Home Improvement: Contract Tips

Home Improvement: Contract Tips

An article from the People’s Law Library of Maryland

Improving your home is a key part of home ownership. When using a contractor understanding the contract is key. This article provides tips for ensuring your home improvement project goes smoothly.

Selecting a Contractor

Home improvement is one of the areas in which consumers are often disappointed. One way to prevent problems is to take time with the contract and always hire a contractor who is licensed with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC). Even if it is a “small job,” there are a few steps that you should take to protect yourself. Many experts recommend interviewing at least three contractors before hiring a contractor for you home improvement project. This may not be practical for many low and moderate-income persons. But, if possible, try to get estimates from at least two contractors, even if only by telephone. Here are some tips that will help every homeowner.

Licensed Contractors

Always select a contractor that is licensed with the MHIC. Ask for the contractor’s MHIC license number and check to make sure their license is up-to-date. You can find out if a contractor is licensed at the Department of Labor’s website.  Even if you don’t know the contractor’s license number, you can search for that person by name. You can also call MHIC and ask if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and, if so, whether the complaints have been resolved.

If you have problems with the work the contractor does for you or if the contractor fails to complete the work, so long as the contractor is licensed, you can file a complaint against a contractor or salesperson with the MHIC. After MHIC completes its investigation of your complaint, you may be eligible to file a claim with the MHIC Guaranty Fund to try to receive compensation for your loss. If you hire an unlicensed contractor or a contractor with an expired license, you cannot file a MHIC Guaranty Fund claim.

Home Improvement Contracts

Contracts are mutual promises between two parties. You, the homeowner, will be asked to pledge to pay for services and materials required for the job. A written contract will spell out how the work should be done, the materials to be used, and the payments. No matter what the size of the contract, always put it in writing. A written contract will help you to enforce the agreement if anything goes wrong. Even if the contractor is someone you know, this is a business relationship and you should treat it that way. If you don’t understand a term or provision, ask for an explanation before you sign.

MHIC has specific requirement that must be included in every home improvement contact:


Contractor’s Name, Address, and MHIC Number

A home improvement contract must contain the name, address, and MHIC license number of the contractor. If a salesperson sold or solicited the job, the contract must also contain the name and license number for each salesperson involved.

Notice for Homeowners

Each home improvement contract must contain a notice that gives the telephone number and website of the MHIC and states, “each contractor must hold a current MHIC license, and anyone can ask MHIC about a contractor.” The address for MHIC is 1100 N. Eutaw St., Room 121, Baltimore, Maryland 21201. The telephone numbers are 410-230-6231 and 1-888-218-5925. MHIC’s website.

MHIC regulations require that every home improvement contract contain the following notice:

1.    The Maryland Home Improvement Commission administers the Guaranty Fund, which may compensate homeowners for certain actual losses caused by acts or omissions of licensed contractors; and

2.    A homeowner has the right to purchase a performance bond for additional protection against losses not covered by the Guaranty Fund.

Dates and Description

The contract must contain the approximate dates when the performance of the home improvement will begin and when it will be substantially completed.

Deposit and Payments

The contract must clearly state the price that you and the contractor agree upon for the entire job. A contractor may not accept more than 1/3 the contract price as a deposit and may not accept any payment until the contract is signed. You are free to negotiate any payment terms beyond the 1/3 deposit with the contractor. The contract must include the number of monthly payments and the amount of each payment, including any finance charges.

Read the law: Md. Code, Business Regulations § 8-617

Mortgages or Liens

If you borrow money to finance your home improvement project by securing an interest in residential real estate, on the first page of the contract there must be a written notice that says, “This contract creates a mortgage or lien against your property to secure payment, and may cause a loss of your property if you fail to pay the amount agreed upon. You have the right to consult an attorney. You have the right to rescind this contract within 3 business days after the date you sign it by notifying the contractor in writing that you are rescinding the contract.”

Arbitration Clause

Before you sign the contract, it is very important to make sure you know if the contract contains an arbitration clause. If you and the contractor have agreed to include a mandatory arbitration clause in the contract, it must include the name of the person or organization that will conduct the arbitration, whether any mandatory fees will be charged to the parties for arbitration and list the fee schedule, whether the arbitrator’s findings are binding, and a disclosure that a claim against the MHIC Guaranty Fund will be stayed until completion of the mandatory arbitration proceeding. You and the contractor must initial and date the arbitration clause.

Door-to-Door Sales Act

Your home improvement contract may also be covered by the Maryland Door-to-Door Sales Act. If it is, the contractor must include additional information in the contract. A contract covered by the Door-to-Door Sales Act must include a notice that states that “you may cancel the transaction at any time prior to midnight of the fifth business day, or midnight of the seventh day if the buyer is at least 65 years old after the date of the transaction.” A separate “Notice of Cancellation” form must be attached to the contract and filled in with the information about how to cancel the contract.

The Door-to-Door Sales Act is enforced by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. For more information or to file a complaint, please visit the Attorney General’s website. Residents of Howard and Montgomery Counties can also report violations to the County Office of Consumer Protection – Howard County or Montgomery County websites.

