Ask the Experts: Homes


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May 27, 2023

Ask the Experts: Homes

Top Docs 2023 Roanoke’s “Original Life Master” August 30, 2023 10:32 AM The story below is a preview from our September/October 2023 issue. For more stories like it, Subscribe Today. Thank you! Local

Top Docs 2023

Roanoke’s “Original Life Master”

August 30, 2023

10:32 AM

The story below is a preview from our September/October 2023 issue. For more stories like it, Subscribe Today. Thank you!

Local homes experts answer all your questions about decor, maintenance, remodeling and more.

A Sponsored Content Section

How to choose the best decking material for your outdoor living space?

The decking material you select is an essential investment you will need to make to provide efficient outdoor entertainment, leisure and relaxation space and curb appeal. With an increase in options of material to choose from, it is important to know what is available to you. For time’s sake, I will provide a sampling of priorities you might be weighing in your outdoor living space vision and compare them to what options are out there. Pressure treated decking is lumber that has been saturated with preservatives to make it more durable. This is the most budget-friendly option for the initial purchase, but it will be necessary to invest time and money in yearly maintenance that can include pressure washing, sanding, staining and sealing. Exotic hardwoods are an option for those wishing to add unique colors and textures that you can’t achieve with pressure treated lumber; however, the maintenance level will be similar.

The next available option, boasting the most design options, is capped composite decking. Composite decking is made of wood fibers mixed with synthetic materials and capped with a synthetic layer to discourage mold, prevent scratches, lock in color and provide texture while also eliminating the need for pressure washing, staining and sealing. Composite decking typically comes with a 25-50 year no fade, warp or splinter warranty. Maintenance will require simply sweeping leaves and promptly wiping muddy paw/footprints. For tough spills like red wine, mustard or BBQ sauce, you may need to use warm water and a gentle detergent to wipe it up.

Last, PVC decking is a fully synthetic option. Without wood or wood fibers, it offers the most resistance for durability issues such as warping, splitting, mold, rot and insect damage. Most PVC decking offers a 50-year warranty against these concerns. Maintenance requirements for PVC are the same as composite. This is your best option for docks or decks by the water. It is also lighter than composite so, while it can still get hot in direct sunlight on a summer scorcher, it tends to cool off faster than composite. It is important to note that lighter colors can help with concerns of high temperatures in all decking materials. Within each of these material options, there are several manufacturers offering their own colors, textures, fastening systems and warranties. That is why it is important to research your options and rely on an expert to offer guidance for your individual needs. The better you understand your options, the happier you will be with the outcome of your project!

Michelle Reno, Outdoor Sales

Capps Home Building Center


[email protected]

I need new siding and doors on my house. What are the most common products and installed price ranges?

The two most common siding types we see in our area are vinyl siding and fiber cement (the most recognized name is Hardie). Both types of siding include various style options such as board and batten, lap and shingle. While vinyl comes in a prefinished color, fiber cement can come prefinished or unfinished for field painting. The price ranges for both can vary greatly depending on the application; however, the most recent data for the Roanoke area shows the average cost of vinyl lap siding to be approximately $12/sf while the average cost of fiber cement is approximately $14.50/sf for prefinished lap siding. Door options generally revolve around wood, fiberglass and steel. Wood doors are not nearly as common as they used to be and are generally used for custom applications. Steel is quickly becoming obsolete due to the broader adoption and superior performance of fiberglass units. A standard 3-0 door replacement could be as little as $2,000 while a comparable fiberglass unit may run about $2,500. Both a grand entrance fiberglass or wood door with sidelights could run in the $10,000 range.

Jay Gauldin, President

Elegant Exteriors


What’s the difference between a framed and frameless cabinets?

I am frequently asked this question by visitors in our Christiansburg showroom. I answer their questions through show and tell of our full-sized showroom displays. Yes, there is a difference in construction between the two types of cabinets, but the most noticeable difference is the space gained with a frameless line. With a framed cabinet the framing on the front of the base cabinet is typically 1-1/2 wide on either side. Example, if you subtract that from a 12” wide base cabinet, you at best will have an 8.5” wide drawer box. With a frameless cabinet the sides of the cabinet are typically ¾” thick on either side. Multiply that by 2 and it equals 1-1/2”. If you subtract both the sides and a little space for the undermount drawer slides from the same 12” wide base cabinet, you will typically end up with a 10” wide drawer box. It doesn’t sound like much but if you multiply that throughout your entire kitchen, you will gain quite a bit of storage space. While the exterior appearance and style of the two cabinets differ slightly, the interior storage space is noticeably improved in a frameless cabinet.

