WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CERTAINTEED AND JAMES HARDIE FIBER CEMENT SIDING PRODUCTS?

Fiber cement is Fiber cement, right? So what is the difference from one brand to another?  Well, Certainteed Weatherboard and James Hardie fiber cement siding have some things in common. Both are very durable, rot proof, fire rated and impervious to wood boring insects. They are priced about the same and both come in an array of shapes, pre-finished colors and textures. They are manufactured by reputable companies who have been around for a long time. Now here’s where they differ:

  1. Warranty: James Hardie offers a 30 year limited warranty on their primed lap siding.  Certainteed offers a 50 year limited transferrable warranty.
  2. Appearance: CertainTeed, in my opinion, does the best job in the industry of duplicating the look of real wood.  The pattern is a deeper, more authentic wood-grain pattern than James Hardie.  You will find far fewer boards with duplicated wood grain patterns with Certainteed than with James Hardie.
  3. Pre Finished Stained siding: CertainTeed offers pre-finished stained siding available in 6 Premium colors.  “Get the beauty of stained Cedar without the drawbacks of wood.”
  4. Environmental Friendliness: Certainteed is committed to “Green Building”.  Certainteed uses 30% recycled fly ash as a binder in their boards.  Fly ash is a material that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. They also manufacture using recycled water, recycle their waste verses filling landfills, and are recognized by ENERGY STAR for achievements towards reducing greenhouse emissions through energy efficiency.
  5. Health Factors: James Hardie siding is largely composed of silica. When cut a fine dust containing this silica is released into the air.  Breathing silica dust can cause silicosis, a disease affecting the lungs and respiratory system.
  6. Durability: Certainteed better resists the effects of heavy rain, high humidity and extreme cold temperatures.  It has a 60% higher interlaminate bond strength compared to James Hardie meaning it will not delaminate.  This feature is guaranteed in Certainteed’s warranty.
  7. Impact Resistance: Certainteed siding has been proven to be less likely to fracture upon impact than James Hardie siding.
  8. Primer Finish: Certainteed uses FiberTect sealant which actually penetrates into the boards and bonds with the fiber cement material, protecting the siding from unwanted moister.  The FiberTect also bonds better with paint giving you a longer lasting finish.  You can wait up to 2 years before painting new CertainTeed siding versus 6 months with James Hardie.
  9. Over 100 years of building products leadership: CertainTeed is one of the nation’s largest and most respected building products manufactures.

Fiber Cement siding is an excellent investment for your home regardless of the brand you choose.

 

SIDING PRICES, WINDOW PRICES, ROOFING PRICES, HOW DO YOU COMPARE THE QUOTES?

If you have ever solicited quotes for a home improvement project, you were probably more confused about what you were paying for than when you started. The more quotes you received the larger the variance between proposals.

Pricing is in the details. Regardless of the type of project; siding replacement, window replacement, roofing replacement, or any other home improvement; the price on the quote really doesn’t mean anything without knowing the specifications of ALL the work to be performed. For example, “replace all siding on the home” is not a specification. Describing the process of replacing the siding on your home would be specific, and would contain a list of specifications. For example: Remove all existing siding and place in contractor provided jobsite dumpster. Does “replace all siding on your home” include removal of the old siding? Probably. But it may not include the disposal of the waste. All siding manufacturers require a moisture barrier (house wrap) between the structure and the siding. Would this be included in “replace all siding on your home”? Very doubtful. What about inside corner boards, outside corner boards, window trim, window flashing, and cornice molding?

Window replacement pricing can be just as confusing and sometimes misleading. A $189 window does not meet the same specifications as a more expensive window. In fact, it does not qualify to meet the Federal Energy Star qualifications. Replacement Windows are manufactured using many different materials including: vinyl, cellular pvc, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum clad wood. A double pane window can be produced using single strength or double strength glass for each pane. The glass can then be coated with a low e coating. The low e coating can be applied to one or both panes of the glass. If it is applied to both panes, it is typically referred to as low e2. The low e coating will lessen the ultra violet sun rays and reduce the heat infiltration in the home. The glass coating efficiency will be reflected in the Solar Heat Gain Coefficent (SGHC) rating. The air space between the 2 panes of glass can be filled with a gas with more density than air such as argon or krypton which increases the insulating value of the glass and would be reflected in the U-Value rating. The other things that can affect window replacement prices are grids. Grids can be installed between the 2 panes of glass which is referred to as GBG (grids between the glass); installed on the interior and exterior of the glass which is referred to as SDL (simulated divided lite); or the grids can separate multiple panes of glass which is referred to as TDL (true divided lite). Again, pricing is in the details.