Copy of the Contract

Before the contractor begins any of the work, he or she must give you a copy of the contract, signed by the contractor.

Remember, a contract is a legally binding document so it is important to understand what you are signing. Make sure the contract is in writing, legible, that you understand it, and that you and the contractor have both signed it before the work begins.

Get Proof of Insurance

Get a copy of the contractor’s current liability insurance certificate. The contractor must have accident and liability insurance for him or her self and all others who will work on a job.

  1. You need to be protected from anyone who is injured on the job who might sue you.
  2. You need to be protected from any damage that the contractor may cause to your property. Look at your homeowner’s insurance policy. Call your agency if you are not sure if injuries on the job will be covered by your homeowner’s policy. This is your backup if the contractor’s insurance does not cover injuries or damages.

Contract Terms to Watch Closely

  • Square foot pricing – It is difficult to compare the costs of square foot bids. These bids do not detail the specific items such as the size of the framing boards. This means that you cannot be sure about the quality of the work and materials that each contractor has in mind when s/he makes the bid. If one person plans to use lower quality materials, you will be unable to see this when you compare square foot price bids.
  • Allowances” – These are amounts that a contractor will include to cover for certain items that are not detailed in the bid, such as light fixtures. If the actual costs are higher than the “allowance” estimate, you must pay the difference. This will increase the overall cost of the contract. One way to avoid this problem is to pick out the items you want in time for the bid. Another way to avoid losing control of the costs is for you to shop for the general prices of the things that you are not yet ready to select. Write down the general cost of the items, such as light fixtures, that are like the ones you want. If you get more than one bid, keep in mind that each bid will be based on different assumptions about the allowances. This means that it will be harder to compare bids.
  • Fixed Price” vs. “Time and Materials” Contract – These are two different ways in which the contractor can bill you.
    • Fixed price” bids are considered to be standard in the industry. A fixed price means that the contractor has investigated all of the items related to the project. The contractor agrees that a certain price will cover all of the time and materials.
    • A more uncertain agreement is called a “time and materials” contract. This is an agreement in which the contractor charges you as the job goes along. The contractor will charge you for his/her time and materials plus an added amount for profit. If it is a time and materials contract, make sure that the contract includes a maximum cost or “cap” on the price for the job. An open-ended “time and materials” contract can be an invitation to an unscrupulous contractor to run up the costs of the job.
    • Be very careful if the contractor is not clear about which type of contract s/he intends to use.
  • Payment Schedule – The contractor will ask for partial payments at certain points during the job. A contractor cannot accept more than 1/3 of the contract price as a deposit and may not accept any payment until the contract is signed. Also be careful about paying for more work than the work that has actually been completed. Small contractors may ask for an “advance” in order to purchase materials. Avoid paying for work that has not been yet completed. If the contractor fails to complete the job, you will need the money to pay someone else to complete the work that was left unfinished.
  • Change Orders – If you have an agreement that covers a set list of tasks and materials for a set price, you will be charged for any changes. It is a good practice to make these changes in writing. This allows both of you to agree about the change and the cost of the change.
  • Resolving Disputes – A lawsuit is one way to solve a dispute. But it can be expensive and take time. It makes sense to make sure there is another way to solve any disagreements. This is particularly true if the job is a small one and everyone involved is a person of modest means.

Final Payment

Don’t make the final payment until:

  • the “punch list” (the list of final odds and ends) is done;
  • you receive copies of the warranties for any appliances, fixtures, roof shingles, etc., and
  • you are told, in writing, by each subcontractor that s/he has been paid.



Remember that some jobs will require permits.   It is the contractor’s duty to secure every permit, license, or special exception necessary to properly complete the job according to applicable state or local building laws. Make sure the contractor is going to obtain any necessary permits and that the cost of the permits is included in your contract. Even if you are able to make changes now without a permit, you will have a problem when you try to sell the property. Ask the contractor to show you the permit before the work starts.


Laws and Regulations

People’s Law Library Contributors
Original Site page https://www.peoples-law.org/home-improvement-contract-tips#permits

10 Tips on Hiring and Working with a Contractor

10 Tips on Hiring and Working with a Contractor

An article from the People’s Law Library of Maryland

Tip 1: Look for experience

  • You’ll want to select a contractor with direct experience in the type of project you have in mind.
  • Check to see if the contractor is licensed. The Maryland Home Improvement Commission licenses home improvement contractors in the state. Search to see if the contractor has an active license using the Commission’s Home Improvement Public Query.
  • The Maryland Home Improvement Commission has information about whether a license is required.
  • How experienced a contractor is at communicating with clients is also important. While a busy professional might not answer their phone during the day or return calls immediately, the contractor’s time and effort in communicating with you may show their attention to detail and desire to please.

