Choosing Between a Roof Overlay vs. Tearoff

Roofer Attaching Shingles
© jenslphotography / Adobe Stock

By replacing your worn-out roof, you’ll be giving your home better protection from the elements and improving its aesthetics. If your shingle roof is showing signs of wear, there’s more than one way to revitalize it. Having a full tearoff will give you all the advantages of a brand new roof. If you’re on a budget and your old roof is still in good shape, though, a roof overlay might make more sense for you.

Tearoffs: Reliable and Long-Lasting

Roofer Putting New Asphalt Shingles on Roof
© brizmaker / Adobe Stock

As the name implies, this roof replacement method involves completely tearing off your existing roofing, then putting on a new roof.

Advantages

All-new material – With a roof tearoff, every part of your roofing will be replaced with new material. If your decking or underlayment were deteriorating, that problem will be solved. Your roofer can also find and repair any developing leaks, which protects your whole home from mold and rot.

The option to upgrade – Construction companies don’t always use the highest quality materials, so if you bought an old house, a roof replacement is a good opportunity to upgrade. Before work starts, your roofer can help you choose the ideal materials for your roof. You might want to switch from OSB (oriented strand board) to CDX plywood decking or use a synthetic roof underlayment instead of felt, depending on which is best for your roof’s structure and your climate conditions.

Greater durability – As you might expect, a roof made of all-new materials will last longer than a roof with parts that have been exposed to the elements for a decade or more. During a tearoff, your roofer will have the chance to thoroughly examine all parts of your roof and make repairs to stop any developing problems before they cause serious damage.

Longer lifespan – A new, properly installed shingle roof can last 20 to 30 years, meaning it could potentially outlast an overlay by a decade or more.

Increased property value – A brand new roof can add more than $10,000 to your home’s resale value and also acts as a strong selling point. This makes a tearoff a smart choice if you’re planning to sell within the next few years. Any increase in the appraised value of your home depends on the condition of your existing roof. You’ll see a greater increase by replacing a deteriorating, leaky roof than by replacing a roof with only cosmetic damage.

Disadvantages

Higher costs – On average, a tearoff roofing job costs around 25 percent more than an overlay. It takes a lot more labor to completely remove all the existing roofing material and then replace all the layers removed. The old roofing also has to be disposed of properly, which adds to the cost.

Overlays: Budget-friendly and Convenient

Close up View of Asphalt Roof Shingles
© cherokee4 / Adobe Stock

With this quicker, cheaper alternative, new shingles are installed on top of the existing shingles. This is only possible if the roof hasn’t been overlaid previously.

Advantages

Lower costs – Because there’s so much less labor involved in simply installing new shingles over old ones, an overlay will cost you less than a tearout. Your roofer won’t need to rent a dumpster and deal with debris disposal regulations, so you’ll save on costs there, too. If you’re planning on completely replacing your roof within the next five to 10 years, an overlay is a practical way to enjoy the look of a new roof in the meantime. Just be aware that the extra layer of shingles will add to the cost of your next roof replacement.

Shorter work timeline – An overlay can be finished days sooner than a tearoff. That’s less time you’ll need to spend out of the house, saving you money and stress.

Less risk – Compared to a complete roof replacement, there’s a lot less that can go wrong during an overlay job. There’s no risk of a sudden storm interfering with the dry-in process, no falling debris that could damage your porch or your car, and no big dumpsters that could wreck your landscaping.

Disadvantages

Lower quality – For an overlay to be as reliable as a tearoff, your existing roof would have to be in near-optimal condition. The problem is that without removing the shingles, your roofer can’t properly examine the roof to find out what condition it’s in. An experienced roofer might still be able to spot signs of hidden damage or make a good guess based on your roof’s age, but you’re relying on luck at that point.

Shorter lifespan – As you might expect, new shingles laid over damaged shingles and rotting decking won’t last as long as they could. To make matters worse, a roof with two layers of shingles holds in more heat, which speeds up deterioration. On average, an overlay lasts around 16 years. That said, for most shingles, the warranty is valid for the same length of time whether the shingles were used in an overlay or a tearoff.

Additional weight – The weight of another full layer of shingles places additional stress on the roof decking and your home’s structure. If your home is older or just somewhat structurally unsound, an overlay might not be a viable option.

