Showing posts with label 10 Great ‘Green’ Home Improvements. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 10 Great ‘Green’ Home Improvements. Show all posts

Tuesday

Pros and Cons: Asphalt Roofing vs. Metal

Product Pros and Cons: Asphalt Roofing vs. Metal

Asphalt shingles, such as these from CertainTeed, dominate new home construction and even the reroofing market because they are economical, easy to install, and last about 20 years. 
Asphalt shingles, such as these from CertainTeed, dominate new home construction and even the reroofing market because they are economical, easy to install, and last about 20 years. 
If you were to ask a sampling of production builders what is the best roofing material on the market, they're likely to tell you asphalt. The average residential architect, on the other hand, would probably say metal is the real deal. Heaven only knows what a home buyer or custom home client will choose—slate, clay, concrete—or if they'll even care.

The roof is arguably the most important surface in a home, perhaps even more essential than the exterior walls. As the most exposed plane, the roof has a mammoth task. It's under constant assault from the sun and rain, and, if leaky, could result in thousands of dollars worth of direct repair as well as ancillary damage. Still, a roof is one of those things that many consumers don't think about until there is a blizzard, hail storm, or rainstorm.

So what accounts for the discrepancy in material tastes? That builders, architects, and home buyers have opposing views of roofing material is telling, but their preferences speak to individual agendas as much as it speaks to the materials.

Most home buyers, for example, care mostly about price and don't care as much about material as long as the roof functions properly and for the foreseeable future. Production builders care about looks and function, too, but affordability is top of mind. And architects want a roof to function well, but they are concerned that it be aesthetically pleasing.

Naturally, the asphalt industry says its product is the best roofing you can buy. "Asphalt roofing is easy to find, easy to install, and easy to maintain," the Washington, D.C.-based Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association says. "It's also incredibly easy on the eye. And let's not forget, it's easy on the wallet, too!"

Indeed, asphalt is easy to install and produces a decent-looking roof, but most architects and builders say the product is popular mainly because it's economical.

Depending on the product line, shingles come with warranties lasting anywhere from 20 to 30 years, though builders in the field say the numbers are often shorter depending on the location of the country and maintenance.
The asphalt roofing industry makes a good case for its product being No. 1 because its product is No. 1. Industry estimates claim four out of five roofs are covered with asphalt, though if you drive around most subdivisions—new or established—that number seems woefully low.

Asphalt's market share notwithstanding, the metal people say their product is much better. According to the Metal Roofing Alliance in Belfair, Wash., "Longevity is one of the top reasons consumers report choosing metal roofing for their homes." The group says "metal roofing can last as long as 50 years or more, requiring very little maintenance and looking beautiful all the while."

When HUD's Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing launched the Concept Home program some years ago, the group's mission was to use the best available materials, products, and technology for the homes it builds. The group settled on metal roofing for its subsequent homes in Omaha, Neb., and Charleston, S.C., because of the looks and the longevity—benefits that architects often cite as their reason for choosing the material. They are mesmerized by the crisp, contemporary look; that it lasts forever is gravy.
But longevity and good looks come with a very high price, one that turns off even ardent admirers of metal. "I use asphalt on all my projects," says Texas-based builder Robert Aiken. "Metal is a better roof, but it costs three times as much."

So where does that leave you? The tradeoffs are not so simple. Both materials are versatile, offering a variety of looks. But is it enough to specify an asphalt roof that should last 20 years or more? Or is it worth it to pay three times as much for metal that could outlive the homeowner and the house? Considering how long the average home buyer stays in a house, the answer may be simple.
Here's a handy guide that outlines the pros and cons of asphalt versus metal roofing. Use it to evaluate the options for your customers, and let us know what you use and why.

Asphalt comes in basic three-tab products, but higher-end, laminate shingles are also available.
Asphalt comes in basic three-tab products, but higher-end, laminate shingles are also available.

Pros for Asphalt Shingles:

An accepted and proven material that builders know and trust. There's a reason so many builders use the product, and it comes down to 100 years of service in the home building industry. Plus, home buyers are comfortable with it, which is extremely important.

Economical. The low cost of asphalt is probably its biggest selling point. A basic three-tab shingle roof might set you back about $100 to $200 per square (or a 10-foot-by-10-foot area), making it ideally suited to production housing or to entry-level housing.

Easy to work with and handle. Perhaps no other roofing product is as easy to install. In some cases, a house can be done in one day by professional contractors. Even serious DIYers have been known to tackle roofing projects, though it's highly recommended that they don't because of warranty issues.

Easy to repair. As easy as asphalt is to install, it's equally easy to repair if it gets damaged.

Style options. Asphalt comes in basic offerings for the cost-conscious, but it can be ordered in fancy styles that mimic wood shakes or slate. Basic three-tab shingles dominate the category, but thicker, high-end laminates are available in many colors and with deep shadow lines.

