Woodland Exteriors Blog

This is where we will post relevant articles, information, and how-to's related to all things home exteriors, specifically sunrooms, roofing, and siding. Check back often for updates and new information!

Pergolas, porches, decks and other Landscape Structures – Five Things to Know

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Stop battling nature. Be one with nature. Whichever way you want to frame it, it’s never too soon to invest in creating an outdoor space.

It’s never too soon to get these landscape structures built because, let’s face it we live in an area known for its inclement weather. Why let weather spoil another Easter patio brunch, a July 4th gathering, or a graduation party? Imagine being able to set your outdoor table in advance, leave out patio cushions and serve food with out swarming bugs.

Landscape structures will transform your space and when done right is a wise investment. Here are five things that you need to know to dream it, build it and enjoy it.

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  1. Sketch your ideal landscape structure. Create a well thought out design that fits your unique space. Measure the size of the space you want to cover or deck with consideration given to existing structures, privacy, shade or sunshine throughout the day. Don’t skimp on the perfect design. Approach it like you were on HGTV and imagine the perfect structure. It’s easier to “value engineer” a project to be smaller than it is to under build and wish you’d built a larger or better designed space.
  1. Select the design and materials early. Choose a look that compliments your existing home style and gives you the best durability. Today the selection of materials is so extensive that you’ll want to narrow down what you like early in the process. We call it the “look and feel”. For example, if you have a colonial style home with a brick patio and ornate patio furniture, your outdoor cover or pergola materials and design can borrow from the same lines, features and finishes. Do use this opportunity to select low maintenance materials such as treated wood, anodized finishes or rust resistant hardware like zinc coated fasteners.
  1. Get a consultation from a professional. You’re now clear about what you need, what it will look like and the feel of the finished structure. Now you’re ready for a professional’s eye, knowledge and calculator. Good design is naturally innovative so as to be unique to your desires within the constraints of the yard. Keep your exchange to a conversation about what’s possible in order to get the most out of the professional’s experience. Give him or her your budget and let the professional come back with a variety of options to meet that budget.
  1. Choose the largest structure you can afford made from quality materials.   TEMO Pergola3            The fact is that building landscape structures is like building a home. The contractor will do demolition and debris removal, digging and pouring concrete, framing, waterproofing and so on. It’s far more economical to have a large structure completed all at once. If you have to leave off some wish list items like decorative finishes or a built-in outdoor kitchen, you can always add those items later. A worthy professional will give you a clear cost analysis about the trade-offs to enable you to get the most out of your budget.
  1. Be present during the entire construction project. If you’ve selected a quality home improvement contractor you needn’t worry about overseeing the quality of their work, that’s not what we’re suggesting. Let the professionals do what they do. You want to be present, or available because decisions are made throughout the construction. No matter how well you plan there are always unforeseen changes to the plans, ordering mishaps or site adjustments. If you’re not available, the professional is likely to have to make the decision without you in order to not interrupt the carpenters, pavers, painters or whoever. If you’re onsite the two of you can consult and come up with the best solution.

Visit Woodland Exteriors website to learn more about outdoor structures.

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When to Replace Skylights?

A common question our customers ask is, when do we need to replace our skylights? Unlike windows, skylights are generally out of sight and not easily accessible to check the condition. It’s reasonable then to ask, when should you replace your old skylights?


Leaking or compromised

If one of skylight’s several seal points is broken water will seep into the skylight, the wall-attic cavity or leak into the room. The latter problem, a physical leak, is usually the easiest to detect, especially if it’s dripping during a rainstorm. If water seeps into the skylight or cavity around the skylight, you’ll see moisture build up. Finally, with very old skylights it’s possible to have a crack in the acrylic or glass causing skylight to fog, become cloudy or retain droplets.

Upgrading – design, efficiency, ease

New skylights look nothing like the old skylights they’re replacing. New Velux skylights offer solar powered skylights, remote control operators, built-in rain sensors, energy efficient glass, sun-shades, security locks and more. There are few better ways to invigorate your home with new life than to improve the infrastructure, meaning those physical elements that are needed for the operation of your home. They can seem to be unimportant, such as when my father used to say of his 1950s style single 1 ½” shower spigot, “the water comes out in the shower, it’s fine”. Until you replace a tired old skylight with one that has modern design and functionality – you have no idea how it changes the way you live.