Less visual appeal – Chances are your old shingles have suffered a fair amount of wear that’s left some of them torn, curling, or uneven. Those damaged shingles provide a substandard base for new shingles, so your new roof could turn out noticeably flawed no matter how skilled your roofer. Imperfect results are even more likely it your roof was made with something other than common three-tab shingles. If you’re unhappy with the overlay, you could end up paying for a tearout to have the whole thing redone before you planned.

Trickier maintenance – Another layer of shingles adds another layer of complexity to your roof. This makes it harder to track down the origin of any problems that develop. If a leak forms, the water will move through both layers of shingles, changing direction in a way that hides the source.

Before you can decide whether an overlay or a tearoff is the better choice, you’ll need to have an experienced roofer assess your roof. In most cases, unless you’re sure your existing roof is in good condition, a tearoff is the better option. The lower cost might make an overlay sound tempting, but if it leaves damage lingering under the new shingles, it puts your whole house at risk for moisture problems.

Posted on Categories Roofing

Baseboard Heating for Residential Homes

Baseboard Heating in Master Bedroom
Photo Credit: NPJINC

If you’ve ever lived in a mild climate, chances are you’ve seen rooms with baseboard heaters. These long, narrow heaters run along the bottom of the wall and can be controlled individually. Although not quite as popular as they once were, baseboard heaters still have their place even in colder climates.

How Baseboard Heating Works

Baseboard heaters come in two main forms:

Electric convention – This type of heater contains a heating element within a metal cable. It uses electricity to heat the heating element, which warms the air around it. The warm air then rises as colder room air falls into the heater due to the natural process of convection.

Hydronic (water) or oil – Hydronic baseboard heaters are either connected to a boiler by hot water pipes used to circulate water through them or self-contained units that heat water by themselves using electricity. Less commonly, you’ll find heaters that contain oil rather than water. These also require electricity and work in essentially the same way as portable, plug-in oil radiators.

Electric convection, hydronic and oil baseboard heaters all look largely the same from the outside and are installed in the same kinds of locations. They’re placed near the floor and under windows, so they’re closer to the coolest air in the room, which naturally falls.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Baseboard heating is often used to supplement the home’s primary heating system, such as a forced-air furnace or hot-water radiators. These heaters are a practical way to warm up rooms that tend to be colder than the rest of the house as well as for additions, and finished attics or basements.

Because each heater can be controlled separately, you can supply more heat to a room that tends to be chilly without raising the thermostat for the whole house.

They’re simple and affordable to install because they don’t require ductwork. Depending on the design, though, each heater will need to be hard-wired into the house’s electrical system or connected to the radiator.

While ductless heat pumps offer similar advantages, baseboard heaters have one major additional benefit: they don’t stir up the air. They’re ideal if you have allergies or simply dislike the feeling of blowing air.

With no moving parts to break down, these heaters are highly reliable and can last for 20 years or longer. Maintenance is easy, too. You’ll only need to clean them periodically to remove dust buildup that could interfere with the heater’s performance.

Baseboard heaters are exceptionally quiet. They don’t use a motor or ductwork that can pop and bang as it reacts to temperature changes.

The biggest problem with baseboard heaters is that they’re rarely able to keep a room sufficiently warm. This is why they’re most often used for supplemental heating. To make matters worse, they don’t always produce heat consistently, which can lead to temperature swings. This is more common in units that use a built-in thermostat, so connecting the heater to a wall thermostat can help stabilize your temperatures.

Although modern baseboard heaters are designed to have low surface temperatures, they can still get hot to the touch. You’ll need to keep all flammable items, such as furniture, curtains and kids’ toys, at least 6 inches away from the heaters.

The Right Design for You

If you’re considering baseboard heating for your home, you’ll need to decide between electric convection, hydronic or oil. Each has its pros and cons, along with requirements for installation.

Electric Convection

Electric convection models are the most common and cheapest type of baseboard heaters, and are easy to find in a wide range of sizes and colors. These heaters are highly reliable because, unlike hydronic and oil heaters, they don’t contain liquid that could leak if the heater is damaged.

Unfortunately, these are also the least energy efficient type of a heating method that’s not particularly energy efficient to begin with. Once turned off, the heating element inside quickly cools down, much like the element in an electric range.

With little lingering heat to maintain the temperature while the heater is off, you’ll end up with temperature fluctuations and a room that gets chilly fast. If you’re only looking for a little extra heat in a room you don’t use much, such as a guest room or sewing room, a baseboard heater is a practical option. Relying on these heaters for warmth every day, however, will get expensive fast.