Good performance record. Depending on the product line, asphalt shingles come with a 20- to 30-year warranty. Many are fire-rated (as high as Class A), and require minimal maintenance. Some manufacturers offer products that meet Energy Star requirements and qualify as a cool roof under federal standards, making them eligible for tax credits.

Cons for Asphalt Shingles:


Can be boring. Though snappy colors and styles are available, builders tend to select basic single-color products that have a tendency to look dull.

Susceptible to severe weather. In general, asphalt provides good uplift protection, but the product does not hold up well to severe weather such as hail. The NAHB Research Center says wind- and impact-resistant shingles are available, but they cost about 50 percent more than conventional products. Moreover, asphalt roofs that do not get adequate sunlight can be vulnerable to moss, mildew, and algae, which can shorten lifespan.

Longevity questions. Warranties on asphalt roofs are relatively high, but performance is closely tied to a well-ventilated roof deck and homeowner maintenance.

Can be heavy. While basic shingles weigh about 200 pounds per square, some laminated, textured, and higher-end architectural shingles can clock in at close to 500 pounds per square.

Nascent recycling. According to the Northeast Recycling Council, the U.S. manufactures and disposes of about 11 million tons of asphalt shingles per year. Most—about 10 million tons—is from installation scraps and tear-offs from re-roofing. Moreover, the group cites EPA studies that shingle waste makes up 8% of the total building-related waste stream. The asphalt recycling industry is still young, however, though manufacturers are developing ways to find uses for the material including pavement, new roofing, and road and ground cover, says the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

Pros for Metal Roofing:

Lightweight. Metal is about the lightest material you can install on your roof. Though weight varies based on type, contractors and manufacturers say aluminum varies from about 50 pounds per square, while steel can be anywhere from 100 pounds to 250 pounds per square, says MetalRoofingSource.com.

Longevity. Metal offers good weather resistance and can last a long time. There are rumors of copper and zinc metal roofs in Europe lasting well over 100 years. Though this might be possible with care and maintenance, you can reasonably expect a metal roof to last about 60 years, give or take.

Long warranty. Many metal manufacturers offer limited warranties that last up to 50 years.

Stellar extreme-weather performance. Contractors say metal is excellent at preventing leaks, offers good wind resistance, and is fireproof. In fact, says the Metal Roofing Alliance, some insurance companies offer home buyers up to 30% reduction in premiums for weather-resistant metal roofs .

Environmentally friendly. One of the most energy-efficient roofing materials, metal reflects heat and helps keep houses cooler in the summer. Plus, the product often contains high, recycled content and is itself recyclable.

Cons for Metal Roofing:


Very expensive. Metal's biggest drawback is the cost. Though manufacturers say prices have come down, metal, on average, costs three times as much as asphalt. Pricier metals such as stainless steel, copper, and zinc can cost way more.

Can have a harsh appearance. Metal has a long history on barns and agricultural buildings, but for those who aren't familiar with this look, it can be harsh in a residential subdivision.
    Scotty, Scotts Contracting-- I have to chime in here: I don't agree with the Authors choice of words 'Harsh' "Metal Roofs come in every type of Designers Choice and Style and can mimic the "Look" of: Slate, Tile, Asphalt, etc.  They also come in every color in the Color Wheel and in some applications Custom Colors can be Ordered, with most manufacturers Guarantying the Color for 20 years.  The new metal roofing products when installed correctly can mimic any type of Asphalt Roofing materials; therefore, "A Home with a Metal Roof can blend in any Neighborhood".] 


    CLICK HERE to Email Scotty, with Scotts Contracting for any additional Comments, Questions, or for a Green Proposal for your next Roofing Project.

    Extreme expansion and contraction. Critics contend that some metal roofs expand and contract quite a bit, which compromises their long-term performance and their ability to remain water tight. This is often a function of the installation.

    Past failures and perception issues. Architects say there was a time when basic corrugated metal roofs corroded in 10 years or less. In some seaside applications, rust on some roofs is visible. Most products today, however, are made with alloys and specialized resin paints that can handle salt spray, extreme heat, and heavy precipitation without issue, the industry says.

    Product selection is important for good performance. Though high-performing materials such as stainless steel, copper, and zinc are available, low-end steel products are still available. Architects advise against low-grade metals that are thinner and less durable, especially near seaside locations.Article by: Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor for Builder magazine.

    CLICK HERE to Email Scotty, with Scotts Contracting for any additional Comments, Questions, or for a Green Proposal for your next Roofing Project.scottscontracting@gmail.com

    • I have a local recycling source for Asphalt Shingles. 
    • Tamko- Roofing Supply Manufacturer I consider a Local Company (within 300 miles)
    --
    Scott's Contracting
    scottscontracting@gmail.com

    Saturday

    Spray Foam- Insulation That Works-Photos Included

    Scotts Contracting is available to assist in your Home and Business Insulation Needs.  I even have a Local Supplier / Manufacturer of Spray Foam Insulation- This Insulation is Soy-based Which is Green and Eco Friendly- Many of Our Missouri Farmers Grow Soybeans!!! Support our Missouri Farmers !!!  Click Here to email Scotts Contracting to Schedule a Free Green Site Inspection.

