How to Repair Ceiling Water Damage

Ceiling Damaged by a Water Leak
© avtk / Fotolia

What may at first appear to be a small water stain on your ceiling could be just the tip of a costly iceberg. Most damage occurs on the side you can’t see, and by the time you have a visible leak, it is often too late. Even worse, your damaged ceiling is a perfect breeding ground for mold, which can pose a serious health risk. Addressing water damage to your ceiling should thus be a priority.

Is Ceiling Water Damage Covered by Insurance?

Depending upon your insurer, water damage may be covered. Insurance agencies differentiate between flood and water damage based upon whether the water hits your home before touching the ground outside. Water damage may include roof or plumbing leaks, depending upon your policy. In some cases, mold damage is also covered.

Due to the similarities between flooding and water damage, it is best to discuss any damage with your agent as soon as possible and to carefully document the damage. In some cases, a claim may be turned down if not filed properly. If you are unsure about whether your insurance policy covers water damage, it is best to consult with your insurance provider before attempting any repairs.

Repairing a Drywall Ceiling Yourself

As with many other home repair projects, you can often fix a damaged ceiling yourself. This is especially true of a drywall ceiling. Thankfully, you will rarely have to replace the entire ceiling.

Repair Options for Drywall Ceilings

There are a few choices available for fixing drywall although not all are advisable for use in ceilings. The three most common methods are:

  • Self-adhesive drywall mesh – This metal mesh is useful for patching holes in drywall and provides a means to support your spackle. Unfortunately, mesh repairs tend to sag when used on ceilings and are thus not a good choice.
  • Drywall access panels – One option that has seen some popularity growth is the installation of a drywall access hatch when repairing a section of damaged ceiling. Not only does the hatch installation replace the damaged portion of drywall ceiling, it also provides a means to inspect periodically for further damage. Hatches are especially useful when installed under plumbing that is known develop leaks.
  • Replacing an individual section – Perhaps the most popular method is to simply cut out the damaged section of drywall and put a new panel in its place. This works best in smaller areas, although high ceilings may be more difficult to work on.

Gathering Supplies

Before attempting repairs, it is best to gather the necessary supplies. You will also want to keep pets and small children out of the room until all repairs are finished. To effectively repair the ceiling, you will need:

  • pencil and combination square
  • drywall joint compound
  • four or six inch putty knife or drywall blade
  • 12 inch drywall blade
  • cordless drill
  • drywall repair panel (measuring two by two by one-half inches)
  • one and one-fourth inch drywall screws (course threaded)
  • drywall screw setters
  • tape measure
  • utility knife
  • self-stick fiberglass drywall tape
  • six inch and twelve inch drywall taping blades
  • drywall jab saw
  • drywall sanding sponge
  • nine by four by one-half inch plywood board to use as a brace (note that SHEETROCK drywall repair clips may be used instead)
  • drop cloth

The cost of one panel, a gallon of compound, a four-pack of screw setters, and a roll of tape will generally run about $23 at places such as Home Depot, making this a relatively inexpensive project if you have access to the tools.

Step 1: Removing the Damaged Section

There may be wires or other delicate items located above the damaged portion of your ceiling. If you cannot access the space to check the area, carefully cut a small hole using your utility knife. Use a flashlight and small mirror to check the area for potential problems before attempting to cut out the section.

Once you have determined where to cut, use your jab saw to cut a rough square around the hole. Do not worry about straight edges yet. If the leak is near a metal drywall ceiling support, your cuts will be restricted to this area for now. Be sure to cut some distance from the damaged portion. You may also wish to use some homemade mold spray around the area before proceeding to kill any mold spores which have taken root.

Step 2: Completing the Cuts

Using your square, pencil out the edges around your repair area. Be sure to make your lines partially overlap any metal drywall runners for better anchoring. Gently score the covering paper along the lines with your utility knife, then insert and rock the blade back and forth along the scored lines, making several passes. Finally, finish with a longer deep pass. Do this process for all four edges.

Step 3: Bracing the Drywall

Take the plywood board and place it inside your opening along an edge opposite a drywall runner. Use your drywall screws and screw setters to attach the plywood brace to the inside of the existing drywall, leaving a two inch clearance. One screw per side is sufficient, and you do not need to screw a side which connects to a runner. The braces and runners will provide a sturdy flange on which to mount the replacement drywall piece.

Step 4: Cutting the Replacement Panel

Measure and mark the dimensions for the replacement panel using your square and paper. Be sure to make your new panel between one-eighths and three-sixteenths of an inch smaller than the opening you are filling. This will keep the panel from binding.

Step 5: Installing the New Panel

Carefully cut the board, then trim to fit with your utility knife. Use four drywall screws to fasten the panel to the backer board and metal runners. Apply the self-adhesive fiberglass drywall tape along the joints to create a seal.

Next, apply a thin coat of joint compound over the tape with the smaller putty knife. Immediately after coating the tape, spread a thin coating of compound with your 12-inch blade, feathering the edges as you go. It is important to work quickly, as the compound does not take long to dry. Only a thin layer is needed, as you will need to sand off the excess. Allow the patch to dry overnight.