Hydronic and Oil

Hydronic baseboard heaters are less common than their electric convection cousins, and up to four times more expensive. These heaters are often installed to provide supplemental heating in a home with hydronic radiant flooring because the boiler and pipes used to run the heaters are already in place.

If your home doesn’t use a boiler, self-contained baseboard heaters that use electricity to heat water or oil inside the unit are a more practical option.

The major benefit of hydronic and oil baseboard heaters over convection models is their greater energy efficiency and ability to maintain more consistent room temperatures. These heaters retain warmth effectively so when the heater is turned off, it gradually releases stored heat into the room, keeping the room warmer for longer.

On the downside, they take longer to heat up than electric convection heaters, meaning they take longer to warm up a cold room.

When your home needs some extra heat, but you’re not ready to upgrade your primary heating system just yet, baseboard heaters are one of the simplest ways to get the warmth you need. If you plan on using the heaters frequently, hydronic and oil models are the best investment. If you need heat only occasionally and don’t want to pay much for a heater, go with electric convection.

Posted on Categories HVAC

The Pros and Cons of Granite Floor Tiles

Granite Flooring
Photo Credit: Alexandra Lehmann

Few types of stone offer the grandeur and character of granite. With so many color variations and finishes available, this stone fits well in traditional and contemporary homes as well as rustic decor schemes. While it’s certainly not the cheapest flooring material around, it’s exceptionally durable and will reward you with its beauty for as long as you own your home.

Pros: Appearance and Durability

Granite Floor Tile Samples
© nd700 / Adobe Stock

Granite flooring is available in a wide variety of styles, so you can easily find flooring tiles that suite your preferences. As one of the hardest flooring stones out there, granite easily resists wear.

Available in a Range of Styles

Shades of black, grey, brown, pink, blue, and green are all among your choices for granite flooring. Whatever your decor style or color palette preference, you’ll be able to find a suitable shade.

Use just one color for a traditional look or combine colors in a pattern or random arrangement to liven up your home with something fresh and modern. Even if you stick with a single color, the natural color and pattern variations in granite mean your floor will still be unique from any other. The sparkling quartz that makes up much of this stone gives it even more personality.

You also have several options for finishes including polished for a shiny surface, honed for a matte surface or flamed for muted colors and a time-worn look. For a little more texture with an overall smooth surface, consider a brushed finish. If you prefer a more pronounced texture, antique and brush-hammered finishes will deliver.

Highly Durable

With just a little basic care, a granite floor will last a lifetime. Harder than marble or travertine, granite resists scratches and cracking. It’s an excellent choice for high-traffic areas, even in homes with active kids or large dogs. Because the colors resist fading in sunlight, granite retains its beauty even when used outdoors as patio flooring.

To help your granite floor stand up to wear, moisture, and stains, and to maintain its luster, you might need to apply a sealer periodically. If your floor requires sealing, the ideal schedule depends on the type of floor you have and how much use it gets, although once every four years is the average.

Keep in mind your floor’s color and finish also affect its durability to a certain extent. For example, darker colors show scratches more readily, and honed granite is more prone to staining and etching than polished granite.

Comfortably Cooling

Like other stones, granite conducts heat well. When you stand on it, it draws heat away from your body, which is a major plus in a hot climate. By keeping your feet cool, it makes your whole body feel cooler. A granite floor gives kids a comfortable a place to play and pets a refreshing place to rest.

Cons: Pricey and Difficult to Install

Granite Quarry
A Granite Quarry in Vermont
© vermontalm / Adobe Stock

Due to both the cost of the stone itself and the difficulty of installing it, a granite floor comes with an impressive price tag. Even if the cost is within your budget, there are a few attributes of this stone that might mean it’s still not a good fit for your needs.

High Cost

Granite is one of the most expensive flooring stones on the market. In fact, even marble generally costs less. While you can find cheap granite flooring at home improvement stores, this is usually lower grade stone that lacks the beauty and durability of higher grades.

When you’re pricing granite flooring, consider which grade you want.

  • Commercial grade – The cheapest granite flooring available, this grade offers only simple, plain coloring with noticeable faults. It’s usually cut quite thin, meaning it requires reinforcement. Some of the very cheapest in this grade are composites of granite and resin.
  • Standard grade – This grade has some type of fault and minor irregularities in thickness and cut.
  • Premium grade – Flooring tiles of this grade come with uniform thickness and flawlessly cut edges. This is where you’ll find less common colors in more complex, eye-catching patterns.

