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Increasing Your Home's Value While Improving Aesthetics

(NAPSI)-Here's a comforting thought: You can make your home more valuable and appealing while saving money on maintenance. It's all in the siding. According to a recent study conducted by Hanley Wood, LLC, the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, homeowners who replace their existing siding with fiber cement returned more than 83 percent of project costs upon resale--outranking window replacements, kitchen upgrades and bathroom remodels.

Why Fiber Cement Siding

• Some fiber cement siding incorporates a high recycled content, making it an eco-friendly choice. For example, CertainTeed WeatherBoards boasts a 50 percent recycled content.

• It looks like real wood but, unlike wood, is noncombustible, which means it can withstand high temperatures and doesn't burn if it comes in contact with flames.

• The siding is resistant to wood-boring insects, so homeowners can rest assured that termites and carpenter bees looking for a home will go elsewhere.

• Fiber cement siding is designed to withstand the elements. While wood is susceptible to decay and mold, especially when wet, fiber cement is more durable and will not warp when exposed to moisture.

• It offers long-lasting appeal. Most fiber cement siding is backed by long-term warranties--50 years for CertainTeed WeatherBoards--providing homeowners added assurance for many years.

• Fiber cement comes in a variety of profiles and textures to match virtually any architectural style.

• The color options are endless. Fiber cement siding can be painted or stained. In fact, WeatherBoards fiber cement siding comes pre-finished with ColorMax finish in a choice of 16 designer colors for the look of painted wood, or in six premium stains for the look of natural wood.

• Fiber cement siding provides easy-to-maintain curb appeal. It is perfect for busy families since the siding can be easily washed with a garden hose.

Other Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

• Convert an unfinished attic into a bedroom or living space.

• Replace older windows with energy-efficient double-pane windows.

• Finish the lower level or basement of a home to create an entertainment area.

• Replace an existing entry door with a new 20-gauge steel unit and replace the lockset with a brass or antique-brass finish.

Learn More

For more information, visit www.certainteed.com. To access the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report and download specific costs and resale values in your city, visit www.costvsvalue.com.

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Take Care Of Your Home Away From Home

(NAPSI)-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 3.5 million housing units in the U.S. are for seasonal, recreational or occasional use--from big summer estates and time-share condos to A-frame structures and simple fishing cabins.

"That means these homes are unoccupied a good portion of the year," says insurance expert Charles Valinotti, senior vice president, QBE Regional. He offers tips on how you can minimize property loss and damage for your home away from home:

• Team up with your neighbors--If there are other seasonal homes in your area, get to know the owners and exchange phone numbers. Keeping an eye on each other's property is a good way to quickly learn about wind and hail damage--and take care of it before it gets worse. If a full-time resident isn't nearby, consider hiring someone to periodically patrol your residence.

• Shut off the water--As you prepare to exit your vacation residence for the season, remember to turn off the water. Not doing so can lead to massive water damage from a burst pipe. Valinotti suggests installing an alarm system that notifies a service when water is detected or the temperature dips below a certain level. "The service will contact you, so you'll know about problems sooner rather than later," he says.

• Snuff out fire hazards--Valinotti says he's seen several large losses as a result of portable fire pits, where ashes can smolder long after a homeowner has locked up and left. Before you vacate your vacation home, make sure coals are completely extinguished. Consider signing on with a central-station alarm company that provides services to monitor burglar and fire alarm systems.

• Discourage break-ins--Burglar alarm systems will summon help to vacation homes in more-populated areas but aren't as effective for isolated cabins, which are more difficult for police to locate. Invest in high-quality dead-bolt locks and post an alarm warning as a deterrent.

Attending to these important details can go a long way to protect your investment and ensure continued enjoyment of your seasonal home.

For more information, visit www.qberegional.com.

QBE Regional specializes in property and casualty insurance through subsidiaries General Casualty, Unigard, Farmers Union Insurance and QBE Agri.

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Outdoor DIY Projects To Prolong The Life Of Your Home

(NAPSI)-Here's the inside scoop on the exterior of your home: Although it can take a beating from weather and atmospheric conditions throughout the year, the sooner you address the issue, the less likely it is that the damage will lead to more and larger problems. To help, home-improvement expert Spike Carlsen offers a few do-it-yourself projects that could mean more money in your pocket down the road.