    The Following Article is a Follow Up to the Prior Posts about Spray Foam Insulation from these Posts Below




      Spray foam insulation is all the rage because of its
      effectiveness at sealing a building, but builders complain
       that the added cost is significant. Because First Coast
      implemented sealing procedures, the company sticks with fiberglass ...


      Instead, he uses 2 x 6 studs, spray foam
      insulation
      , and metal bracing to make the
      studs rigid. "The studs are energy highways,"
      he says. He then wraps his houses
       in 1.5 inches of foam board, which creates a thermal break. ...


      Seal for Leaks with, caulking and
       spray foam, from anything that is
      sticking out of your Home. This could
      come from the Air Conditioning Unit,
      various wires for Telephone and Cable
      lines. The Power Line or Electric Line. ...

      Certain materials used to seal these
       leaks—such as caulk, spray foam,
      or weatherstripping—can qualify for
      federal tax credits. "It's something that
      homeowners can do easily," Thull says.
       "And there are a lot of different products out ...

      Insulation That Works

      With closed-cell spray foam, the benefits go way beyond R-value

      by Steve Easley

      These days, it's not an exaggeration to say that almost all homeowners expect their homes to be durable, energy efficient, safe, and comfortable. But this is especially true in coastal markets that cater to high-end clients who demand supreme quality and impeccable performance from their homes. Even in today's markets, which are euphemistically described as "relaxing," there seems to be no shortage of wealthy home buyers snapping up second-home properties along the coveted coast. If you build in this market, it's this kind of discriminating home buyer who will most expect you to get things right.

      In more than 25 years of consulting with builders on ways to reduce callbacks, I've spent most of my time solving problems related to heat and moisture transfer through buildings, because this is often where builders — even very good builders who deliver well-appointed homes to the coastal elite — get things wrong. Most of the serious (read "expensive") performance failures are moisture related, and a good number of these are closely tied to the thermal performance of the home. Yet I am surprised how often the insulation is installed without much thought or understanding about how it works. Consequently, very little attention gets paid to the details that really matter. Typically, fiberglass — selected as the least expensive option up front — is jammed in the walls and stuffed around electrical wires, plumbing pipes, and HVAC ducts, then covered up as soon as the municipality allows. The result is gaps, compression, and hollow voids that compromise occupant comfort and increase the building's energy loads. A sloppy insulation job can also lead to moisture problems by creating thermal conditions in walls and ceilings that promote condensation, wetting, mold growth, and rot.


      Batt insulation works best when it is fully lofted, not jammed into the tight spaces (above). Compression of the batt reduces the number of air pockets that provide the material's insulation value. It also leaves a hollow between the insulation and the drywall, creating areas where air can circulate. These voids can siphon off energy and may create conditions for condensation and moisture problems.

      Bright Star
      The updated Energy Star label for homes provides a quality standard that can guide builders away from these problems. New program requirements have raised the level of quality in the program, making it a label that savvy home buyers will more likely be looking for. As of January 1, 2007, a home that qualifies for an Energy Star label must pass a "thermal bypass inspection": a rigorous assessment of a home's air barrier. The bypass inspection requires builders to follow the EPA's Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist — a 25-point list of details aimed at stopping the movement of heat around or through the insulation. Thermal bypasses — the defects that most commonly reduce the energy performance and comfort of homes — typically result from missing or compressed insulation, missing air barriers, and gaps between the air barrier and the insulation.


      The Energy Star Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist must be completed by a certified home energy rater. However, in order for a home to qualify for the Energy Star label, up to six items may be verified by the builder to minimize required field trips by the rater.

      In my opinion, this checklist is one of the best guidelines to come out of the EPA's Energy Star program, and I think it substantially raises the bar for thermal and moisture performance of building envelopes. Of particular value to builders, the 86-page Thermal Bypass Checklist Guide (available free online at www.energystar.gov; search "Thermal Bypass Guide") provides a very practical and comprehensive look at reducing air infiltration. It should be required reading for anyone who's serious about building a quality home in any climate, but especially in demanding coastal climes.




      Living Spaces Over Garages
      Living spaces over garages create conditions that demand careful attention to insulating the floor. Yet it is difficult to support the insulation in this cavity, and oftentimes the insulation falls onto the garage ceiling. This separation between the insulation and the living space floor creates a thermal bypass that compromises the value of the insulation. Air easily infiltrates in at the band-joist area over the top of the insulation, which scavenges away heat. This often freezes plumbing pipes, creates cold floors, and can lead to major mold and water damage. Builders often try to solve the problem by supplying forced-air heat near the plumbing, but this only succeeds in pressurizing the space with warm, humid air. As this air exfiltrates through the exterior cracks, it can condense and lead to even worse moisture and mold problems at the band-joist areas.


      The issues are easily solved with ccSPF, which sticks to the bottom of the subfloor so insulation and air barrier are always in contact. The foam also stops air infiltration. It is a good idea to wrap any plumbing with a thin layer of fiberglass insulation before spraying foam over it to make servicing the plumbing easier.