Dean Saltus, Designer and Store Manager, Ideal Cabinets Design Studio

(540) 382-7088

[email protected]

I want to update my kitchen but the prices I am getting seem really high. Is there an affordable way to get what I want?

Most certainly! At Kitchen Tune-Up we have several ways to update your kitchen. Maybe you love your wood cabinets but they are dingy and show water stains and wear and tear. We have a proprietary wood recondition method that will restore those cabinets to approximately 80-90% of their original beauty. If you don’t like your out-of-date door style but the layout of your kitchen is working great, we can “Reface” your kitchen in approximately one week by replacing your cabinet doors and drawer fronts with any style or color you want, then add a matching veneer to your existing cabinet boxes to complete the look. And you have complete use of your kitchen every night. No need to remove everything from your cabinets and drawers. The result is stunning — but the price is extremely affordable. If you are not happy with the existing layout then new custom cabinets are the best way to create the kitchen of your dreams. Unlike other kitchen remodelers, we can often complete the project in weeks — not months — and due to our volume pricing, customer cabinets are surprisingly affordable. We also offer many organizational solutions to make your life easier.

Cory Dine-DuGuay, Owner/Principal Designer, Kitchen Tune-Up Roanoke


[email protected]

How do I avoid unexpected home repair bills?

Much like a yearly physical can uncover early warning signs of a health problem, having your home’s major systems checked annually will catch the small problems early which helps you plan for future larger repairs when the timing is best for you.

Additionally, the most important benefit of annual systems checks is the peace of mind that you are keeping your family safe and comfortable. If you need an Electrical, Plumbing, or Heating & Air system check we would be happy to help.

D.J. Ostrom

Ostrom Electrical Plumbing

Heating & Air


What stone do I need as a foundation to the shed I want to put in my backyard?

If you are buying a pre-fabricated shed and are going to set it on a stone foundation pad, you would use a #57 clean stone. You want to make sure that the stone foundation is level, 4” to 6” in depth, and is 2 feet wider and 2 feet longer than the dimensions of your shed. You will want to have this work done before they come to set the shed. #57 stone also allows water to drain through it, which protects your shed from water damage.

If you want to put that same shed on a concrete pad, follow all the same instructions above, but you would want to use crusher run stone and compact it before pouring the concrete pad.

Frank B. Caldwell IV, Roanoke Sales & Business Development Manager

Rockydale Quarries Corporation


[email protected]

As a Lake-based contractor with many out-of-state owners, we often get asked how Virginia contractor licensing works.

Virginia requires that all of its contractors be licensed and there are three classes of contractors:

Class A – Projects have no size limit

Class B – Projects up to $120,000 in value

Class C – Projects up to $10,000 in value

Additionally, contractors are assigned classifications/specialties that define the scope of work that they may perform. There is a multitude of these classifications and you can find a detailed list of them at

For people looking to perform home additions, major remodeling and custom homes, your contractor should possess an RBC classification. The same contractor for commercial projects would be required to have a CBC classification. There are other classifications that can work on your projects so it is best to consult with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) to determine what is required for your project. Additionally, be advised that Virginia requires all residential contracts to be in writing and those contracts require a minimum amount of information to comply with regulations. Please visit the DPOR website listed above for more information and don’t forget to ask your contractor for a copy of the RBC-9.1 Statement of Consumer Protections form.

Jay Gauldin, President

TBS Construction


What are signs property owners should look for that may indicate they need to call in a tree expert for assistance?

How can you tell if your tree is sick? Often, there are clear signs that something is wrong.

If your tree has wilted leaves, pay attention, if they’re wilting, they’re not working at their full capacity and the whole tree suffers. Many fungal and bacterial diseases can cause spots, blotches, sunken areas and other blemishes on tree leaves, fruit and/or bark. Some spots are also signs of insects.

Do you have dead, dying or dropping branches? An old tree slows down as it ages and may no longer produce enough food energy to support all its structure and branches will fall. But branch drop can also be a sign of tree disease. When a branch is compromised by disease and decay, the tree will separate the branch from the rest of the tree’s internal system to prevent the spread of disease.

If your tree has been healthy and vigorous, this change is reason enough to have an arborist inspect it. Depending on the reason, an arborist may be able to prune out diseased branches and keep the rest of the tree healthy. If your tree is dropping more than the occasional branch, and if these branches are large, it’s time to call in the experts to examine your tree.