There are two ways a contractor can earn your business. He can try to be the lowest price or the best value. The lowest price typically comes with a large amount of risk. A low price typically means the following: low overhead (lack of capital, needs large down payment), no business location (moves around a lot), no workers compensation insurance, no general liability insurance, no business license, and no contractor’s license. The more items on the above list that applies, the greater the risk to the home owner. The best value is typically achieved when the customer knows exactly what they are going to receive (detailed specifications) from a company that has solid reputation with a history. They will supply a large reference list of previous customers in your area, require little or no down payment, provide proof of insurance with a contact and phone number, proof of business license, and a state contractor’s license.

The “highest price” is the perceived diminished value you will receive from not necessarily the most expensive quote. That’s right. If what you think I described above will result in the most expensive quote, you are wrong. Pricing for all reputable contractors is basic economics. The more material and labor you purchase, the lower the costs you will be able to obtain. Obviously the more material a company purchases, will enable them to negotiate larger discounts from the distributors. In fact, they may be able to buy directly from the manufacturers. Labor is the same way. Do you think a roofing crew would prefer to work 3 days a week on average or 5-6 days on average at a little lower rate? Now don’t start the “you subcontract your work?” It does not matter whether you subcontract your labor or if you have employees doing the work, the people who are good at what they do, highly specialized in their field, want to be paid on their performance, a per job rate, not an hourly rate!

The benefit to you is access to the highest quality craftsmanship, name brand products with superior warranties at the most competitive prices. Remember, pricing is in the details. Don’t make assumptions or rely on verbal commitments. Keep us all (contractors) accountable. The more you keep us accountable to you, the customer, the more we have to account for each other. The greater the competition leads to higher quality materials and workmanship at more competitive prices. But this cannot be obtained without THE DETAILS!

 

HOW CAN I TELL WHAT TYPE OF SIDING IS ON MY HOME?

Dating back to pre-historic times, man discovered that shelter is an essential part of living. The Caveman had caves, the American Indians had tee-pees and huts, Kings and Queens have had castles of stone, and the list goes on. Well, those of us that are fortunate enough to own a home might one day need to know what type of cladding is protecting our house. Stone and brick cladding are easily identified.  There are some of us, however, that have different types of cladding other than stone or brick. Here are some other types of cladding and their characteristics so you can tell what is on your house.

1.)     Stucco and Synthetic Stucco—

Real stucco siding is a mixture of cement and inert materials like sand, water, and lime, and is installed directly onto a wall after the proper preparations have been made to the wall surface. It goes on like a thick lathe and is generally tinted so that it doesn’t have to be painted for a long time. It is one of the oldest forms of cladding and is impervious to rot and insect damage if installed correctly. If you knock on the side of the house, it will sound solid and not hollow.

Synthetic Stucco was introduced in the 1950′s by European builders shortly after World War 2 as an acceptible solution to repair buildings that were damaged during the war. It made a come-back during the 1980′s in the U.S. as a less expensive alternative to real stucco. Synthetic Stucco consists of three layers. The exterior layer is made of a textured finish coat, which is the side that you see on the home, the middle layer consists of a cement base coat and a glue that is reinforced with a fiberglass mesh which is applied to the inner layer…a foam insulation board. This is the final layer, and is usually glued directly to the sheathing of the house. This material was originally produced with the intention of attaching directly onto stone or brick. When it started being applied to wood structures, is when the problems with moisture and rot damage occured. EIFUS- (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) is one such sytem that is well known for it’s problems with residential applications. If you have moisture issues concerning stucco, you may see signs of swollen trim around your window and door frames, peeling or blistering paint, or even mold and mildew issues on the exterior finish or even the interior of your home. This too, can be easily identified by knocking on the wall to see if it sounds solid or hollw. If it sounds hollow, it is most likely synthetic stucco. Oftentimes, there will be parts of the house that may have some puncture damages or holes that birds have pecked their way into the wall and made it their home too? Can you see foam inside these places? It’s synthetic stucco!