      An Insulation for All Reasons
      I've included in this article a short catalog of some of the problem areas addressed on the Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist that I find are frequently missed.

      What stands out about all of these problem points is that they can be difficult to get right with inexpensive fiberglass insulation unless a builder is working with an experienced and service-minded insulation crew. However, these problems are easily avoided when using closed-cell spray foam (ccSPF) insulation. This alone provides a strong argument for always using ccSPF, but it's certainly not the only reason.

      There are many reasons why ccSPF makes particularly good sense in a coastal home:

      • It has a high R-value of 6.5 to 7 per inch.
      • It absorbs a negligible amount of water. It can even be used as an effective secondary rain barrier and is the only FEMA-approved insulation for flood-resistant construction.
      • It does a good job of controlling diffusion.
      • It has good air barrier qualities to reduce airflow into and out of wall cavities.
      • It expands to fill voids in hard-to-
      insulate areas.
      • It provides some structural integrity to the frame (see "The Structural Properties of Foam," page 26).

      Steve Easley
      is principal of Steve Easley Associates, a company based in Danville, Calif., that provides building-science training and quality assurance for builders nationwide. All photos by the author.



      Attic Knee Walls
      These are areas where the insulation on the back side of unsheathed walls is exposed to outdoor temperatures and airflow. They are often adjacent to ventilated attic areas. The Energy Star Thermal Bypass Inspection Checklist requires that an air barrier be placed on all sides of the insulation. This means that the back sides of knee walls need to be sheathed and sealed. Thin-profile cardboard sheathing with ccSPF works well here. Since ccSPF is air impermeable, the insulation does not have to fill the entire cavity, and it meets the air barrier requirement. Some codes require R-19 insulation, which is difficult to do in a 3 1/2-inch space with batt insulation, but 2 inches of ccSPF provides about R-19.5.





      Sloping Roof Areas
      The sloping areas in a cathedral ceiling can be the sites for significant thermal bypasses. These areas are not only difficult to insulate but are difficult to ventilate. Yet ccSPF solves both problems. Placing ccSPF directly on the underside of the roof deck also creates a secondary rain barrier, and because of ccSPF's high R-value and low permeability, moisture is not likely to condense on its surface, eliminating the need for cavity ventilation.







      Band-Joist Areas
      The band-joist area is typically a major site for air infiltration. These areas are usually very poorly insulated, causing one of the most significant thermal bypass areas. If the home is under a positive pressure (air pushing out from inside) in a heating climate, the air is likely to be at a high humidity level. This can cause frost, and eventually mold, to build up on the back side of the band joist. In a cooling climate that is under negative pressure (air pulled inward — a condition that's commonly caused by leaky HVAC ducts), this can pull hot, humid air from outside, where it is likely to condense and lead to mold problems. The sealing properties of ccSPF will reduce these air-infiltration and energy-loss problems in this troublesome area.





      Attic and Crawlspace Bypasses
      Attic and crawlspace bypasses are penetrations into the living spaces. Pipes, ducts, flues, and electric wires are the most common reason for these penetrations, and the best way to seal them is often (but not always) with ccSPF. Because ccSPF expands and seals, it does an excellent job of filling voids that allow conditioned air to escape. However, ccSPF should not be used to seal around high-temperature areas such as combustion appliance flues.




      The Structural Properties of Foam

      Recent research conducted at the University of Florida has demonstrated that closed-cell spray foam (ccSPF) applied to the underside of roof decking effectively bonds the sheathing to the framing, significantly increasing uplift resistance. The study, conducted by Dr. David O. Prevatt and funded by Honeywell and Huntsman, two makers of ingredients that go into ccSPF, found that 3 inches of the foam sprayed between framing members provided a threefold increase in uplift resistance as compared with traditionally installed roof sheathing panels. While these results sound impressive, Dr. Prevatt points out that the increase provides the same benefits as increasing the nailing schedule to a 6/6 schedule (every 6 inches along panel edges and every 6 inches in the field) from the usual 6/12 schedule. What was perhaps most impressive is that using only spray foam to glue the sheathing to the framing provided almost as much resistance (178 to 209 psf) to uplift as does 8d common nails (205 psf) installed at the 6/6 schedule. This suggests what may be the biggest structural advantage of a foamed roof assembly — reducing the likelihood of a roof blowoff when the sheathing doesn't get nailed off with enough nails or when too many nails miss their mark.


      A test panel (left) in a study at the University of Florida simulates a roof assembly consisting of 1/2-inch OSB fastened to 2x4 framing at 24-inch centers. The framing bays have been filled with closed-cell spray foam. During the study, the assembly was placed on a pressure chamber and a vacuum pump (above right) drew a vacuum that was increased in 15-psf intervals until the assembly failed and the sheathing popped off the framing. For the fully foamed assemblies, this occurred at around 240 psf. The assemblies that had ccSPF fillets installed failed at 160 psf. The assemblies with sheathing alone nailed only with nails (6/12 schedule) failed at about 75 psf.

