Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gutter Protection, Does anything really WORK?


Do those gutters with tops really keep leaves and other debris out of your gutters? Are they maintenance free? If you don't need new gutters, do the screens and toppers that you add to existing gutters work? What should I know before I buy?

There are three main types of gutter protection.

1: Mesh screens. These are basically metal screens that resemble what you see on wrought iron patio furniture. They are slightly flexible and fit on the gutters either by friction or by screws. This is by far the least effective system for protecting your gutters. I've seen a lot of these become loose over time or they are completely missing altogether due to high winds. When you have Maple trees that release those "helicopter" seed pods, the large end with the seed tends to get stuck in the screening and they won't come out unless you pull them out! So much for maintenance free! The will also let small leaves and other debris through which can clog the system.

The home above has the mesh style leaf guards that have come loose and actually trapped leaves inside the gutters! So much for protection!

2: Solid covers. These are the ones that are always advertised as being maintenance free, have no clog guarantees, etc. These are usually the most expensive of all the options. Basically, these are designed to let the leaves flow over the gutters while the water flows into the gutters. Sometimes they require new guttering to be installed, but not always. In theory, it's a good idea, but in practice things don't always work out as advertised. These systems are usually attached under the first row if shingles using nails or screws.

When they do clog, there is no easy way to find the problem since you can't see inside the gutters. Also, since they are so inaccessible, it is a great place for insects, such as wasps, hornets and bees to make their homes. Mosquitoes also love the moist environment caused by a clog. While many of the installers offer free cleaning, you only know there's a problem when it's too late! Why do you buy these again?

3: Foam Fillers. These are relatively new to the gutter protection market. The brand I know and have experience with is Gutter Filter, but there are others. They are an open cell foam insert that install inside your existing gutters. When correctly installed, they prevent leaves and debris (no matter what size) from getting inside the gutters. The foam is very porous and will let water pass through very easily. Sometimes leaves may sit on top of the foam, but eventually they will either wash off or blow off. Some of the inserts sit flat across the top of the gutters, others form a dome and rise above the height of the gutter slightly. I prefer the taller material since it allows less debris to collect.

Here is a picture of what the product looks like when viewed from above the gutter.  Of course, this is just a sample, the real thing will not have any gaps and the end of the gutter.  Also, there IS a screw bracket in this piece of gutter, it is completely hidden by the product.  You'd have a similar appearance if your gutters have the large spikes.

If you were looking face to face with your gutters, this is what you would see. 

Here's the "cutaway" view.  Water is allowed to flow through the product and will flow unobstructed below the filter for quick drainage.

BEWARE!  I saw a lookalike product at a local hardware store this weekend.  It looks similar, but the feel of the foam and density of the product are completely different. 
BOTTOM LINE: do your research and get several opinions! Different homes require different solutions. Just like windows, everybody makes the best product available! Disregard all of the hype, not everyone out there is looking out for your best interests. Check the installers rating with the Better Business Bureau. Remember, when it comes to gutters and leaf protection, there really is no such thing as "maintenance free." Plan on having your gutters inspected once or twice a year until you're comfortable with the performance of your guttering and the installed protection system. I know there's a lot to consider, but I hope this helps!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Problems with Paint Over Wallpaper


After looking at many houses, we finally purchased one that offered the space, amenities and price we wanted. The problem? Half the rooms have painted wallpaper, which I suspect was recently done to facilitate the sale of the house. It looks fine now, with only a couple of loose corners showing. But how long before the finish begins to deteriorate or loosen? Can we paint again without causing deterioration of the underlying paper? And finally, do you have any tips for successfully removing the painted paper and retaining a paintable finish on the drywall? Thanks.

Thanks for the question! Unfortunately, many people cut the same corner and paint over wallpaper. As long as the wallpaper is not peeling excessively, you should be fine. You can glue down the loose edges with wallpaper paste to prevent further peeling. The problem comes when you are trying to paint those walls again! Many times, the moisture from the fresh paint will cause the wallpaper to release or bubble in spots. Just how much is anybody’s guess!

I asked my friend and fellow NARI member Sid Lehrbaum of Surface Service (816) 361-5063, who specializes in wallpaper removal, what his experience has been. According to him, the best and safest course of action is to remove the wallpaper completely. It’s difficult but not impossible. I would highly recommend hiring a contractor who does nothing but wallpaper removal. Usually you can do it yourself by using hot water with a chemical wallpaper remover. The wallpaper may come off in layers, just be sure to keep all of the surfaces damp. It can be a lot of work, do be patient and let the chemicals do the work!

