Rotting shutters are not unusual even when they’re made of rot-resistant woods. “Incredibly, cedar, teak, mahogany and cypress will rot if they can’t dry out,” says Chris Peeples, owner of Vixen Hill Cedar Shutters. “Moisture trapped in wood grain, especially in warmer climates, allows bacteria to breed voraciously. The inherent natural toxins that prevent rot in these woods are simply overwhelmed! Rotting can also be attributable to modern coatings,” explains Mr. Peeples. “Today’s paints include impervious resins that act like plastic coatings,” he continued. “The myth is that these coatings prevent water penetration, thereby eliminating rot. This is not true because expansion and contraction of the shutter surface creates hair-line cracks that allow water penetration. The water becomes trapped by the paint. Since the wood can’t breathe and dry out, bacteria breeds and the wood rots.”
In the old days paints were simply oxide pigments mixed with linseed oil. They weren’t shiny like plastic shutters. The linseed oil in the coating shed water yet allowed the wood to breath. That’s why the shutters on old houses lasted one hundred years or more. It’s the advent of plastics and urethanes during the 60’s that made people think that shutters should have a glossy shiny finish. But, if you want to be historically accurate and have your shutters last for decades, you can still buy solid oil based solid stains. If you use the proper coating, authentic wood shutters will outperform plastic and metal shutters.
Vixen Hill, the leader in authentic outdoor shutters and gazebos proudly announces their newest innovation – the Pent Arbor. A Pent Arbor is a decorative trellis structure mounted horizontally on a garage or the house itself. The design adds an aesthetically pleasing 3-dimensional garden aspect to the home that filters sunlight and allows for the planting of “climbers” (roses, grapes, wisteria, etc.). In summer, the leaves further filter the sunlight giving a “Green” solution to excessive solar heating. Ideally mounted between roof eves, Pent Arbors can be put above garage doors or on sets of windows that adds even more character to the home. Vixen Hill is the country’s only supplier of modular cedar Pent Arbors.
“A 10ft Pent Arbor would cost the homeowner approximately $480 plus shipping and in today’s economy when money is tight for major remodeling projects, homeowners can find this to be a simple and affordable way to update the look of the exterior of their home,” Says Chris Peeples, President of Vixen Hill. Chris adds, “There is no doubt that this decorative and aesthetically appealing detail adds elegance and personality to any home.”
Pent Arbors are available in standard lengths between 4’ and 20’ and have decorative joists with slats that protrude 24” from the wall. The arbors are also available in a variety of colors from natural cedar to a dark wood stain or in classic white to customize to the specific needs of the homeowner. Assembly is simple and accomplished with a drill, bit and ladder in about an hour.
Perhaps there is more that meets the eye when it comes to the small metal structures that hold the shutters of a window in an open position. Shutter dogs are commonly known to offer function and decoration to shutters, but they also allude to the history of a house as well as the traditional architecture in certain regions of the United States. In fact, the material, shape and mount style of shutter dogs differ throughout the country.
The first shutter dog named the “rat tail shutter dog” was hand forged in Colonial Williamsburg. Made with a hammer and anvil, steel was formed into an elongated hook that spiraled at the bottom. The earliest method of mounting the rat tail shutter dog involved a wrought nail hammered in to a wooden structure. The wrought nail later evolved in to a threaded bolt.
In the Valley Forge area, the high availability of iron allowed people to use a new material for their shutter dogs. From Maryland and north up to New York, shutter dogs were cast in iron. In Philadelphia, it was common to see decorative cast iron shutter dogs. The shutter dogs boasted decorative themes and motifs such as stars, shells and grapes. These decorated shutter dogs have a left and a right shutter dog and are not interchangeable. Stone houses, common in Philadelphia, created the need for a different type of mount. Homeowners mounted shutter dogs on arms that attached to the bottom sill of the window.
The S shutter dog and the Curled shutter dog exemplify the type of shutter dogs originally made in the New England area. Created though die cut stamping, these steel dogs offer yet another beautiful ornamentation style. While the Curled shutter dogs are interchangeable the S shutter dog has a clear left and right. Homeowners of New England style houses with siding and shingles used a plate mount and stanchion. This square metal plate was screwed in to the siding and then the S or Curl shutter dog was put on the stanchion.
Over the years, the styles and methods of New England, Valley Forge, and Williamsburg mixed and crossed regional lines. Manufacturers such as Vixen Hill offer a wide variety of shutter dogs, shutter hardware and methods of mounting. People often worry about the stability of their shutters. Vixen Hill offers the option of ordering a bullet catch mounted on the back of the shutter in addition to the shutter dog to hold it in place.