For the greatest character and durability, look for premium grade granite and expect to pay at least $10 to $15 per sq. ft., with exotic colors running as high as $40 per sq. ft.

Difficult to Install

Installing a granite floor is not a do-it-yourself job if you want optimal results. Before laying the tiles, your installer must make sure the floor is perfectly level. An uneven floor can cause the tiles to crack. The weight of the stone makes the tiles hard to handle, so it takes skill to lay them correctly. Lower-grade granite takes even more work because the uneven edges of the tiles make it difficult to use spacers. Given how hard granite is, it’s a challenge to cut, which adds to the workload if your installer needs to cut sections to fit irregular spaces.

Not Suitable for Every Home

Granite is a particularly heavy stone, so before you decide to use it, make sure your floor can support its weight. Polished granite is slippery, especially when it’s wet, so it’s not the safest choice in a household with elderly adults or small children. If you plan to use it in the kitchen or bath, you’ll want to put down rugs with rubber backings or non-slip pads to reduce the risk of falls.

In a moderate or cold climate, a granite floor’s cooling effect might not be so comfortable. While granite is safe to use with underfloor radiant heating, it doesn’t conduct heat well enough to be highly efficient, and it’s prone to cracking due to temperature changes.

If you’re looking for flooring that will bring a sense of stately elegance to your home for decades to come, granite is an excellent choice. While it costs more up front than most other flooring options, it will pay you back in beauty, longevity, and increased property value. If you live in a cold climate or you need a low-cost flooring option, however, another type of flooring might meet your needs better.

Posted on Categories Flooring

Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets

Closeup of White Kitchen Cabinets
© SawBear Photography / Adobe Stock

Your cabinets are some of the most important storage features in your home, so the style you choose can make a big difference in how convenient your kitchen and bathroom are to use.

While framed cabinets offer traditional charm and exceptionally stable construction, frameless cabinets have their own advantages that often make them a better option for small and modern-style homes. Before you choose, consider what each can offer you in terms of both appearance and usability.

Framed Cabinets: Sturdy and Traditional

Eloquent Framed Wood Kitchen Cabinets
© Melanie DeFazio / Adobe Stock

Framed cabinets have long been the go-to style for American cabinetmakers. These cabinets are built with a “face frame” on the front that’s typically 1 1/2 to 3 inches wide. The cabinet doors are mounted onto this frame with hinges that are either hidden or visible, depending on the cabinet’s design. Many framed cabinets also have a center stile and mid-rail that form a cross over the opening of the cabinet to add extra stability.

With framed cabinets, you can choose from four basic front styles:

Standard overlay – The cabinet doors cover only around 1/2 inch of the frame, leaving 1 to 2 1/2 inches visible.

Full overlay – The cabinet doors cover all but approximately 1/4 inch of the frame.

Standard inset – Rather than overlaying the cabinet frame, inset cabinet doors and drawer fronts are fit within the frame. This way, the whole frame can be seen.

Beaded inset – These inset doors and drawer fronts are detailed with a narrow groove along the edges, creating a more polished, finely crafted appearance.

Advantages

In a framed cabinet, the shelves and doors are attached to the face frame, which lends the entire cabinet greater stability. With this extra support, the shelves are less likely to sag under the weight of heavy items.

On a wall that isn’t perfectly flat, framed cabinets will be somewhat easier to install and will generally end up looking more uniform than frameless models.

The long-standing popularity of framed cabinets has earned them a classic, time-honored appeal. They’re ideal for creating a warm, homey look in the kitchen. Love the traditional elegance of crown molding along the top of kitchen cabinetry? With framed cabinets, you’ll be able to mount the molding directly to your cabinets’ face frames for easier installation.

Disadvantages

One of the biggest downsides of framed cabinets is that the frame takes up space that could otherwise be used for storage. Because the storage space in each cabinet and door is reduced, you might end up needing to install more cabinets or drawers than you would with frameless models. While this might not be a problem in a large home, it can be a real inconvenience in a small space.

What’s more, cabinets that have a center stile and mid-rail across the front are harder to access. This limited access can make it awkward to get large items, such as long casserole dishes or large soup pots, in and out of the cabinet.