If the walls look ok and the seams aren’t very visible, you may be able to seal and paint the walls without removing the wallpaper. To do this, it’s important to use an oil-base primer sealer such as Kwal Paint’s “Cancel” Primer. Kilz works as well but is substantially thinner. Since this is an oil-based product, you will want to work in a well ventilated area and consider using a respirator. You may still experience some bubbling when applying the primer. If that happens, cut out the loose area and skim it over with drywall joint compound once the primer is dry (usually an hour or so). After you seal all the walls you are cleared for painting!

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions about this or any other Painting, Siding or Window topic, send me a message and I'll do my best to get you a quick, accurate answer. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Scoop on Paint Warranties

We’ve all heard the claims of “lifetime” warranted paint or 25 year guarantees, etc. What does that really mean? Keep reading and find out!

So you think you need Lifetime paint, maybe your painter says you need it. Well, in my opinion most of the time, you don’t. Let me first say that the lifetime offerings from any manufacturer are of better quality than their other paints. You DO get a better paint out of the deal! The problem lies in the warranty. If you ever get the chance to actually READ the warranty, you’ll see that it only covers peeling and blistering caused by the failure of the product.

Here’s a little secret: The product almost NEVER FAILS! With modern manufacturing techniques and quality control, there is almost no chance of defective paint coming from the factory. They are doing a great job! When paint peels, blisters or fails in general, its usually a preparation problem or maybe even a water infiltration issue. These conditions are not covered by any paint warranty whatsoever and who can blame them? There are all sorts of painters out there installing their product. There are no training requirements or licensing needed to be a painter.

If you think you have a warranty claim, you will need to contact the store where the paint was purchased. You may also need to keep the original receipts or get in touch with your painter (if you can still find them!). The paint store will then send out a representative to look over the problem. The will give you their honest opinion of what went wrong. Don’t be surprised if he blames the painter! If you do qualify for a warranty claim, the warranty only covers the replacement of the product, NOT the labor! They will give you some paint, but you are on your own after that.

Also note that paint warranties generally do not cover fading of their product. We all know that paint fades, no matter who puts it on or what they use, it will fade. Fading isn’t considered a “failure” under the warranty. No matter what, you should plan to paint your home every 5-7 years in the Midwest. There’s just no other way around it. If that is the typical paint life, why spend the extra money on the lifetime product? They are banking on people moving every 5 years. The warranty is not transferable!

Lifetime paint generally costs the painter around $42 per gallon. The next step down is usually around $24 per gallon. That’s a difference of $18 per gallon. Take that times the average house needing 32 gallons of paint and you’re looking at a difference of $576! That doesn’t include sales tax or markup for the painter!

The bottom line here is this: do not hesitate to use the next step down from lifetime when it comes to exterior paint. Just make sure you or your painter uses 100% Acrylic Latex. Make sure your painter knows what he is doing when it comes to preparation and product application. Don’t be afraid to pay a higher price to use a reputable painter.

Be Careful Hiring your Painter!

As many of you know, I’ve been in the painting and home repair business for more than 15 years, actually closer to 20. I learned from the beginning that if you do the job right at a fair price, the good word will spread. For the most part, that’s still true. There are quite a few good, reliable painters out there.

We also know that these “tough times” have been especially hard on the construction sector of the economy. People can’t afford to buy new homes; builders can’t sell them and can’t build more, subcontractors and suppliers also take a hit as well. What do these subcontractors do? They start their own company!

I have seen more new “painting companies” trucks, signs advertisements this year than I ever have before. Where do they come from? Who knows?!? The important question should be: “Where will they be next year?” Unfortunately there is no licensing requirement to be a painting contractor. There are no hard and fast rules on how to do the work and how long you should stand behind your work. There are companies out there who weren’t in business last year, at least under their current name, that are offering 5-year warranties on their work. That’s all good and fine if you can find them when there is a problem.

Yes, I actually saw THIS truck in front of a home! I'm sure he does a great job and I'll bet he's cheap!

How can you protect yourself from these fly by night companies?

1: Do a little research! Check them out with the Better Business Bureau. They keep track of many companies, whether they are members or not. Google them! Not only the company name, but the owner’s name as well. Did you know there is a local painting contractor who is a registered sex offender right here in Johnson County? Do they have a website? How about a physical address?

2: Read their warranty. I’m not talking about the paint warranty, but the warranty on their workmanship. What will they do for you in the event of a claim? Will there be any additional charges involved?

3: Get a comprehensive proposal from them. A number written on a photocopied piece of paper doesn’t tell you squat! A good proposal should be tailored to your specific project. What process do they go through to paint your home? Power washing, scraping, caulking, priming? Make sure they specify what materials they are using including caulk, primer and paint. You can never get too much information!