Large trees are dangerous. Too many homeowners are injured each year trying to climb, prune or remove dead limbs. Let a professional with training, safety gear, equipment and knowledge examine your tree.

Josh Salb, Owner

AAA Tree Service


What is the first step to control ever-rising home energy costs?

Your first step is to realize that energy efficiency, comfort, building durability, healthy air and sustainability are all connected. Only building science balances these connections. An Energy Audit is the most valuable service a building scientist provides, ideally completed prior to your renovations or expensive purchases. A bona-fide energy auditor is a BPI or RESNET accredited, experienced professional, with years of multi-disciplinary, local market expertise. Recommendations contained in an Energy Audit report will reduce energy uses, as it increases home durability, comfort and air quality. Building Scientists do not use a “free energy audit” as a sales technique to sell particular equipment.

During the audit, several hours are spent collecting data, using blower door tests and infrared thermography as diagnostic tools, analyzing your energy bills, completing a certified energy model and applying customized recommendations for your building enclosure, systems, appliances and renewable technologies. Your comprehensive report is a “future-proofing” strategy for the unique attributes of your home, diagnosing the causes of problems and delivering a plan to make improvements over time. This is an investment-grade plan, because it predicts your return on investment for home improvement options, optimizes them for budget, tax credits or rebates and prioritizes them, for completion in correct order, without unintended consequences. Because recommendations always include quantitative performance criteria, your successful installation can be verified as complete and meeting specifications before contractors are paid.

Monica Rokicki

Principal & Owner

Better Building Works

Why should you check your air conditioning system once a year?

As your air conditioning system operates it builds up dust on filters and coils that can restrict air flow and affect efficiency. It also causes unnecessary wear on other components like the motors and compressors. You can lose between five and seven percent per year in efficiency, thus causing that high efficiency air conditioner you purchased to become a mid or even low efficiency air conditioner. Let us help you keep your air conditioning system in tip-top shape to reduce down-time and save you money.

Shelia Bower, Director of Administration

Bower Heating and Air Conditioning


[email protected]

How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid. Systems with batteries will ensure that the battery is fully charged and ready in case of an outage.

Virginia is a state that offers 1 to 1 net metering, meaning that for every kWh sent to the grid one kWh from the grid will be offset. This, along with the ability to build up those credits into a bank, allows many local homeowners to completely do away with charges for electricity on their monthly bills.

Earth Right Mid-Atlantic


When should prospective home buyers meet with a Mortgage Banker?

Scheduling time to have a conversation with a Mortgage Banker is one of the first things home buyers should do – even before searching for homes. A Mortgage Banker can help assess your financial situation, present various lending options and even pre-approve you for a loan.

This not only helps you make informed decisions with a realistic budget in your home search, but it can also speed up the buying process – which is particularly helpful in a competitive real estate market.

Angie Apgar, Mortgage Loan Officer

American National Bank


[email protected]

Why is it more important than ever to work with a real estate professional to help buy and sell your home right now?

With such a competitive market, buyers and sellers need a professional who will manage expectations, establish clear communication channels, and prepare them for each stage of the process. It’s essential to find an agent who is skilled in pricing strategies and contract negotiation. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate agents act as your dedicated expert, ensuring that you have experience on your side in order to navigate these novel challenges.

Catherine B. Daniel

CRB, Principal Broker

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices


Thinking about purchasing an investment property?

Gentry Locke regularly assists purchasers and sellers with commercial investment properties that range from single-family homes purchased for investment to office buildings, warehouses, manufactured home parks, industrial parks, timber and agricultural land and multi-family housing. Investing in and managing property for commercial purposes requires knowledge of zoning, landlord-tenant law, leases and financing for acquisition and improvements. Additional considerations are whether you will manage the property yourself or hire a professional property management company, the terms of conditions of any existing leases and how you will take ownership of the property. We help purchasers and sellers by reviewing and/or preparing the purchase and sale agreement, performing due diligence, analyzing and correcting title issues, creating easements and declarations, reviewing or preparing their rental and lease agreements, working with their lender to obtain financing and setting up their purchase or sale correctly to minimize risks of ownership. Note, Gentry Locke does not serve as a closing agent for residential property sales but refers those matters to Roanoke area title insurance and closing agents for assistance.

Clark Worthy, Partner

Gentry Locke


[email protected]

What happens to the unsold items from an auction or estate sale?

This is a question we address with the seller at the beginning of our planning process. We can arrange for a buy-out or a donation to a non-profit. We can also arrange for light housekeeping services after all items have been removed.

