EXOVATIONS named 2013 Market Leader by Professional Remodeler Magazine


EXOVATIONS named 2013 Market Leader EXOVATIONS was recently contacted by Professional Remodeler Magazine for a front cover photo opportunity after being named 2013 Market Leader by the publication. Kyle Clapham wrote this about EXOVATIONS in the magazine publication, ” Exovations … Continue reading

Adding Curb Appeal to Your Home

Fall is here and it’s usually the second time of year homeowners start thinking of vamping up their home’s exterior. The first home exterior game changer typically occurs in the spring after we have all sat inside all winter and dreamed of the possibilities we wanted to change once the first sign of warm weather occurs. For most home owners, time and money are a huge factor in all that we complete during those few short months of “Spring Cleaning”. Then summer arrives, unseeingly quicker than we would like for it to, and some of our “to dos” get pushed to the curb. Fall is a great time to reexamine what it is we didn’t finish in the beginning of the year. Some people are thinking of the guests they plan to entertain for football games, Thanksgiving, and even the Christmas Holidays. This brings me to my topic: Adding Curb Appeal to Your Home. Whether you are looking to add curb appeal for resale value or just make it more appealing for yourself, family, and friends.
The September 2012 issue of Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine has listed their top five things to add curb appeal to your home. I want to touch on those and elaborate on what I know best; home exterior. In an article written by Alma E Hill, it is noted that these are the five key elements in adding value to your home: remove weeds from planter beds and add new mulch and borders, repaint the house, repair porch railings, repair cracks in the driveway, replace a damaged roof with a new one. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes the smallest of changes makes a dramatic impact. Just “cleaning” your exterior and minor landscaping can add pizazz to a dull, dirty, dingy outside. I recommend that you pressure wash your home exterior yearly to maintain a radiant look. This also helps prevent from mold and mildew building up on exterior surfaces that do not see very much sunlight. If you roof has stains or mold spots, be careful not to pressure wash your roof. Pressure washing your roof destroys the granules and can lead to major roof shingle damage. If you notice mold spots, you can spray an application of bleach and water on the area and let it sit. Simply wash it off with water from a hose and skip using a pressure washer on your roof altogether.
After your exterior has been cleaned and looks nice and tidy, make your “to do list” based on what you see. Maybe your paint is flaking or chipped? Maybe a few boards need to be replaced here or there. It’s easier to evaluate what is damaged and not just dirty once you have given your exterior a thorough cleaning. Repainting your exterior is a daunting task, but you may only need to touch up the trim. If you are ever in question, it’s always best to seek the advice of a professional. Changing the color of your trim, garage doors, front door, or shutters can create an intense change that is easy and cheap to do. If you are really feeling bold, consider changing colors, patterns, and textures of your home’s exterior for a thrilling transformation. The possibilities are endless as to simple changes you can make for a jaw-dropping effect. There are several free websites that will allow you to create changes to visualize what differences you can make on your home and if you are really considering a major renovation consider an architectural rendering of the changes before you make any commitments. Many companies offer these for little or no charge. There are also many sites available to browse existing homes to seek ideas from such as Pinterest and Houzz. Capture anything that catches your eye or appeals to you. Chances are, others would be taken by the same look if it is on your home.

Lastly, fall is the time to attend home shows to get more ideas and even pricing for professional services if you so desire to seek the help from someone else. Many home shows have companies that set up displays of their actual work so you can see what you would be getting from them if they were to work on your home. Meet their staff, ask for before and after photos and references, and always check reviews from sites such as Kudzu, Angie’s List, and Google Plus to see what their customers thought of their process, products, and pricing.


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.



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!



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.


1. Your Roof Is On Borrowed Time

The roof on your house has weathered over 20 years and the shingles are showing signs of age. It is time to start from the top and work your way down. New paint can wait if your roof is on borrowed time. Make sure your roofing company carries the best warranty, a lifetime workmanship and the manufacturer’s warranty that covers all defects in material for the lifetime of the shingle. Most important, make sure your roofing contractor is a certified installer with the roofing manufacturer. Take advantage of the tremendous curb appeal that a new roof can offer.

