish soap, you can clean your siding in minutes.


It is not cheap to build a house. It is expensive to get the materials and put everything together to keep it in order. However, if you use vinyl siding, you can enjoy a nice looking house without breaking the bank. This is a huge reason many love vinyl siding. Simply put, if you want an inexpensive solution, you should consider vinyl siding. With this great value, you can enjoy a nice house without spending too much money or time.


Other people will also appreciate a house with vinyl siding. When thinking about this, one should realize retired people, busy families and single people alike do not want to waste their time with wood panels. For this reason, if you install decent vinyl siding, you can help the resell value of your house without much effort. Remember, people will love to walk up to a house and see vinyl siding and you can have an easier time talking them into buying your place.

There are plenty of benefits of vinyl siding. When getting it installed at your house, you can enjoy a host of money-saving and time-saving benefits. At the same time, it is nice to look at, and you can accentuate the rest of your property.

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Solid Brick vs. Brick Veneer

Solid brick and brick veneer structures use some of the same construction materials, but their installation techniques are different. Solid brick houses (also known as double-brick and solid masonry houses) are built from either two layers of brick, or a layer of concrete block and an adjacent layer of brick on the exterior. The brick is part of the building’s structural support system; if the brick were removed, the building would suffer structural failures.

Brick veneer is not, contrary to popular belief, composed of thin pieces of brick, such as is found in veneer floors, patios, and decorative interior elements. Brick veneer houses look almost identical to solid brick structures, except that they are built using a very different technique. The house itself is constructed from steel or wooden framing, and then covered with wood sheathing or insulation. A single layer of brick is built near each exterior wall and attached to the house with metal ties. Veneer brick does not support the structural load of the building; if the brick were removed, the house would continue to stand.

brick-veneer-sample-300x211Solid brick and brick veneer both use the same bricks, although each style becomes defined during installation. Inspectors can use the presence of the following elements as evidence that a wall is solid brick rather than veneer:

Header bricks. These bricks appear smaller than the other bricks, but they are actually the same size; laid sideways, only the short end is visible. The header bricks act as a bridge between the outer wythe (layer) and the inner wythe, and prevent the two from separating, which is especially important as the wall increases in height. Header bricks are found in every sixth row in many solid masonry configurations, although other configurations are possible. On occasion, metal ties are used to hold wythes together and, in this case, no header bricks may have been required, allowing the wall to appear like a veneer.

  • Reinforced arches. Surrounding windows in solid brick houses, there will be reinforced arches with blocks that face in toward the house to reinforce the opening.
  • Older brick houses (older than 30 years) are much more likely to be solid brick than brick veneer.

Brick veneer, unlike solid brick, can be installed any time after building construction has been completed. The home’s exterior sheathing is covered with special paper to protect it against moisture and wire ties are attached at intervals, per building codes. The bricks are all laid horizontally (no header bricks) and are located several inches to a foot from the home. Weep holes are used to allow the space between the brick and frame walls to breathe and to permit accumulated moisture in this area to escape. Unfortunately, weep holes are often clogged by mortar as a result of the construction process. Clogged weep holes will allow moisture to accumulate behind the bricks, leading to decay that attracts pest infestation. Special vents can be installed in the veneer surface to relieve this problem, although many people consider them unsightly.

Benefits of Solid Brick

Solid brick is much more stable in the event of an earthquake or heavy winds. Solid brick houses are resilient and may last centuries.
Because there is no interior wood framing system, termites and decay are not an issue.
Benefits of Brick Veneer

Builders specifically choose brick veneer for the following functional and stylistic qualities:

  • It is relatively easy to install, since there is only one layer of masonry.
  • It is generally more affordable.
  • It requires a relatively simple foundation and support system. Solid brick homes, by contrast, are very heavy, and require substantial footing and foundation systems.
  • The air cavity between the brick and the home helps to keep moisture out of the home and acts as an effective insulating space, especially if it is filled with insulation. Solid brick walls are poor insulators, and also may allow moisture to penetrate exterior walls and cause problems in the home. Note that the house wrap beneath veneer may leak during heavy rain, perhaps due to the holes that are placed in the wrap during installation.
  • Like solid brick, veneer is durable and fireproof, it looks fancy, and it requires little maintenance and no paint or stain.

In summary, solid brick and brick veneer homes use many identical building materials, although they differ by their methods of installation.

Gromicko Nick. (2014 March) Solid Brick vs. Brick Veneer. Retrieved on March 4, 2014 From

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Sun Roof: Solar Panel Shingles Come Down in Price, Gain in Popularity

Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. First commercially available in 2005, solar shingles were much more costly than traditional “bolt-on” photovoltaic panels, and thus were used mainly by those wanting to go solar but maintain a traditional roofline. But more recently solar shingles have become price-competitive with bolt-on panels, and are getting much more popular accordingly. Eco-conscious home and building owners might find solar shingles especially attractive when they are re-shingling anyway since the solar shingles also double as functional, protective and weatherproof roof shingles in their own right.