Step 6: Finishing

Take a wet sanding sponge and gently smooth out any high spots and feather the edges to help the patch blend in. Be sure to wring out any excess water and rinse the sponge when necessary to prevent any clogging from compound debris. Allow to dry. You may wish to add a second layer of compound and repeat the drying and sanding process.

As a final step, paint the area over. You may wish to take a piece of the removed drywall for color matching if your ceiling is a particular shade or the patch is otherwise visible.

Hiding an Old Stain

There are a few circumstances in which you may choose not to replace the damaged ceiling. This may include water marks from a previous roof leak or marks from a major storm where water soaked through. The repair is cheaper, but not advised if there is extensive damage on the hidden side of the ceiling.

Use some homemade mold spray and make sure the area is dry before proceeding. Use hairspray to seal the stained area. Then, apply a coat of primer with stain blocker to further seal the area and hide the stain. You may wish to paint over the area as a finishing touch.

Dealing with Mold

Leaking Ceiling with Mold
© askthegeek / Fotolia

Mold thrives in damp areas and can not only damage your ceiling further; it is also a serious health risk. Mold can contribute to asthma and other respiratory issues. In some cases, it can even prove fatal with prolonged exposure.

Supplies Needed

  • bucket
  • bleach
  • sponge
  • goggles or other protective eyewear
  • breathing mask
  • gloves
  • spray bottle with mild detergent
  • hard-bristled brush
  • clean cloth
  • protective plastic to cover the floor from bleach drips

Preparing the Area

Remove any nearby furniture and lay plastic on the floor to reduce the risk of bleach damage. Next, spray the area liberally and scrub it with your sponge. In order for the next steps to work more efficiently, you will need to make sure to remove all traces of dirt. Open any doors or windows for ventilation.

Destroying the Mold

Add a concentrated blend of equal parts warm water and bleach to the bucket. Take your brush, dip it in the bleach, and scrub the moldy area. Be careful of splashing, as the bleach may discolor nearby walls or furnishings. The removal process is rarely quick, so take breaks as needed.

When there are no traces of mold left, apply more bleach solution and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. This will destroy any remaining microbes. Finish up by drying the area thoroughly with a clean cloth.

Using a Homemade Mold Spray

Even if you don’t notice mold around the damaged area, you may wish to use a spray to kill any spores which are present. Take an empty bottle and fill it with a solution of one part bleach to two parts water. Spray the area thoroughly, being careful not to get it in your eyes. Make sure there is proper ventilation and allow the area to dry completely before attempting any further repairs.

Professional Repair

Depending upon the amount of damage or your confidence in handling the work yourself, you may opt to hire a professional to repair or replaced the damaged ceiling. According to CostHelper, professional repair of a water-damaged ceiling will run between $100 and $300. Inspection of the damaged area is often provided free of charge.

Additional References

Esurance provides a short guide on what may be covered by your insurance and how to spot mold.

HomeAdvisor offers a free searchable database of ceiling repair contractors.

Posted on Categories Interior

What Does Hydroseeding Cost?

Perfect Lawn
© Kurhan / Fotolia

Hydroseeding, also known as hydromulching, is a cheaper and quicker alternative to traditional sod. However, the exact price varies based upon a variety of factors. While the price per foot averages between seven and sixteen cents, the average cost tends to be thirteen cents. This sounds like very little difference until you consider the space you are filling.

A property with 2,000 square feet of land to cover will cost between $140 and $320. Smaller lawns will show less variation while larger lawns will show an increasingly large cost difference. It is therefore good to consider the factors which affect cost and shop around for the best price for your goals.

Making a Personal Estimate

Blackboard Math Calculations
© allvision / Fotolia

Prior to shopping around, it is a good idea to come up with a rough personal estimate. While not an exact science, you will have some idea of what the final cost may be. Beyond any additional costs from the supplier, hydroseeding cost calculations may be broken down into four major categories.

1. Planting Area

The first factor you should consider is the size of your project area. Perhaps you are merely working on your front lawn, or you may be seeding the lawn spaces over your entire property. Measure out the spaces in order to estimate the number of square feet that requires seeding. Note that larger projects generally cost less per square foot than smaller ones, and there is little difference in cost between residential and commercial projects. Therefore, the base cost should be similar between a single family home and an apartment building per foot.

There are three basic shapes to consider when estimating how many square feet to cover:

  1. Rectangle – multiply the length by the width.
  2. Circle – measure across the middle (diameter) and divide that number by two (radius). To discover the area, the formula is radius times radius times pi (3.14). For example, a circle measuring 40 inches across would be calculated as: 20 x 20 = 400, or roughly 33 1/3 feet. 33.4 x 3.14 = 104.876, or roughly 104 3/4 square feet.
  3. Triangle – the formula for this is one half of the base times the height. For example, a triangle that is 12 feet at the base and five feet high would be calculated as: 12/2 = 6 x 5 = 30 square feet.

2. Seed Type

The next factor to consider is what type of seed you intend to use. The U.S. consists of 12 planting zones, each with a range of grasses suitable for the climate. Depending upon your location, you may be restricted to certain seed types. Each of these seed types has their own price, with bluegrass varieties generally cheaper, Perennial Ryegrass around ten cents per square foot, and heartier types capable of withstanding heavy traffic at the expensive end of the cost spectrum.