      The uplift study also evaluated the benefit of installing a "fillet": a 3x5-inch bead of ccSPF in the corners between the sheathing and the roof framing. The fillet method effectively doubled the uplift resistance of the baseline assembly of 2x4 framing on 24-inch centers sheathed with 1/2-inch OSB nailed on a 6/12 schedule.

      The uplift study is one of several recent studies of the structural properties of ccSPF. Tests conducted by Building Science Corporation (BSC) to evaluate the impact resistance of wall systems showed that conventional wood-framed walls do not have the same impact resistance as impact-resistant windows. (That is, walls consisting of studs, 1/2-inch OSB sheathing, housewrap, and siding cannot sustain the impact required by the ASTM E1886 and E1996 missile test, which hurls a 9-pound 2x4 at 50 feet per second.) The only test panel in the BSC demonstration capable of resisting the required impact load included a layer of 1/2-inch OSB sheathing between 1-inch foam insulating sheathing and 2 inches of ccSPF sprayed between 2x6 studs. Surprisingly, BSC found that a wall with foam sheathing, housewrap, and ccSPF (no OSB) performed better in impact tests than a wall with housewrap and OSB sheathing.


      When a roof is not likely to be replaced anytime soon and the sheathing nailing can't be verified (on a tile roof in good condition, for example), contractors in Florida are beginning to employ the "fillet method." This practice uses closed-cell spray foam to help bond the roof sheathing to existing framing and provide a secondary water barrier.

      The BSC study notes that walls may not have to be built to the same standard as windows, despite these surprising results. When a window fails under impact, the resulting hole in the wall (the entire window) is relatively large, providing a big enough hole to internally pressurize a home, which often leads to catastrophic failure. When a wall fails, the zone of impact is marginally bigger than the impacting face of the projectile. Such an opening may not be large enough to have a catastrophic effect. — Clayton DeKorne


      Scotts Contracting is available to assist in your Home and Business Insulation Needs.  I even have a Local Supplier / Manufacturer of Spray Foam Insulation- This Insulation is Both Closed and Open Cell Soy-based That is Green and Eco Friendly. Click Here to email Scotts Contracting to Schedule a Free Green Site Inspection.

      Build Green Scotty


      --
      Additional details or schedule a Free Green Site Evaluation at: Scott's Contracting
      scottscontracting@gmail.com

      Monday

      Green and Eco Friendly Amazon .com Products

      Green and Eco Friendly Products Offered by Amazon.com

      scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com for additional information or to Schedule a "Free Green Site Evaluation"

      Saturday

      $1 Dollar Spent Earns $2 Dollars


      Rule of Thumb-For Every $1 Dollar Spent on Weatherizing your Home will Return $2 Dollars in Actual Savings !!!


      in Actual Savings on your Energy Bills. In some instances your dollars will earn additional savings in your energy bills.
      According to US National Weather Analysis. The entire World is enduring a record setting year. Maybe its time to reconsider adding some "Green" "Eco Friendly" changes to your Home and 'Reduce Climate Change'. I'm not going to bore you with Stats and Figures. I'll just try to explain in everyday language Three (3) Green Build Tips that can be added to your Home, easy and afford-ably.

      If you choose to hire outside assistance Scotts Contracting St Louis Renewable Energy is available for any Green Projects Needed in your Home. Click here to email Scotty and Set Up a Free Green Site Inspection Green Building Tip 1-Doors and Windows-

      • Weatherstripping-should seal the home from the exterior temperature and wind. New Windows and Doors come with Factory Installed weatherstrips that aide in providing this barrier. Older Windows and Doors sometimes have and sometimes not or are wore out. Replace or Install weatherstripping. Last time I looked at Home Depot there was about 30 various kinds of weather stripping available. Prices range from $5 - $25. Most have instructions included and Home Depot also offers instructional classes on installing weather stripping.

      Green Building Tip 2-Attic (read entire posting here)

      • Air Infiltration areas be resolved before adding insulation- Stop the Air (Hot or Cold) From Entering or Leaving a Home.
      • Attic Insulation Suggested Guidelines. I recommend a minimum of (July 19,2010 Correction) R26
      • Adding Radiant Barriers in a nutshell this bounces the Exterior Temperature back outside and acts as a Vapor Barrier!
      Green Building Tip 3 Exterior Walls- Minimum Suggestions
      • Seal for Leaks with, caulking and spray foam, from anything that is sticking out of your Home. This could come from the Air Conditioning Unit, various wires for Telephone and Cable lines. The Power Line or Electric Line. [ "IF YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO WORK ON ELECTRICITY "NEVER TOUCH POWER LINES ENTERING YOUR HOME"] You can caulk around hole where it enters you House though. Once again: never touch power lines .
      • Insulation for walls is R13 minimum which is (3- 3 ½ inches of Insulation)
      • Vapor Barrier- Stops the Water and Air From Enerting your Home usually located behind the exterior finish of your home.
      If you choose to hire outside assistance Scotts Contracting St Louis Renewable Energy is available for any Green Projects Needed in your Home. Click here to email Scotty and Set Up a Free Green Site Inspection
      Additional Green Build Articles Soon
      Scotty, Scotts Contracting St Louis Renewable Energy WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The world is enduring the hottest year on record, according to a U.S. national weather analysis, causing droughts worldwide and a concern for U.S. farmers counting on another bumper year.
      correction July 19,2010 Change Minimum Insulation to R26... R13 is Minimum Wall Insulation