2. The Paint Is Peeling And You Never Loved The Color Of The House Anyway

Paint can be your number one reason to give your home a facelift. Most people change their preference on food, clothes, and cars within a 7 year period, which is about the average paint cycle. When it’s time to paint the exterior of your home, why not change the color? When painting is a must, choose quality lifetime paint and don’t forget a good primer coat. You’ve wanted to change the color for a while, so do it! If you want to keep the white trim, consider a move away from stark white, to a “Mother of Pearl” or “Linen”. This will add warmth to your home. Paint is instant change and gratification.

3. You Are Hot In The Summer And Cold In The Winter

Your single pane windows have been painted 10 times, the builder grade windows are fogged, and you’re ready for lower electric bills. It’s window replacement time!  New windows make an old home feel new and bring tremendous curb appeal. The return on investment will make you smile when you open the electric bill each month. While an interior kitchen or bath remodel are always popular upgrades, replacing windows can have an 80% return on investment (Reliable Remodeler.com).

4. The Front Door, The Focal Point Of Your Home, Is The Last Place You Want To Welcome Guests

This is the focal point of your house, where your guests wait after the door bell is rung. What are they looking at before you let them in? The door is what welcomes them. Is it time for a fresh coat of paint? Has the sun faded the polyurethane finish and it’s time to re-stain? Small changes can make big differences. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

5. One More Round of Band-Aid Paint to Save Your Siding Is Not The Best Approach

Rather than putting a new coat of paint on siding that needs more than a Band-Aid, replace the siding with fiber cement or vinyl siding that will more than upgrade the look. Even better, according to Remodeler Magazine in 2010 and 2011, siding replacement consistently yields an 88% return on investment, higher than any other interior or exterior project!

6. You Have A Personal Connection With Niagara Falls Watching Rain Overflow Your Undersized Gutters

Get rid of the old 4 or 5 inch gutters and replace them with 6 inch seamless aluminum gutters with internal hangers. Not enough can be said regarding the importance of size and proper installation of new gutters.  Consider changing the gutter color to contrast with the trim. For example, bronze or dark color gutters that match your shutters, front door or roof are extremely popular.  The clean look of new gutters and no maintenance gutter protection will add increased curb appeal and peace of mind in protecting your newly painted trim from water run-off from your roof.

7. You Have Focused On Interior Renovations and Never Invested In Exterior Upgrades

It’s already been stated that new siding will yield the highest return on investment for any renovation. Consider how important first impressions are and remember the outside of your home is just as important as the inside. From a sales perspective, the outside is often more important. No gorgeous granite counter top will charm the potential buyer who drives past your home. Don’t forget the outside will draw a person inside.

8. You Can’t Sell Your House In The Current Market, So Invest In What You Have And Increase Its Value

Your plan was to move two years ago, then the housing market took a nose dive. What was initially a temporary home is now Home Sweet Home. Well maybe not, but consider the benefits of what improving your home will bring when the housing market returns. Who knows, you just might find yourself falling in love with the home you had always planned on selling.

9. You Have Always Liked the Location Of Your House, But Never The Look

It’s never been disputed, the right location will sell a house and you fully agree. You are one who bought your house for the location and have never loved the look. Maybe you have tackled the interior obstacles but closed your eyes to the exterior. Dream kitchen and baths grace the cover of magazines, but rarely is an exterior facelift given its proper recognition. Consider working with an exterior remodeling company that gives you an Architectural Rendering of what your house can look like with a few changes. Focus on creating Light, Texture and Color. Your home’s exterior is an empty canvas of possibilities. If you like the location of your home, get serious about liking the look of it as well.

10. Maintenance Is A Must, Makeover Your Home At The Same Time! Finally, when your house is screaming for maintenance, go beyond the musts and consider tying in a makeover. When you’re deck is falling off, replace it with 20 extra square feet or with cypress decking versus pressure treated. When wood trim is rotting, replace it with a fiber cement no rot material. When you paint, upgrade to lifetime paint. Small changes make big differences.  If you’re getting opposition from your spouse when a makeover is on your mind, use maintenance as your excuse to do more.  Your home is your castle. Treat it like one.