Extend the life of your deck for years.

• Check for loose boards and fasteners. For "popped" nails, pound them back in and then drive a 3-inch galvanized drywall screw in next to it to hold the board firmly in place.

• Gunk that's accumulated in the gaps between deck boards can hold moisture that leads to premature rot. To remove it, take an old handsaw and lightly "saw" through each gap. The blade will push the debris out of the gap so your deck can breathe.

Take care of leaky or overflowing gutters.

• Leaky or overflowing gutters can create problems ranging from peeling paint to damp basements.

• Use an old plastic spatula as a minishovel to scoop leaves and debris out of the gutter. If it's too wide, trim one edge.

• Once clean, place a garden hose in the "high end" of the gutter, turn on the water and check for leaks. If there's a leak at a seam, clean the joint and apply permanently waterproof silicone caulk. If there's an actual hole in the gutter, replace it rather than patch it.

Weatherize with silicone caulk and save.

• Air can enter or exit a house through cracks and openings in many places, and leaks can lead to higher energy bills, water damage and mold growth. The upside is that a homeowner can save 10 percent or more on energy bills by air sealing, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

• Not all caulk provides energy savings over time, though. For long-lasting energy savings, choose 100 percent silicone, not acrylic caulk, which can shrink and crack over time, leaving gaps for air and water to seep through. You can use GE Silicone II* Window & Door or Paintable Silicone to seal around windows and doors, as well as in the attic and basement.

For more helpful advice, visit www.gesealants.com.

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Navigating Through The Choices In Composite Decking

(NAPSI)-When many consumers decide to add a new deck or replace an existing one with a low-maintenance composite version, they typically discover an overwhelming amount of information available. Homeowners might find themselves faced with many options and have questions about how to choose the right product. What type of composite decking is right for me? How do I choose from the different types of deck boards? What color combinations are right for my home?

There are quite a few different decking options available, based on individual needs and budgets. Composite decking is available in several different types of boards with varying looks, colors and qualities; therefore, it is important to understand all the alternatives.

Based on all these options, how can consumers decide which is best for their lifestyle? TimberTech, one of the leading manufacturers of composite decking, railing and fencing products, offers a number of tools that help sort through the details of choosing a deck and assist consumers in make educated decisions about their new deck.

At the beginning of the decision-making process, consumers first need to choose the type of board that best fits their lifestyle and tastes. Tools such as the Product Selector guide consumers through a series of step-by-step questions that are used to uncover their needs, habits and deck usage. The results give consumers options of board type and style that are best suited to their needs.

Another tool that is helpful during the planning process is the Deck Designer. By using the Deck Designer, consumers can enter the desired size, shape and color of their dream deck so that they can envision the deck before it is built. When the deck design is complete, users can print a 3-D model of the deck, build a materials list and get installation guidelines and helpful construction tips for their deck.

The newest tool, designed to help consumers decide between the varieties of color combinations available, is TimberTech's Color Visualizer. The Color Visualizer lets consumers choose different home colors and decking color combinations. The colors of the primary decking, accent decking, rails, balusters and posts can all be changed to build a customized look. If consumers are looking for more direction, the Color Visualizer also offers suggestions of the most popular color combinations.

No matter what type of composite decking consumers choose, it is important to understand the different offerings available by taking advantage of these free interactive tools available online at www.timbertech.com.

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Enjoy Wood's Timelessness--Without The Hassles

(NAPSI)-Homeowners have long admired the timeless appeal of wood on their homes, but feared the required maintenance associated with it--fortunately, that doesn't have to be overwhelming.

The Problem

Ongoing upkeep such as staining, painting or resealing is time consuming. Warping and rotting over time is a risk. Termite or carpenter bee infestations can be a threat.

A Solution

Many homeowners are turning to wood alternatives such as wood plastic composite (WPC) or vinyl, which offer authentic wood grain textures in long-lasting, easy-care materials.

What To Do

Here are some great options to help homeowners boost curb appeal and spruce up outdoor living areas:

• Make a statement with siding. It is important to choose a siding material that suits your lifestyle and the style of your home. Vinyl is an excellent alternative to wood, since it won't splinter, peel or rot. CertainTeed Cedar Impressions Naturals feature wood tone blends that showcase the realistic beauty of wood without the maintenance.