2)  Wood Siding

Wood siding has been around since there were trees. It is usually pretty easy to pick-out. When stained, it is very easy, as you can see the wood grain textures, imperfections, and even knots. You may also see splintering and splitting, but the board is still intact. Lap siding boards are usually random in length, and are shorter than 16 feet long. Typically the boards are beveled with the bottom edge being thicker than the other to ensure that the boards lap over each other without difficulty. Shingle wood siding has also been a popular siding of the decades for it’s asthetic appeal.  Vertical Panel wood siding is also another type of wood siding, such as Board and Batton, Channel Groove, Tongue and Groove and, the more recent, T-111 and reverese board and batton styles. All of these types of siding can be found in several different species such as cedar, redwood, cypress, pine, and fir. Even though it requires more maintenence than recently introduced products, when properly maintained, wood siding will last a lifetime.

3) Synthetic wood siding

Also referred to as hardboard, pressboard or masonite siding, is mainly comprised of wood fibers, flakes or chips that are held together by glues and resins. This type of siding was extremely popular from the 1980′s to the mid 1990′s as a low cost alternative to other existing house sidings. It is mainly referred to as masonite siding because the company Masonite was the first manufacturer of this type of product. However, there has been several companies that have manufactured this type of product since it was introduced in the 1920′s. There are many different types and styles of this product that have been made into both vertical and horizontal sidings. The best way to tell what type of siding it is, is to go to an unfinished area like the attic, and look on the backside of the board to find the manufacturer’s name or an AHA code (The American Hardboard Association). This will help you determine the manufacturer of the product and where it was made.  Another way is to try and identify specific markings on the exterior grain (if one exists). For instance, the Masonite Brand siding has a waffeled iron texture, Weyerhouser’s has a smoother finish that resembles cork,  and Louisiana Pacific (LP) siding has a distinct knot that is repetitive throughout the board.

4) Asbestos Siding

Asbestos Siding is a type of siding that was introduced in the 1920′s as a fire-proof cladding for buildings and homes that could also resist rot and insects.  Asbestos itself is actually a rock that has an inner-fiberous makeup that looks alot like hair or fur. The first documented use of this material was in the 1800′s as a type of insulation for pipes, and later was used as insulation for buildings and homes. When used as a siding, Asbestos fibers were mixed with Portland Cement and pressed together to form what we know as Asbestos Siding. This type of siding was manufactured up to the late 70′s, until it was deemed as a health risk. Asbestos is actually safe unless inhaled. This happens when the siding is cut or broken. Exposure to this have been known to cause Mesothelioma and Asbestosis of the lungs. The only true way to identify Asbestos siding is to have it tested. It does have some characteristics too look for. It is ususally in a shingle/shake form 12″x24″. It may be smooth, or have a pressed wood-grain pattern on the surface of the board. It usually will have two or three nails at the bottom portion of each panel.  It feels denser to the touch than current fiber-cement siding, and was typically dyed when manufactured so it wouldn’t need to be painted. Efflorescense (chaulking) can commonly be seen on Asbestos siding.  If your house was built around or prior to the late 70′s, has the original siding and seems to be made of cement, it is probably Asbestos Siding.

5) Aluminum Siding

Aluminum siding is pretty easy to identify. It looks very similar to vinyl siding, but metal, and is easily dented. It was a very popular choice of siding in it’s day because of its price, and could be installed directly over existing  wood siding.

6) Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding too, is also pretty easy to identify. It feels like plastic, is dyed the same color throughout and when pushing on the wall of a house, it tends to flex. It also, like masonite siding, is usually labeld by the manufacturer or a manufacturing code on the back side of the siding panel. Vinyl siding is a popular choice of homeowners because of the price, and can be installed over their existing siding. It never needs to be painted. One drawback is that if a piece of siding needs to be replaced,  it can be difficult to find the same manufacturer, style, and color for an exact match. If you are lucky eneough to find that exact piece, the color may not match exactly due to fading of the existing siding. In recent years, manufacturers have introduced Insulated Vinyl Siding as an upgraded product. It is like regular vinyl siding, only it has an insulated foam backing that helps energy costs and also durability.