4: Demand references! They should offer them with every bid, but sometimes you need to ask for them. No only should you call some of them, drive by and check out the work. Sometimes a customer is happy with the work while the work is substandard. Of course they won’t put people on their reference list that aren’t happy! Just check for yourself.

5: Make sure they are INSURED!!!! Demand a copy of their insurance proof. Not only should they carry liability insurance, but they should also carry worker’s compensation insurance. If they don’t have work comp, a person can sue you or your insurance company if they are injured on your property. Make sure their liability insurance limits are high enough to replace your home and your contents. If you have a $300,000 home and they accidentally burn it to the ground, their measly $100,000 policy is not going to help you.

6: Make sure they are using EMPLOYEES and not subcontractors. Employees are covered under the contractor’s work comp insurance, subs are not. If they insist on using subcontractors, make sure the subcontractor has work comp insurance. Do not hesitate to call their agent to verify the information. It is your responsibility to cover yourself here.

7: Ask your friends and family who they used. Ask someone you trust and whose opinion you respect. If your friends are picky and they are happy with their painter, you have a much better chance of getting the right contractor for the job.

8: Do NOT give them any money up front! A reputable painter had accounts at their suppliers and keeps money around for payroll. When I paint most homes, I don’t receive a dime until the job is done. I won’t even get the paint bill until after the job is done. If you feel compelled to pay a deposit, only do so on the day they start the job. Taking a deposit to “guarantee a spot on the schedule” is a total crock of excrement!

SPREAD THE WORD! If you have a company that you are happy with, don’t hesitate to tell your friends. Save them from hiring one of these fly by night companies! If you are looking for a reliable painter who does top notch work for a fair price, please visit my website at: http://www.paintproinc.net/

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Melting Vinyl Siding

Yet Another Reason to Avoid Vinyl Siding!

Ever hear of vinyl siding on a home MELTING??? Sure, if you have a fire or your grill too close you would expect it, right?

This phenomenon came to my attention through NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) discussion boards on LinkedIn. A homeowner was having problems with their siding “melting” on the home. It looked something like this:

We all know it gets hot in the summer, but is it really hot enough to melt vinyl siding? What if I told you it happened in the WINTER! It just doesn’t seem likely, does it? Maybe it was vandalism, improper installation or something else.

Would you believe the damage was caused by the neighbor’s new energy efficient windows? Yep, the windows were causing the problem!

These new windows usually feature a LowE coating that reflect the sun’s light as well as the heat. This is what helps make these windows efficient and your energy bills manageable. On a bright, sunny day, the windows can act like a magnifying glass and focus the intense light on the siding. This focused light creates a lot of heat! Remember frying ant with a magnifying glass last week…I mean when we were young? It’s the same effect.

Check out the pictures below, the temperature readings were made in December!

The top picture shows the surface temperature of the siding where the neighbor’s window is reflecting the light. 185 DEGREES! The one on the bottom shows the actual ambient air temperature of 24 degrees. The date on the pictures is December 20th.

Ok, so we know what the problem is, now what’s the solution? Well, you can ask the neighbor to change his windows, good luck on that one! Your best bet is to plant a bush or tree on that location. Really! You may be able to use a higher quality thicker vinyl siding, but there is still no guarantee it won’t melt. Did you know that these problems are NOT covered under factory warranties? Nope, it’s not their fault!

If you are considering installing vinyl siding on your home, keep this problem in mind. Chances are it won’t happen to you, but you never know. One type of siding that will NOT ever melt is fiber cement siding. Coincidentally, my company just happens to install it! James Hardie siding is the leader in the Fiber Cement Siding Industry. It’s siding has a 50 year warranty. If you choose the pre-finished Color Plus product, it is also covered by a 15 year finish warranty. It will far outperform vinyl or steel when it comes to temperature extremes and hail damage. It will never rot, termites won’t touch it and neither will woodpeckers! If you think this siding is right for you, check out my company's website: Paint Pro, Inc.

Last, but not least: If you get vinyl siding, this may happen to you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Steel or Aluminum Siding Painting

Question: I have a problem with painting the metal siding on my shed. I painted it with Rust-Oleum glossy white, but when the weather gets really cold, the paint pops off in large sections. What is my problem? Should I be using a different kind of paint?

Thanks for the question! Sometimes painting exterior metal can be tricky, whether it’s a shed or metal siding. Preparation work is different for metal than it is for wood. I can’t tell from your description, but I am going to assume when the paint peels off, the primer comes with it. I’ll bet it either peels down to the bare metal or the original finish. Getting the surface clean is really the key here. If you have bare metal, it’s probably galvanized steel. It’s best to scrub the metal with a really good cleaning solution. The best is called Tri Sodium Phosphate (TSP). It’s a powder that is available at most box stores or paint stores. You mix it with water, scrub down the areas to be painted with a stiff bristled brush and rinse it all clean.