Due to their more complex design and the extra material that goes into constructing them, framed cabinets cost between 10 to 20 percent more than their frameless cousins.

Frameless Cabinets: Sleek and Spacious

Frameless Kitchen Cabinets
© Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

In Europe, frameless cabinets are the standard and thanks to their streamlined look and roomy interiors, their popularity is growing in America, too. This cabinet design is also known as full-access because eliminating the face frame allows greater access to the cabinet’s interior.

Frameless cabinets are built using a box-like construction, relying on thick walls to provide stability. The door overlays the edge of the cabinet sides almost completely, and the hinges are concealed.

Advantages

Without a frame to take up space, frameless cabinetry, and frameless drawers, in particular, offer more space for storage. While the extra space in each might seem insignificant, it adds up. It can make the difference between having enough cabinet space for all your cookware or having to store some on top of the refrigerator. Frameless cabinets are also built without center stiles and mid-rails, so it’s easy to get large items in and out of them.

If the modern minimalist look is your thing, frameless cabinets are a perfect fit. With no frame creating breaks between each cabinet, frameless cabinets offer greater visual continuity for a streamlined, contemporary look.

Their simpler construction means frameless cabinets generally cost less than framed models made of the same material. If you’re looking into buying laminate, thermofoil or melamine cabinets, you’ll find a better selection among frameless models.

Disadvantages

Especially in wide frameless cabinets, cabinet bottoms and shelves are at risk of sagging if you store heavy objects, such as small appliances, on them. The banding on the cabinets’ front edges is prone to peeling over time, although this isn’t difficult to repair.

In general, installing frameless cabinets isn’t harder or easier than installing framed models, but frameless cabinets tend to be trickier to install when the walls aren’t flat. Installing frameless cabinets can be harder if you don’t have the European hardware designed for them. For example, you’ll need hanging rails to mount cabinets to the walls and leg levers to support cabinets on the floor. While most home improvement stores that sell frameless cabinets also offer this hardware, not all do.

The style of cabinet that’s right for your home depends largely on the ambiance you want to create and the amount of storage space you need.

If you’re planning a traditional or farmhouse-style kitchen and space isn’t an issue, framed cabinets will help you get the look you want. The range of options for cabinet fronts also gives you more control over your kitchen’s aesthetics. If you’re aiming for a more modern or minimalist vibe, the clean lines of frameless cabinets are a better fit. Just as importantly, the extra storage space they offer is useful for making the most of a small kitchen.

Posted on Categories Interior

Maple vs. Oak, Cherry, and Birch Cabinets

Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets
© aberenyie / Adobe Stock

More than just utilitarian structures that store plates and towels, your cabinets contribute a lot to the ambiance of your kitchen and bath. Because the wood they’re made of influences their character and dependability, it’s one of the most important factors to consider when you choose new wood cabinets.

Maple offers a nearly unparalleled combination of durability, refined beauty, and reasonable cost, but other commonly used wood species have their own advantages. Distinctive oak, elegant cherry, and sleek birch are popular in cabinetry for a variety of reasons.

Maple Cabinets: Classic Simplicity

Maple Kitchen Cabinets
© Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Pros

Understated beauty – Maple is light in color with a reddish tint, ranging from pale blonde to light cinnamon. Its fine, even grain gives it a consistent appearance even across large surfaces and allows for the wood to be sanded to a smooth finish. Both factors make maple well suited to modern interiors where a rustic, coarse-grained wood might look out of place.

Durability – Maple stands up well to daily use in kitchens and bathrooms, where temperatures and humidity fluctuate considerably. It resists warping and cracking, and because it’s one of the hardest woods used in cabinetry, dropped pans and kids’ toys are unlikely to dent it.

Moderate price – A mid-priced hardwood, maple is typically less expensive than oak, cherry, and walnut, but more expensive than birch, hickory, and alder.

Availability – Maple trees are fairly fast growers that thrive in nearly all parts of the United States, helping to make the wood both low-cost and environmentally sustainable.

Cons

Staining limitations – Maple is relatively easy to stain, but it isn’t the easiest option. Dark stains, in particular, can come out blotchy.

Color changes – As maple ages, it takes on a yellowish cast that can make it look tired and worn. If exposed to long hours of direct sunlight, maple cabinets can become dull within just a few years.

