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June 2014

Home Exterior – More Than Window Dressing

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5967246When you’re shopping for a new Edmonton home, the inside of the house gets all the attention. You ask how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has and when the kitchen was last remodelled. You might also ask when the last time the roof was replaced, and that’s a good place to start. Our point here is that what’s happening outside is as important if not more so than the interior finishes. To help keep you from buying a whole heap of trouble, here are our thoughts on what you should look for to see if the home is well maintained on the inside AND the outside.

Why it’s what’s OUTSIDE that counts

Too often we walk into a house, see a newly remodelled interior and fall in love with the oak floors and the granite counter tops. That’s what house-flippers are counting on! Though interior finishes can be expensive, they’re nowhere near as hard to address as the stuff on the outside. Yes, finishing touches like landscaping are nice, but those too are often used to hide or at least detract attention from what’s really going on outside. Most home owners take a sense of pride in their house, which means they have taken care of the exterior of the house as well as they have cared for the interior.

Look up, Look down

Once you get serious about purchasing a home, you may want to enlist the services of a home inspector to check the major systems of the home. But that’s not a practical plan when you’re just starting your search and need to narrow down the possible selections. Though our blog posts on spring maintenance tips (Part One, Part Two) are meant for a home you already own, you can also borrow some of the information for a preliminary look at a prospective new home. For example, have a look at the roof from the ground with a pair of binoculars to check for signs of wear and tear. Look around any masonry for signs of leaks like efflorescence. Check out the parging. Is it chipped or cracked? Maybe it’s nothing, but maybe it’s not. While you’re upstairs checking out the new soaker tub, have a look out the window to see if it looks like any debris has been cleared from the eaves troughs.

Maintaining the house shows TLC

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive inspection, just a check for signs that it has been well maintained. It’s a lot harder to hide signs of neglect of the exterior of the house with a fresh coat of paint. Of course you shouldn’t base your final decision on a cursory glance around the house, but you may be able to move on to greener pastures pretty quickly once you know how to look beyond the window dressing. Would you like more tips on maintaining the house of your dreams once you have bought it? Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Image courtesy of phasinphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing an Exterior Finish for your Edmonton Home

By | Home Improvement, Parging | No Comments

Parge.ca Blog - Choosing an Exterior Finish for your Edmonton HomeWith so many options to make your house as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, it’s hard to know where to start when choosing an exterior finish for your home. Before you can decide which exterior finish is the right one for your home or business, it helps to know more about what various finishes can do besides make your home look better. Let us be your guide.

Parging

Parging uses a masonry-based mortar to protect vulnerable parts of a building from the elements, like where the foundation meets the ground. It’s a really versatile finish that can cover cracks or water damage and seal small air leaks to improve your home’s energy efficiency. While parging is traditionally applied at the base of the house to protect the foundation, it can be applied to vertical stone, brick, or concrete surface.

Acrylic Stucco

Traditional stucco has been around for centuries. It’s beautiful to behold, but it’s also on the finicky side. For an effective seal, it can only be applied when the weather conditions are perfect and it requires time to cure between coats. Newer acrylic stucco finishes still require skilled application, but they’re a little less vulnerable to the elements. A brand new acrylic stucco finish can last for decades.

EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System)

There is no denying the charm of old houses. There is also no denying the fact that some days it can feel colder inside than outside in drafty old house. A new exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) can help keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside, and it looks fantastic as it does its job. Any negative reports you have heard about stucco, and especially about EIFS, are usually due to improper installation. If you choose this exterior finish, make sure your contractor knows what they’re doing by asking all the right questions.

Stone Veneer

If you know you want to change the look of your home but you don’t want it to stand out too much from the older homes on your street, stone veneer might be right for you. Available in natural and manufactured stone, stone veneer can be dry-stacked or mortared depending on what’s right for your home. Did you know there are parts of the Coliseum in Rome where you can see the original stone veneer? If it can last through the ages like that, you can be sure it is durable enough to withstand Alberta’s climate. It will look as good 50 years from now as it did the day it was installed.

Exterior finishes do more than make your home look good. The right finish will be as functional as it is attractive. We have been providing expert parging and stucco services in Edmonton, Alberta since 2007. Feel free to call us for a consult any time to help choose the right exterior finish for your home. For general information and home maintenance tips follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Questions to Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line – Part Two

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1403026012“They” always say be sure to evaluate any contractor you hire thoroughly to make sure they’re up to the job you have in mind. As we discussed in the first post in the series, it’s important to ask the right questions to make sure you’re hiring the most qualified company or person to do the job. Here is the second half of our list:

6. Who handles the application for any necessary permits?

Municipal building codes are tricky beasts. You should reasonably expect any contractor you are considering to know the ins and outs of applying for the necessary permits from your city or township. Failure to obtain the proper permits can leave you with a huge legal mess to clean up long after your job is over. If you get a vague response to ANY question you ask about securing permits, keep looking.

7. Who are your primary suppliers?

You can tell a lot about a company by the way they treat the other people they do business with, so if their suppliers have a long list of grievances about unpaid bills, you know you’re not dealing with the cream of the crop. Look for a company that treats everyone professionally.

