How to fix up the house outside to make it more inviting

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

In judging the appearance of a house, one can quickly and easily determine whether the total effect is successful or unsuccessful; seldom is there an area in between.

The picture is either colorful and inviting, or else it's drab and uninviting.

Every key element related to the outside of the house is involved: from the front sidewalk to the chimney top, from curb to rear fence, from the natural setting to man-made improvements that make the out-of-doors as appealing and useful as the rooms within the home itself.

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With this in mind, just how does one approach improving the outside of a home?

What changes should be made? Which ones will improve the value of the home when it's time to sell it and move away? Where can you get the necessary help if you don't know exactly what should or shouldn't be done? Do you have to get city permit approval?

Asking these questions and attempting to obtain answers is the only way to start. Disregarding them can only lead to costly and unsatisfactory results.

Often a simple new paint job can do wonders for the exterior of your home. One of the best examples one can point to is the transformation of San Francisco's Victorian houses.

Tract houses, colonials, Cape Cods, and other home designs are susceptible to the same exciting rebirth.

The elegance of older homes should be retained in most instances, with attention focused on highlighting the key elements of the design in coordination with site improvements.

A home's front door can say a lot about the family living there. The entrance may be cold and forbidding, or it can offer a welcome even before the door is opened.

If your home entrance doesn't have the desired personality, you can change it. But first consider the entranceway, the approach, the planting, the lighting , the walkways, the overhang or porch setting, sidelights, columns, and other decorative elements. They should blend together as one setting, of course, in keeping with the overall architectural design of your home.

Treatment of the entryway (stoop, deck, porch) and entry walkway can add distinction to the house and set it apart from identical or similar houses in a tract development.

Successful utilization of this approach to remodeling can be far less expensive than trying to redo the house facade itself.

It is also well to keep in mind that appearance is just one of the considerations in improving the exterior of your home. Other effects of redesigning an entrance may offer even greater advantages, such as privacy; protection against the sun, wind, or passing showers; and the new relationship of a house to its surroundings.

Two other major undertakings can provide an almost total new look to your home: siding and roofing.

Siding can add new dimensions to the looks and efficiency of an old home, while roofing on any residence, regardless of style or location, will have a great effect on the overall appearance of the house.

In selecting new siding today, you can choose from more than 500 styles, some considerably more maintenance-free than others.

Basic types include wood and wood-based materials, metal, plastic, masonry, and mineral composition. Each has its own characteristics and may be found in most locales. Siding can be obtained in many patterns and can be finished naturally, stained, or painted.

Roofing materials on the market today include common roll roofing, asphalt shingles, slate, terne metal, ceramic tiles, wood shingles and shakes, aluminum shingles, and built-up roofing assemblies.

Selection of a given type involves both the roof structure and its design. For example, a flat roof should not be covered with anything other than built-up roofing, while commonly pitched roofs can generally be surfaced with any of the other types of finish roofing.

Many architects and designers suggest that the exterior color treatment of the home should always start with the roof. They point out that the roof is usually the largest unbroken visual expanse and its color will be obvious.

Roofs last a long time, so the color must be acceptable for a long time.

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