By Sheldon Stewart

Without question, the warmer weather draws us outside – making the exterior the new focus of our homes. And whether it’s a boost to the curb appeal or an extension of the seasonal living area, the latest trends have one common denominator: low maintenance.

Trend 1: Decking

Understandably, people want to get their decks ready as soon as the season arrives. But if sanding, painting, and sealing is in order, it’s a weather-dependent project – possibly with a long lead time. That’s just one of the reasons many of our clients are choosing synthetic (composite) decking, or a hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot and decay. Once this type of deck is in place, it’s pretty much wash and go.

There are many synthetic decking options (Azek and Trex are two popular manufacturers), all made to look great and require a minimum of maintenance. And there are hardwood options, too. Ipé wood is naturally resistant to fungus, rot and termites – and it is extremely hard, so it will resist scratches and stand up to rough use. It’s also sustainably harvested. In fact, the famous Atlantic City boardwalk in New Jersey has been rebuilt using ipé as one of the two primary species of wood.

“People are getting away from high-maintenance decks. My deck at home (made with ipé wood) just needs a low-pressure power wash to be ready for the season. I just include my deck when I wash my house … and call it a day.”

The upfront costs of a low maintenance deck are higher than if you were to simply apply new stain or paint. But for a beautiful, sturdy deck that only needs routine washing, it’s a sound long term investment.

You can check out different synthetic decking and railing systems locally at Mid-Cape Home Centers and Shepley Wood Products. And for inspiration, there is always an endless supply on Pinterest.

Trend 2: Trim

Exterior trim is another area where homeowners are moving to PVC/composite products. Just like top-grade lumber, most of these finishes can be cut, shaped, and routed, just like wood. But since it doesn’t absorb water, it won’t rot, warp, or split.

If you have experienced wood rot in the past, chances are it will happen again. And actually, the cost of a composite replacement isn’t much more than a good wood product equivalent. We do recommend painting composite trim, however. Even though it won’t rot, it will attract dirt and mold due to its negative charge (think about plastic patio furniture after a season). This does give you carte blanche as far as trim color goes, but you should take note of any factory finish colors you already have, such as window sashes or a storm door.

If those are white, you should stick with white on the trim. Once you’ve painted, a routine low pressure wash is all you’ll need to maintain your new trim for years to come.

Trend 3: Shingles

The trend in shingles is to go natural. Especially in this area, homeowners tend to want to keep the blonde color of a new shingle before it weathers grey. It’s logical to think that this could be achieved by applying a clear wood preservative, but that will actually result in a two-toned look about a year and a half down the road. Shingles will still weather – and since they overlap by design, they will eventually weather unevenly unless you reapply the clear coat each year.

For a natural – yet much lower maintenance – solution, we recommend a semi-transparent stain. This will give the shingles a uniform appearance, regardless of sun exposure. A light, silvery grey is a classic and popular choice for Cape Cod.

“A semi-transparent stain will give shingles a uniform appearance – and when it weathers, it will weather evenly.”

Sheldon Stewart is President of Stewart Painting Inc. in Hyannis. He can be reached at (508) 362-8023 or sheldon@stewartpaint.com.