8. What is the estimated job start and end date?

Even a small job around your house is somewhat of an inconvenience for you. You have to be home at least at the start of the job to make sure the work crew arrives and has everything they need. It’s not unreasonable to ask when the job will fit into the schedule and how long they think it will take. If it’s a quick, one-day exterior job they may be a little vague with an answer like “in the next four to six weeks” and that’s OK, but if it’s a major project that will have people in and out of your house you want a straight answer.

9. What guarantees or warranties do you offer on your work or materials?

Reputable contractors stand by their work. For example, on our parging and stucco jobs, our work is backed by a five-year warranty on materials and labour.

10. What are your payment terms?

Some companies require payment up front, others ask for a deposit for materials with the rest due upon completion, and all of this will vary based on the size of the project. You’ll want to ask in the interview stage to avoid an awkward conversation on the first day of the job.

There you have it, the top 10 questions you should ask any contractor before signing on the dotted line. Don’t forget to go back and read part one of the series. Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for local construction news and before and after pictures of our parging jobs.

10 Questions to Ask Before Signing on the Dotted Line – Part One

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3295368“They” always say be sure to evaluate any contractor you hire thoroughly to make sure they’re up to the job you have in mind. That’s nice to know, but what exactly goes into the vetting process? If you don’t know anything about, say, parging and stucco, how do you make sure you’re selecting the most qualified candidate? Obviously in this case you make sure by hiring us, but you already knew that!

By asking the right questions, you can make sure you choose the right contractor for every job in and around your house. Here is the first half of our list:

1. How long have you been in business?

Dig as deeply as you can into their business history. Hint: the internet is a great place to start checking. Though every business was once a new business, if it is a brand new company your contractor should be able to tell you their work history prior to striking out on their own.

2. Who will be on-site each day?

If your job has been scheduled properly, there will be a senior team member overseeing the job. You want to know who the project lead will be so you know who to call if something goes wrong or to discuss job progress. Sometimes the business is owner-operated and sometimes the owners take a more hands-off approach. We think owner-operated is the way to go, but just make sure an experienced team member will be on site at all times.

3. Do you sub-contract your work?

Sometimes reputable contractors have more work on their hands than they can handle so they sub-contract work to trusted partners. This is probably OK in most cases, as long as the contractor you initially hired is going to stand by the quality of the work and the same insurance and warranty terms apply to their subs.

4. Can I have your itemized quote in writing?

Beware of back of the envelope calculations to price your job. It’s perfectly OK for your contractor to need to go back to the office to figure things out before following up with a written estimate. Make sure the quote spells out *exactly* what work is to be done and that each item includes a dollar amount.

5. May I speak with some of your past clients?

If the answer to this question is at all cagey, that’s a HUGE red flag. Quality contractors are proud of their past work and love to show it off. If they can’t provide contact information for a couple of past clients to serve as references, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

There you have it, part one of the 10 questions you should ask any contractor before signing on the dotted line. Stay tuned for the rest of the list coming next week. In the meantime, be sure to Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for all the latest news and before and after views of our parging projects.

UPDATE: Part Two of our series is LIVE NOW!

4 Ways to Boost the Curb Appeal of Your Edmonton Home

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Boost Curb Appeal with Parging in EdmontonYou don’t need us to tell you that Alberta is booming. Every month, thousands of Edmonton homes are listed for sale, each one with a seller that hopes it’s the one the right buyer chooses as their next new home. With so many new listings every month, it’s hard to decide which simple, inexpensive things you should do to get your house on a buyer’s short list. When homebuyers are scrolling through listings, the exterior appearance of the home is one of the first things they will use to include or exclude a house for consideration.

Here are a few tips to help you boost the curb appeal of your Edmonton home:

Makeshift Gardening

You have already decided to sell the house, so odds are good you’re not interested in the effort that goes into mature plant growth. That’s OK, if you keep the lawn freshly mowed, clean up any obvious weeds and give your walkway a good hosing down, you’ll be well ahead of the game. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, your local garden centre can help you out with some interesting plants and containers for your garden. You benefit from all of the greenery of a big garden, with WAY less digging and dirt under your nails.

Light Painting Projects

Have you had a good look at the trim around your windows? What about any wooden furniture you have in the yard? Obviously, you don’t want to take on a major house-painting project at this point, but a weekend spent freshening up noticeably cracked or peeling paint can really help give the whole house a fresh appearance. Consider it time well spent if you move that freshly painted lawn furniture to your new house. One less thing to worry about!

Hardware Upgrade

Can people even find your house with that faded house number over the front door? What about your mailbox? Has it seen better days? These are small details, but ones that speak to the overall care and attention that has been paid to your house over the years. Changing or even just polishing these hardware pieces can really make your house shine like a diamond in the rough.

Fresh Parging and Other Exterior Finishes

We did say you’re likely not interested in a major project at this time, but do give some thought to one we think is especially important: parging. Cracked or chipped parging at the base of your home is ugly, no question. But it can also immediately make prospective buyers wonder if there is a problem with the foundation. Why take that chance? A fresh professionally applied coat of parging will increase your Edmonton home’s curb appeal, and its value!

Making your house stand out in the crowd can really pay off when it comes to getting onto a prospective buyer’s short list. With any luck, the owner of your next house has put in the same effort, allowing you to just move in and enjoy.

Want more ideas to help improve the look of your Edmonton home? Be sure to join our online communities on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook!

 

Photo Credit: Renjith Krishnan from freedigitalphotos.net

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