January 4, 2017 | Home Buying
Front yard features to consider for your new home
Your home's frontal landscaping and curb appeal are the first things family and guests notice when they arrive. You want the “face” of your home to make a good first impression and positively reflect the interior on the other side of the door.
When you pull up to what may become “your home,” examine the home’s siding. Sidings add color and definition to a home, create the perfect façade; however, it is important to be aware of the durability, maintenance, and installation efforts associated with each material. Common siding choices are vinyl, wood, stucco, brick, fiber-cement, stone and stone-veneer – roughly listed low to high in cost:
• Vinyl is a versatile, low-maintenance material that comes in a variety of colors, styles, and textures; it is the most popular siding material due to its affordability, durability, and ease of installation.
• Wood offers a home a “rich look” and is a sturdy material if maintained properly – periodic chalking, painting, and staining for weather protection; however, it is vulnerable to insects, rodents, and rot and can burn fairly quickly.
• Stucco is a durable, low-maintenance siding that is resistant to pests and fire, and some mixtures contain epoxy to prevent chipping and cracking.
• Brick is a sturdy, undemanding siding that is highly energy efficient, staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
• Fiber-cement sidings are non-flammable, termite-resistant, and require little upkeep. Available in a range of styles and textures, fiber-cement can be manufactured to look like masonry, stucco, or wood. While this material is resistant to expanding and contracting following humidity and temperature changes, the cellulose (i.e., wood particles or sawdust) that goes into making fiber-cement is a water-absorbent substance; therefore, moisture-related issues can occur.
• Stone – typically granite, limestone, or slate – is a heavy, labor-taxing material to work with, while stone veneer is lighter, versatile, and available in many styles. Both sidings are durable, impervious to weather, and fire-resistant.
In the end, the best thing you can do to determine the sufficiency and durability of a home’s siding is ask a professional to inspect the home’s sidings for signs of weathering and necessary replacement.
Doors and Windows:
Beyond the siding, note the remaining “facial elements” of the home. Are there a lot of windows, and how big are they? While the rooms of a home will look warmer and more welcoming with plenty of sunlight, privacy may be forfeited as all outside eyes are granted access to look in on you; be prepared to dress the windows with curtains and/or shutters to reclaim some discretion. Moreover, if you live in an area known for storms with powerful winds, be aware of the potential damages and safety hazards that follow a broken window.
What does the front door look like? Is it dull and featureless? Or is it vibrantly colored, creating a pleasant focal point? The front door is the initial “greeter” of a home; you want it to appear “welcoming” to guests, not discouraging as they raise a hand to knock. A door painted the "right color" can add curb appeal. Also, is the door made of steel, fiberglass composite, or wood – listed low to high in cost.
• Steel doors are susceptible to rust, especially in harsh weather-conditioned areas, and easily receive dents.
• Fiberglass composite doors are durable and low maintenance, affording long time intervals between paint and stain touchups.
• Wooden doors offer a beautiful, old-fashion charm to the exterior of a home, but warp and crack from exposure to moisture.
A front porch can be a nice “outdoor room” to temporarily receive guests; it also affords the homeowner the ability to add fresh life to the exterior of their home with seasonal décor and plant life, enhancing the curb appeal. The desirable porch depth is between 6 and 8 ft, though shallower depths (4 ft) are adaptable to design. It is important to consider circulation when choosing and placing furniture. Can you and your guests move about freely without tripping?
Keep in mind, this will be one more space to clean and maintain. Concrete porches require less maintenance than wood, which has to be repainted or stained over time and is more difficult to clean; however, wooden porches add more “exterior appeal” with color and accents.
Garage and Driveway:
If you are living in an area prone to harsh weather conditions (e.g., hail), your vehicle(s) may need a “home” as well. Does the home you are looking at have a garage? Is it a front load or side load garage? How big is it? Is there room for your vehicle(s) and space left over for storage purposes? The three common garage door styles are carriage house, raised panel, and contemporary. Opening procedures include swing-out, swing-up, roll-up, and slide.
In addition to the appearance of the garage, judge the space of the driveway. If you enjoy having family and friends over, how many cars can pull-in and easily exit? Gravel, asphalt, concrete, pavers, and cobblestones are the typical path and driveway materials – listed low to high in cost:
• Gravel poses an uneven stride, scatters, and is difficult to clear of snow.
• Concrete can last 15 to 30 years or more, but cracks under cold conditions and does not fare well to patch jobs.
• Asphalt is more hearty in cold climates and easy to fix, though it breaks down at a faster rate than concrete.
• Pavers and cobblestones are the longest-lasting choice with stress-free damage control.
Once satisfied with the frontal view of the home, be sure to venture into the backyard and examine the outdoor features there. And, take note of the community outdoor spaces and amenities that are available to you.