7) Fiber-Cement Siding

Most people can identify this type of siding because of it’s popularity in recent years. it is more commonly referred to as hardiplank siding. The James Hardie company began producing fiber cement building products in the mid – 1980′s and the most popular being the hardiplank lap siding. Today there are several companies that produce fiber cement siding and building products. Fiber Cement siding was manufactured as a replacement for asbestos siding, which was popular for its attributes of being fire-retardant and rot and insect proof. It is formulated using sand, cement, and cellulose fibers. It is very durable, and can be painted or stained. It also comes in pre-painted or pre-stained versions from different manufacturers. It is available in a wide variety of shapes and styles for siding, trim boards and soffit material. It is generally more expensive than aluminum or vinyl siding, but less expensive than stone or brick cladding. Fiber cement siding can be seen on newer homes built from the late 1980′s to present date.

THE DECLINE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE: A SIGN OF THE TIMES?

It is no secret that our economy has seen better days. I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of people who have lost jobs, homes, cars, and their families over the past few years due to the mere fact of…..MONEY. It makes our world go round. So much so that we are forced to have it. We don’t want it, we need it. We take pride in earning it and spending it.

This love for money, however, creates a double edged sword. Those earning it probably feel that the job they are working doesn’t provide enough if it. This is caused by a number of things. Many have been forced to take lower paying jobs and or secondary jobs to make the ends meet. Those spending it know how hard it is to come by and feel a sense of entitlement to it and may have some walls put up when it comes to using it.

Have you recently been in a position of spending your hard earned money and felt very negative about the experience? As if those who will be taking your money are not appreciative of it? I feel that store clerks and even doctor’s offices should be grateful for my patronage. This feeling leaves me very disappointed most of the time. For instance, I’m excited to have some extra spending money and I walk into a retail store and no one greets me. No one asks me if they can help me or help me find what I’m looking for. I decide to make a purchase and feel as if I’m burdening the person behind the counter checking me out. I’m sorry; did I take you away from Angry Birds or Facebook? Or whatever it was you were doing on your iPhone before I rudely interrupted you to spend my money at your store? I’ve had the same feeling when calling a doctor’s office to make an appointment to, once again, spend my money with them. The person scheduling the appointment seems irritated that I’m calling, doesn’t have any openings that can possibly work with my schedule and could care less. The doctor’s offices view me as a patient, but I’m also a customer….a consumer of their services.

All of this has weighed heavy on my mind lately. I oversee the customer service experience for my company. It is our policy to treat each potential customer with care and each person is treated the same as the next and the one before that. We are honored and thankful to even have you call us and be given an opportunity to earn your business. We will go above and beyond the normal call of duty to accommodate each person and each situation to give every customer the maximum benefit of every dollar spent with us. The fact you chose us to spend your hard earned money with us versus our competitor means a lot to us. All of our associates understand that our customers have a choice and we want them to choose us. Why aren’t other companies doing the same? Why don’t their associates understand that their job is dependent on whether or not I spend my money with the business who writes their check? In the past, I would have blamed this on the teenager behind the counter who was forced to be there by their parents. This isn’t the case anymore. These people are grown men and women, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, grandparents even.

So what is it? I have a few theories. I believe people who are over qualified for their current positions were forced to take lower paying jobs or second jobs due to job loss and pay reductions in the past several years. We have people working retail positions, food chains, convenient store clerks that believe they are over educated, too smart, and too important to be able to relate to basic customer needs and expectations. We have companies that made the decision to cut costs by eliminating fulltime positions to avoid ever increasing health insurance premiums. Many of these businesses are left with only temporary help or part time associates. The corporate office thought the customers wouldn’t notice a change in staff, and they could save some money. Only trouble is…the customers do notice, have noticed, and will continue to notice until there is another failed store or business. Are you seeing a common theme here? MONEY. It’s all about saving money, spending money, having money, not having money, wanting it, needing it, and finding ways to get more of it.

Smart companies will redirect their focus to basic business one on one customer service. Take care of your customers and they will come back to you, they will refer friends, family, and neighbors. Without spending any money in advertising your previous customers will advertise for you. This starts with the company’s employees. Hire people who want to be there, appreciate having a job, put the company and the customers above themselves. If you take your sole focus off of MONEY and focus on the customers you will start a tradition of significance and excellence. Your business will grow on this simple basic principle. Be the difference, be helpful, be accommodating by bending over backwards to please and these attributes will be noticed by your customer and you will be rewarded. It’s not always about the money.