Here is a picture of a project we did last year. The home has insulated steel siding, but the original paint finish was severely worn. This was taken right after the home was power washed and scrubbed to remove the chalking, which was pretty extensive.

This method also works great for painted aluminum siding. The big test is very simple: wipe your hand across the surface and look for a chalky white residue. Coincidentally this is called “chalking.” This is how a paint finish wears out and ages. It’s perfectly normal. You MUST remove all of this chalking! If you don’t, the new paint you put on will come right back off.

After you have removed all of the chalking, you should prime everything with an Acrylic Bonding Primer. Most paint stores carry have one. This primer will “grab on” to the metal better than most other primers. It also gives you an excellent base for your new paint. After you have everything primed, you can apply 1-2 coats of your favorite 100% Acrylic exterior paint.

Here is a picture that was taken shortly after the home was painted. It now has a sound finish that will last for years to come. The front of the house faces South, on a sunny day, the brightness of the white will definitely cause you to shield your eyes!

Be careful not to go too dark on your colors. Sheet metal can expand and contract quite a bit with the temperature. Darker colors absorb more light and may cause more heat, causing more expansion than normal. Paint will stretch, but it has its limits! Stay with lighter colors that reflect more light and will keep everything cooler. Your best bet is to go back with the same color as the original.

Thanks for the question!

If you have a question, or maybe a need for my services, send me an email! Just click the "View My Complete Profile" section to the right and go from there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Painting Grasscloth Wallpaper

Question: I am looking for suggestions for painting over grasscloth wallpaper. Is this possible? If so, how?

I've painted quite a bit of this material in the past! You can pick whatever color you like and still enjoy the texture associated with grasscloth. If you are looking for a smooth finish, you will need to completely remove the wallpaper. It can be difficult, so you may want to hire a contractor who specializes in wallpaper removal.

If you decide to paint:

1: Make sure all wallpaper is securely adhered to your walls. Any loose seams or bubbles will need to be glued down. You don't really need special glue for this. Lift the loose seams and squirt in a little glue. Sometimes you can use a glue syringe to inject glue into an air bubble.

2: Wipe everything down with a damp sponge. The texture can hold a lot of dust and dirt that accumulates over the years. Failing to do this may cause the dirt to be smeared around when you are painting.

3: Mask all adjacent trim and protect the surrounding area just as you would when you paint any other wall.

4: Using a 1/2" roller and a good brush, apply 2 coats of a cheap flat paint. This paint acts as a primer, but will also give a fresh, even color to the walls. If you are painting with dark colors, you may want to consider tinting this primer a couple shades lighter than the final color.

5: VERY IMPORTANT! Let the surface dry competely between coats! If you get the wallpaper too damp, it may cause the paste to release creating more bubbles and loose seams! You do NOT want this to happen.

6: After you verify that your surface is still sound (the wallpaper should not be falling off the walls!) you are ready to apply your finish coats. Using the same equipment as you used for the primer, apply at least 2 coats of paint to your walls. As always, I recommend using an eggshell or satin sheen paint. They are much tougher and easier to clean, needing only a good wiping down. Depending on the texture, you may want to use a flat paint. Flat paint will reduce the appearance of the texture. Ultimately, use a good quality paint and you'll be fine.

Any questions? Don't hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Energy Efficiency Guidelines for Federal Tax Credits!

As many of you know, the government is working hard to give us some of our money back (I know, don't laugh too hard!). The government has reinstated and even INCREASED the amount of the tax credits for 2009. Unfortunately, you are out of luck for 2008.


Since I am a window contractor, I am going to concentrate on the window rebate that is available to you.

Many people think that if a windows carries the Energy Star logo, then it qualifies. WRONG! They slipped this one by us! A window that was just fine a year ago, doesn't qualify for the rebate, but still can carry the Energy Star logo. Confusing? You bet!


All new windows come with a sticker that shows the window's performance data. It's similar to a window sticker on a new car where it shows the estimated MPG data. The numbers on this sticker are very important.

SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient): The SHGC is the fraction of incident solar radiation admitted through a window, both admitted through a window, both directly transmitted, and absorbed and subsequently released inward. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.

The current acceptable limit set forth by the government is: Less than or equal to .30

U-Factor: A measure of the rate of non-solar heat loss or gain through a material or assembly. It is expressed in units of Btu/hr-sq ft-°F (W/sq m-°C). Values are normally given for NFRC/ASHRAE winter conditions of 0° F (18° C) outdoor temperature, 70° F (21° C) indoor temperature, 15 mph wind, and no solar load. The U-factor may be expressed for the glass alone or the entire window, which includes the effect of the frame and the spacer materials. The lower the U-factor, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.