Tip 2: Ask for references

  • Don’t be shy about asking for references from satisfied customers or other professionals in related building trades.
  • Contact the references and ask questions.
    • Some questions to ask:
      • Are they satisfied with the contractor’s services?
      • Did they have any problems?
      • Was the work completed on time?
      • How did the contractor handle complaints?

Tip 3: Get multiple bids/quotes

  • Talk to at least two contractors. Ask lots of questions.
  • If possible, get bids (quotes) for your project from at least two contractors.
  • Make sure the bids include information about the work that’s supposed to be done and the materials that will be used.
  • Generally, the contractor will get the required building permits. Ask about this. If a permit is required, make sure getting the permit is included in the bid.
  • Evaluate the bids. Compare knowledge, quality of work, and responsiveness to requests for information about materials and alternatives in style and design.
  • Deposits: A contractor cannot accept more than 1/3 of the contract price as a deposit.

Tip 4: Check for customer complaints

  • You should know if a contractor’s previous customers encountered issues with the contractor. Call the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 or 1-888-218-5925. Ask if complaints have been filed against a contractor and whether they have been resolved or are still open.
  • You can also email the Maryland Home Improvement Commission: DLOPLMHIC-DLLR@maryland.gov
  • You can also file complaints against a contractor at their website.

Tip 5: Ask for proof of insurance

  • The contractor you hire should have the following:
    • personal liability insurance,
    • workers’ compensation insurance, and
    • property damage coverage.
  • Ask the contractor for proof of insurance coverage and call the insurance companies to verify coverage.

Tip 6: Expect fees

  • It is reasonable for the contractor to include charges such as:
    • a 10% surcharge above actual costs for materials;
    • a small fee for a credit check (Don’t be offended if the contractor protector their business by inquiring about your credit-worthiness and ability to pay.);
    • interest or finance charges if payments are not received on schedule; and
    • attorneys’ fees and collection costs if full payment is not received. See including options other than a lawsuit for resolving disputes.

Tip 7: Decide how to resolve disputes

  • Before you sign a contract and any work begins, ask how disputes are resolved. What happens when a dispute continues beyond a few days and exceeds a certain amount of money? Will the contractor agree to submit the dispute to a mediator and share the costs with you according to pre-arranged proportions? If so, get this in writing.
  • Some contracts state that arbitration will be used to resolve any disputes. This arbitration clause could prevent you from being able to file a lawsuit. Arbitration is a type of dispute resolution, similar to a court, where an arbitrator acts as the judge. This is usually faster and cheaper than a lawsuit but may have drawbacks. If the contract proposed by the contractor has an arbitration clause, you can negotiate to have it removed or allow you to pick the arbitrator.

Tip 8: Always put changes in writing.

  • If the contractor promises something that isn’t in your original agreement, ask to have it in writing. The best way is to add it to the written contract. Write up the promised item yourself and ask the builder to initial your writing. If both of you sign the change, it is clear that you both agree. This makes it a binding contract that you can enforce.

Tip 9: When to consider a review by an attorney

  • If the project costs exceed an amount you consider large (and definitely for jobs over $10,000), consider having the contract reviewed by an attorney.
  • In Maryland, many lawyers can review a simple contract for a few hundred dollars. This is worth the price to avoid much greater expenses if problems should arise later.

Tip 10: Read the fine print!

  • The Maryland Home Improvement Commission has specific requirements for home improvement contracts.
  • Review the requirements to ensure the contract you agree to contains all the necessary information.
    • The agreed-upon price of the home improvement contract should be clearly stated.
    • The contract should contain the approximate dates for the performance of work and when work should be substantially completed.
    • If you are borrowing money to finance the project, the contract must include a specific written notice about the financing.
    • If you are agreeing to arbitration to resolve disputes, the contract must include specific information about the arbitration.
  • Remember, a contract is a legally binding document, so it is important to understand what you are signing.


Source Suzanne Hood, attorney at law, Easton, MD; edited by Rene LaVigne; updated by Web Services Librarian.

Original Article page https://www.peoples-law.org/10-tips-hiring-and-working-contractor




Some Of The Most Popular Types Of House Additions

No one wants to deal with nuisances like bottlenecks or awkward, tight spaces in their most common gathering places. Or maybe you moved into a home you love but have outgrown over the years, and could really use another bedroom. Luckily, these problems can be solved by house additions.

Additional Bedroom

Adding a new room is a great way to customize your home to your exact needs. If you’re in need of an additional bedroom, you’ve probably got a few options to consider in order to score some extra space in your existing home. Keep in mind that adding a room to a house requires not only a building permit, but also permission from your homeowner’s association if your home is governed by one.


Taking on home additions can be an overwhelming thought process to most homeowners. But this is where we pull together all the pieces and simplify the process. The experience of our award winning design-build home addition contractors excels at balancing the cost and practicality of each unique build.

Bump Out

If you’re not excited about shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a substantial addition to your home, you’re certainly not alone. The cost of adding onto a house can be prohibitive. But if it’s just a small amount of extra space you’re looking for, consider a bump out.