Oak Cabinets: Traditional Warmth

Oak Kitchen Cabinets
© David Hughes / Adobe Stock

Pros

Earthy appearance – Oak’s clearly visible grain emphasizes its natural origins, making this wood a good fit for traditional and farmhouse-style kitchens. Both red and white oak is used in cabinetry, although red oak is more common. Despite its name and distinct red undertone, red oak is lighter in color than white oak. Both have defined grain patterns, but the grain of red oak is more prominent with wavy variations and knotholes.

Durability – Oak is one of the most durable woods used for cabinets. Its hardness and strength help it resist rot and warping in humid environments, as well as stave off scratches and dings.

Timeless appeal – Don’t let those cheaply made honey oak cabinets from the 1990s put you off. High-quality solid oak cabinets never really go out of style. Oak’s naturally neutral color goes with nearly any decor, and its uncommon grain patterns lend it a quiet dignity.

Reasonable price – Oak is moderately priced and less expensive than maple or cherry.

Cons

Potential for flaws – As they grow, oak trees sometimes develop mineral deposits that result in noticeable streaks of brown and yellow in their wood. Red oak’s variable grain and frequent defects might add interest, but they’re not something everyone finds attractive.

Uneven staining results – Oak’s porous surface means it stains well, but stain can also excessively darken the grain, making the cabinets look streaky.

High weight – As a particularly dense wood, oak is heavier than most other hardwoods. White oak is even heavier than red oak. The weight of this wood can make installing oak cabinets somewhat more difficult. On the plus side, oak’s density is a big part of what makes it so durable.

Cherry: Standout Appearance

Cherry Kitchen Cabinets
© ML Harris / Adobe Stock

Pros

Rich coloring – Cherry wood is loved for its natural reddish-brown color that’s hard to duplicate with stain. Cherry cabinets can warm up an otherwise pallid, lifeless room. If you want an even darker wood, cherry also takes dark stain better than maple and oak. Its grain is fine, yet distinct, so it’s perfect for those who appreciate the character of natural wood, but want to avoid anything too rustic. Like maple, cherry can be sanded to a high polish.

Widespread use – Because cherry is easy to shape, polish, and otherwise work with, it’s popular with cabinetmakers. If you decide to buy stock or semi-custom cabinets in cherry, you’ll have a wide variety to choose from.

Cons

Susceptibility to damage – Cherry is a bit softer than maple, oak, and birch, so it’s more susceptible to scratches and dents. Because of this, it’s not ideal if you have young kids who might be banging into the cabinets.

Unpredictable color changes – This wood darkens over time until it reaches its famous deep red hue, so there’s always some risk your cabinets will darken unevenly. The stain you choose affects how much your cherry cabinets darken, so you have some control over the change.

High cost – Cherry is one of the pricier hardwoods, although it still costs less than walnut and decidedly less than luxury woods such as teak and mahogany.

Birch Cabinets: Budget-friendly Beauty

Birch Kitchen Cabinets
Photo Credit: David Veno

Pros

Quiet grace – Birch sapwood is a pale beige while the heartwood is tinted with copper and is slightly darker than maple. When polished, birch takes on a satiny sheen. Its light color, fine grain, and smooth texture make birch a good choice for modern, minimalist homes.

Warp-resistance – Birch is one of the most warp-resistant woods, so moisture and temperature fluctuations are unlikely to cause problems for your cabinets.

Low cost – As an abundant, fast-growing tree, birch provides the lowest-cost hardwoods and also one of the most eco-friendly. The fact that it’s so easy to work with also keeps the cost of finished cabinets down.

Cons

Susceptibility to scratches – Somewhat softer than oak, birch cabinets are prone to scratching if treated or cleaned too roughly. Minor scratches easily blend in with the wood’s grain pattern, though.

Hard to stain – Staining birch is possible, but because some parts of this wood tend to be more porous than others, the results could turn out blotchy. What’s more, birch is even less accepting of dark stains than maple is.

Maple’s hard-wearing, classic beauty, and modest cost make it an all-around good choice for cabinets in both traditional and modern homes. Its naturally light color can brighten up a dark room, but because it stains well, it also gives you a range of options for color.

Other popular wood species might be better options when there’s a specific look and feel you want to create. For a warm, homey look, consider oak. If you love the elegance of dark cabinetry, cherry is ideal. If you’d prefer something with a simple, modern appearance or you’re just looking for budget-friendly wood cabinets, birch is the way to go.