When making this estimation, consider how much punishment your lawn will receive. Is it mainly decorative? Or do your children frequently use it for sports? Your seed choice should be based largely on the amount of abuse your lawn will have to suffer. This factor will also come into play when you begin calling around for cost estimates.

3. Seed Density

The third major factor to consider is how dense the hydroseed needs to be. Poor soil may require a thicker blend of fertilizers, tackifiers to hold the hydroseed together, and other components. The amount of use may also contribute to a need for higher density. The more material you need per square foot, the more you can expect to pay.

4. Preparation and Landscaping

The fourth and final consideration is how much preparation will be required before the ground is ready for seeding. Expect to pay more if the ground requires additional topsoil or grading before it can be seeded.

An Example of Cost Calculation

Making a bare-bones estimate can be as involved as you choose, but a simple response to each factor is enough to get a baseline estimate. Simply take each step and write your answer. Then do the math. For example:

1. You are filling 2,500 square feet.

2. You need only moderate durability, and have decided to aim for a variety costing around 10 cents per square foot.

3. Due to the topsoil quality of the area, you will require double density.

4. There are no major landscaping issues.

The formula is #1 times the product of #2 and #3. #4 is then added to the total.

Thus in this example, the formula is: 2500 (.10 x 2) = $500.00 + $0 = $500

While the professional estimate may be notably different from $500, this baseline estimate gives you a rough idea of what to expect when shopping around.

Possible Additional Fees

Once you have your personal estimate, you will have an idea of what to expect to pay. Note that some companies may charge additional service fees. For example, many companies charge a $35 fee for consultation and inspection of the property, while others may be willing to provide a free consultation. Other companies have a specified service range and may typically charge $2.00 per mile beyond that range to transport materials. Some companies may also charge an additional fee for spreading the soil.

Another consideration is moisture. Some seed types may require watering several times per day over the first month. While temporary, this additional cost should be taken into consideration if you are not using an on-site water source such as a home well or rainwater tank.

Additional Resources

Eco-Turf Hydroseeding offers a short video illustrating how to measure your project area.

Posted on Categories Yard

The Homeowner’s Guide to Roof Types and Materials

Brown Tile Roof under Construction
© Hoda Bogdan / Fotolia

There was a time when homes were uniform in design and had limited access to materials. Now, homeowners have a wide range of options for both style and material when working on their roof. Regardless of whether you are repairing a roof, replacing it, or building an addition to your home, it is important to know the choices available to you as materials are often limited to certain types of roof.

When selecting your materials, you may choose to go with a more eco-friendly or cost-effective alternative to your existing roof material. There may be local restrictions preventing you from using certain types of roof or material, so it is best to research building codes if you are not using choices common in your area.

A Note About Roof Pitches

The pitch of your roof plays a major role in the available styles and materials. Also known as a slope, there are three different classifications into which roofs are divided. Each slope category has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is best to consider these factors when planning to build a roof.

Flat Roofs

Any roof with a pitch under 2:12 is considered a flat roof. The space underneath a flat roof has mostly uniform headroom, making it good for garages and modern apartments. Drainage is less efficient on this type of roof, and there may be local regulations addressing this problem.

Low Slope

Roofs with a pitch between 2:12 and 4:12 classify as low slope. These roofs provide better drainage at the cost of some headroom in your loft area. Shed roofs, while flat, classify as low slope roofs.

Steep Slope

Ranging from a 4:12 to 21:12 pitch, steep slope roofs offer the least amount of headroom, but provide maximum water runoff. Steep sloped roofs also support the widest range of materials.

Types of Roof

There are several common types of roof, each with their own appeal. Depending upon the type of roof on your home, you may be limited to certain materials. When adding on to an existing structure, identifying the style of your existing roof will help keep the addition uniform.


This style of roof may be traced back to wooden lodges in the medieval period and possibly earlier, and is becoming popular again. The key advantage of an A-frame roof is that the sides continue to the ground and therefore double as walls. Unfortunately, his also means that the side walls slope in such a way that it reduces headroom.

A-frame designs eliminate the need for gutters and help provide protection to your foundation. It may be used for a variety of structures, including cottages, churches, and sheds. Due to the size of the roof, all A-frames are steep sloped.


More common in Hawaii than the continental U.S., butterfly roofs are an inversion of the traditional roof with peaks on the outer edges and a central valley where the sides meet. Providing natural light and good ventilation, the butterfly roof is not efficient when it comes to eliminating rainwater. Many buildings with a butterfly roof take advantage of the design to instead collect rainwater for use in drought conditions.


Due to their design, flat sloped roofs are considered their own category of roof type. Most commonly found on commercial buildings and modern apartment complexes, they are easy to build and repair. Many green communities are adopting flat roofs for use as garden and recreational space. It should be noted that flat roofs require a special category of roofing materials known as membrane materials.

Folded Plate

More common in large structures, folded plate roofs resemble a series of gables placed in a row.