      Thursday

      The 5 Best—and 5 Worst—Home Improvement Projects for Your Money

      Before you get started on that family room addition, take a moment to consider its potential return.
      (Opinions are of Author-Scotty)
      Each year, Remodeling magazine's Cost vs. Value Report provides a fascinating look at the percentage of a home improvement project's costs that are likely to be recouped at resale. The report finds that not all home remodeling jobs are created equal—you'll probably get more of your investment back after building a wooden deck, for example, than adding a sunroom. To help consumers better understand which jobs offer the highest potential returns, we used the 2009–2010

      Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report to compile a list of the 5 best—and 5 worst—home improvement projects for your money:

      The 5 Best

      •  1. Steel entry door replacement: Homeowners who install a steel front door recoup on average nearly 129 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Sal Alfano, the editorial director Remodeling magazine, says that's in part because a steel door is less expensive than the alternatives. A fiberglass front door replacement project, for example, costs about three times more than a steel door replacement, according to the report. But a steel door can still be attractive enough to boost your home's curb appeal. "A brand new door makes a big first impression on somebody who is looking at the house," Alfano says. A steel door can also make a home more energy efficient, says home improvement expert Danny Lipford. "Steel most of the time has a magnetic weather stripping," Lipford says. "So you close it and that magnetic weather stripping seals it up very nicely." But Lipford cautions that while steel makes for a nice painted surface, it doesn't work with all design tastes. "If you are going for a stained look, a rich wood look, you can simulate the stain, but as soon as you knock on [the steel door] you know that it has an unrealistic look to it." 

      •  2. Attic bedroom: Homeowners who turn their dusty old attic into a functional bedroom recoup on average about 83 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. At around $49,000 a job, converting an attic into a bedroom is certainly more expensive than replacing your front door. But when it comes to adding new livable space to your home, building an attic bedroom is often easier on your budget than the alternatives. A family room addition, for example, can run around $83,000. "When you are adding to the footprint of the house you have foundation costs, dirt work, and all of that," says Paul Zuch, the president of Capital Improvements. "But if you are doing an attic conversion you don't have all of those." At the same time, modern households can encounter all sorts of scenarios that require additional living space. "Whether it's because an elderly parent is moving to the house and is taking the first floor suite and so the kids are moving upstairs, or a child has come back to live with the family after graduating from college," Alfano says. When faced with situations like this, an attic bedroom conversion can sometimes be your best option. 

      •  3. Wood deck addition: Homeowners who add a wooden deck to their properties recoup on average nearly 81 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports, says the wooden deck's appeal is linked to today's more thrift-conscious consumers, who are looking to save money by spending more time at home. "Since they are staying home they want to enjoy their exterior, they want to enjoy their outdoors," Kuperszmid Lehrman says. "So [adding a deck] is one of those areas that can add value." Like steel, the popularity of wooden decks is also associated with costs. A similar project built from composite materials can run you about 50 percent more. Lipford, meanwhile, highlights another key benefit of building a wooden deck. "That's not heated and cooled space, but it is an opportunity to make you feel like you have a lot more space in your home than you actually have," Lipford said. 

      •  4. Vinyl siding replacement: Homeowners who replace their vinyl siding recoup on average nearly 80 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Alfano says the project's low costs—the job averages less than $11,000—deserves part of the credit for its impact. But curb appeal plays a significant role too. "New siding is going to make a house look brand new," he says. "It is going to really change the way the house looks from the street." In addition, vinyl siding is extremely low-maintenance and lasts up to 25 years, Alfano says. By comparison, houses typically need their exterior repainted every five to seven years, he says. "That's sort of a trend among homeowners and home buyers over the last five to ten years—moving toward low maintenance or low maintenance materials." 

      •  5. Wood window replacement: Homeowners who replace their wood windows recoup on average about 77 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Zuch notes that window replacement projects can be appealing because they can make the home more attractive while increasing its energy efficiency. "Not only does it add value but it reduces your energy bills," Zuch says. At the same time, homeowners who make certain window replacements can qualify for federal tax credits. But Kuperszmid Lehrman cautions that the project's cost—of nearly $12,000—means homeowners shouldn't replace their windows simply to lower their energy bills. "It's just too expensive," she says. "The payback period—even with the federal tax credits—is still going to be pretty long." Instead, homeowners should replace windows if they are beaten up or broken and consider the project's energy efficiency benefits the icing on the cake. 