Sometimes called a micro addition, a bump out is typically between two and 15 feet. Any more than that, and you’ll have to pay extra to include support beams and concrete footings, making your bump out more like a conventional house addition.

If such a small addition doesn’t seem worth it at first, consider that 2 or 3 square feet is enough to accommodate a dining room table or add a center island to a cramped kitchen.

Sunroom – Four Season Room

Enjoy the sunrise and sunset from the comfort of your home when you add a sunroom. These bright, open spaces are typically appended to the back or side of a house and are not temperature controlled by the home’s existing HVAC system. That helps a sunroom be one of the more affordable house additions. Of course, a sunroom can be made into a four-season room by adding heating and cooling.

The Top 10 Laundry Rooms of 2023

With the right details and features, a laundry room can become so much more than just a place to wash and dry clothes. You’ll find plenty of inspiration for statement-making finishes, clever storage ideas and stylish color schemes in this countdown of the most-saved laundry room photos of 2023.

By:Becky Harris

10. Bold in Blue

Undercabinet lighting illuminates a beautiful hand-painted tile backsplash in this Dallas laundry room by Blackline Renovations. A brass rod adds a spot to hang damp clothes and complements the brass cabinet hardware. A folding countertop spans the appliances, and a full-height linen cabinet offers broom and vacuum storage.

















9. Layered Luxury

Kurk Homes imagined a welcoming, joyful and functional space when designing this College Station, Texas, laundry room. Black porcelain tile flooring, quartz countertops, shiplap ceiling panels and a backsplash that combines stone, brass and porcelain details in a harlequin pattern layer in the luxury.
















8. Utility Tranquillity

Stacking the washer and dryer left room for Trim Tech Designs to outfit this Chicago-area laundry room with a deep and wide marble-lined utility sink that could double as a washing station for small pets. The arched marble backsplash, tongue-and-groove paneling and a wall-mounted faucet with attached sprayer bring elegant touches to the space.

7. English Country Flair

M House Development used a similar strategy to make room for a dedicated pet-washing station in this Chicago-area mudroom. But the finishes here nod to English Country style — sage green cabinetry, brass hardware, black countertops and a herringbone brick floor.

6. Terrazzo Pizazz

This Toronto-area laundry room by Avenue Design features elevated machines that minimize bending over while loading and unloading. As for style, terrazzo countertops, backsplash and floating shelf add pizazz with tones that complement the gray-green cabinetry, streamlined hardware and sculptural light fixture.

5. Check, Please!

Marble plays a starring role in this Litchfield, Connecticut, combined mudroom and laundry room by Crisp Architects. The countertops are honed Carrara marble and the striking checkerboard floor is composed of honed 12-by-12-inch Gioia Venatino and Dark Bardiglio marble tiles. One of the most clever features is slide-away pocket doors that conceal the appliances when they’re not in use.













4. Elevated Pet Spa

These Portland, Oregon, homeowners wanted overflow pantry and storage space, a front-loading washer and dryer, counter space for folding laundry and a dog bath. To fulfill their needs, they searched Houzz and found Amy Pearson Design. The firm carefully considered the ergonomics of dog washing when determining the height of the doggy bath to make things easier on the owners’ backs. Its placement under the large window provides a lovely view, while the deep green tile bath surround plays off the foliage outside.

3. Country Charm

  A mix of robin’s-egg blue walls and cabinets, light wood accents, fabric-lined wicker drawers, a checkerboard floor and tongue-and-groove paneling create inviting country style in this Nottingham, England, laundry room by First Sense Interiors. A pullout drying rack, countertop space for folding,a row of pegs and an open shelf maximize functionality in the well-planned room.

2. Nautical Nods

The navy, brass and white palette in this Annapolis, Maryland, laundry room by Melissa McLay Interiors and Mueller Homes nods to nautical style. But the abstract botanical wallpaper and fabric shade, dog poster, plaid pillow and white oak floors add softness, whimsy and warmth. There’s even a convenient gift wrapping station.

1. Farmhouse Fresh

Dave Fox Design Build Remodelers gave this Columbus, Ohio, laundry-mudroom a timeless and well-worn feel. Slate flooring, an Oriental runner, wood accents, oyster-colored Shaker-style cabinets, oil-rubbed bronze hardware and vintage antiques make for an inviting farmhouse look.

The 10 Most Popular New Kitchens Right Now

Warm neutral color palettes are having a moment. And you’ll see plenty of welcoming examples in this countdown of new kitchen photos. You’ll also find elegant details that form a “quiet luxury” style, as well as design ideas for creating contrast, incorporating wood elements and devising practical layouts.

By: Suzanne Ennis

10. Open and Organic

This Washington, D.C.-area kitchen by Case Architects & Remodelers exemplifies the handmade features and neutral palette popular in kitchens right now. Hand-cut zellige-style backsplash tiles coordinate with marble-look Corian countertops and soft greige Overcast paint on the Hampstead door fronts from Crystal Cabinets. Red oak shelves in a Sand Dune finish, woven seating, reddish wood floors and golden pendant lights add contrast and coziness.

