Increasing Curb Appeal

New siding and windows can add impact to your home

There’s never a bad time to think about curb appeal. Whether you’re looking to move or planning to stay put, an updated exterior makes an impression. And an added bonus is that you don’t have much mess to endure. Even new windows—the most invasive of the mostly exterior projects—won’t force you to do your dishes in the bathtub. So what are you waiting for?


Vinyl is still the most economical choice, says JG Development’s Jeff Grundahl. It also requires less maintenance than other options. Relatively easy to install, it is also one project a homeowner could tackle without professional help.

It isn’t perfect, though. Customers are limited to the color palette offered by the manufacturer, and sometimes hues, textures or finishes are discontinued. That can make replacement difficult, for example, if hail damages only a portion of the siding. Even if the color is still available, fading can make the replaced sections stand out.

Even so, many homeowners are drawn to vinyl for the price point, Grundahl says, and it’s still the mainstay in suburban developments. One way to personalize vinyl siding and to add visual interest, Grundahl adds, is to use natural materials such as stone, brick or timber for accents.

Fiber cement board siding is another option that often better simulates real wood siding. It is more durable and less resistant to fading than vinyl. Another plus is that it offers more color choices. “You can have any color under the sun,” Grundahl says. “You can pick out a paint chip and that’s the color your siding will be.”

The downside of cement board is that it will require repainting during its life. It is also harder to install than vinyl, Grundahl says, making it more challenging for the do-it-yourselfers.

Of course, for limitless color choices nothing beats real wood, which can be painted or stained any hue imaginable. It is, however, at the top end of the siding price scale.

Grundahl says most clients’ choices are determined by balancing cost and aesthetics, although sustainability does come into play with what is coming off even if it isn’t a driver for what is going up. Grundahl says he recycles what he can, composts wood siding when that’s an option and legally disposes of asbestos materials.


Grundahl says windows run the gamut on pricing, so cost is hard to estimate. However, he notes that the price ranges run parallel to siding price points: vinyl-clad windows are typically on the low end and wood windows are on the high end. Color options are similar as well, with manufacturers offering a set palette for vinyl while wood can be stained or painted any hue.

The big deal in windows, though, is what you don’t see. “Glass technology has probably been the biggest change in the window industry in the last couple of years,” Grundahl says, noting that new coatings can minimize heat infiltration in south facades or retain heat on the north side of the home. Some finishes even react with sunlight to self-clean glass panes.

“It’s not going to get your window spotless, but believe it or not, it does work,” Grundahl says.

Handy homeowners can save money by installing windows themselves, but Grundahl recommends double-checking all measurements before ordering. Some local retailers will do that for free, and he says it is worth the time to take the extra step. It is a benefit shoppers won’t get if they order online. Keep in mind that windows aren’t like rugs or couches. The dimensions are not at all forgiving, and the consequences, such as water penetration, can be severe.

That is why Grundahl also advises homeowners to read all installation instructions prior to starting and to get help when they run into trouble, particularly with flashing. “Poor window installation is probably the most common cause of water infiltration in a house,” he says.

And you won’t always know right away that your window is the water damage culprit. Water follows the path of least resistance. Just because it shows up in the living room doesn’t mean it didn’t enter from the master suite upstairs.

New windows, however, will do more than spruce up the exterior of your home. Most heat is lost, Grundahl says, through windows—particularly in older homes. New windows can eliminate drafts and cold spots. They can cut down on utility bills, too. Yet windows are not likely to save money right away. They are such a big-ticket item that most homeowners will not recoup the investment through energy savings alone.

– Jennifer Garrett


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