The current acceptable limis set forth by the government is: Less than or equal to .30

As you can see on this label, this window WOULD NOT qualify for the rebate!

Many window manufacturers DO NOT currently meet these limits! Make sure you do your homework!

All manufacturers will be meeting these parameters very soon. Guess what? It costs more to meet the guidelines and it causes the window prices to rise. With one hand they give a credit, and the other hand takes it away. Oh well, that's our government!

Calculating your actual rebate goes something like this: You get 30% of the window COST with a limit of $1,500. This does not include installation! This means you would have to spend $5,000 to max out your rebate. Remember, the $1,500 limit includes ALL projects that qualify for the rebate. For many homes, this will be no problem.
Stay informed!
Of course I install windows! If you live around the Kansas City Area, you can find me here: http://www.paintproinc.net
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Exterior Painting: What to look for: Part 1 (The Assessment)

Well folks, it's that time of year again! Time to take a walk around the the exterior of your home and make sure everything is in good shape. All too often we take the outside of our homes for granted. After all, we just had it painted a couple of years ago. It should still be fine, right?

Well, maybe!

Find some time on a nice and sunny Saturday of Sunday (or whatever day you have off!). It only really takes half an hour or less to do it and it can be WELL worth it. You know Ben Franklin's old saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It's as true on your home as it is for your health.

Here are a couple of things you should look for as you walk around:

1: Condition of the paint. Sometimes this is pretty easy. Does it look uneven? Is it noticeably fading? Is there any peeling? Look at this picture, it's pretty obvious that paint is looking a little lean.

In addition to the obvious peeling, run your hand across the painted surface. Did you get some white residue on your hand? If so, this is called "Chalking" This is a sign that it's time to repaint. The paint film is breaking down and losing it's protective qualities. It's usually accompanied by a "washed out" look. Chalking is a normal part of paint aging. High quality 100% Acrylic exterior paints don't do this as much as lower quality paint. This is why you do NOT skimp on the quality of your paint!

2: The Caulking. This can be a tough one. There are many places where caulk belongs and many places where it does not. I won't cover all of that here, but I will in a future post. Caulk is designed to be a flexible sealant that helps to keep water and air from intruding into your home. The two most important places to look are around your windows and doors and above all of your horizontal trim boards. There should be NO gaps or cracks at these joints. Cheap caulk (also known as "painter's caulk" for some reason) will crack within a couple of years. It's just nor very flexible. I like ti use Urethane Modified Latex Caulk with a 55-year rating.

3: Siding and Trim. If you have wood trim or any siding made from wood or wood products, you probably have a problem somewhere! Much of these problems are caused by poor installation methods or poor finishing. Many of these problems can also be caused by defective or missing caulking. Look for buckling in the siding, moist or rotting wood, excessive insect activity, etc.

You can clearly see the buckling in the siding in this picture. Unfortunately there is really nothing that can be done to fix this besides replace the damaged siding. Many times this doesn't create any problems, but it can also open up gaps to allow water to get in. Generally there is no damage to the framing. It's usually a pretty easy fix, we do it all the time.

This is typical of "hardboard" siding that is so prevalent in the Midwest. You can see the bottom has taken on water and has deteriorated beyond repair. Simply painting the bottom edge a few years ago would have prevented this. Now it will need to be replaced.

More hardboard siding, this time it's lap siding. It's not immune to damage either! Much of this damage was caused by a gable vent that wasn't installed or flashed properly. Unfortunately, the solution is complete replacement. You never know what's behind lap siding! If left untouched, the backer board and the framing may rot resulting in additional repair cost.

4: Windows. Windows are a notorious weak spot of a typical home. They can be drafty, letting air in and out, but they are also highly susceptible to rot. It's usually easy to spot and most is repairable with the right knowledge and skill level.

Most rot occurs along the sill, usually at the edges where it meets the brickmolding. Brickmolding is a fancy name for the decorative trim around the window. Many times this joint is not caulked very well, or has separated with the settling of your home. Many windows can be repaired, but the ones in the picture will need to be replaced. Sometimes that's just the best way to fix the problem.

It's a little hard to see, but the sill on this double-hung window is badly rotten. Normally, this is relatively easy to fix. Unfortunately, the middle window sash is rotten as well. This window had to be completely replaced. This goes to show you that if you spend a little money on maintenance and prevention you won't have to spend a lot on replacement. The repair would have cost less than $500.00. The cost to replace and finish the window were over $2,000.
Stay tuned for more tips on what to look for when thinking about exterior painting and repair. Take a look around your house and check out your home's health! When you notice one of these problems, it's better to take care of them sooner, rather than later. If you live in the Kansas City area, feel free to contact me. My website address is http://www.paintproinc.net

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Are Replacement Windows a Good Investment?