Replacing your windows or doors

If you’re ready to replace your worn-out windows and doors, then it’s likely time to proactively replace your skylights at the same time. For all the reasons stated above and because it’ll save you money in the long run. Skylights have a finite service life and replacing them at the same time as you replace your windows and doors will improve the overall energy efficiency and comfort in your home. Consider new styles such as an operable venting skylight where you had a fixed one before or a larger skylight to replace a smaller skylight. Without a doubt you’ll save on your overall installation costs when you do the job all at once.

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Replacing your roof

Never throw good money after bad as they say. At Woodland Exteriors, we highly recommend that you do not choose to re-use old skylights when you replace your roof. The roofer will spend extra time removing shingles and debris and still may disturb your skylights during the tear off phase. You will still need to use a new flashing kit to re-install your old skylights as it’s highly unlikely that the flashing won’t be compromised.  Do the math and you’ll find the extra cost to put in a new skylight will more than pay off in longevity, aesthetics and efficiency. It will cost far less for the roofers to replace your old skylight with a new one when the shingles are off the roof. What happens if you choose to re-use the old skylight and a leak develops? You’re responsible for the bill when the roofer needs to return and tear off the new roof shingles to access the skylight.

For more information about skylights check out our previous posts Skylight Installation Lightens Up Winter and Skylights in Sunrooms.

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Replacement Siding Transforms House

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Time takes it's toll on homes. Homes need constant repair and upkeep. As important is to maintanence is keeping them updated. When it's time to make a serious repair to your home take a page from these homeowners who didn't just replace their worn out siding and old windows with new versions of the same thing. These homeowners completely transformed their home. It looks like it was just built.

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This beautifully transformed Elk Grove Village home choose replacement Craneboard Honey Oak, Dutch Lap siding, white porch and ceiling soffits, white gutters with oversize downspouts and Marvin Infinity casement bow windows.

Replacement Marvin Infinity, Stone White windows were installed before the siding was replaced in order to achieve the cleanest and most water tight installation.

Today building materials come in every imaginable style, color and design. Create your own  custom look. The choices rival the fashion industry! Be bold and transform your exterior - you'll love coming home.


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Skylights in Sunrooms

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Sunroom with Skylights

Skylights and sunrooms are the perfect pairing to achieve a passive solar design that uses the sun’s energy for heating and cooling your living space. When designing a sunroom that stays cooler in summer and warmer in winter, passive design principals’ matter. Skylights add unique features and benefits to the design and orientation of your sunroom windows to help capture solar energy and manage the room temperature.

Passive design principals for sunrooms

The ideal location for your sunroom is to face due south (30º E or W) which gives you the maximum potential for solar collection. The goal is at least four hours of sunlight at midday in midwinter. In our northern climate, if you plan to use your sunroom during winter, you may want to investigate a slightly higher U-value or SHGC that will collect more solar heat during winter. Otherwise, opt for Low-E glazing with a low U value of less than 0.3 that will help keep heat gain or heat loss within acceptable levels for year-round use.

Insulate the floor and space above the ceiling. If cathedral, wood or insulated panels are best. Depending on your sunroom location, consider having less glazing (glass) or shaded glazing on the east and west sides of the house to help control temperatures.

Skylights add a passive design feature

FreshAire SolarSkylights bring natural overhead light and air into the sunroom and allow for greater flexibility to create privacy without sacrificing natural light. Velux skylights can be managed by remote controls, smart settings such as rain sensor technologies and have special glass to repel rain and grime. Old designs made from low-quality glass or polycarbonate provided poor insulation power and made the sunroom uncomfortably warm during summer months. Suffice it to say, today’s skylights suitable for sunrooms, bear little resemblance to earlier generations of residential skylights.

Velux skylights comply with the “0.30-0.30” standards, that is, a maximum Solar Heat Gains Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30 and a maximum Thermal Resistance (U-factor) coefficient of 0.30.

Alternatively, you can choose a very low SHGC coefficient (as close to 0.2 as possible) will reduce unwanted solar heat gains to lower levels; and a low U-factor (also as close as possible to 0.2) will reduce heat loss, which is critical in cold climates. Only top skylights like Velux can meet these standards, which are beneficial for sunroom passive designs.