9. A Little Bit French Country

In this renovated Portland, Oregon, kitchen, Kraft Custom Construction balanced the dark wood floor and medium-toned wood perimeter cabinets and beams with a white island, light stone countertops and a white subway tile backsplash. The improved flow and ample storage and counter space satisfied the homeowners’ need for a highly functional room. Traditional details give the space a sense of quiet luxury, while the rustic beams and curved range hood help achieve the homeowners’ desire for French Country flair.

8. Zesty Zellige

A handmade zellige tile backsplash in a multicolor geometric pattern behind the cooktop is the star of this Huntington Beach, California, kitchen, while the two-tone Italian custom laminate cabinets play supporting roles. Joseph Rodrigues Interiors complemented them with neutral zeillige wall tile, light engineered quartz countertops and luxury vinyl plank flooring to create a light and warm kitchen with clean, contemporary lines and plenty of pizzazz.

7. Two-Tone Traditional

Kalaa Chakra Interiors contrasted a richly grained wood island base with creamy painted perimeter cabinets in this Atlanta-area kitchen, then installed a soft green tile backsplash that echoes the verdant view through the windows. The large scale of the lantern-style brass pendant light subtly updates the traditional design.

6. Twin Fridges

The softness of marble-look quartz countertops and pale green (Sea Salt by Sherwin-Williams) and warm white oak cabinets contrasts with bold black ceiling trim and door trim in this Kansas kitchen. Other standout features incorporated by Tamara Day Design (who used Houzz Pro business software to manage the project) include matching refrigerators flanking the cooking zone and a white oak bar countertop with waterfall ends.

5. Angles and Curves

When remodeling this Missouri kitchen, Marcia Moore Design preserved the stone island countertop in a distinctive wedge shape but replaced the base with black and walnut grain cabinets to give the space a subtle European vibe. Black-and-brown quartz perimeter countertops and geometric backsplash tile in four different honed marbles pick up the island’s varied tones.

4. Warm and Milky

In this Minnesota kitchen by Ksusha Olson of Titus Contracting, inset kitchen cabinetry painted in Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak greige creates a warm neutral backdrop for the Calacatta Laza quartz countertops, which are milky white with soft brown veining. A contrasting dark-stained white oak island base and coordinating woven counter chairs ground the light and airy space.

3. Earthy and Eclectic

The colors in this Aspen, Colorado, kitchen designed by Miranda Cullen of Inside Stories may be warm neutral, but the style is anything but bland. Varied textures and tones — such as the custom cabinets’ dual white oak finishes and the quartz countertops’ sweeping veins — add depth and character. Meanwhile, the lineup of Folk Abigail pendant lights from Rejuvenation and the range backsplash and hood tiles (Ann Sacks Gem by Kelly Wearstler in Azure) say “look at me!” without being flashy.

2. Textured Touches

This Studio M Interiors-designed kitchen in Minneapolis combines soft gray-blue perimeter cabinetry with a contrasting light wood island base. Repeating the wood in vertical panels on the range hood and as trim in the arched doorway helps tie the look together in an unexpected way. Creamy white countertops, domed white pendant lights, white-painted walls and a textured white subway tile also work together to create the room’s cohesive feel.

1. Refined Palette

White, wood and black work handsomely in this transitional-style Dallas-area kitchen by Spruill Custom Homes. The glass fronts of the uppermost cabinets emphasize the tall ceilings and offer display space, and bold black cabinet hardware and conical lights from Rejuvenation punctuate the otherwise pale palette.

Low-Maintenance Exterior Material Options for Your Home

Low-Maintenance Exterior Material Options for Your Home

They may cost more up front, but these low-maintenance materials save later on frequent repainting and replacement—without skimping on curb appeal. With some careful choices and some extra resources, you can upgrade your house with long-lasting materials that will take some maintenance chores off your to-do list.

Types of All-Weather Trim

Duration crown molding

This 9-inch-wide molding is milled from TruExterior poly-ash, a material impervious to water and barely affected by temperature swings. It’s also approved for use in areas prone to wildfires. Cuts smoothly with ordinary carbide saw blades, and you can fasten it with 15- or 16-gauge nails as close as 1⁄8 inch from an edge without it splitting or crumbling.

$19 per linear foot

What is Poly-Ash?

This amalgam of adhesive polymers and fly ash recovered from coal- burning power plants is marketed under the name TruExterior. Its uniformity allows it to be milled into paint-grade exterior products, such as siding, molding, and trim, and its dimensional stability in all temperatures helps paint applied to it last longer. It can also survive ground contact. All TruExterior products are covered by a 20-year warranty.

Canvas Series Beadboard

This tongue-and-groove product for porch ceilings and soffits is made of cellular PVC with a water-resistant, wood-look laminate film bonded to one face. It’s a low-upkeep alternative to real wood, especially in high-moisture coastal areas. Comes in five finishes, and is also available in V-groove, bed molding, and 4-inch crown profiles. All have a limited lifetime warranty on the substrate and 12-year coverage on the laminate.