We all know how much the cost of heating and cooling our homes has increased in the last few years. The promise of energy savings has prompted a big push for replacement windows. Many homes here in the midwest have single pane wood windows. Most have storm windows, but they are of little help. Even the older wood windows with double pane glass have problems.

It's a well known fact that new windows will almost always result in energy savings. Think about it, you are going to pay for them one way or another. You'll either pay the utility company higher rates or a window company for the new windows.

So will windows increase the value of your home? Most certainly! According to a study commissioned by Remodeling magazine, the installation of replacement windows is one of the best values in home improvement. I'll get to the number is just a minute.

When choosing windows, you need to make sure the windows are the right ones for your home. There are so many options for replacement windows. Vinyl is the most common option and most advertised. All vinyl windows are not created equal! Then you have your "upscale" replacement windows that typically feature an aluminum clad exterior with a wood interior that can be finished to match the inside of your home.

You typically won't find vinyl windows in a $1 million home and you won't find the upscale windows in a $150k home. In my opinion, neither one of these would be a good investment. You don't want to cheapen an elegant home with lower line windows, just like you wouldn't wear your lawn mowing shoes with a tuxedo! I think you get the point! Choosing the right windows can make or break the curb appeal of your home.

Now for the numbers!

These are the latest numbers for the Cost vs. Value Report commissioned by Remodeling magazine. The data was collected from many sources during 2008. The full study is available here: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2008/costvsvalue/national.aspx

I'm keeping it simple here, the project details and specifics are available through the link above.

Midrange Vinyl windows should yield a national average of 77.2% immediate return on your investment. if you live in the Kansas City area, that average is 65.9%

Midrange Wood windows will return 77.7% nationally and 64.9% in KC.

Upscale Vinyl windows yields 79/2% nationally and 69.6% in KC.

Upscale Clad windows yields 76.5% nationally and 66.1% in KC.

These numbers are based on immediate returns. Basically if you spend $10,000 on upscale vinyl windows in the Kansas Cty market, you home value should theoretically imediately increase by $6,960.00. The longer you stay the higher the return. Unless your windows are horrible, it may not be wise to replace your windows right before you sell your home.

Do these numbers seem low to you? It's all relative, really. A bathroom remodel will only net a 61.1% increase and a sunroom by only 48.6%. Replacing your siding with Fiber-Cement will increase your home's value by 78.2%, the highest number in the study. If you plan on staying in your home for a few years, you will get your money back not only in increased value, but also in utility bill savings. It CAN be a win-win.

You have options! A good window salesperson will work with you to find the best option for your particuar situation, not just what they can make the highest margin on.

If you read this and you're in the Kansas City area, I have window solutions for every home from $150,000 to $1 million or more. There are even window options for historic homes that come in all shapes and sizes. Stay tuned to this blog, I will document some upcoming projects.

As always, visit my website http://www.paintproinc.net for more information.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Exactly IS a Replacement Window?

Ok, fair warning! This is a LONG post! If you are considering replacement windows in your home, it is well worth the time it takes to read the entire thing!

We've all heard the advertisements, $199, no $189, no $179! You can stand on our windows! You'll save 40% on your energy bill..etc. Should you really buy all the hype?

The answer is: probably not!

A replacement window is a window unit that replaced the sashes and tracks inside your existing window unit. Since most of these are double hung (both sashes slide up and down) I will concentrate on that particualr style. Depending on the style of window you currently have, they can install from the interior or exterior. Regardless of whether they are vinyl or clad wood the installation procedure is basically the same.

On this particular home, the windows are being installed from the outside because of the way they were built. This picture was taken right after the sashes and tracks were removed at 2:15 pm. The remaining frame of the window is checked to make sure there is no rotten or damaged areas. All nails and fasteners are removed and any dust is vacuumed away. On this window, there was NO rot, but the sashes wouldn't stay open and they leaked a lot of air!

The new window is installed and secured with 4 large screws that are hidden by matching trim pieces. This picture was taken at 2:23 pm, the home was open to the elements for less than 8 minutes. It would have been faster had it not been located on the 2nd floor! This is exactly why it's perfectly OK to replace windows in the winter!

After the new window is secured to the existing frame, inslulation is added in 2 places: between the new window and old frame and between the window frame and surrounding studs. ALWAYS make sure this happens! What's the point of replacing a leaky window if air can move AROUND IT? We install new exterior trim around the window, almost always made from rot-free composite materials. Many window companies wrap the exterior trim with sheet metal and seal it with silicone caulk. It looks pretty, but may still allow the window frame to rot behind it.

