Give the exterior of your home a fresh look with durable and attractive new materials using vivid colors that pop
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That old saying is true for you and for your home.
All too often, homeowners dwell on how a house looks and feels on the inside and neglect the outside.
A new granite countertop may add sparkle to your kitchen, but maintaining your home’s exterior appearance—or curb appeal—also is important to your enjoyment of the place where you spend most of your time and have invested much of your money.
According to Lorin Miller, president of Miller Custom Exteriors, pride of ownership motivates many people to improve their home’s curb appeal.
“They want a house that immediately looks good when they’re entertaining family and friends,” Miller says.
Others want to give their home a fresh, updated appearance.
“People get tired of the way a house looks, but if they change the siding or install a cultured stone product, they’ll get a totally different exterior,” says Miller.
Miller Custom Exteriors has been in the home improvement business since 1978. While its renovation and remodeling projects are mostly in rural areas and small towns, the family-owned company also does jobs in the suburbs.
“Our goal isn’t just to cover up the outside of a house, but to create something that stands out,” Miller says. “We want to give a house character and make it unique in the neighborhood.”
A few years ago, the work his company did earned a contractor of the year award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The Victorian-era home’s makeover involved new roofing, siding and windows.
“We took the house back to its original appearance as much as possible, but used modern materials,” says Miller. “It’s a good example of how combining the right colors and style creates curb appeal.”
The house is light gray with burgundy and charcoal gray architectural features, with seamless steel siding on its walls and vinyl shakes in the gables.
Similar materials were used for a historic renovation of a Queen Anne house, which sports colors of russet red, classic blue, charcoal gray and almond.
“Color is an expedient way to add curb appeal,” Miller says. “The better siding products available today have no issues with darker colors fading, and there are lots of color choices for siding and trim pieces. We’re no longer limited to neutrals like white, beige or clay.”
But homeowners want more than a house with a pretty face. Sprucing up the outside also presents an opportunity to say goodbye to chores such as caulking worn-out windows and painting old siding.
“With so many limitations on everyone’s time today, people don’t want to spend their free time maintaining their home’s exterior,” Miller says.
Many customers choose a galvanized steel product with a baked-on finish.
“It’s stronger and lasts longer than vinyl siding,” says Miller.
Since each length is custom-cut on the job site, seamless steel siding fits a house exactly and has no unsightly splices or gaps. In addition to its durability and good looks, steel siding is manufactured from recycled material and can be recycled.
Because vinyl siding is relatively inexpensive and available in numerous colors, finishes and profiles, it has been America’s number-one exterior cladding for decades. However, its quality varies, and thin, cheap vinyl siding eventually undermines curb appeal by sagging or losing its luster, Miller says. He prefers to use a thick vinyl siding that is sturdy, impact-resistant and made in extra-long lengths to minimize seams and splices.
“Installation is really important because if vinyl siding is put on right, it lays straight and flush and won’t blow off,” Miller says.
Since it consumes so much space, the roof can enhance or diminish a home. An attractive roof in good condition increases curb appeal. Stained or missing shingles are both an eyesore and a red flag for a house in disrepair.
According to a report from the National Association of Realtors, new roofing ranks highest among exterior projects appealing to home buyers. A roof that keeps out the elements and keeps up appearances protects homeowners and their property investment.
Asphalt shingles are the nation’s most common residential roofing material. They can last for years, are available at different price points and offer design options ranging from traditional three-tab shingles to dimensional shingles to shingles that mimic wood shakes and slate.
Miller acknowledges asphalt shingles remain a popular choice for renovations, but his company also has installed hundreds of steel roofs on homes. Metal roofing costs about twice as much as asphalt, but lasts longer.
The steel roofing Miller uses has a hidden fastening system and is made in eye-catching patterns that look like pricier shakes and slate.
“They’re perfect for homeowners wanting something impressive,” he says.
When replacing windows, the frame is mostly a matter of style, Miller says.
Vinyl manufacturers offer numerous exterior colors and even wood-grain finishes to match interior trim.
“About 80 percent of people want white windows,” says Miller. “Their thinking is that white goes with everything.”
Trading drafty, dilapidated windows for modern, energy-efficient ones not only boosts curb appeal, but makes a house more comfortable and less expensive to heat or cool.
If homeowners can afford the upgrade, Miller recommends triple-pane windows.
“They’re way more efficient and help with noise reduction, too,” he says.
Miller reminds customers not to forget their front door.
“The entry door is one of the most important aspects of curb appeal,” he says. “It’s the first thing people see. Everything about the door—color, design, even hardware—forms their opinion of a house.”
Wood doors lend sophistication, but because they are costly and require care, many homeowners opt for steel or fiberglass.
Generally, steel doors are less expensive and better for painting because of their smooth surface. Fiberglass doors—which can be made with wood-grain textures duplicating mahogany, cherry or oak—look great stained or painted.
Steel and fiberglass doors are virtually maintenance free and are available in many styles and decorative glass designs.
Doors with tight-fitting frames, energy-efficient foam cores and glass inserts have higher price tags, but look nicer, function better and survive longer than bargain-basement products.
A dazzling front door is also an asset when it is time to sell your home. The National Association of Realtors included new steel and fiberglass doors in its report on projects with maximum buyer appeal.
“One thing that will never change is the importance of curb appeal because it serves as the first impression of the home,” says NAR President Tom Salomone. “If buyers don’t think a home is attractive when driving by, chances are they won’t ask a realtor to see more.”