Trends that won't Break the Bank
Exterior Home Improvement
September, 2009 - Issue #59
Unless you're considering a "for sale" sign as your newest front-yard decor, you may wonder why "curb appeal" matters to you. Yes, the outside of your home may be the first thing everyone else sees when they check out your digs, but it's also the first thing you see when pulling into your driveway. The exterior of your home sets the tone for how you feel about where you live. If you aren't "going anywhere" any time soon, it's time to fall back in love with your space. Here's how.

It's the Little Stuff that Counts
"Improved exterior lighting can make a big difference to the look of your home day and night," says Scott Minkler, owner of Westridge General Contractors (510-5900). "The builder-installed lighting fixtures are usually cheap and don't add any real visual interest. The nice stuff - high quality, good sense of design - starts at about $150. That's not much money, and the final result is impressive."

Another change that can be had for $150? A newly-functioning gate or fence. "We see a lot of otherwise beautiful homes with a fence post missing or a side gate hanging off kilter. What could look like a well-cared for, expensive home instead looks really bad - and it's such an easy problem to fix," says Minkler.

But for an even more remarkable change to your home's curb appeal, the Westridge General Contractors owner suggests that you turn to your front or garage door for inspiration. "Switching out an old wooden door that has warped a bit or just looks old and dated will make an incredible, positive change to the appearance of your home. For very little money you could paint them, or for not a whole lot more replace them entirely with a metal or even glass alternative," he says.

As for the back of the house, Minkler emphasizes that repairs, when caught early, can be made for a lot less dough. Take your patio cover, for example. "Instead of rebuilding a patio cover entirely - which can be done if you want to change the roof to a solid or shade bar - just replace the patio poles. Wood rot starts at the bottom. You don't need to tear the whole thing down. We can remove the cover, reset new poles in concrete and then fit the cover back on."

Look Perfect with Paint
Few improvements can create a more dramatic change to the look of your home than paint. And, "when it comes to paint," says Josh Abramson, owner of A.Allbright Painting (294-1159), "we make it easy, safe and long lasting."

The painting pro has what homeowners need to get the most value out of their exterior improvement paint project. "We make it easy for a client to choose the perfect colors for their home using our experts in colors and the exclusive tools we have - The Allbright Personalized Color-Choice Program and our uniquely beautiful color line, The Allbright Collection," says Abramson.

When you are making an investment in paint and professional labor, you want to feel confident that the effect will last. "Combined with our revolutionary paint and our highly-skilled, accredited craftsmen's prep work - which is very important - we can offer a long-lasting paint job for years to come that's backed by one of Santa Clarita Valley's best warranties."

It's easy for Abramson to feel confident about the product he uses to beautify your home's exterior; his company produces it. "We literally make our paint ourselves; that's what makes it easy for a customer to come in and get exactly what they need. We don't make it until they order it. Our revolutionary paint is enhanced with the science, and chemical makeup, of DuPont. Our ultra-premium paint has one of the highest solids around - that's the good stuff - which makes the paint last the longest."

Inside Design Informs Outside Improvements
"Outside trends have changed greatly in the past couple years," says Heidi Gragg, owner/designer for Advantage Tile Stone Design (295-9819). "Families are starting to make their outside areas mesh with their inside spaces." The trends that are popular today help make the exterior of your home more functional and grand - while staying within your budget.

"Customize a backslash on your barbeque or the top of your barbeque with tile or stone. Covering your concrete with a Tuscan travertine adds value and aesthetically is pleasing. Even covering your walkway with stone helps draw attention. So many stones and porcelains are available, along with glass tiles, that can give you a custom outside space that meets your family's need and makes the neighbors' mouths drop!," says Gragg, who's company specializes in installing stone on patio decks, tiling on barbeques, walls, and "anything else you can imagine if stone or tile is involved."

"Stamp Out" Ugly Concrete
Don't worry: There's still a (big) place for concrete outdoors. Incredibly durable, concrete has earned consistently high marks for function, but not always for design. Mint Condition Painting & Moulding (251-5521) is hoping to change that perception.

"If your stamped concrete is looking faded, we can refurbish it. We can also cover up old concrete with a new layer of colored concrete. We can make your concrete look like flagstone or we can create beautiful stamped designs. When it comes to concrete, we can do it all," says Jon Green, owner of Mint Condition.

Stone Flooring isn't just for Kitchens
"Slate is not slippery," reminds Valencia Floors (254-5458) owner Jonathan Sedighi. That simple fact opens up a Pandora's box of options when it comes to beautifying your home's exterior.

When it comes to what's inside the house, we know that flooring - for good or bad - is the foundation (literally!) of first impressions. When it comes to the exterior of the home, though, we seem to forget just how important "what's underfoot" is to the overall look and "feel" of the space.

Sedighi wants to change that. "There are beautiful, creative and affordable ways to have an outside floor that is completely different than what your neighbors have. You can use stunning tiles - there are porcelain grades available that are intended to be used outside. You can fluctuate the size of the tiles to create an incredibly unique look. A flooring expert will know the best, strongest grouts to use for high-functioning spaces outdoors. Anything is possible."

He's not kidding, either. The family-owned business, which has been a mainstay in the SCV for over nine years, has made exclusive arrangements with a favorite manufacturer to provide incredible prices to their clients. "I want people to know that they can afford this," says Sedighi. "Times like this, we have to help each other. Our company has a 98 percent customer satisfaction rating, and we guarantee our labor. And we sometimes beat other bids by half. There's no reason to wait on a home improvement that will make such a difference."

When in Doubt, Go High-tech
City View Construction, Inc. (888-929-9942) knows the importance keeping your home comfortable and presentable. "Tex-Cote or 'texture coating' is the best way to not only make your home's exterior beautiful, but keep it beautiful as well. It is durable; weather resistant; water proof; chip, peel, flake and crack resistant; and most of all, low maintenance. It has a solid, uniform look that's much more visually appealing than ordinary paint; it's also 20 times thicker than paint," says Hannah Moshe of City View Construction.

Tex-Cote can also help you save on energy bills because it reduces heat with its special reflective pigments. "Starting at $4,999, all these benefits are not only practical and beautiful, they also add to the overall value of the house," says Moshe.

According to the Tex-Cote website, it contains special reflective pigments - the same type of pigments used by the U.S. government to cool ships. Due to their ability to reflect light, these pigments can lower surface temperatures by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit when compared to traditional paints and coatings in many colors. Lower exterior temperatures mean lower interior temperatures. One study showed that Tex-Cote "Coolwall" coatings can reduce a home's cooling costs by as much as 21.9 percent.

Glass Is Gorgeous
"Nothing conveys the personality of a home better than windows and doors," said Michelle Mittelman, owner of Preferred Glass and Windows (288-2682). "The major benefits to new dual pane energy efficient windows and doors are that they reduce annual energy bills 30 percent and now homeowners qualify for a tax incentive," she said. The federal government has implemented a new tax program that rewards consumers who invest in certain energy-efficient window and door packages with up to $1,500 in tax credits.
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