We often focus solely on updating the inside of a home and leave the outside alone. However, the exterior is just as important to consider. Creating “curb appeal” is real estate language for making a good first impression. We drive out of our driveway every day and forget what we thought about our house the first time we saw it. When you bought your home, you definitely considered its curb appeal, or the potential of it. Giving a home an exterior facelift is an investment worth making. Your return on investment is the promise of increasing your home’s value, less maintenance with rot proof materials, cost saving efficiency, overall increased curb appeal, and, in a depressed housing market, you are happy with your “new” home.

Magazine racks are full of ideas for renovating kitchens and baths, basements and living rooms, but seldom do you find before and after pictures of changes made to the exterior of the house. This is the first place to start when considering an exterior facelift. You have to know what look you want to achieve. Take a picture of your house and begin to shape the desired “after” look of your home by consciously taking note of houses that stand out to you. Take pictures of these homes. What is it you like about the exterior of a particular house? Is it the front door, the shape of the front door, the color of the front door?

There are many factors to consider when updating your exterior. For many, just changing the front door would be a fantastic improvement! It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, updating the exterior can be far less complicated than redoing a kitchen. Follow a before and after plan and create a vision for what you hope to achieve with the changes to come. To simplify and streamline the process even further, it would be helpful to work with a company who can provide an architectural rendering of your house. A rendering will show all the changes you envision and some you may not have considered. An Architectural rendering is a wonderful way to help you visualize and know for sure you are getting the look you want and see what the final result will be.

Beyond the front door, consider updating the siding on your home. Fiber cement siding options, such and Certainteed or James Hardie are great choices. They both are “no rot” product options with tremendous material warranties, but also offer various aesthetic possibilities. Create dimension and interest by combining various materials and looks. For example, you can accent gables or dormers on the house with fiber cement shake shingles and install lap siding below. Make sure to use a certified installer of these siding products. And preferably choose to work with a company who provides a lifetime workmanship warranty on their installation.

In respect to varying materials, consider adding a synthetic stone water table around the bottom perimeter of your home. Synthetic stone is far more cost effective than real stone and adds warmth and richness to the exterior. Stone is a wonderful accent around a front door as well.  Use earth tone paint colors that complement the colors found in the stone on the exterior trim and siding.

Speaking of paint, do not under estimate the change new paint colors will have on your home. Color, color, color; more than anything else, color is key! Don’t choose just any paint. Protect your investment and choose quality lifetime paint! Choose accent colors for shutters and your front door. Paint alone will drastically change a house.

Consider small, but noticeable changes such as new gutters, window pediments, or new shutters. Bronze colored gutters that contrast with the painted trim color, but match the shutter color, is a very current trend. Update the look of your shutters and opt for no maintenance by installing PVC (no rot) board and batten shutters with real S hook and hinges. Or, imitate the look with less expensive vinyl board and batten shutters with S hooks. Adding hardware, like the iron looking S hooks and hinges, or a new front door handle are subtle changes that bring significant visual improvements.

Consider everything you do to improve the exterior of your house as a facelift of sorts. Try to tie in the necessary need of painting, for example, with an update. Take advantage of the opportunity the next time you need to paint the exterior, of updating the color.  When it’s time to replace your roof, add architectural shingles. An architectural roof adds dramatic updating to older homes and value by increasing the warranty coverage period of your roof. In terms of efficiency savings, get rid of drafty single pane windows and upgrade to double paned insulated glass. New windows, like paint, bring instant gratification. Not only do they improve the look of your home, but the monthly energy bill as well.

Finally, a downturn in the housing market is a perfect time to consider an exterior facelift. Rather than focus on how you can’t sell your house, why not give your home the facelift it deserves? Fall in love with YOUR house rather than wishing for another one. Live in a home you love and know the investment will pay off for you, make the best first impression on future buyers, and bring a quicker sale and higher price if and when you do decide to sell.