There are several companies that manufacture pre-engineered Porch Systems. Most can be found online with Google or similar search engines. The type of porch you select will depend on a number of considerations. Do you intend to use the porch year-round and what type of “feeling” and look are you seeking? Many “Florida room” designs consist of aluminum panels with thermal-pane glass and sliding doors. These materials are appropriate for modern architecture. Four-season porches are meant to be air-conditioned and heated while serving as additional living space. Wooden versions are also available with either the greenhouse or conservatory look. These go best with traditional architecture. All 4-season enclosures have building code requirements and property tax impact because they increase the square footage of your living space. When considering these types of porches, don’t forget solar exposure. South facing will dramatically increase solar gain. This is good during winter but much less desirable in summer. Some manufacturers offer specially coated glass to minimize greenhouse effect while filtering rays that fade fabrics.
Another porch type is the 3-Season variety. Modular versions can be purchased for new or existing porches as pre-engineered panels. Older Victorian homes included such porches, usually constructed of wooden screen doors. This gave the ability to switch between insect screens and glass. Such porches usually had high-ceilings and were used throughout the spring, summer and fall. You can still buy wooden screen doors to achieve the same traditional porch feel and look, but there are alternatives.
One company (VixenHill.com) offers free online porch design. Simply enter a few dimensions and select options. The website software does the rest. You get a real-time quote with parts list and 3-D architectural views.
Even if you’re thinking of selling your home, an enclosed porch can add more value than its cost. Enjoy the pleasures of outdoor life without the weather and insects that can make a standard open porch uninhabitable.
We found this great, informative post on hanging exterior shutters at ThisOldHouse.com. For shutters that stand the test of time – visit VixenHill.com to design your own.
Why Hurricane Shutters are Needed
With hurricane season approaching, it’s best to consider sold wood panels such as Vixen makes for protection. Standard shutter dog hardware offers a year-round attractive look when in the open position and then easily close and latch when storms are approaching. The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) offers this information on why hurricane shutters are so important: People who live in coastal counties from Texas to Maine, and those in other hurricane prone areas, such as most of the Florida peninsula, will find shutters an excellent investment for protecting their lives and property. They protect against wind and wind-borne debris. These shutters protect not only the windows or doors they cover, but also possessions and people inside the building. Once a window or door has been breeched by hurricane winds tremendous pressure is brought to bear on interior walls and upward pressure on the building’s roof. This can lead to roof failure which exposes the entire contents of the building to the storm. Shutters are a first line of defense against the hurricane. Much of the damage and building failure in Hurricane Andrew could have been prevented by well installed hurricane shutters over windows and doors.
“It’s all in the wood preparation and engineering,” says Chris Peeples, president of Vixen Hill, when speaking about why a few of his gazebos held up against Katrina, one of the most infamous hurricanes in history. “The before and after photos are amazing, however, and most importantly, our hearts go out to the people who were affected by this horrific storm.”
Vixen Hill customers voluntarily wrote testimonials stating that their backyard gazebo withstood hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of New Orleans and the surrounding southern region around the Mississippi River almost four years ago. Check out the testimonials and photos at the Vixen Hill website, www.vixenhill.com. “We must be doing something right if our product can stand up to one of the worst storms of our generation,” says Peeples.
Weather is a huge factor when building outdoor structures. Hot sun, humidity, water, snow, even hail and insects are all elements to consider when engineering a gazebo, pavilion, or pergola. Strong wind is another and hurricane season in some parts of the country can bring gale force winds. While not a guarantee that Vixen Hill outdoor structures will sustain these extreme conditions, testimonies from customers puts a stamp of approval on these backyard products.
“These letters and photos demonstrate the strength of the wood that we use and the benefits of our treatment process. Equally as important, is the knowledgeable engineers who have years of experience in building durable structures able to last for years,” says Peeples.
All of Vixen Hill products are made from the finest, western red cedar wood, which is air-dried at the Vixen Hill factory. This natural air- drying technique helps maintain the wood’s strength and repels termites and other wood boring insects that can cause damage.
Each customized piece is analyzed, by a licensed engineer who calculates the structural, wind and in some cases snow loads, in other words, how much of an element can the structure withstand. “Even snow must be accounted for, since heavy snow can typically cause a roof to cave in,” he adds.
Most standard structures are made to withstand anywhere from 100 to 125 mph wind speed. According to Peeples, “It’s not uncommon for hurricane winds to knock down cheaply-made gazebos and arbors, however, at Vixen Hill, our products are made specifically to endure whatever punishment Mother Nature doles out.” In addition, Vixen Hill offers durable anchoring hardware in strong metal choices like brass and zinc.
With detailed building plans available online, the engineers at Vixen Hill ensure that customers have every piece of information necessary to successfully build their dream gazebo, arbor or pergola. “If there is a question, our experienced customer service representatives are here to help,” says Peeples. For customers who aren’t the ‘do-it-yourself type’, Vixen Hill can recommend local expert installers to help with the project.
“We welcome feedback from our customers and proudly include their letters on our website,” he adds.
VixenHill.com suggests five weekend makeover projects that can turn backyards into retreats. These Vixen Hill products are easy to assemble and most can be designed and ordered online.
