Now that warmer weather is upon us, it may be a good time to update your home’s exterior. Fortunately, we have experts in our area to help you improve the exterior appearance of your home.
A drive through any neighborhood reveals that homes with a lived-in, much-loved look are the most appealing.
Well-thought-out landscaping and maintained driveways, windows, roofs and exterior siding naturally stand out. They start out looking great, but it takes constant, careful and determined effort to keep these standout houses looking their best.
Summer is the ideal time to line up projects that repair, improve and renew a home’s exterior. At the same time, it’s the season when Midwest homeowners come up against some of the worst weather challenges including strong winds, hail, falling branches and trees and invasive water.
Wisdom from local experts can help homeowners achieve the best appearance and functionality for their homes.
Maintaining Your Roof
Your roof is one of the most vulnerable elements of your home. Wind, hail, falling branches, ice and snow can all cause damage. But so also can time and neglect. Adam Lask, head of the roofing department at Lask Roofing and Siding in Rockford, says homeowners should be conscientious about inspecting their roofs on a regular basis, not only after storms or a bad winter, to ensure they are not threatened by other influences.
“One of the problems is that roofs are not always easily accessible,” Lask says. “Depending on how they are designed, it can be difficult and even dangerous for a homeowner to climb up for a closer look.”
Lask says newer roofs, five years old or less, are seldom a concern aside from bad weather.
“We suggest homeowners walk around the house and look for shingles that are curled or missing. Missing shingles are a sign that they have loosened from the sealer,” he adds. “With older roofs, that bond can loosen with time. Another important preventative measure is to keep the roof cleaned off.”
Lask says roofs with valleys can trap leaves and other debris, holding water in or channeling it sideways where it can seep under the shingles and damage the wood.
“Trim overhanging branches so they don’t fall and gouge or damage shingles,” he says. “Then repair or replace any shingles or areas that have been adversely affected as soon as possible to prevent further damage.”
In the case of storm damage, Lask recommends contacting insurance agencies to get professional assessments of any damage.
“Depending on the extent of the damage, an insurance adjuster will either decide it can be successfully repaired, or may suggest the entire roof be replaced,” Lask says. “With a newer roof, a few missing shingles is probably going to result in repair. With a roof that is 20 to 30 years old, depending on the extent of wind or hail damage, it’s likely the entire roof will need to be replaced.”
In conjunction with the roof, gutters are another constant concern. Lask says that, unless gutters are kept clean and free of standing water by regularly flushing out downspouts, they can loosen and fall. Water in gutters can back up under the shingles and rot out the roof’s edge, causing the gutter supports to fail.
“As the regional distributer for Gutter Helmet, we highly recommend that homeowners, especially those who are aging or otherwise unable to climb up and clean out gutters spring and fall, install Gutter Helmets,” Lask says. “It isn’t just a matter of keeping gutters clog-free.
Gutter Helmets actually make the entire gutter system more secure and stable due to patented brackets, preventing gutters from falling as easily.”
Lask says there is a strong push to replace older gutters, roofing and siding with products that are not only beautiful and durable, but also maintenance-free or easier to maintain.
“Replacing old wooden siding that needs to be repainted every few years with vinyl siding that never needs painting is a logical step,” Lask adds. “Between our variable Midwest weather and our busy lives, it’s definitely a bonus to invest in products that not only look great, but also save a lot of time and energy.”
All About Asphalt
Many homeowners prefer asphalt for driveways because it’s less costly than concrete and easier to repair. While a concrete drive can last 30 years or longer, Larry Lazzerini, owner of Premier Pavement Solutions, in Rockford, says with care an asphalt driveway can stay looking and performing good for 20 to 25 years.
“Asphalt is about half as expensive as concrete,” Lazzerini says. “It’s important to maintain it properly. We recommend sealcoating an established asphalt surface every two years. Otherwise, with the variable Midwest weather, freezing and baking sun, an untreated asphalt surface will crack and crumble to the point where it needs replacement in 10 to 12 years.”
Lazzerini says asphalt is laid about two inches thick over leveled gravel. Once the asphalt is pressed down and smoothed, it’s ready for use.
“One issue we see with asphalt is that it has a tendency to sink where it abuts the garage floor,” he adds. “This happens because of settling and creates a ‘speed bump.’ Another factor is that, with new homes in the past, the asphalt was not laid until a year after the home was built, allowing the ground beneath the gravel to settle and firm up. Today, people are in more of a hurry to have everything done immediately.”
The good news is that this problem can be repaired at reasonable rates, Lazzerini says. So, too, can cracks and crumbling edges, both issues with asphalt as they are with concrete.
“Some put concrete edging along the driveway, which not only helps solve the crumbling edges, but looks nice,” he adds. “Others use landscaping. And, there is a metal edging that can be installed to give the driveway a sharp, neat line.”