Mountain City Realty & Auction, LLC



[email protected]

[email protected]

I have started my end-of-life planning. What should I do with my estate jewelry?

Deciding what to do with your estate jewelry depends on your personal preferences, financial goals, and sentimental attachments. Here are some options to consider:

Gift It: Share the joy of estate jewelry with your loved ones by gifting pieces to family members or close friends. Passing down heirloom jewelry can create lasting memories.

Repurpose or Redesign: If some of the jewelry items don’t align with your taste, you can work with a skilled jeweler to repurpose or redesign them into new pieces that better suit your style.

Appraise for Insurance: Obtain professional appraisals to ensure that it’s adequately insured to protect against loss, theft, or damage.

Sell It: Selling it can provide financial value. Consider selling to local jewelers or local auction houses.

Donate It: Charitable donations of estate jewelry can support causes close to your heart and potentially offer tax benefits.

Involve family members with open discussions to understand each person’s preferences and sentiments. This can help ensure an amicable distribution of the jewelry. If you decide not to sell or wear the estate jewelry immediately, ensure proper storage in a safe and secure place to maintain its condition and value.

These decisions can be challenging. Seek advice from family members, appraisers, or estate planning professionals. Reach out to AmRhein’s Fine Jewelry to help you with your appraisals and estate jewelry needs.

Tom Sells, III, Co-Owner, Graduate Gemologist, General Manager, AmRhein’s Fine Jewelry


[email protected]

What separates you from the rest of the flooring stores in the area?

We are a design-centered showroom equipped to improve the shopping and buying experience of our customers. When you walk into our showroom, you’ll find our new private label Room by Room display system which is built upon simplicity. Carpet One Floor and Home arranges products by color, giving a fresh new take on finding the perfect floor. This arrangement takes the stress out of the equation so you can easily find the floors that work best for your home. Room by Room offers great features based on your needs like waterproof, pet-proof and green products. With an exclusive and elevated offering of styles and manufacturers, we truly have a customer-ready environment. Please contact our showroom to set up your no cost, no obligation in-home estimate.

Sarah Kerschner, Residential Flooring & Design Specialist, Whitt Carpet One Floor & Home


When purchasing home pieces, why would eco and sustainable products matter?

Everyone wants to provide their family with the best. One of the most important things you can do for them is to educate yourself about commonly used items and fill your home with simple products that contain non-toxic ingredients and materials. Why? Well, many products in the furniture and household industries are made with the goal of keeping costs as low as possible. Unfortunately, this means that many of our everyday items contain harmful and even toxic chemicals that can put your family’s health at risk. So, what’s the solution? Opting for eco-friendly alternatives is the most effective way to address this issue. By choosing products that are eco-friendly, you’ll be creating a healthier living environment for your family and supporting sustainable industries.

Rachelle Walker, Owner



[email protected]

August 30, 2023

10:32 AM

The story below is a preview from our September/October 2023 issue. For more stories like it, Subscribe Today. Thank you! How to choose the best decking material for your outdoor living space?Michelle RenoI need new siding and doors on my house. What are the most common products and installed price ranges?Jay Gauldin,What’s the difference between a framed and frameless cabinets?Dean SaltusI want to update my kitchen but the prices I am getting seem really high. Is there an affordable way to get what I want?Cory Dine-DuGuay,How do I avoid unexpected home repair bills?D.J. OstromWhat stone do I need as a foundation to the shed I want to put in my backyard?Frank B. Caldwell IV,As a Lake-based contractor with many out-of-state owners, we often get asked how Virginia contractor licensing works.Jay GauldinWhat are signs property owners should look for that may indicate they need to call in a tree expert for assistance?Josh Salb, What is the first step to control ever-rising home energy costs?Monica RokickiWhy should you check your air conditioning system once a year?Shelia Bower, How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?Earth Right Mid-AtlanticWhen should prospective home buyers meet with a Mortgage Banker?Angie ApgarWhy is it more important than ever to work with a real estate professional to help buy and sell your home right now?Catherine B. DanielThinking about purchasing an investment property?Clark WorthyWhat happens to the unsold items from an auction or estate sale?Mountain City Realty & Auction, LLCI have started my end-of-life planning. What should I do with my estate jewelry?Tom Sells, IIIWhat separates you from the rest of the flooring stores in the area?Sarah Kerschner,When purchasing home pieces, why would eco and sustainable products matter?Rachelle Walker,