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    2015
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Composite Materials: Get More Life Out of Your Home’s Exterior

Composite Materials: Get More Life Out of Your Home’s Exterior

You have to admire the exterior of your home – it has a difficult job!  It has to protect the inside and outside from the cold and dampness of winter, moisture and decay brought on by heavy rains, insect invasions, and the blast-furnace heat and humidity of a good old Washington summer.  And, it has to look good doing it.

You can do a lot to help – by choosing the right materials.  Over the past 25+ years, we’ve worked on just about every style of DC-area home built in the past 100 years and we’ve learned a thing or two about materials that will protect your home and give it great curb appeal at the same time.

Composite materials are a great consideration. These include three basic types: recycled plastic with wood fiber, recycled plastic (such as soda bottles and grocery bags), and cementitious products.  Many are formed to look exactly like wood and, depending on the brand, you can’t tell the difference even from inches away. They look great.  Some composites are designed to last 50 years.

If you are planning to update the outside of your home, here are some applications for composite materials: decking, windows, doors, trim and frames, posts and railings, rakes, soffits — and, of course, siding.

Siding:

  • If you have an older home, you may have aluminum siding. It tends to dent and oxidize easily.  It is quickly being phased out.
  • Vinyl is a good value and has more curb appeal than aluminum but it can also fade and warp.
  • Redwood and cedar look great but, over time, they may incur high maintenance costs.
  • Masonite is an outdated and inexpensive option that should be avoided – it rots and expands with moisture.
  • Stucco can look good but presents difficulties in ventilating behind it. Today, you can use concrete panels made to look like stucco that perform better.
  • Stone/Brick: Applying a real masonry product to a home’s exterior is attractive and durable, but can be very expensive.  Many synthetic products are equally appealing and even feel like real stone. Cementitious siding is long-lasting, durable and available in numerous color and textures.  James Hardie is one of the brands we like.

Railings and posts:

  • FOXCRAFT is frequently asked to update worn and rotted wood posts and rails on decks and porches.  We suggest wraps made of composite materials.  They look attractive and require virtually no maintenance for decades.

    Two brands of composites we like for use in this region are Versatex and AZEK, especially for decking, railings and outdoor porch floors.

Shutters:

  • Many of the materials listed above are appropriate for shutters. You want shutters to keep their color and shape for years to come.  Composites are best for this.

Roofing:

  • Popular and durable upgrades to asphalt shingle roofing include both composite materials that look like real slate, and also metal roofing.  Real slate is an elegant roofing material and can last more than 150 years.  But real stone is heavy, expensive, and becoming so rare that it’s hard to find reliable supplies and capable installers.  Metal roofing is a fantastic material, but has significant cost and aesthetic implications.
  • Synthetic stone tiles are good substitutes for the real thing.  Synthetic slate can be made from rubber (even recycled tires), plastic, or a combination of both.
  • Synthetic slate is about 1/3 cheaper than real stone, much lighter (no need for additional structural support) and is typically guaranteed for 50 years vs. 30 years for asphalt shingles. It does not have all of the color and pattern variations of real slate, and you will need to evaluate the visual impact it will have on your home.

Costs:

  • Many composite materials can be very cost-competitive with wood and other traditional materials even in the short term.  But in the long term, composites have some traditional materials beat.  Composites need almost no maintenance and can last several times longer.  Depending on your budget and how long you plan to live in your home, we recommend that you at least consider composites when upgrading your home’s exterior.View our entire newsletter
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