One of the most common types of roof in the U.S., a gable roof consists of two sloped sides. The term gable refers to the triangular wall at one end of the roof, meaning a gable roof has at least two gables. Cross gable roofs contain one or more additional gables which connect at right angles. A popular variation, the winged gable, extends outwards beyond the roof’s peak.

Gable roofs are among the easiest styles to build, making them popular and relatively inexpensive. However, they are not recommended for hurricane-prone areas, as the gables trap wind and may result in the roof being ripped away if the resulting pressure is high enough.


Also known as a kerb, these angled roofs are bisected with the lower portion being much steeper than the upper portion. They provide a large amount of loft space and are used for many types of structure, although they are most commonly seen on barns.


The hip roof varies from most other types of roof by covering all four sides of a home. These four slopes require more complex support than gable roofs and may cover either a square or rectangular surface. Dutch Hips have a small gable added to two opposing ends, simplifying construction and often providing ventilation.

Hip roofs tend to be low sloped. Steep sloped variations include the tent slope and pavilion slope.


Mansard roofs are the hip roof’s equivalent to a gambrel, with the lower half being steeper than the upper half.


Shed roofs are low sloped flat roofs. Also known as mono-pitched roofs, they may exist as independent structures or an extension of an existing roof with no change to the pitch.


Brown Asphalt Shingled Roof
© bildlove / Fotolia

Technology has not only made the creation of traditional roofing materials more efficient, it has also created several alternative options which are almost indistinguishable from the originals. As a result, repairing or replacing a roof may not require the same materials used elsewhere to achieve a uniform look.

The following examples of common roofing materials are not exhaustive. Likewise, the chart contains average statistics which may be higher or lower depending upon the manufacturer, supplier, and/or contractor. Some examples of other materials, as well as materials designed for flat roofs, are included at the end.


Invented in 1893 and first used in 1901, asphalt shingles are the most common form of roofing material. While not the most durable material, they are cheap and fairly resistant to both wind and fire. Modern asphalt shingles have either an organic or fiberglass base and a granuled outer coating which both add color and protects the shingle from damage. Shingles containing copper or other materials are available in wetter climates to reduce algae growth.

Asphalt shingles are available in three-tab or architectural cuts. They are also recyclable, although they are not otherwise eco-friendly. Usable on almost any low or steep sloped roof, most insurance companies will offer a discount if you are using asphalt shingles with a Class 4 impact rating, making this the default choice for most homeowners.

Clay Tile

Clay and ceramic tiles have been a popular material for centuries, especially in Spanish architecture. These tiles range from flat to S-shaped and are highly resistant to fire. Unfortunately, many tile shapes, such as Spanish or Mission, do not fit together snugly and require some form of backing to improve water resistance with lower pitches requiring more backing.

Conversely, the heavy weight of the tiles will affect the way they are fastened. Steeper pitches require more securing, with the steepest requiring each tile to be nailed and possibly mortared. This can drastically affect the price. Low wind resistance further impacts securing requirements in hurricane-prone regions.

Concrete Tile

A modern alternative to clay tile, concrete tile is made from a mixture of sand and Portland cement. These tiles are cheaper than clay, but are otherwise nearly identical in weight, resistance, and usage. As they are baked, they require a high amount of energy to produce, but are all-natural and easily recycled. Concrete tiles can be made to resemble not only clay tile, but slate and wood shake as well.


Available in a wide variety of metals, this type of roofing material is available as either sheets or shingles. It is lightweight and resilient, has a long lifespan, and is fully recyclable. Unlike many other materials, metal can be added on top of existing roofs, further reducing cost and landfill.

Metal tiles can be painted or coated, although copper tiles are usually left untreated to obtain its characteristic green oxidized color. You may also purchase metal roofing coated in a reflective pigment, which can help lower utility bills.


Among the oldest and most resilient options for roofs, slate remains a popular choice among building professionals. Despite being mined, slate requires minimal digging and processing. It is also waterproof and highly resistant to fire, making it one of the most ecologically-sound options. Tiles may be affixed using either nails or hooks, the latter adding extra wind resistance but unsuitably for historic buildings.

While sturdy and environmentally friendly, slate is also heavy and expensive. A certified slater is needed to install the material, and tiles are very brittle prior to installation. If you are planning to upgrade to slate, you may also need to have your roof reinforced to bear the extra weight.

Synthetic Tile

A growing number of synthetic materials are being used to create lightweight and efficient roofing tiles. One of the more common varieties, plastic polymer, is recyclable and may be used in place of many more traditional materials. As the tiles are molded, they may be shaped to resemble various alternatives such as wood shake or slate.

Treated Wood Shingle and Shakes

A traditional form of roof covering, wood shingles and shakes have lost most of their popularity due to high cost and susceptibility to fire. Shakes, also known as shag shingles, are created by splitting logs. They have traditionally been used as both roofing and siding material. Shingles, conversely, are made from sawed wood and tend to be less resistant to water and softening than shakes.

Modern shakes and shingles are thicker than their traditional counterparts, and shingles may have a rough finish. They both have high aesthetic appeal and are more durable than asphalt shingles, although they tend to require more maintenance. Both variations are available in a range of wood types including pine, cedar, and California redwood.