The biggest name in solar shingles is Dow’s Powerhouse line, which uses cutting edge Copper Indium Gallium Selenide solar cells (aka “thin-film” solar) to turn sunlight into electricity via a supplied inverter box. The Powerhouse shingles generate 12 watts per square foot and are “grid-tied,” meaning they’re designed for structures already connected to the power grid and can send excess power back to the grid. They are wireless, snap together and can be installed by regular roofing contractors just like (or alongside) conventional asphalt shingles (an electrician needs to set up the inverter box).

Dow reports that a typical residential cluster of 350 solar singles on a roof could slash one’s household electric bill by 40-60 percent. Such an installation can cost a homeowner over $20,000, but federal, state and local incentives can bring the cost to half that in some areas. Powerhouse shingles are currently available (from Dow-authorized contractors) in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Another leader in solar shingles is building products manufacturer CertainTeed. The company’s Apollo line of grid-tied monocrystalline solar shingles and roofing tiles offers efficiency similar to larger “bolt-on” photovoltaic arrays at around the same price (and incentives similar to those for Dow may also apply) but with less bulk: Each Apollo tile is less than an inch thick and will integrate with, replace, or lay on top of existing asphalt roof shingles or tiles and generate 12 watts of power per square foot.

CertainTeed says a typical installation will save homeowners 40-70 percent on their electric bills. Their Apollo products are available across the U.S. but the company recommends using one of their authorized roofing contractors to make sure they are installed properly.

Now is an especially good time to go solar—shingles or otherwise—because costs have started to come down and the federal government is still offering 30 percent tax credits with no cap on the purchase of solar electricity equipment. Twenty-seven states and several cities offer additional incentives that can get pricing on solar gear and installations down even lower. For more information check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), a free online resource provided by the North Carolina Solar Center and IREC with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Scheer Roody (2013 April 2) Sun Roof: Solar Panel Shingles Come Down in Price, Gain in Popularity. Retrieved on March 4, 2014 from

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Top 10 Home Improvement Projects

If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2014 or just want to ramp up your home value, it’s important to educate yourself on which improvement projects will bring you the most return on your investment.

A great resource for your research is the “2014 Cost vs. Value Report,” an annual collaboration between Remodeling magazine and REALTOR® Magazine, which breaks down the estimated cost of various remodeling projects and the estimated return on investment for those projects by region and by city, as well as by midrange and upscale projects. In general, this year’s report shows that exterior replacement projects are the most cost-effective. If you plan to sell your home later this year, remember that the first impression your home makes on buyers is their first glimpse of the outside.

Here are 10 home improvement projects you should consider:

1. Replace Your Front Door

You may not even notice your front door anymore, especially if you regularly use another entrance, but a new steel front door makes a great impression on buyers and yields an amazing 96.6 percent return on your investment. If your front door doesn’t need replacing or you?d rather spend less money, you can paint it and replace the hardware for a similar impact.

2. Add a Deck or Patio

No matter where you live, buyers want outdoor living space. You can recoup 87 percent of your investment on a new wood deck. If you already have outdoor space, consider sprucing it up with a water feature, an outdoor fireplace, or new landscaping.

3. Add Space/Attic Bedroom

Depending on your budget and your goals for your home, an addition of extra bedrooms and bathrooms, a finished attic or an expanded casual living space can rapidly increase the value of your home. You can recoup 84% of your investment in a new attic bedroom.

4. Replace Your Garage Door

An upscale or midrange garage door recoups 83 percent of your investment. Manufacturers offer a host of styles and choices, from plain steel panel doors to energy-efficient, insulated models with glass windows.

5. Remodel Your Kitchen

Buyers look most carefully at kitchens and bathrooms, so you should, too. You can recoup 82 percent of a minor kitchen remodel and 74 percent of a major kitchen remodel. If you’re selling soon, don’t overspend on your kitchen. You may be able to do a couple of relatively minor fixes, such as replacing the appliances and painting the cabinets, or just replacing the counters with granite to garner a good offer.

6. Replace Your Windows

Buyers are interested in how your windows look and their energy efficiency. Whether you’re replacing vinyl- or wood-frame windows, you can get a 79 percent return on your investment. When you’re ready to market your home, be sure to highlight the new windows as a selling point.

7. Replace Your Siding

If your home’s exterior needs a major makeover, you can typically recoup 78 percent of your investment by replacing vinyl siding. If you replace your siding

with a fiber-cement mix, you can recoup a whopping 87% of your costs.

8. Basement Addition/Remodel

These days, it’s all about space for entertaining. Recoup 78 percent of your investment by adding or remodeling a basement. Finish the lower level of a house to create a 20-by-30-foot entertaining area with wet bar and a full bathroom.