Incorporating Velux skylights with a high VT (Visual Transmittance) value will allow more daylight to enter in your sunroom by positioning the roof skylight in a way that enhances your daylighting design. Vented skylights enhance airflow and can eliminate hot air accumulating in the summer months.

Walls, roof, windows, doors and skylights determine passive sunroom design

Remote VeluxSunrooms are predominately made up of glass that absorbs the sunlight and warms the interior surface yet, when the sun goes down the warmth is lost back through the glass, which, by itself, isn’t a good insulator. Walls, roof, window styles and skylights all work in concert to promote passive design goals – a cooler sunroom in summer and a warmer room in winter. Structural insulated panels (SIPS) provide an excellent moisture barrier and custom stick-built rooms with insulated walls and roofs with an R value of 20-50 will likewise help maintain temperatures in your sunroom. Windows and doors need to be selected for their glazing, size and framing materials, which support your passive design goals.

Passive sunroom design goals, including integrating energy efficient skylights to enhance your options are well worth the effort. Passive solar design is most affective in southern or sunny climates. Just as you can’t tame a bear, our northern climate is wild with hot and cold extremes, oftentimes in the same day. Always include a mechanical heating and air-conditioning source in your sunroom design.

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Skylight Installation Lightens Up Winter

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Velux Flat Roof Skylights

Skylights are an antidote to our long, dark cold Chicago winters when we tend to use more artificial light in our homes. Consider adding Velux skylights with high visible light transmittance (VT) for natural light while reducing the energy costs of keeping interior lights on throughout the day. VT doesn’t directly affect heating and cooling of your rooms, but it is a measure of how much light gets through the skylight into your home. A skylight with a high VT can be visually beneficial in winter for us humans, trapped inside our homes and starved for natural light.

Select glazing’s for maximum visible light

The amount of transmitted light into your home is influenced by glazing you select, the type, number of layers and coatings. Choose a home professional who can guide you through the tradeoffs of using different glazing’s to moderate temperature versus the visual light that will be increased or reduced. It’s a trade off, but depending on the conditions of the room the perfect solution will depend on the desired effect.

VT of glazing’s ranges from above 90 percent for water-white clear glass to less than 10 percent for highly reflective coatings on tinted glass. In the past, skylights that reduced solar heat gain also reduced visible transmittance. However new high-performance tinted glass with low-E (low-solar-gain) coatings make it possible to control for both factors. Thoughtfully designed skylight installations can result in reductions in electric lighting energy consumption.

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Velux Fixed Skylight with Blinds

Improve your well being

There is growing evidence that daylighting, exposure to natural light, is linked to a greater well-being and productivity. Daylight is essential for our mood and is an important factor to consider when designing your home. Daylight helps to balance our 24-hour Circadian, our bodily rhythm, and is vital to our health. If you are considering adding skylights to your home, this is your opportunity to make optimal use of daylight.

A skylight can let in more light- of a consistent quality and brightness, even on cloudy days – than window alone can. Skylights can brighten the middle of the house and skylights can transform a staircase, entrance hall or landing. North facing rooms are the darkest as they get the weakest light intensity so that natural light from above will make a welcome difference.

Use thermal shades at night

To keep the heat inside your home, consider factory installed blinds with a built-in solar panel power source that provide some heat insulation and may qualify for a 30% Federal tax credit.

During the day you’ll get some solar heating from the skylight, especially if you make sure you get one with as high a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) as you can, while balancing the VT trade-off. SHGC is the amount of heat that’s absorbed through the skylight. The best solution we recommend is to use solar powered shades to help to keep your home warmer after dark. The shades can be closed at dark to keep the room’s warmth overnight.

Velux Skylights

Velux skylights, sun tunnels, and roof windows can take the darkest room and brighten it with natural light and reduce your winter electric bills because you don’t have to ‘keep the lights on’. Available in multiple designs, Velux products and qualified installers can accommodate multiple rooflines with a flat design that provides a sleek look. Depending on your needs, skylights also come as fixed with a pre-finished white wood frame or vented models with either a manual rod for opening and closing or a solar powered remote option.

Focus on designing the right skylight for winter, focus on the Visual Transmittance value in combination with the location in your home to optimize natural light all winter long.

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