      The 5 Worst 
      •  1. Home office remodel: Property owners who remodel a home office recoup on average less than half of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. That's because even though more people are working out of their homes these days, not all buyers want a space dedicated exclusively to work. "That space in your home—when your square footage is so precious—may serve your needs very well, but the next person might say, 'I need a bedroom, I don't need a home office,'" Lipford says. "And that specialized work that's needed in that home office just doesn't pay you back." 

      •  2. Sunroom addition: Homeowners who add a sunroom to their house recoup on average about 51 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Like the home office, the sunroom represents an inefficient use of interior space, Zuch says. "If you are going to add a room, what people are looking for, especially now, is [perhaps] a mother-in-law suite with a universal design," Zuch says. "[Or] for a family that is growing, they want a nursery on the first floor [because] they don't want to climb stairs." Homeowners who are willing to sink $73,000—the average cost of a sunroom addition—into their house would be better off investing in a different home improvement project. 

      •  3. Bathroom addition: Homeowners who build a bathroom addition recoup on average only about 60 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Lipford says the project's relatively low return on investment reflects its cost, of around $39,000. "When you are talking about a bathroom, you are talking about a footprint that has lots of plumbing, you still have your air conditioning, heating, you still have your electrical concerns, and you are putting in fixtures," Lipford says. "It doesn't matter how big it is because your concentrated square footage costs in that scenario are way up there compared to building a closet." But Kuperszmid Lehrman argues that a homeowner's true return on this particular investment depends on how many bathrooms they already have. Homes with one less bathroom than comparable properties in the neighborhood would be better served by this project. "If you are a bathroom short, depending on what's going on in your neighborhood, then it is going to make more sense," she says. 

      •  4. Backup power generator: Homeowners who obtain a backup power generator recoup on average only about 59 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Although most homeowners don't consider a backup power generator essential, its popularity varies a great deal from one region to another. Those living in communities where tornados, hurricanes, or blizzards could knock out power for days are more likely to be drawn to homes with this feature, Alfano says. "Being out of power in Florida might not be that big of a deal in February, whereas in Vermont [a backup power generator] makes a huge difference," Alfano says. 

      •  5. Garage addition: Homeowners who build a garage addition recoup on average about 62 percent of the project's cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Lipford argues that the limited versatility of a garage doesn't necessarily justify its high cost, which can average more than $58,000. A garage addition project is a labor intensive effort, often requiring builders to pour a slab, construct walls, and build a roof, among other things. "The only thing that is keeping it from being legitimate living space is insulated walls for air conditioning and heating—so it does represent a high cost to do that for strictly sheltering cars [or storing belongings]," Lipford said. "So when you start going down the check list of things you have to do, [the garage addition] starts moving down the list."
       By Luke Mullins, Posted: January 27, 2010 

      Scott's Contracting GREEN BUILDER, St Louis "Renewable Energy" Missouri. http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com,