About $4.50 per square foot

Low-Maintenance Fencing Options

Elements Performance Fencing

These dog-ear pickets, 5 5⁄16 or 6 inches wide by 6 or 8 feet tall, are made of wood strands held together with water-resistant resin, and treated with zinc borate to stop fungi and termites. A painted, resin-saturated overlay offers added protection; the finish has a limited 10-year warranty and can be repainted. This fencing won’t warp, but any cuts or nails that penetrate the overlay must be covered with exterior-grade paint. Comes in four colors.

From about $4.50 per picket

What is Engineered Wood?

Basically, it’s wood sliced into veneers, flakes, or strands and glued back together to make boards, beams, or sheets. These reconstituted products are stronger and more stable than the wood they came from originally, but are also more vulnerable to the effects of moisture. Widely used for interior applications, including framing, flooring, and cabinetry, engineered wood needs to be completely saturated with preservatives to survive outside.

Types of Low-Maintenance Siding

Everlast Lap Siding

Available with either a 4 1⁄2-inch- or a 6 7⁄8-inch-wide exposure (shown), this interlocking lap siding is made with a mineral-enhanced PVC-foam substrate bonded to a UV-resistant, embossed acrylic outer layer that never needs painting.

Each piece interlocks with its neighbors, top and bottom, enabling the siding to survive high winds (up to 198 mph for the 4 1⁄2-inch option). Because the substrate repels insects and water, and stainless-steel brackets reinforce the joints, there’s no need for caulk or primer. Available in 15 colors with matching trim pieces, with a limited lifetime warranty.

From $5.75 per square foot

Cedar Impressions individual 5-inch sawmill shingles

Sun and weather quickly rob cedar shingles of their fresh-cut look, but these solid polypropylene ones keep their color for years. Molded-in saw marks, varied widths, and one-at-a-time installation give walls a true shingled look. A lifetime limited warranty covers defects; no-fade coverage lasts 10 years. Comes in 17 colors.

James Hardie Artisan shiplap siding

The 9-inch-wide faces of these tongue-and-groove, fiber-cement planks nestle together, leaving a narrow nickel gap between each face. The material is primed, fire resistant, and hardly affected by temperature swings, so paint adheres longer. When installed correctly, this material is covered by a 30-year warranty.

About $4 per square foot

What is Fiber Cement?

Blending wood fiber into wet cement preserves those fibers in a high-pH, rot-free environment, and makes the cement stronger and harder to crack. The resulting siding or trim is heavy, but virtually unaffected by temperature changes, so paint holds up for many years.

Fiber cement isn’t immune to moisture—those fibers can still suck up water—so any cuts or overdriven nails have to be primed or caulked, and siding and trim must stay clear of the ground and any adjacent roof surfaces.

AZEK Shingle Siding

These 48-inch-long, cellular-PVC panels install faster than individual shingles, yet retain the offset gaps and variable widths of a traditional shingled wall. Choose either a straight or staggered pattern (shown); both have 1⁄4-inch-thick butt ends. The surface is treated to accept 100 percent acrylic paint. A limited lifetime warranty covers manufacturing defects.

About $4 per square foot

What is Cellular PVC?

It’s vinyl—like the floppy stuff used as siding—but during manufacture it’s injected with nitrogen gas to make it swell. The resulting boards, moldings, and siding have the same density and dimensions as solid pine, but are free of defects and are immune to decay and insects.

They expand and contract lengthwise as temperatures change, movement that has to be factored in when long lengths are installed.

Celect Cellular Composite Coard-and-Batten Siding

The rustic simplicity of this vertical siding is achieved with 9-inch-wide planks of cellular-PVC foam. Molded-in battens make installation faster than the wood version, and they interlock for weatherproof joints without caulk.

The factory-applied PVDF paint, in 15 colors, has a 25-year warranty against peeling, chipping, and cracking.

About $30 per square foot

Lifespan Solid Select Beveled Siding

This 1⁄2 x6 siding actually is made from trees: plantation-grown radiata pines that yield long lengths without finger joints or knots.

But since raw radiata has almost no resistance to rot or insects, this product is pressure-treated with insoluble, EPA-approved preservatives, and is double-primed; its durability is backed by a limited lifetime warranty. It’s also available in a variety of exterior trim and molding profiles.

About $3.75 per square foot

Durable Decking and Railing Options

RadianceRail Railing

This PVC-and-wood-fiber composite, coextruded with a high-gloss, scratch-resistant acrylic cap, has the classic look of a perfectly painted wood railing, and a 25-year warranty. It’s strong enough to bridge spans up to 8 feet wide (10 feet with extra aluminum-tubing reinforcement), and the post-to-rail connections are hidden. Comes in five colors.

About $41.50 per linear foot for a complete rail assembly

Legacy Porch Flooring

The 6-inch-wide face of this tongue-and-groove flooring harks back to the wide wood planks found on early American porches. But its water- and insect-proof, solid-PVC core has a fade-resistant, textured acrylic cap that meets ADA slip-resistance standards and keeps maintenance to an absolute minimum. Comes in three colors, with a limited lifetime warranty.