With more than 30 years of experience, Lazzerini started Premier Pavement in 2011. He’s seen a lot of varied use for sealcoating, including waterproofing and repairing cracked concrete.
“We can also use an epoxy finish and fill cracks instead of repairing them,” he adds.
Both concrete and asphalt have pluses and minuses, Lazzerini continues. The important issue with either surface is to keep them consistently and properly maintained. The two most invasive elements that impact the looks and longevity of driveways are weather and wear. Professional snowplowing and vehicle leakage also impact the driveway’s surface and can compromise its looks and life. These occurrences are so variable that homeowners are encouraged to keep a close watch on how their individual driveways are faring.
“People like the fact that the asphalt is black. Ice and snow melts off of it faster. However, like concrete, asphalt won’t keep weeds from growing up through cracks. In fact, I’ve seen weeds grow up through the asphalt even when it’s solid,” Lazzerini says. “I recommend Round-Up to spray the weeds.”
Another suggestion he offers to homeowners is to watch the growth of trees and shrubs close to driveways and other concrete areas. Roots can undermine the pavement and cause it to heave up in uneven segments.
“How a sealcoated asphalt driveway wears depends a lot on how large it is, how much traffic goes over it, and the weather,” Lazzerini adds. “It costs about $165 for an average-sized driveway, 18 feet or two car widths wide and 50 feet long.”
While this might seem like a lot of money, Lazzerini says it’s better to hire a local professional with experience. And he warns that there are a lot of unscrupulous people taking advantage of homeowners.
“Better safe than sorry,” he says. “Check around and find the best qualified company for the price.”
Lazzerini suggests that homeowners call for free estimates.
“Cheaper is not always better,” he cautions. “You usually get what you pay for. If you get a quote for $100 and another for $150, and a third for $180, my advice is throw out the $100 bid, and find out what the difference is between the other two.”
Some things to research are whether the bidders have insurance and workman’s comp coverage, Lazzerini adds. Are they using the right equipment such as a hydraulic agitated tank to properly mix the sealer?
Lazzerini says Premier gets its sealer directly from the manufacturer, ready to use according to their specifications, backed by a letter stating Premier is the recommended provider.
“Ask our estimators and they will show you a copy of our letter,” he adds. “Plus, ask if the bidders are figuring crack filling in the estimate and what kind of crack filler – hot or cold. Most people just put crack filler on the estimates. Premier puts the footage amounts that we are going to do with explanation of all the processes of the work to be done.”
Maintenance with Mudjacking
Weather doesn’t just affect a concrete drive, sidewalk or patio. Like roadways after a bad winter, concrete can heave up or sink. Uneven concrete around a home, including walkways, patios, driveways and garage floors, can present a dangerous tripping hazard and can even damage vehicles. It can also direct water into unintended areas, causing pooling water, seepage, and, in some cases, even lead to structural damage to foundations.
Settled concrete slabs can be caused by poor compaction of the subgrade below the concrete, poor backfill around foundations and excavations, erosion caused by poor grading or poorly placed downspouts and sump pump discharges, as well as vehicle traffic and even animal damage.
James Wells, owner of Advanced Pavement and Property Inc., says a process called mudjacking is used to level concrete that has suffered the effects of all of these.
“Replacing an entire driveway is costly,” Wells says. “Mudjacking solves the problem for about one-quarter to one-third of the cost of replacement.”
While uneven and cracked concrete can be patched and even sealcoated, it’s just a short-term fix for a long-term problem. The most cost-effective solution is mudjacking.
“Some providers advocate lifting the concrete slabs and using black dirt to fill in beneath,” Wells adds. “This is not the best idea because dirt can settle, causing the concrete to become uneven again. We use a specially blended grout-type mixture with a hardening agent that lasts.”
After the concrete is leveled, Wells says customers can start using the driveway in just a few hours or the next day.
“It looks so much better then patched concrete,” he says. “And mudjacking can save the homeowner thousands of dollars in replacement costs.”
Wells suggests homeowners undergo consistent maintenance efforts to keep all concrete areas in good shape. Being pro-active and repairing small cracks goes a long way towards saving time, inconvenience and money later.
“However, some driveways may have deteriorated to the point where they must be replaced,” Wells says. “In that case, we can recommend reputable companies for estimates.”
With more than 20 years’ experience, Wells concludes that driveways, sidewalks and concrete patios are an integral part of what makes a home appealing and livable. By performing routine repairs and correcting any problems before they become major, homeowners not only have the pleasure of owning an attractive home, but also improve their curb appeal if they decide to sell.
A Note to Homeowners
No one questions the fact that a home is a primary investment. It makes sense to maintain every facet of its construction to ensure that value is never lost.
When homeowners know which projects they need to address, and take the time to resource professional, local experts for estimates ahead of time, it’s easier to keep up the perfect appearance and the underlying strength that makes a house worthwhile to own.