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Low Maintenance Materials

Narrow lot home with vinyl shingle shake siding

Back in 1876 Abraham Weston referred to New Jersey as "The Garden State" during the Centennial Exhibition, and the name stuck. If we were to give N.J. a new nickname in 2014, I would nominate "The Low-Maintenance State" as a fairly accurate description, at least as far as our approach to construction.

Over the past twenty years the construction industry's methods of building have evolved to incorporate the emerging line of low-maintenance materials that are the result of the consumers' demand for better-performing products. We no longer wrap exterior wood trim with aluminum coil or use pressure treated decking. Since then, we've become very adept at "vinyl carpentry".

It all started with Trex in 1996. The revolution in decking started with composite decking having both organic and non-organic recycled materials. With each passing year, the company improved both the quality and variety of such materials to such an extent that we wouldn't consider using early generation Trex by today's standards. Those organic components in the early generation of low-maintenance materials resulted in staining, mildew, and decomposition. Now, decking materials can be composed entirely of solid vinyl or cellular vinyl and free from the problems of their predecessors.

Deck railings used to be pressure treated wooden spindle systems that would often be painted -- and painted often. Railings take a beating, especially on oceanfront homes. Once vinyl railings became available, they quickly took over the marketplace. Today there are a variety of low-maintenance railing systems with vinyl, aluminum, or glass spindles at an average cost starting around $40 per linear foot. This "pay once and be done" approach afforded by low-maintenance materials beats having to spend $6 per spindle to have wooden railings painted every 5 years.

Bayfront home with cellular PVC shingles

Exterior siding options along the coast include vinyl siding, cement siding, natural cedar shingles, stucco (or EIFS) and new materials such as cellular PVC shingles. Each boasts of having low-maintenance qualities. Their differences lie in their ability to withstand the coastal environment, their range of pricing, and of course, their aesthetics. The majority of homes built on Long Beach Island utilize Certainteed's Cedar Impressions, a vinyl shingle that comes in many colors and several shapes. The cost for Cedar Impressions is about $6-7 per foot including labor. As an architect, I certainly appreciate the opportunities to use real cedar shingles whenever we can, but I can't argue with the time and cost savings that synthetic shingles offer to a home owner.

My firm designs and builds beach homes. They might be second homes, homes for retirees, or just homes by the beach; but they all have one thing in common: the harsh coastal environment they inhabit. We try to keep our architectural designs simple, with clean forms that avoid trapping water. The rain along the Jersey Shore can come from any direction, and it’s not uncommon for rain to be driven upside down. To construct those designs, we have curated a palette of materials, including vinyl and cellurlar PVC, that can resist and withstand the salt air, driving rain, blistering winds, and dynamic temperature swings. In doing so, we strive to create "low-" and "no-" maintenance homes.

Because as homeowners, we all want houses that won’t leak, materials that don't require painting, and metals that won't pit or rust. We want decking that won't splinter, doors that won't swell, and windows that can fend off wind-borne debris.

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