      Wednesday

      10 Great ‘Green’ Home Improvements

      While the debate over climate change rages on, energy-efficient features have become a key attraction for today's home buyers. The National Association of Realtors' 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that nearly 90 percent of buyers considered heating and cooling bills important, and more than 70 percent wanted high-efficiency appliances. "One of the things that we as advocates of energy efficiency have been encouraged by is a change in home buyers' and homeowners' attitudes towards energy efficiency," says Kateri Callahan, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy. And why not? Energy-efficient home features help lower your bills while reducing your carbon footprint. On top of that, Uncle Sam is now handing out tax credits worth up to $1,500 when you purchase certain energy-efficient home products. But if you're planning on going green, you had better get moving, says Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports. "All the tax credits expire at the end of 2010," she says. "So this is the year to do a lot of those things because Uncle Sam is going to help you pay for it." To assist consumers who are considering making these upgrades, U.S. News spoke with a number of experts to compile a list of 10 Great Green Home Improvements for 2010. 1. Energy-efficiency audit: Before you can make your home more energy efficient, you need to know where you currently stand. A so-called energy audit, in which an energy professional inspects your home to determine where efficiencies can be created, is a great way for homeowners to figure out which parts of their property need attention. "That is the very first step that any homeowner should take," says Karen Thull of the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance. "[An energy-efficiency audit] is a great way to kind of measure where there are inefficiencies." Homeowners can contact their energy company or a contractor about conducting an energy audit, which may be free in some cases. "I'm an energy guy, but I even called my local utility and had their auditor come out [to inspect my house]," says Randy Martin, the former director of energy-efficiency services at the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. 2. Seal it up: Ensuring that your home is tightly sealed is a key component of energy efficiency. "You can talk about the future of the smart home and all of that," says Meg Matt, the president and CEO of the Association of Energy Services Professionals. "But it really does come back to the basics of sealing what I call 'the leaky house.' " Plugging up the leaks that allow cold air to slip into your house—and drive up your heating bills—is an important first step. Such leaks are often found near doors and windows, but they can also spring up in your basement or attic. Certain materials used to seal these leaks—such as caulk, spray foam, or weatherstripping—can qualify for federal tax credits. "It's something that homeowners can do easily," Thull says. "And there are a lot of different products out there that are able to do [it]." For more specific information on eligibility and the tax benefits associated with different products, visit this site. 3. Insulate upstairs: Adding insulation can help keep your home comfortable year-round. "It turns out that about half of the homes in the United States are underinsulated," Callahan says. "If your home was built before about 1980, you should really look at it to see if you have got the proper level of insulation." For those adding insulation, Callahan recommends starting with an easily accessible part of the house, such as the attic. "In the attic spaces, a lot of times, the insulation over a period of years will reduce down to maybe 3 or 4 inches where you are supposed to have like 10 inches of insulation," says Paul Zuch, the president of Capital Improvements. "A lot of the insulation companies promote going in and blowing an additional 10 inches of insulation in your attic. That really helps." Certain insulation products can qualify for federal tax credits. 4. Seal the ducts: Ducts carry hot or cold air to different parts of homes with forced-air heating and cooling systems. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that roughly a fifth of this air escapes through leaks. To address this headache, consumers can use duct sealant to repair leaks in exposed ducts, like those in an attic or basement. Kuperszmid Lehrman recommends that homeowners have their ducts insulated as well. "If they don't have insulation, you should add the insulation," she says. "And because that is going to be a project where you are going to need to do it in places that are going to be hard to reach, that's probably a project where you are going to want to hire somebody." 5. Programmable thermostat: Another way to cut down on energy costs is a programmable thermostat, Callahan says. These devices—which can be found for less than $30—help prevent homeowners from wasting energy. For example, a homeowner could use this device to program the downstairs heat to lower by 15 degrees at 11 p.m., when the family is in bed, and return to its normal temperature at 6 a.m. "A programmable thermostat allows you to set back the temperature pretty significantly when you are not in the home or if you are asleep," Callahan says. "They save about 10 percent on your heating bills and your cooling bills in the summer—so they pay for themselves literally in a matter of months." 6. Energy-efficient windows: Replacing old, leaky windows with higher-efficiency models can also make your home greener. Zuch recommends that consumers buy wood windows instead of aluminum-framed models, which can allow hot or cold air to pass through more readily. "Wood windows are great because wood is a natural insulator," Zuch says. "It just doesn't allow heat and cold to move through the frame." Energy-efficient windows typically have two panes of glass filled with a gas that works to slow down the heat that passes through it, Zuch says. Qualified energy-efficient windows are eligible for a federal tax credit, but installation costs are not included. 7. Energy-efficient doors: Certain higher-efficiency door models also can qualify for a tax break from Uncle Sam. When looking for energy efficiency, avoid hollow metal doors, Kuperszmid Lehrman says. "Any kind of hollow door is going to be terrible because the air is going to infiltrate right through," she says. Instead, look for a door of insulated steel, fiberglass, or wood. If you'd prefer that a portion of the door be glass, look for energy-efficient components. "If you are going to go for glass, you want to make sure that you get the same sort of insulating features that you would look for in a window." 8. Add storm windows: Storm windows can be a lower-cost alternative to a full-blown window replacement project. "Storm windows are a very inexpensive way to increase the energy efficiency of your current windows," Kuperszmid Lehrman says. But she cautions that the project makes financial sense only if a homeowner's current windows are in good condition, since rotting or leaky windows would need to be replaced sooner or later anyway. "If your interior windows are in good shape, then [installing storm windows is] a quick way to increase your energy efficiency without going through the expense and the mess of ripping out your current windows," she says. Certain storm windows and doors can qualify for a federal tax credit, but installation costs are not included. 9. Energy-efficient heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system: Replacing an outdated heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system with more energy-efficient models can also lower your monthly energy bills. But because the project can be quite expensive, Kuperszmid Lehrman suggests that homeowners take this step only as a last resort. Before considering this project, it's essential to make sure your home is as well sealed and insulated as possible. "If you upgrade your HVAC system but your house is still leaking, you still are going to use an enormous amount of energy," she said. Only homeowners who have properly sealed homes but old and unreliable heating and cooling equipment should invest in a new HVAC system, Kuperszmid Lehrman says. "I wouldn't call somebody to replace your heating system in the dead of winter," she says. "I would do some research and then call them when people aren't calling them for the emergency calls." Certain heating and cooling products can qualify for federal tax credits. 10. High-efficiency water heaters: These can drive down home energy costs as well. "Water heating makes up anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the annual energy usage in a home," says Steve Koep of Marathon Water Heaters. High-efficiency water heaters conserve energy by keeping water hot for longer than traditional water heaters. "You start saving money on a monthly basis, and that technology will generally pay for itself in anywhere from three to five years," Koep says. Certain water heaters can qualify for federal tax credits. By Luke Mullins,Posted: February 11, 2010 Scott's Contracting GREEN BUILDER, St Louis "Renewable Energy" Missouri.http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com, contact scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com for additional information

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