About $12 per square foot

Apex PVC Decking

Thanks to a core of cellular-PVC foam reinforced with strands of bamboo, these 5 1⁄2-inch-wide composite boards are 45 percent lighter than standard wood-plastic composites and expand and contract 25 percent less than solid PVC. An acrylic cap, double-embossed for a realistic wood look and high slip resistance, helps stop abrasion and fading. Comes in four colors, with a 25-year warranty.

About $4.60 per square foot

What is Composite Decking?

The original composites were made from recycled milk jugs that were melted, mixed with wood fiber, then extruded. Now manufacturers tweak their mixes with different materials to reach a desired performance and price point.

The best composites are capped with a layer of acrylic, a UV-resistant polymer that can be colored and textured to look like wood, but won’t decay or suffer insect damage. A textured surface also plays an important role in slip resistance when a deck is wet.

Your Guide to the Different Types of Hardwood Flooring

Check out this guide to Hardwood Flooring. Below you will see an article featured on HGTV.

Wall-to-Wall Floor Coverings offers professional flooring options including hardwood installation, refinishing, luxury vinyl, carpet, and tile. In tandem with Greg’s long-time associate Lou Valentine, our flooring team has a proven track record of being committed to the same excellence you expect from Wall-to-Wall. This team has more than a quarter-century of flooring installation and design experience, and our services will continue to expand as new and sustainable options evolve.

To complement our dedication to quality, we also offer the best flooring options around.

Your Guide to the Different Types of Hardwood Flooring

The enduring good looks of hardwood flooring come in many types and styles to fit different needs and budgets.


If you’re thinking of putting in hardwood floors, you can’t go wrong. All types of hardwood floors have unmatched natural beauty and go with any decor — modern, traditional, country, you name it. Hardwood flooring goes in any room, although kitchens and basements warrant special considerations.

Unfinished or Finished?

Unfinished hardwood flooring is a good option if you want a custom stain applied before the final finish, or if you want to match the color of existing flooring. After hardwood flooring installation and staining, the flooring is given several coats of protective finish. If you’re thinking of adding hardwood flooring in your kitchen, unfinished flooring is a good choice because the finish will penetrate and seal the seams between boards, helping to prevent water from seeping between boards.

Prefinished hardwood flooring comes from the factory already sanded and sealed, meaning the whole installation job goes quickly. There are no odors and VOCs from finishing on-site, and the floor is ready to walk on immediately.

Solid or Engineered?

Solid hardwood flooring is all wood and is usually 5/8″ to 3/4″ thick. Because it’s solid wood, it can be sanded and refinished many times. However, it’s susceptible to changes in humidity, and isn’t recommended for below-grade basements.

Engineered hardwood flooring is a veneer of real wood glued to several layers of wood underneath, like plywood. This gives engineered wood excellent stability over time and makes it a good choice for any area of your home, including below-grade basements. Depending on the thickness of the hardwood veneer, engineered hardwood flooring can only be sanded and refinished once or twice during its lifetime.

What Species Is Best?

The best hardwood floors are made with wood species that are readily available and — you guessed it — very hard. Oak flooring, maple flooring and cherry flooring are all good choices. Other species include bamboo (which is actually a grass), walnut, ash and mahogany. You’ll pay a premium price for more exotic species, such as teak, jarrah and mesquite. Check to make sure the hardwood flooring you choose comes from sustainably harvested forests.

Another option is reclaimed hardwood flooring, which you can find at salvage yards. It likely has some signs of wear and age, but you’ll pay about half what it would cost for comparable new flooring. If they don’t have what you’re looking for (and you have the time), ask to be put on a waiting list. Salvage flooring is an especially good choice if you’re renovating an older house.

Go Beyond Oak

Although oak still accounts for about two-thirds of all installed hardwood flooring in America, it’s losing ground to its exotic cousins. A wide range of hardwood from other countries, especially Brazil, Australia and parts of Asia, is gaining a foothold and nailing down homeowners’ interests.

“There has been a trend for several years for exotic hardwoods to grow,” says Anita Howard of the National Wood Flooring Association in Chesterfield, Mo. The number-one reason: price. “They’re more reasonable than they used to be,” she says. They’re also more available, as interest grows and lower pricing makes them more attractive.