Comparison Table

MaterialAesthetic Appeal
Cost per sq ftDurabilityEnvironmental
Lifespan (Years)SlopeWeight per sq ftWind
AsphaltCommon$75-$125LowPetroleum-Based; RecyclableGood15-20Low to
190-250 lbsFair
Laminated AsphaltCommon$125-$200FairPetroleum-Based; RecyclableGood20-30Low to
240-340 lbsFair
Clay TileItalian, Spanish$800-$1,000GoodHigh Energy Cost to ProduceHigh50+Moderate to Steep1,100-1,900 lbsLow to Fair
Concrete TileItalian, Spanish$300-$500GoodHigh Energy Cost to ProduceHigh50+Moderate to Steep500-900 lbsLow to Fair
Copper TileVaries$1,100Fair to HighRecyclableGood30-50Low to Steep150 lbsGood
MetalVaries$250-$500Fair to HighRecyclableGood30-50Low to Steep100-200 lbsGood
SlateHistoric$130HighMined; MinimalHigh80-100Steep700-1,500 lbsHigh
Synthetic Tile (Plastic Polymer)Varies$400-$650HighRecyclableGood50+Moderate to Steep70-300 lbsGood
Wood ShakeRustic$180LowBio-degradableLow15-20Moderate to Steep300 lbsGood
Wood ShingleRustic$180LowBio-degradableLow15-20Moderate to Steep300 lbsGood

Membrane Materials for Flat Roofs

Flat roofs require special roofing materials which vary greatly in durability, resistance, and cost. Rubber, thermoplastic, and modified bitumen have proven more resilient than traditional asphalt and gravel roofs. These materials are rolled out onto the surface of the roof rather than affixed in tiles or shingles. Membrane roofs enjoy an ever-growing number of innovations, making cost and other details highly variable. It is best to shop around if you are considering work on a flat roof to see what materials are available in your area.

Other Roofing Materials

Stone House with Thatch Roof
© yolfran / Fotolia

There are many other available options for roofing material, although most have very limited use. The following are a few of those alternatives:

Canvas or Cloth – This form of roofing material is generally restricted to awnings and retractable roofs.

Stone – Heavy and expensive, most forms of stone roofing are unpopular in the U.S. However, varieties such as sandstone and marble are still used in Europe.

Thatch – Perhaps the oldest form of roofing, thatch is extremely vulnerable to fire and rot. It is also notorious for attracting birds, mice, and insects. Thatched roofs are therefore used mostly in arid, tribal regions and not considered viable for a modern home.

Treated Bamboo – This fairly recent alternative is specially treated to be fire resistant. Highly renewable, bamboo has been gaining attention as a durable building material in earthquake-prone regions, but is not yet common in the U.S.

The Difference Between Manufacturer and Contractor Warranties

An important consideration when undertaking any home project, the warranties available for your roofing project come in two varieties. Depending upon the roofing job and contractor involved, you may encounter one or both types. Please note that these warranties may not transfer when buying or selling a house.

The manufacturer’s warranty covers the materials used, but not the labor. Defective tiles or other problems may be covered. Conversely, the contractor may offer a service warranty which covers the workmanship. In both cases, it is important to read any fine print and make sure that the warranty provider is capable of covering any guarantees contained within.

Additional References

Everybody Needs a Roof is an informational website maintained by the National Roofing Contractors Association. It contains information on roofing systems, installation and repair, and locating certified roofers.

The Metal Roofing Alliance maintains a website with detailed information on all aspects of metal roofing.

The National Park Service offers an online guide to clay roofs.

The Stone Roofing Association offers a guide to stone roofing materials.

Posted on Categories Roofing

Asphalt Driveway Cost Guide for Homeowners

Asphalt Driveway under Construction
© _jure / Fotolia

Whether you are planning to resurface your driveway or add a new one, the choice of paving material will have a lasting effect. You may be considering asphalt, as it is one of the most popular types of driveway material. Durable and relatively inexpensive, this form of paving is ideal for some homes but poorly suited for others. But how can you tell if asphalt is the best material for you, and how does the price vary between paving, resealing, and other expenses during your driveway’s lifetime?

Considerations When Choosing Asphalt

Asphalt may or may not be highly cost effective, depending upon a number of factors. These factors will often dictate whether asphalt is the best material for your driveway.

The Basics of an Asphalt Driveway

There are many qualities to asphalt which should be considered when preparing to pave your driveway, and the relative longevity means that this surfacing choice is one that will remain for decades. Asphalt is considered the primary choice in colder temperatures due to its resistance to salt and other de-icing chemicals, although the tar softens and sometimes even melts in more tropical climates. Periodic maintenance is required, although the process is simple enough for the average homeowner to accomplish by themselves.

The most important part of your new driveway is the sub grade. Having a solid sub grade of coarse asphalt or crushed stone will help prevent your driveway from cracking or settling. You will also need to reseal the driveway once every three to five years, depending upon the climate. Harsher climates will require you to seal more often, although less sealer is needed the more often it needs to be applied.