This window was installed in one of our customer's homes by another contractor. As you can see, the exterior is wrapped with the aluminum sheeting. It's difficult to see here, but the white silicone usually turns brown within a month or so. Since it is very sticky, it attracts and holds dust and cannot be painted! Who wants brown pinstripes on their new windows?

This is NOT my preferred way to dress the exterior of a window and here's why:

This is the same window with the wrap removed! Either the installer didn't care enough to properly repair the window or they just didn't seal it well.

Either way, the homeowner was not happy about his "new windows!"
We had to remove the new window and replace the entire sill, blindstop and brickmolding. All were replaced with a paintable composite materials that will NEVER ROT!

NOW he has new windows!

This is what a window is SUPPOSED to look like!

Here are some things to remember when shopping for windows:

  • You generally get what you pay for!
  • The low advertised price is just that a LOW starting point!
  • You can stand on our windows! Cool! Why? This is because of "double strength" glass which is twice as thick as normal glass. Most quality windows have this as a standard feature.
  • No window is "maintenance free" just read the directions. They need to be cleaned once or twice a year. Not just the glass, but the frame should be wiped off to remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated.
  • a "double hung" window is one where the sashes BOTH slide up and down. On a "single hung" window, only the bottom sash slides up.
  • Window sashes that tilt in for easy cleaning are WONDERFUL! Your windows are a breeze to clean and it's all done from the inside!
  • Half Screens vs. Full Screens: I personally prefer a full screen on a double hung window. There is no right or wrong answer here, strictly personal preference.
  • LowE Glass with Argon gas between the panes. This is a MUST! On some windows it's a standard option, on others (the cheapies) it's a way to upsell. Not only is Argon a better insulator than plain old air, the LowE coating actually reflects radiant heat which reduces it's transfer from one side to the other. The point is to improve the efficiency of your windows, right? It doesn't make sense to cut this corner.
  • Foam filled frames: Most of the time, this really doesn't make sense. If you live in the extreme North, it may not be a bad idea, but it's usually a waste of money. Most air comes AROUND the frame and not through it. That's why the insulation is so important.
  • Grilles: Most of the time they are placed between the glass panes. No more cleaning little panes of glass! You have one large piece of glass that needs to be cleaned while still retaining the look you want. These are personal preference and usually cost extra. Some homes just don't look right without them.

For all of you hoping for the new window for less than $200, this is for you:

  1. Screens may be extra.
  2. Hauling away the window is usually extra.
  3. LowE glass with Argon is usually extra.
  4. Exterior wrap is extra, brickmolding and insulation is definitely extra!
  5. Grilles are always extra.
  6. The installers are usually subcontractors. They get a certain (small) amount per window to install them. The only way they can make money is to install as many as they can in as little time as possible. Let the salesman or service department worry about quality.
  7. Your salesman is almost always on commission! The extras listed here are where he will make his money. There's nothing wrong with this, just watch your wallet!
  8. You will have to live with your new windows for years to come, don't make a hasty decision by jumping at the first "tonight only" offer, you just may regret it!

If you have further questions about the process, or even want a consultation, you can find out more at my website: http://www.paintproinc.net

Always remember: No salesman sells the second best windows in town!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Siding Stain Question

Q: I have a house with cedar siding [horizontal with vertical trim] that is about 13 years old -- I'm the second owner. I'm having the exterior restained. I had wanted it to just age but apparently I should have had it restained. I finally got a painter who seems very professional but I am not sure of what product to use. The back section gets lot of sun so I want good UV protection and I understand a solid stain will hold up much better. Two sides of my house get a lot of sun with no protection from trees.

There are two products that I am interested in. Olympic makes one and Sikkens makes the other. They are both a combination of acrylic and alkyd. There is a big price difference because the Sikkens is priced higher to begin with, and the store won't give my contractor a discount [I live on an island]. The competing building supplies store selling Olympic products will give him a discount.

I've been trying to find a comparison on the web between Sikkens Rubbol and Olympic Solid Color Stain but I've had no luck. My painter normally does not use these products. If you would be able to advise me I would be very appreciative.

British Columbia, Canada

A: Thanks for the email! Here in the midwest, there aren't a lot of homes that have your type of siding. Most of our stuff is little more than painted cardboard! I have done several of these projects, though. Honestly, if you really want it to last, use the Sikkens. There's a reason it's more expensive. With a properly prepared surface and proper application, you should get a couple of extra years out of the finish. It actually comes out costing a little less in the end since you'll use less labor in the long run.