9. Update Your Bathroom

While a full, upscale bathroom remodel project can cost over $50,000 and add only about $32,000 to your home’s resale value, you can make cost-effective minor upgrades. Get a 73 percent return on your investment with these bathroom upgrades: Replace your fixtures and your mirror, repaint the space and jazz it up with some crown molding (depending on your home’s style) and you?ll have a space that looks new. While you’re there, redo the caulk around your tub and shower and replace the grout on your tile flooring. If your tub is in bad shape, you may be able to have it resurfaced rather than replace it.

10. Two-Story Addition

For a 72 percent return on investment, add a first-floor family room and a second-floor bedroom with full bathroom in over a crawlspace. You can add a new HVAC system to handle the addition, and electrical wiring to code.

Lerner Michele (2013 January 21)Top 10 Home Improvement Projects Retrieved on March 3, 2014 From

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The Slackers’ Guide to Spring Home Maintenance


Divert WaterCleaning-Gutters-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

Gutters do their job best when clean. Check yours for foliage build-up, particularly if trees hover over the roof. The rainy season is a prime time to ensure all drainage areas remain unblocked by leaves and/or debris. Trapped moisture can leave a house susceptible to moss and mildew and cause major damage to your roof and walls. While you’re at it, make sure the downspout is clean and pointing 2-2-1/2 feet away from foundation walls.

Retain the Roof Repairing-Roofing-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225


It’s easy to take for granted the one thing that shields you from the elements. But doing so could cost you unnecessary repair costs. Be diligent about roof maintenance. After the next rainy day, inspect your ceiling for wet spots. Ask a licensed professional to inspect your roof for wear and tear. “If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, it’s time to replace the roof,” according to Dan Cornwell, president of CC&L Roofing in Portland, Ore.

Check Your Paint Job Pressure-Washing-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225


Look for chipped, cracked paint along the exterior of your home. “The worse thing you can do is leave wood exposed, because that’s when it will begin to rot,” says Brian Gummel, president of The Painting Company in Edgewater, Md. Scrape off any failing paint. Sand it down so there are no rough edges, prime the bare wood surface and paint it with a high quality paint product. Don’t wait until siding accumulates too much dirt. Brighten up the house with a good power washing.

Cut Shrubs and Trees Trimming-Shrubs-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

Trim overgrown trees and hedges away from your home to discourage the growth of mildew and moisture. Branches should be at least 7 feet away from the exterior of your house to prolong the life of your siding and roof. Get rid of out-of-control vines, as they can help crack siding and allow moisture and pests entry into your home.

Love Your Lawn

Rake up the excess leaves you didn’t get around to last fall. Too many can suffocate your grass and stop it from growing. “Pull up weeds, and remove foilage from the lawn, shrubs and any plants,” says Neal Julien, landscaping expert with Neal Works Landscaping in Capitol Heights, Md. Pull up dead flowers and replace them with a low-maintenance variety such as pansies, begonias or mums.




Keep the Air Fresh Changing-Filter-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

With warm, sticky days ahead, do yourself a favor and give your air conditioning unit a little TLC. Not only does it cool you down, but an efficient air conditioner removes moisture and humidity from your home, which in excess, can damage its foundation. So if you aren’t changing air filters monthly, start now. A unit free of dust and dirt runs more efficiently, saving you money on your energy bill. While you’re there, check hose connections for leaks. Make sure the drain pans are draining freely. If you suspect a problem, contact a certified technician.

Watch Windows and Doors Windows-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

Investigate all doors and windows for leaks and drafts, particularly near the corners. Look for peeling and chipping paint, which can signal water intrusion. Seal any open areas between the frame and the wall to keep out water, which can deteriorate building materials. Neglecting these tasks can open up potential for environmental hazards like mold growth, experts say.

Control Pests Exterminator-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

Keep garbage and debris under control around the exterior of your home. “Do what you would do inside, and get rid of junk,” says Genma Holmes, owner of Holmes Pest Control in Hermitage, Tenn. Inside, check the house for entrances and gaps where mice and insects may be tempted to come through. Seal up cracks, even if you just did so in the winter. Mulching the yard this spring? Use a liner underneath. “It’s good to keep a barrier between your mulch and your home,” she says.

Take a Peek at the Plumbing Plumbing-5368177-s4x3_lg-300x225

Except for a coffee maker, anything dripping in your house is a bad sign. Check for leaking faucets or sweating pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems. On laundry day, look at the washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or dampness. Check under the kitchen sink for leaks, and make note of wetness around the dishwasher. Inspect your water heater for leaks and corrosion.

Tackle the Tiles

While you’re in spring-cleaning mode, pay attention to worn grout between floor tiles in the bathroom or kitchen. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair later. If necessary, re-seal as soon as possible. For the bath, get into the habit of wiping down shower walls and tub after each use to eliminate soap and scum build-up. Gilliam Stacy (2014 March) The Slackers’ Guide to Spring Home Maintenance. Retrieved on March 3, 2014 From For more information about spring home maintenance please click the button below. Contact Us