Advantages over Traditional Materials

Throughout history, driveways have consisted of several different materials. Traditional alternatives which are still in use have numerous flaws not present in asphalt. Some of these flaws include:

Dirt – The most basic form of surfacing, dirt is prone to erosion and weeds. Precipitation turns the dirt to mud, which in turn may prevent traction and force you to wash your car frequently.

Gravel – Gravel is a loose surfacing which is less prone to erosion. However, weeds are still prevalent and the tiny stones are easily kicked up by your car’s tires, causing damage to the car over time.

Brick – Fairly sturdy and easily maintained, brick is expensive and prone to ice buildup.

Comparison to Concrete

Concrete Driveway Leading to Garage
© Studio D / Fotolia

Unlike other traditional driveway materials, concrete and asphalt are very similar in their popularity and advantages. However, there are several differences which may affect which will work best for you.

  • Asphalt takes several hours to cure, while concrete may take several days.
  • Asphalt’s main ingredient is tar, which is less durable and softer than the cement in concrete.
  • Concrete may be stamped, etched, or engraved. It is also easier to stain or tint for color than asphalt.
  • Asphalt driveways last 30 years if resealed every three to five years, while concrete driveways last more than 50 years without needing to be sealed.
  • Asphalt costs $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot, whereas concrete costs $4 to $6 per square foot.
  • Concrete is better suited for warmer climates and may crack in freezing temperatures. Conversely, asphalt resists cold but softens in high heat.
  • Unlike concrete, asphalt is easy to repair and reseal.
  • Concrete is prone to stains, requiring an occasional degreasing.
  • Asphalt is easy to resurface and may be done as a simple DIY project, unlike concrete.

Costs for an Asphalt Driveway

You will encounter various costs during the course of your driveway’s life. This includes the cost of the initial paving, resealing, and surfacing the driveway. As costs may vary depending upon your location, the numbers included are general estimates. Note that choosing to stamp or stain the asphalt may significantly affect these costs.


The paving process is a multi-step method which has a relatively simple cost calculation. The average price per square foot is $3-$5, and the square footage of your planned driveway may be calculated by multiplying the length by the width. Thus a driveway measuring 10 feet by 40 feet will cost between $1,200 and $2,000. This does not include the cost of removing a previous driveway or any stamping or staining of the asphalt. A contractor will follow this process when paving your new driveway:

  1. An aggregate of sand and stone is thoroughly mixed, usually off-site. This step may occur any time before step four.
  2. The contractor digs four to six inches down where the new driveway will be located (this includes removing any prior surface). Loose soil and clay must be removed in order to prevent settling and drainage issues.
  3. A sub base is installed. Depending on how much weight the driveway will be holding, this sub base may consist of gravel or crushed stone. Coarse asphalt is used instead for heavy load bearing, such as boats or RVs. This sub base is then graded.
  4. Liquid asphalt cement is added to the aggregate and immediately delivered to your home. In some cases, the contractor may prepare the asphalt on-site. The asphalt mixture must still be hot when applied for proper curing.
  5. The asphalt is applied in two layers, the first being three to four inches deep, and the second being between one and two inches.
  6. Any stamping is performed once the driveway is fully graded.
  7. Your new driveway begins to cure over the course of several hours and will be ready for light use within a day of paving. After several days, your driveway can handle heavier traffic without the risk of scuff marks.
  8. Full curing takes six months, during which time you should avoid sealing.


More often a DIY project than contracted, resealing is a means to extend the life of your driveway. This simple maintenance process should be performed every three to five years. The harsher your local weather conditions are, the more frequently you need to reseal. The cost difference for frequency is somewhat negated by the fact that you should use less sealer for more frequent applications to prevent peeling.

A five gallon bucket of driveway sealer costing between $15 and $45, a course-bristled broom, and a few hours are generally all that is needed to maintain your driveway. You may also choose to use a cold patch or asphalt crack sealer before applying the driveway sealer to fill any cracks. Doing this will require an investment of less than $100 every three to five years.

Contractors are willing to reseal the driveway for you, although the cost will be higher and may vary from one contractor to the next. In the event you are considering a contractor to seal your driveway for you, there are numerous factors which go into the cost. Shop around for the best quote.


Surfacing is a means to provide structural repair in the event your driveway has suffered from divots, cracks, or other damage. This process involves a contractor cleaning off the surface and chipping it to help the new layer stick. Then a new top layer of one and a half to three inches of fresh asphalt is added. Resurfacing is quick and fixes damage that might worsen if merely sealed. It is also far cheaper than replacing the driveway and generally costs between $1.50 and $2.50 per square foot, depending upon your location.

Recycled Asphalt Pavement

The use of recycled asphalt is becoming increasingly popular as an environmentally-friendly alternative to fresh asphalt. Old asphalt paving is ground down to aggregate size and may then be dampened and compacted to create new surfaces at a much lower cost than using raw materials. The final product has a more grayish appearance and may be either one hundred percent recycled or a mix of recycled and fresh asphalt. The cost thus varies greatly depending on your choices or material as well as local prices.

Additional Resources

Aurora Paving offers an excellent online FAQ about asphalt driveways.

Braen Stone provides a short guide with more information about recycled asphalt pavement.

