Points to check out when buying new siding for your house

Extensive remodeling of a house may call for new siding.Maybe you want cypress, cedar, aluminum, or vinyl. Whatever you choose should complement the design of your house and be installed with some type of insulation.

Kendall Cochran, a Tennessee building contractor who specializes in siding and does a lot of traveling across the country to inspect building trends, advises: "Beware of fast talkers who profess to be experts on siding.

"Many homeowners are told the R-factor of certain materials is very high. They are led to believe all sorts of lies."

Mr. Cochran explains that most aluminum and vinyl sidings should sell for $ 150-$175 per square (10x10 feet), including insulation and installation. He says that he's seen many contractors charge three times too much.

"They pay exactly what I do for it, plus a small shipping charge," he insists.

"Sidings can be insulated different ways," explains Mr. Cochran. "Some kinds have a foam insulation bonded to the siding itself. Aluminum siding often comes with insulation that drops in behind it as each row is completed."

Mr. Cochran's favorite insulation is a foam-core sheeting that "folds out like an accordion." It's easy to work with and it can be nailed up behind aluminum, redwood, cedar, or any other exterior surface, he asserts, adding that insulation is relatively cheap for the contractor to buy (about 10 to 20 cents a square foot) and they will not charge homeowners much more to install it.

Certainly, any siding's worth and beauty lies in a good tight fit.

"Warm air can leak out of a house around plug-ins and go straight to the outside," says Mr. Cochran. "Faulty seams can admit moisture, too."

Steel siding, which usually is guaranteed for 40 years, is used in states where hail storms are common.It has a zinc coating to inhibit rust. It is by far the best choice over aluminum, but it does cost more.

Wood sidings naturally insulate some, but the insulation behind it is the key to energy savings. If your house needs exterior remodeling, it makes sense to install extra insulation.

Polystyrene panels, which come in 4x8-foot sheets, can be applied before installing brick or stone. They're easy to put up yourself and can be cut and measured just like sheets of indoor paneling.

A new look for your home's exterior may call for new exterior doors or storm doors. Try to get solid wood doors or those with an insulating foam core. Many decorative storm doors with insulating cores qualify for an energy credit on your federal income-tax return.

Tight-fitting doors for an attached garage create a solid dead-air space to help insulate. Wooden garage doors are heavier to raise by hand, especially if they have several large panes of glass, so you might want to buy a garage door with an insulated core because it's lighter.

Many exterior doors and garage doors that are made of nonwood materials are actually more attractive and many are almost maintenance-free.

Exterior shutters that can close over windows at night are available in easy-to-finish pine at many home-improvement centers and are ideal for homes in areas that have solid stretches of bad weather and snowstorms. They should be at least 1 1/4-inch thick and have double-doweled corners to avoid warping.

Both louvered and recessed-panel designs are on the market, and they double as decorative shutters as well.

Installing a new roof doesn't sound like a project that could save energy. But cedar shakes, though not advertised as a good insulating material, do have certain advantages when nailed together to form a roof (remember, they can be used on exterior walls, too).

Because they're wood, they insulate to some degree, and they form a textured surface that discourages cooling of the roof by winter winds.

Their uneven surface traps tiny dead-air pockets between the shakes and your former roof (which doesn't have to be removed).

Upgrading of your house should include landscaping, if you can afford it.

Trees and other vegetation can be planted to cut energy costs. It also increases the value of your property. Real-estate experts say one tree can add best windbreaks.Leafy deciduous trees help to shade an area in the hot weather. They also help to cool an area by drawing water from the ground and evaporating it.

When the leaves are gone in the winter, the sun can get through.

Avoid planting shade trees on the south side of the house. Much warmth is gained from the sun on the south side in winter. Plant them on the east and west and try to work in a hedgerow or some evergreens on the north.

A professional landscaper can plan it in detail if you want to sink a lot of money into the project.

The maximum distance from your house to a windbreak should not be more than five times the building's height, measured from the leeward wall. If you plan to plant trees on the north side, the leeward wall is the south wall of your house.

The ideas used in this series are intended to get your imagination working. Try to come up with more suggestions yourself. A good place to get ideas is the public library. Even if you aren't planning any improvements now, remember the basic concept for future reference.

If you can lower your utility bills and beautify your home at the same time, your money is invested two ways.

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