Cedar siding will always be prone to a little peeling, at least that's been my experience. Keep your color as light as you can, dark colors absorb light and heat which will cause them to bubble and peel more readily. There are just so many places for moisture to get in, you can't keep is sealed. Moisture will try to escape THROUGH the siding when it warms up, causing the finish to release. Just be prepared for a little touch up every now and then and you'll be fine. Good luck, let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks!

Don't forget to visit my website!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Popcorn Ceiling Painting

Question: We have popcorn ceilings throughout our house. Is it possible to paint them, if so, how?

A: Of course you can paint them! You just have to be careful while doing it.

The absolute best way is to use a paint sprayer. Unfortunately this just isn't an option for most people. The problem with rolling the paint on the ceiling is the moisture from the paint can cause the texture to release from the ceiling. You can be rolling along and all of the sudden the texture will wrap around your roller. Not only does it get texture in your paint, but it leaves a big bare spot on your ceiling!

There are special foam rollers that are designed specifically for rolling paint on this type of ceiling, but I have bever personally used them. I don't know if they are any better or worse than a standard roller cover.

If you choose to roll paint on your ceilings, plan on applying two coats. Don't let the roller or ceiling become too saturated with paint. Allow the first coat to completely dry before applying the second coat, this will reduce the likelihood of the texture coming off.

If your ceilings are stained you may need to prime them first. Water stains just need a little Kilz from a spray can. If you home has been smoked in for years and years, you may need to roll Kilz on the entire ceiling as the stain will continue to bleed through several coats of paint.

I like to use a low grade flat white paint. Cheap paints are clay based and dry much more evenly that acrylic paints. This is about the ONLY place where I recommend this type of paint!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Painted Shutter Question:

Q: Our home is only 3 years old. We have plastic shutters on the front of the house, which faces south. The paint our contractor used is coming off in big strips. My husband checked at several stores, and they tell us there is not really a paint that will weather properly. Is there some sort of base coat that we can use to help the paint stick to the shutters?

A: Shutters are a wonderful accessory to most homes, heck some look naked without them! I am going to have to disagree with the stores your husband visited. The problem with your shutters lies in the prep work, which is usually the reason for paint failures.

To fix the problem, remove the shutters from the home and scrape off as much of the paint as you can. I'll bet most of it will come off. The more paint you can remove, the better. Wipe all exposed surfaces of the shutter with a liquid deglosser, somtimed called "liquid sandpaper," which you can find in most paint stores and some home centers.

Once you have finished this prep work, you can paint the shutters with 2 coats of your favorite 100% acrylic exterior latex paint. I like a satin finish because it looks better and will resist fading much longer than a flat paint. Your new finish should look great for several years.

Just remember: on dark colors, you WILL notice color fade sooner than if you were to use lighter colors.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Red Paint Nightmare!

Question: We have an entry wall about 15 feet by 20 feet over a stairway and it is curved. My husband recently painted it a deep red. We have painted it 5 times and it still looks smeary! Now we are going to change it back to a buff color. It's been a nightmare! My question is, can we remove the curved bannister? I think it would be a lot easier to paint without the handrail, but several people tols us they are very fragile.

A: Deep colors, especially reds, can be very difficult to work with. Believe it or not, 5 coats of red paint is about average! It's best to use one or two coats of red or grey primer before applying two to three coats of your red eggshell topcoat. It is also important to keep a "wet edge" between the cut in and the roller work. Areas like the one you are describing are best tackled by two people working together.

There should be no problem removing your curved handrail. These are custom made on site with thin pieces of wood glued together along the actual curve. I would not recommend removing the brackets from the wall unless you plan on replacing them. Just remove the rail from the brackets. The handrail may be a pain to reinstall, however. It will be bulky, but with the help of 2 people you should be able to get things all lined up. Don't tighten the mounts until you you have them all lined up first.

Basement Wall Painting Question:

Q: My stone basement walls are covered with a substance that looks like stucco, which is flaking off. What paint should I use after I scrape off all the paint and stucco:

A: This is a common problem with stone or block basement walls. I would guess the paint is flaking because moisture is leaching through the stone. Many places sell warer-repellent paints, but I've had good luck with UGL's Drylok. This latex waterproofing paint comes in white, but can be tinted to light colors and is relatively easy to work with. It is low odor, making in perfect for use in a basement where veltilation can be a problem. This product can also be used as a "primer" so you can paint over it with any color you like.

Drylok should be applied with a brush or a thick nap roller. It is a very thick product, so plan your product quantity accordingly. It is available at most hardware stores, paint stores and home improvement centers. Just make sure you remove all loose paint and texture before applying any finish.