Local Masonry Quotes offers a free searchable directory of local asphalt resurfacing experts.

Posted on Categories Yard

Types of Roof Vents for Houses

Roof Turbines for Ventilation
© tiverylucky / Fotolia

Proper ventilation is essential to any home. However, conflicting opinions on which of the many types of roof vent is most efficient may be quite confusing. Depending upon your local climate, building codes, and the size of your home, one type of vent system may be more efficient than another. There are two major types of vent systems, intake and exhaust, and you should consider adding one of each for maximum efficiency.

Types of Exhaust Vent Systems

The primary purpose of an exhaust vent is to pull excess heat and humidity from your home. However, it is a common myth that these vents also remove heat in winter months. Properly installed roof vents will increase the lifespan of your roof by reducing the risk of warping or other water-related issues. Exhaust vents should always be paired with an intake vent system for maximum efficiency.

Cupola Vents

More often a decorative feature, cupolas may be converted into functional static vents. They are located atop ridges which allow them to draw heat and moisture efficiently where they are located. Unfortunately, this type of vent is a poor choice on its own due to its limited coverage and is therefore best used to compliment other exhaust systems.

Louver Vents

Also known as box, turtle, and low-profile vents, this system consists of static louvers which must be spaced evenly and as close to the ridge as possible for maximum efficiency. Some models are square while others are rounded, allowing for some limited aesthetic choice. They sit lower than roof turbines, making them less visible, although they are still easy to spot. You will find these to be an excellent DIY project as they are easy to install, especially if your home has an existing static vent system.

Some additional steps and care are needed to make these systems waterproof. In addition, they are less efficient than ridge vents and their visibility may make them an unattractive choice for your home. Finally, while inexpensive, the cost of installation may increase depending upon how many you need and how good your intake system is.

Powered Vents

Generally consisting of electric fans built into the gables of your attic, powered vents are a mix of good and bad. For example, they require 300 watts of electricity to run, which has an environmental impact. At the same time, they are usually paired with a thermostat so they only run when the attic temperature exceeds 100 degrees. Newer solar models allow powered vents to run off the grid, but are more expensive.

A powered vent is often noisy, with the sound buffered only by your home’s building materials and insulation. You may hear them running late into the evening in warmer climates when you are trying to sleep. Installation is more difficult and may require electrical knowledge if adequate power supplies aren’t readily available. The added weight also makes them more difficult to install. Finally, there are many moving parts which make this type of ventilation more prone to breakdowns. Frequent inspections are therefore necessary to ensure the fan is functioning properly.

Ridge Vents

Ridge Vents are installed on the peak or ridge of your roof and covered by shingles. They contain no moving parts but must be properly paired with intake vents, such as soffit vents, in order to function. Unlike other types of vents, the ridge vent doesn’t create hot or cold areas in your roof, preventing some parts from aging faster than others.

You should not attempt to install a ridge vent as a DIY project, as they are extremely difficult to install and the vent itself is expensive. Some contractors will attempt to run the vent only partway along the roof, which lowers or even negates its functionality. Another common problem is that the exhaust hole must be equal in size to the intake holes for the vent to function properly. As a result of these difficulties, ridge vents may not be right for your home, even though they are overall the most efficient option.

Roof Turbines

Made of lightweight aluminum, roof turbines resemble mushrooms with fan blades protruding from their sides. These blades may either be housed in a protective casing or have small louvers designed to open only when there is wind. They are highly effective and require no power. Stale, moist air slowly escapes from the turbine and a gentle breeze causes the turbine to pull large volumes of air up.

Because they require no electricity to function and are made of aluminum, roof turbines have little to no carbon footprint. Many models make no sound when turning, and this motion also keeps water from seeping in. They are also easy to install, making it a DIY-friendly project.

There are a few disadvantages to this type of ventilation system, however. Roof turbines are popular on commercial buildings, although you may find them less attractive unless you have a flat roof. They also work more efficiently when paired with low wall or soffit vents. Cheaper models which do not have a sealed ball bearing system may squeak when the wind turns them. This also happens with some older models that have rusted.

Types of Intake Vent Systems

There is an old saying that nature abhors a vacuum. This is no different for your attic or crawl space. Installing an exhaust ventilation system without an intake system to compliment it will generally render your vents useless. By having a combination of intake and exhaust vents, air will circulate more freely and you will gain the maximum efficiency for your system. There are two popular intake vent systems to choose from.

Gable Intake Vents

These triangular vents are located along the peak of your gables. While visible, they are not unattractive and may be screened over to prevent insects. Unfortunately, they have limited coverage and are less efficient on their own than soffit vents unless your roof has a multi-gable structure.

Soffit Vents

Best used in conjunction with ridge vents, a soffit vent is named for the part of your roof into which it is installed. A soffit vent is generally made of PVC or aluminum and may be used in conjunction with existing intake vents for more efficiency. The vent itself is only visible when looking up at the eaves, making them difficult to spot. This downwards-facing orientation also allows air flow while preventing moisture from getting in. Soffit vents may be continuous or in square or rectangular panels, adding to their versatility.

