How to Paint Home Siding

Hello Gail, although painting your home is often considered a basic home improvement project, completing the job successfully does require some technique and product research. In fact, choosing the right paint, or the best paint/primer combination, can be the difference between having a adequate looking paint job that lasts for a few years and having a professional looking paint job that lasts 5-8 years.

In general, I like to work with a premium quality acrylic latex paint, because these types of paint don’t usually require underlying primer and they clean up easily with soap and water. Depending on the type and color of paint that is currently on your home’s exterior, you may need to prime the siding before applying the final coat of paint . If possible bring a painted siding sample to your local paint store and ask them to recommend the best type of paint for your specific situation. Most premium brands of paint cost between $40-$60 per gallon, which is about double the cost of some economy brands, but I have always found the increase cost well worth it when viewing the finished results.

As for technique, if you are a novice house painter, I would avoid using a paint sprayer, instead opt for a high quality brush or roller (they are easier to work with and easier to clean). No matter your abilities, take the time to protect the parts of your home that you want to keep paint free. This should include covering decks and walk ways with plastic tarps and using masking tape around windows and detailed trim work. This prep time before you begin painting can allow you to paint faster and cleaner, plus you don’t have to worry about any drips, drops, or spills. Good luck!

Continue Reading

Zolton Cohen: Insulated shades have drawbacks that may offset benefits

Q: Im looking into the cost and energy effectiveness of installing interior insulated window shades in my home. In the solarium, the second-floor windows face south and east, and there is an extensive overhang, so summer sun is not an issue. The windows are double-paned and filled with argon gas, and total about 200 square feet.

Since it is a second story, I would need a remote mechanical device to raise and lower the shades, which increases the price significantly. I know a tax credit or write-off is available.

We heat primarily with propane, augmented with forced air solar in the fall and spring.

After looking at the websites of a couple of manufacturers, I found it difficult to determine what type of shade would insulate the best and whether the payback over time would make the investment worthwhile. (My husband doesnt think it would.) What do you suggest?

L.S., Kalamazoo

A: Unquestionably, adding insulating shades to your solarium windows would help prevent heat loss during the winter. Because heat moves to cold, any material that retards heat flow between the warmth inside and those cold windows will slow down heat loss.

However, how much you could save is utterly unknowable. So many variables make it impossible to put any firm number on the potential reduction in propane consumption.

One thing is certain, though: The added expense of a motorized activation system would add years, if not decades, to any return on investment. You would spend a lot of money for relatively little gain. If thats the only way to control the shades on the second-story windows, you might have no other choice. But, obviously, the more you spend on the installation, the less sense it makes from a cost/benefit standpoint.

Insulated shades, as youve discovered in your research, come in many types. All are effective, some more so than others. Generally, the thicker and bulkier the shade, the more effective the thermal barrier. In that way, shades are similar to attic insulation.

If you do put shades on the windows, youll need to be cognizant of the potential for condensation to form. Adding shades would cool the glass to the point that water could condense on the pane surfaces out of any warm, humid air getting behind the shade. Then you would have to deal with puddles on the windowsill, water possibly dripping down the wall and the risk of mildew and mold forming.

Window Quilt makes a roll-up insulating shade designed to prevent condensation. The companys products are made with seals along the edges and bottom that block air from getting behind the shades. The seals also make the shade more energy-efficient. So, if youre still thinking of going forward with this project, that might be one option to explore.

If you dont install shades, consider indoor storm windows that stay in place. Permanently-affixed storms avoid the need to raise and lower shades. Plus, they seal well enough that condensation wont crop up. The insulation value likely wont be quite as high as with a good insulated shade, but theyre worth looking into.

Continue Reading

The Best Places In Your Home For Fluorescent Lighting

Sometimes in life, a good thing comes with an unfortunate side effect. Such is the case with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. When it comes to choosing a more energy-efficient source of light, CFLs are at the top of their game. But the drawback? The light they produce isn’t so flattering.

Before you ban all CFLs from your home, check out these strategic location tips from our friends at The Nest. It’s possible to have energy-efficient lighting in your home and still enjoy a flattering, warm glow. When it comes to CFLs, it’s all about location, location, location — and blending them with other light sources to create a layered effect.

A tip? Don’t use fluorescent lighting in your bathroom. The harsh light will accent bumps, blemishes and everything else you’d rather not think about.

Do, however, use CFLs in your kitchen. The bright light makes these bulbs ideal for illuminating task areas. They’d also be great in a work space, too.

We love this sneaky trick from The Nest. Install fluorescent bulbs on top of a tall cabinet or bookshelf. This will create indirect lighting, as opposed to a direct source, and the light will bounce off the ceiling to create a softer glow that will permeate the room.

And when in doubt, consider LED instead of CFL. LEDs can last more than 10 years and produce a warmer glow than their fluorescent counterparts. And if you can afford the investment, dimmable LED bulbs are available for $40-$50. Of course, if you factor in the cost of incandescent lightbulbs over a 10-year period, you’re still likely to come out ahead with an LED option.

What’s your take on CFLs? Do you think they emit a harsher light than other bulbs? And if so, do you have any additional tips to create a more enticing glow?

Continue Reading

Create your own miniature fairy garden with whimsical figurines and settings

1. Decide what type of fairy garden youd like, says It could be a woodland garden under a shade tree or a flower fairy garden with a cottage and flowers.

2. Decide whether you want an outdoor garden or a container garden. A container garden can be moved indoors during the winter, so it will last longer. Earl advises starting small with a container garden.

The beauty here is that this approach allows even condo and apartment dwellers who lack a backyard to have one, she says.

3. Design your garden, being sure to include plenty of fairy-friendly details.

Fairies are said to favor gardens with wildflowers and a slight unkempt look, moss or thyme as a soft meadow to sleep in and space for celebrations and festivals, Earl says.

4. Choose the fairy house, which you can buy or make yourself. Also select miniature garden furniture and accessories.

5. Choose flowers designed for small spaces, says , which has a flower list on its website.

6. Add seasonal details to keep it interesting for you and the fairies. Since it is a work in progress, add new details as the fairy spirits move you.

7. According to, youre now ready to sit back, put your feet up and keep an eye out for fairies. Dont forget. Fairies tend to be very shy, so you may need to spend a lot of time relaxing near your garden in order to see one.

Continue Reading

Advantages of a metal roof

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

traditional exterior design by burlington architect Smith & Vansant Architects PC

As I’ve been learning more about trying to one day build my dream green home I’ve come across metal roofs.  I like the way they look and they can offer some nice advantages for clean energy and energy conservation, including:

Another advantage is that they hold up very well in storms as you don’t have to worry about losing shingles. had a great article on the advantages of metal roofing (it was the inspiration for this post).

Home energy expert and another Atlanta based blogger, Allison Bailes of Energy Vanguard had this to say about metal roofs:

I like metal roofs and installed one on the house I built. The can help with cooling in hot climates and probably have a lower lifetime embodied energy cost than shingles because they don’t need to be replaced as frequently.

The biggest disadvantage is a higher initial cost compared to an asphalt shingle roof. also has a great list of advantages and disadvantages of a metal roof.  One of those disadvantages I really didn’t think of is the roof getting dented during a hail storm, although I guess this happens to shingle roofs as well.

There is a federal tax credit for metal roof (with appropriate pigmented coatings) and even asphalt roof (with cooling granules) is available that covers 10% of the cost of the roof (up to $500).

Do any of you have experience with metal roofs?  Other than liking the way they look (and writing a blog post), I don’t know much about them.

Continue Reading