Consumers also are intrigued by the possibilities that avoid the need to alter their wood choices drastically with stains. “These species offer a broader range of colors, so you can use the natural species rather than staining oak to a particular color,” Howard says. “More people today want to forgo stain and try a different wood type with a natural stain instead.” Some of the most popular woods right now are:

  • Brazilian Cherry The seasoned wood has a russet or reddish-brown color, with a medium to somewhat coarse grain. It’s slightly more stable than red oak, but it requires a longer than normal acclimation period. It also is more difficult to saw due to its high density.
  • Cork It comes in a spectrum of shades from light to dark and has a familiar grain that’s unlike other woods (it’s actually the bark of a type of oak tree). It’s become popular for a lot of reasons, because of its durability, sustainability and its cushioning effect underfoot. “We get a lot of calls about cork flooring. It’s very hot right now.” Read more about the benefits of cork floors.
  • Bamboo Technically, bamboo is a grass, but it is considered a wood due to its hardness. Bamboo has become popular with “green” building proponents due to its rapid regrowth, which makes it highly sustainable. “You can cut it and have a fully mature tree in four years,” Howard explains. It comes in manila/yellow tones as well as dark shades. The grain pattern shows nodes from the bamboo stalks, she says. Read more about the benefits of bamboo floors.
  • Wenge This nearly black wood, which comes from Africa, is difficult to obtain but has become popular as an accent wood. It can be hard to cut and requires carbide tools.
  • Bubinga Burgundy in color, this African wood has a fine grain and saws easily. But it splits easily when nailed with machine tools, so hand-hammering works best.
  • Sydney Blue Gum Over time, this wood’s color mutes from a spectrum of pink to burgundy red to become a medium brown-red. Its hardness requires carbide blades to cut.

As these differences show, exotic woods will react differently to cutting and installation techniques, as well as to the environment, Howard stresses. “It requires a professional who is familiar with the local area and its humidity and weather conditions, as well as with the wood, to install it properly. Requirements are different in different areas.”

Moving forward into the next phase of his business, Greg Wall has launched a new pool division. The COVID-19 crisis created a need for stay at home recreational activities and after being approached by several clients, Greg began researching options for pools and he found that fiberglass pools offered the best quality. He has since become a certified dealer for Leisure Pools, a family owned and operated company, offering high quality composite fiberglass pools.

He launched Patapsco Valley Pools in the Fall of 2020. “I had customers coming to me asking for referrals for pool installation and hardscaping…there was a definite void in the marketplace as many customers have complained to me about their masonry pool experience…so our pools are higher quality fiberglass and available in many shapes and sizes.” Greg remarks.

Wall to Wall Construction, Patapsco Valley Pools along with their partner, Groundshog Lawn & Landscape offer turn key projects to include fiberglass pools, state of the art filtration, lighting and water features along with patios, walls, decks, pavilions and outdoor kitchens, delivering a slice of paradise right in your own backyard. Learn more at www.patapscovalleypools.com.

Time to increase your living space?

In the past year, your home has been transformed from a place to come to, to a place to stay in. Work, school, and even vacations are all occurring under the same roof. The temporary is becoming permanent. So, is it time to consider an addition?

Now, you have an excellent opportunity to create exactly what you want. You already love your home, now create spaces that are comfortable and functional. Add an office space, school area, exercise room, or entertaining area.

Let’s start with office spaces. Anyone who works from home knows how easy it is to become distracted or how embarrassing it is to be in a meeting with a lot of background noise. In considering an office addition, look at places away from high traffic areas, like the kitchen or family room. Garages, porches, attics, and basements could be added to create a private work area.

Many parents understand that children need a school/study space that is quiet and yet supervised. Enlarging a kitchen or family room space can allow for an open-air designated school or homework space to enable parents to monitor activity and children to be productive.

The most common additions are ones that attach to the back of a house. A significant advantage of this type of addition is the ability to connect the home to the yard. These additions can create great spaces to use for relaxation, entertainment, or exercise.

Remember, additions come in all shapes and sizes. You can not only add the existing footprint of your home, but you can build up and out as well, keeping the original footprint but adding space at the same time. Options are available to create the functional spaces you need.

Wall to Wall Construction Celebrates 15 Years in Business

The name says it all! Wall to Wall Construction, LLC celebrates 15 years of business. As the company’s name implies, owner Greg Wall was the son of a contractor. His experience in construction came full circle in 2005 when he launched his own business; Wall to Wall Construction. He started with a small office, 1 truck and 2 employees and has grown the business to a comprehensive design-build firm with projects ranging from basic home improvements to deluxe custom built homes.

“I’ve been around construction and remodeling all my life…I learned a lot from my family…and being a CPA helped me be able to build the business. I wanted to focus on quality, I didn’t want to do average work. I wanted to be known for going the extra mile.” Greg explains.

Wall to Wall is a full service, turn-key, design-build firm specializing in both residential and commercial projects. Their portfolio includes single and multi-story additions, whole house remodeling, custom built homes, kitchens, baths, green remodeling, disabled and age in place renovations. In addition to their interior work, they provide services for roofing, siding, windows, decks, patios and hardscaping.

One Catonsville client remarks, “Wall to Wall exceeded our expectations. In a renovation project, it is all about the details…(they were) true professionals and meticulous…courteous and cooperative. They acted as though they were working in their own homes and cleaned up every day.”

Greg is a Catonsville native, attended Mount St. Joe High School and currently lives locally with his wife and four children. He is an active member of the Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and donates to many school causes, sports and arts programs. He can also be seen on the weekends playing drums with his local rock band.