Posted on Categories Interior

The Pros and Cons of Solar Tubes

Solar Tube Illustration
© vchalup / Adobe Stock

If you want to enjoy more natural light in your home, but find skylights too big, expensive or hard to maintain, solar tubes offer a simple alternative. Also known as tubular skylights or sun tunnels, solar tubes give you an unobtrusive way to brighten the darker areas of your home with soft, natural light.

The standard solar tube is a tube of polished sheet metal installed in the roof to channel sunlight into the house’s interior. They’re most commonly available in 10- and 14-inch-diameter sizes, which fit between standard 16-inch roof joists. On the roof end of the tube is a weather-resistant acrylic cap. On the ceiling side is a round window-like opening fit with a diffuser that helps distribute the light evenly.

Pros: Effective, Understated, and Affordable

With solar tubes, you can light your home for free without the expense of skylight installation or the need to alter the look of your rooms.

Free lighting – On a sunny day, one 10-inch solar tube gives you around the same amount of light as three 100-watt bulbs. That’s enough to illuminate a 200 sq. ft. room well enough for office work or light a 300 sq. ft. room enough for less visual activities such as taking a shower or folding the laundry. With this much light, you’ll no longer have to use an electric light on sunny or even moderately cloudy days. You’ll enjoy extra convenience while saving money. If you need light at night, too, choose a solar tube model that includes an electric light.

Design flexibility – Given their size, skylights are hard to miss when you walk into a room. Solar tubes, on the other hand, are subtle design elements that add light without calling attention to themselves. If you want to bring more light into your living room or bedroom without altering the room’s architecture, solar tubes let you do it. They also fit into smaller spaces than traditional skylights, making them a practical way to brighten up a small, dim hallway or pantry.

Lower risk of leaks – Traditional skylights are well known for their tendency to leak. A major reason for this is the way they collect debris, such as leaves, which prevents rainfall and snow melt from draining off the roof. The built up water then finds its way under the roofing material and then to your ceiling. Solar tubes are less likely to leak because their small, relatively flat dome allows water to drain around them.

Budget-friendly installation – Solar tubes might look like a luxury feature, but they don’t require a major investment. The tubes themselves cost less than skylights, and they’re also less expensive to have installed because they don’t require any changes to your drywall or framing. Professional installation costs less than $1000 in most parts of the country.

To save more, you can install your solar tubes yourself with a kit that costs less than $500. That said, in certain more complicated cases where installation requires fitting the tube around wiring, pipes or air ducts, you’ll get better results by hiring a professional.

Cons: Less Control and Limited Design Impact

Solar tubes give you fewer options for controlling the light entering the room, and their small size means they do little to enhance your home’s architecture.

Fewer options for control – Skylights give you more control over the quality of light you let in. Skylight shades work just like window shades, while the variety of skylight diffusers on the market gives you plenty of options for distributing the light in the room. You can also add film to reduce UV light that can fade your rugs and furniture. Vented skylights even let you get some fresh air with your sunlight just by opening the skylight as you would an awning window.

With solar tubes, shades and venting aren’t really options. While you can use diffusers and window film, you’ll have a more limited selection compared to what’s available for skylights.

Little design improvement – Skylights are an architectural design feature unto themselves, making the room appear larger and airier, and giving you an ever-changing view of the passing clouds. They add both an ambiance of luxury and a feeling of connection to nature. Most solar tubes, however, are too small to affect the room’s appearance beyond letting in light and they don’t let you see much of anything outdoors.

Not equally suited to every home – The type of roof you have might make it impractical to install solar tubes. Most solar tubes are designed for roofs with a slope between 15 and 60 degrees. If you have a flat room, you’ll need to look for tubular skylight models specifically designed for this type of roof. On a steeply pitched roof, such as an A-frame, installation might not be possible at all. Most DIY solar tube kits are designed for roofs with asphalt or wood shingles. If you have tiles or a metal roof, you’ll need an adapter.

In high-humidity climates, condensation on the inside of the tube is a common problem. You can minimize this by wrapping the tube in R-15 batt insulation before you install it.

If your home could use a little more daylight, particularly in the smaller spaces, but you don’t want to spend a lot or change the overall look of your rooms, solar tubes are a practical solution. On the other hand, if you want to make a major impact on a room’s appearance and you’re willing to pay for it, you might want to stick with traditional skylights.

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