Published October 13, 2010
Protecting your home, the most important and probably the largest investment of your lifetime, is a no-brainer, but having an excellent insurance policy is not enough. You also need the kind of protection only sweat equity can provide.
Whether it’s your own, or that of a qualified home improvement professional you hire to protect the wooden elements on the outside of your house, everything made from wood, including columns, window trim, doors, railings, fascia and soffits, and even the kick plates found on many doors need attention.
The most effective way to care for the things made from wood is to cover them up. Wood that is exposed to the elements will eventually rot. Rotting wood loses its integrity and will eventually begin to break apart. If you wait until the wood gets to this point you’ll end up spending more time and money replacing it than you would for regular maintenance.
Covering up the wood can be accomplished in a couple of ways. The easiest and most inexpensive method is to give it a coat of good exterior paint. Another option, and one that will prove to be the most cost effective and labor saving over time, is to wrap the wood with an aluminum trim coil that has a pvc coating.
Before choosing the method that works best for you and your budget, you need to asses the wood for any existing damage, and make the necessary replacements before the cover up. A simple spot check is all you need to do to find wood that needs attention. If it looks damaged, it probably is. If it is soft to the touch, or breaks when you press on it, its time to remove it and replace it.
If you find any wood that needs replacing, there are a number of great new options available today. You can use traditional pressure treated lumber, or you can spend a few extra dollars for PVC trim boards such as Azek trim boards. This material is designed to be maintenance free and won’t rot because it doesn’t absorb moisture, is impervious to insects and will never need to be painted or sealed. You can find it in almost all home improvement stores or lumber yards. Even though it will cost nearly twice as much as pressure treated lumber, it’s worth the added expense.
Now you’re ready to begin the great cover up.
Painting is the most economical way to care for the wooden elements of your exterior. Take the time to scrape and sand away any peeling or chipped paint so you’ll have a nice smooth finished look, and caulk all of the seams between pieces. Keep in mind that if you try to cover up old peeling paint with a new coat, there is nothing holding the new paint to the wood, and it too will peel.
I highly recommend priming the wood before painting it, especially if you are not sure if the original paint is oil or latex-based. Many older homes were painted with oil-based paints. New latex paint doesn’t usually stick very well to these older oil based paints and will begin to peel in no time. Primer helps to seal the wood and gives the new paint something good to stick to.
One of the most important maintenance tips for using paint as your wood’s cover up is to apply a coat of paint every few years even if it doesn’t “look” like it needs it. Don’t wait until you see peeling paint or rotting wood because, by then, it could be too late. It is faster and easier to slap on a quick coat of paint than it is to spend hours of scraping and sanding. If the thought of painting every few years has you nauseous and you don’t want to replace all of your exiting wood with the PVC trim boards, there is another option. Wrap it.
This option is not a project for the regular “do-it-yourselfer.” You’ll need to hire a professional. But once it is done, it’s done for good.
If you look closely at a newer home you’ll see that most of the wood trim on the exterior of the home is covered with an aluminum trim coil that is PVC coated. This method of wrapping the trim protects the wood from the elements and is completely maintenance-free.
The process of installing it is an art, and a good siding contractor will make it look easy. Don’t be fooled. There is a lot of measuring and cutting involved that takes years to perfect. Even though you can buy this material off of the shelves at the store, leave it to a pro. He will have the right tools and know how to get it done quickly.
Most contractors will charge by the job, the foot, or by section such as a price per window. Don’t fall into a deal with a guy that wants to charge you by the hour. It’s too easy for an unscrupulous contractor to drag his feet and make the job go long.
Make sure you get three estimates and that your contract lists every item that will be wrapped. I’ve seen a lot of customers agree to contracts that simply list “wrapping wood trim with aluminum” only to find out the garage door trim or kick plates were not included.
Don’t let the wood on the outside of your house suffer through another winter exposed to the elements. Cover your assets now before it gets cold and you’ll save a lot of money in the long run.