• Let the details make a difference. A wide array of exterior trim shapes and styles can be used around windows and in accent areas to create a dramatic effect. CertainTeed Restoration Millwork is made from cellular PVC and looks and feels like wood. Choose the TrueTexture finish, molded from real cedar boards, for an authentic wood grain texture.

• Create a relaxing outdoor room. The ongoing maintenance requirements of wood can cause a family to spend more time working on their deck than enjoying it.

CertainTeed EverNew vinyl decking is low maintenance and features a wood grain appearance that is so authentic your neighbors and passersby will not know the difference.

Learn More

For more information on easy-to-maintain building products, visit www.certainteed.com or call (800) 233-8990.

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Creating A Backyard Safe Haven

(NAPSI)-According to reports by the U.S. Census Bureau, 75 percent of new homebuyers want a rear patio and 82 percent are looking for a home with a deck or porch. Additionally, 60 percent of new homebuyers remodel within the first six months of purchase, adding decks, yard enhancements and fences that create a comfortable, relaxing outdoor sanctuary. The trend is clear--the outdoors is what's in.

While curb appeal is often top of mind when designing outdoor living spaces, creating a safe environment may be even more important. The following tips can help keep you and your family safe while enjoying the outdoors:

• Choose the right height. A fence can help prevent children from getting outside the area and running into hazardous traffic, as well as keep out potentially dangerous intruders, such as stray dogs. Fences that are at least four feet high may be your best bet.

• Discourage climbers. Horizontal fence boards on post- and rail-style fences provide handholds and footholds, making it easier for a child to climb over or through the fence. If this is a concern at your home, opt for a fence with vertical boards, which are much more difficult to climb.

• Partition the pool. Pools should be fenced in with gates that are self-closing and self-latching to keep children out of harm's way. Fences that are at least five feet tall typically meet that need.

• Consider the climate. Look for fence products that are designed to withstand 75-mile-per-hour winds. If your yard gets a lot of sun, select decking products with heat-reflective technology that keep surfaces cool to the touch.

• Go the splinter-free route. Vinyl fence products, such as Bufftech from CertainTeed, will not rot or peel, which eliminates pesky splinters.

• Stick with slip-resistant materials. Help prevent slips and falls by selecting decking materials, such as EverNew, that are slip resistant.

• Contact a pro. Maximize the overall safety and performance of your fence, railing and decking by working with a professional contractor to ensure that outdoor living products are installed properly. To find a contractor nearby, visit www.certainteed.com or call (800) 233-8990.

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New Wood-Finishing Options

(NAPSI)-If you think staining and finishing a piece of wood furniture is a messy, smelly job, you might be surprised by just how far wood stain choices have come. With the growth of water-based stain formulations, do-it-yourselfers are creating beautiful wood finishes while enjoying fast drying times, low odor and easy soap-and-water cleanup.

Companies are also making it easier than ever to achieve a beautiful wood finish by making products for the entire job. Minwax, for example, has a Water Based Wood Stains line in a low VOC (volatile organic compounds) formulation and an updated color palette. The line features 50 beautiful stain colors, ranging from traditional wood tones such as English Oak and Colonial Pine to contemporary colors like Deep Ocean and China Red. Start the project with a water-based, pre-stain wood conditioner and complete it with a water-based, protective clear finish, such as Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish.

Even beginners will be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to precondition the wood, apply the wood stain and preserve the beauty with a long-lasting, waterbased protective finish.

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Entertaining Idea

(NAPSI)-Drive-ins may be few and far between, but there's an easy way to bring the fun and excitement of watching films outside into your own backyard.

Both adults and kids may be happy to learn that an inflatable movie screen, such as the Airblown Inflatable Widescreen Movie Screen from Gemmy, can help turn any patio into an entertaining party space. Here are a few ideas for family fun:

• Taking your whole family to the movies can add up, but renting a DVD and watching it on the widescreen can be just as much fun, and the kids can run around.

• Kids getting restless? Hook up their favorite video games and let them invite a few friends over.

• Family reunion time? Show footage of family events from throughout the year.

When you're done, the screen collapses to fit inside a storage bag. The screen is available at Walmart.com, HomeDepot.com, Target.com and other online retailers..

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