Choosing the Right Vent

The following chart compares various types of vents for easy reference. Note that due to the wide variety of roof configurations, building materials, and models available, average costs are not given in monetary amounts. You may also find your personal experience varies due to these same factors.

Vent SystemVent TypeAestheticsCarbon FootprintAverage CostEfficiencyInstallation
Cupola VentsExhaustDecorative featureLow if modified or using recycled wood materialsLow if using existing cupolaLow on its ownEasy
Gable VentsIntakeVisible, yet decorativeLowLow to moderate, depending on existing siding and wall materialsLow to moderate on its ownEasy
Louver VentsExhaustVisibleLowLowModerate to highEasy
Powered VentsExhaustVisibleLow to moderateModerate to high, depending on the need for additional electrical workModerate to highModerate
Ridge VentExhaustInvisibleLowLow to moderate, requires contractorHigh when installed properlyVery difficult
Roof TurbineExhaustHighly visible on pitched roofsNoneLowHigh, may require more than one installedEasy
Soffit VentIntakeLow VisibilityLowLow to moderateHighEasy

Additional Resources

Fine Home Building offers an in-depth article on the basics of roof venting, how it works, and problems associated with an incorrectly installed vent system.

Posted on Categories Roofing

The Pros and Cons of Cedar Siding

Cedar Shingled House
© Anne Kitzman / Fotolia

Unless your home has an attractive brick or stone exterior, you have probably considered adding or replacing siding at some point. There are many natural and artificial options available. One popular natural option is cedar, although there are several things to consider before investing in this material.

General Pros and Cons of Cedar Wood Siding

Being a natural wood product, cedar has many attractive features as well as drawbacks. The following are some of the major considerations involved in choosing cedar siding.


Cedar is highly attractive when stained and some varieties, such as white cedar, become increasingly aesthetically pleasing over time. It may be cut into numerous styles, such as beveled or traditional shingles or shakes. It maintains a timeless appeal that most other forms of siding attempt to emulate. This visual appeal is complimented by superior sound and thermal insulation.

Cedar is completely biodegradable, making it an excellent option for green homes. It may easily be painted and stained to acquire the look you desire. It is also suitable for use with almost any architectural style. Unlike most alternatives, cedar is easy to install, making it an excellent DIY project. Properly maintained, cedar siding may last as long as 75 years and may be pre-stained to add additional weatherproofing.


As is the case with other types of wood siding, cedar is flammable unless specially treated. It requires regular maintenance in the form of repainting or re-staining every three to five years. Despite a higher resistance, cedar is still more prone to rot, woodpeckers, and insect damage than artificial alternatives. It reacts to iron, making it important to avoid using iron nails when installing. Finally, the cost may be prohibitive if you are on a budget.

Comparing Cedar to Other Siding Options

Modern House with Vinyl Siding
© qingwa / Fotolia

While the ultimate decision of whether to use cedar siding is a personal one, it is important to understand how it fares against artificial alternatives. Man-made materials are often cheaper, yet not as bio-degradable and may have other drawbacks.

Other Wood Types

Certain chemicals in the fibers make cedar more resistant to termites and other insects than most other woods. Another advantage over other forms of wood is that cedar is one of the fastest growing trees, making it perhaps the fastest renewable material after bamboo. It does not easily warp or swell when exposed to moisture, although it is prone to discoloration and mildew.

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement siding is a blend of sand, cement, and cellulose fibers pressed to create the look of traditional wood planks or shakes. These are often pre-colored, although they may be painted after installation. While the wood grain is more uniform than actual wood, the appearance is so close that it has been approved for use in historic restoration projects.

Unfortunately, fiber cement is only able to replicate painted woods and is unable to match stained or naturally weathered wood siding. This is especially true compared to white cedar, which achieves an attractive silvery patina if left untreated.

Cost comparisons place cedar at a much higher cost, both for materials and maintenance. Fiber cement runs an average of $3 to $4 per square foot, while cedar costs $5 to $7. It also requires little maintenance, saving hundreds of dollars over the lifetime cost of cedar. Unlike cedar, fiber cement is certified naturally fire-resistant and does not need any special treatment.

Vinyl Siding

Perhaps the most common choice in artificial siding, vinyl has its own drawbacks. For example, while at first vinyl seems cheaper, the end cost for installation is very similar to cedar. It is also prone to cracking and buckling over time, requiring replacement. It also fails to mimic wood adequately, making it simultaneously less attractive than other materials and very homogenized if used extensively in a neighborhood.

In cooler climates, vinyl may outlast cedar siding and requires only the occasional scrubbing to maintain. It is difficult to paint, although you may purchase it in a variety of colors. Another advantage is that individual panels may be replaced without the need for removing neighboring panels.


Similar to vinyl in appearance, aluminum siding is more cost-effective than cedar. Panels generally range in price from $1.50 to $2.50 and are available in a variety of colors. Unlike cedar and other natural siding options, aluminum is not prone to moisture or insect damage. It is fastened securely, making it a good choice in locations with high winds. The primary drawbacks to aluminum are that it dents easily and provides poor insulation against water and heat loss.

Additional Resources

Redbeacon offers a quick reference to the pros and cons of various siding options.

Posted on Categories Exterior