Manufacturers of windows, doors and siding are increasingly offering blended products that combine the best of several materials in order to stand up to Mother Nature, while also pleasing homeowners, said Brian Leckie, president of Aspen Exterior Co. of Arlington Heights.
For instance, siding that mixes cement and fibers is hard like wood siding, but it doesn't rot or attract insects or woodpeckers. An even newer type of siding mixes crushed stone and polymers and is capped with an acrylic finish that does not fade or crack and cannot absorb moisture.
Windows with casings made of wood, vinyl, fiberglass or another mixture of materials strive to offer buyers the look and energy efficiency they want without requiring much maintenance.
That is also true in the world of entry doors. Fiberglass doors with insulated foam interiors for energy efficiency are most popular today because they can't rust or dent like steel doors, and they offer better panel definition than steel doors, too, Leckie said. Wooden doors require much more maintenance.
Aspen Exterior, located at 1400 E. Northwest Hwy., Arlington Heights, "is a remodeling company that happens to also have a store to showcase what we can do," Leckie said. "We focus on quality remodeling so we are not like the stores that sell windows and doors and so forth, and then arrange to have someone do the installation. The 'how' part of the job is our focus."
That is probably why the company has won so many awards, ranging from the Angie's List Super Service Award to the Daily Herald Reader's Choice Award and beyond.
Aspen Exterior, in business since 1978, sells and installs roofing, siding, windows and doors.
While in college at Southern Illinois University studying film, Leckie spent his summers working construction and when he graduated he decided to start a remodeling firm. Thirty-six years later, he is still in the business.
"A third of our business is roofing, a third is siding and a third is windows and doors," Leckie said. "We have four designers in our store to help people envision the possibilities for their home when they come in and learn about the new trends."
Architectural shake shingles, which are more decorative and enhance the visual interest in one's roof, are the new trend in roofing, he said, which is important because much of what you see when you look at a house is the roofing.
The most popular current color is "weathered wood," which is a taupe-gray that looks like weathered cedar and goes well with most house colors, Leckie said.
Siding has also evolved over the years.
"When I started, aluminum siding was the choice," he said. "Then vinyl came in and it is still popular. We carry vinyl siding from manufacturers like CertainTeed, Norandex and Mastic."
Fiber cement siding made of cement and fibers has been around for about a decade and it is very popular for its durability, but it costs twice as much. Aspen carries fiber cement siding manufactured by James Hardie.
Only on the local market for about six months is Everlast's new composite siding made of crushed stone and polymer with an acrylic cap. It is extremely popular in Boston and other areas along the East Coast where it has been on the market for about three years, Leckie said.
"This is the next generation of fiber cement siding and it only costs a little bit more" than conventional siding, he said.
Entry doors are extremely popular as a way to increase a home's curb appeal without doing a total makeover. "Most homeowners are choosing fiberglass doors from Therma Tru or Provia with decorative leaded and beveled glass in the door and sidelights," Leckie said.
Stained doors are currently more popular than painted ones, but not overwhelmingly so.
Storm doors are still very popular here, especially those that offer a full view of the main door, even though they are no longer technically necessary from a weather point of view. Many people like to have screens in the doors so that they can let in fresh air. They are also popular for practical reasons, like having a place to tuck packages delivered to the home and as a pet lookout.
Some storm/screen doors even feature a two-piece glass panel in which the upper part of the glass slides down, only to be replaced by a rolling screen when fresh air is desired.
Finally, windows, which including conventional windows, skylights, bay windows and sliding-glass doors, are available in wood, vinyl and a fiberglass composite.
"They all have their place in the market. They just represent different ways of getting to the same result and virtually all come with maintenance-free exteriors today. Some people really want wood windows and are willing to paint them. Others want no part of painting and are choosing another product," Leckie said.
Aspen Exterior carries wood windows from Pella, Marvin and Hurd. Their fiberglass composite windows come from Armaclad and their vinyl windows come from such companies as Soft-Lite and Armaclad.
For more information about Aspen Exterior's products and services, visit www.aspenexterior.com or call (847) 590-5600.