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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ideas for an exterior nip and tuck

By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

So you think your house could use a face lift — the weathered siding, the boxy front, the white painted brick. If it's time for an exterior nip and tuck, then look to your windows, walls, and roof for the most dramatic impact.

The worn-out brick and wood shown on the house above will be traded for more organic stucco and stone, as shown in the drawing below.

Nothing reveals a home's character more than the windows, so consider them first. Many homes have older, less efficient windows that need replacing, so this is an opportunity to change the look of your home by changing the window style. For example, replacing horizontal sliders with double-hung windows gives a more classic character, while casement windows (the kind that crank out) create a bungalow feel.

Choose the right size to accommodate openness or privacy, natural light, and views. Also, the tops of the windows should line up with the tops of the doors. Finally, select the right material. We had one couple seeking a more natural, earthy feel to their home, but they had just replaced their windows with white vinyl. It's hard to make white vinyl "earthy."

Vinyl and wood/aluminum clad are the most common window materials. Be aware that wood windows are about three times more expensive than vinyl.

Next, look at the exterior walls. Changing the finish of your outside walls can be expensive, but it will provide a dramatic visual difference. You have three basic options: Change the existing material (such as painting your white brick); add a new material over the top of your existing material (such as covering old brick with stucco); or remove the existing material and replace it (such as replacing old wood shingles with fiber cement board siding).

By changing the materials on the outside of your home, you can dramatically affect the character of your house.

You can mix and match wall finishes. As a rule of thumb, you can combine up to three finish materials (i.e., brick, stucco, and siding), but consider the size, color, and texture of each material when deciding which to use and where to place it.

Finally, don't forget the roof. Most people don't replace roofs simply for aesthetic value, but if you are in the market for a new roof, there are roofing options that will add zip to your home's exterior. Asphalt shingles are common and acceptable, but you may want to explore clay tile, concrete tile, slate, wood shake, or standing seam metal roofing.

Two key factors with roofing materials are weight and color. If you select a material heavier than your current roof, you will need to confirm that the existing roof structure will hold the additional weight. Dark colors absorb more heat, but often look better. We recommend sticking with neutral colors because you are not likely to replace your roof as often as you repaint (or stucco or re-side) your house.

The bottom line: If you carefully select the appropriate materials for your windows, walls, and roof, you can dramatically impact the exterior character of your home. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2005 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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