“Today’s homeowner wants to connect with the outdoors,” explains Christopher Peeples, President and Founder of Vixen Hill. “They want to take control of their own environment in a way that’s positive and improve the home they’re in. Especially if today’s real estate market has made renovation a priority over moving. Finally, our stressful lives require balance and creating peaceful spaces in our lives helps to achieve that balance point.”
Makeover #1: The Outdoor Cabana
Visit a resort without leaving home. Create a year-round clubhouse for entertaining and relaxing with friends. Make a yoga room that doubles as a poker room. Whatever the reason, or season – these stunning Cabana houses provide a tranquil focal point that’s both beautiful and functional. A 12’ x 16’ Cabana with no floor, copper roof and screened inserts will retail for $11,945.
Makeover #2: The Outdoor Shower
Warm, luxurious water… soothing night air… the aromatic scent of cedar – transform backyards into outdoor spas with a garden hose and an outdoor shower from Vixen Hill. Melt away tensions after Vixen Hill’s outdoor shower melts the mud, sand or sea off the dog and the kids… a 4×4 outdoor shower retails for $5,830.
Makeover #3: The Rustic Gazebo
Get away from it all without leaving the backyard. A gazebo from Vixen Hill creates a peaceful oasis and a central place to create memories or occasions such as weddings, family photos, reunions and weekend barbeques. A rustic gazebo starts at $5,400 for a 9-foot gazebo.
Makeover #4: Sleeping Porch
Turn off the air conditioning and settle in for a relaxing evening of cool breezes with a Vixen Hill cedar porch system. Vixen Hill helps provide free design plans for porch enclosure systems that can be customized for three season or year-round use. These easy-to-install porch inserts are available in a variety of styles and price points whether they are used as a dining room, entertainment area or sleeping porch.
Makeover #5: Pergola
Outdoor kitchens are all the rage – but who wants to cook under a hot sun? Pergolas naturally filter light so one can enjoy the outdoors in comfort. They also provide a beautiful anchor for climbing plants that can add to the beauty of an outdoor kitchen and deck. An arbor roof pergola starts at $6,765.
President Barack Obama recently proclaimed June as National Great Outdoors month and Vixen Hill is encouraging everyone to get outside and enjoy the backyard again. “You don’t necessarily have to go rock climbing to enjoy the outdoors. It’s as simple and close as your own backyard,” says Chris Peeples, president and founder of Vixen Hill.
Backyard not looking so hot? Add an outdoor structure like a pergola to give the boring backyard something exciting; something the neighbors will talk about. Pergolas are a popular choice. Installed over a patio, a deck or even attached to the back of the house, an outdoor room is instantly created. “Pergolas are unique because they help define the intended space,” adds Peeples. A dining table or picnic bench located under the pergola creates an elegant semi-shaded eating area. Cushioned chairs and loveseats make for a relaxing area to read, nap or nighttime stargazing.
“Adding a pergola to the landscape improves the look of your backyard 100 percent. And the outside room adds value to the home,” he adds. With a pergola, the decorating options are endless. Hang flower baskets, drape curtains for additional privacy or use the structure for climbing vines and flowers like roses, clematis or wisteria.
Best of all, the Vixen Hill pergola kit, deliverable in four to six weeks, is affordable and easy to assemble for anyone handy with tools. Vixen Hill provides the finest western red cedar wood, which is exclusively air-dried at the factory for durability and longevity. Along with expert engineering, the kits have easy-to-read instructions available online and customer service representative waiting to help if necessary. For more information about the Vixen Hill pergola kits or other outdoor structures, visit the website www.vixenhill.com.
An essential element to any backyard wedding is the gazebo, which gives everyone a focal point, it houses the bride, groom and celebrant as they exchange their vows, offers shelter from the weather, and even after the wedding; the gazebo is a mainstay in the backyard garden, a place to relax and read, play cards, or just enjoy the outdoors. “Many of our customers select the 12 ft. Victorian, two-tiered gazebo for the backyard weddings,” says Chris Peeples, president of Vixen Hill. The Victorian gazebo offers unique ornamental frets or rungs that are perfect for decorating.
“A wedding is such a special occasion for the entire family and we want to make sure that our customers get exactly what they need for a memorable affair,” says Peeples. “Purchasing a pre-fabricated gazebo for a wedding or to enhance the backyard landscape is a true investment. If a customer has more than one child, multiple weddings could be in the future and having these events at home could be a huge cost savings,” he adds.
Traditionally, gazebos were found in parks or on large estates. If a homeowner wanted a gazebo, he or she had to hire an architect and a builder. It was a long and expensive process. Today with Vixen Hill, the superior quality pre-made kits are extremely affordable and easy to assemble for anyone who is a little handy with tools.
Deliverable in 4 to 6 weeks, the Vixen Hill gazebos are easy to put together. “If there an existing surface such as a deck or concrete slab, two people should be able to assemble the gazebo in a day,” he explains.
With detailed building plans available online, the engineers at Vixen Hill ensure that customers have every piece of information necessary to successfully build their dream gazebo. “If there is a question, our experienced customer service representatives are here to help,” says Peeples. For customers who aren’t the “do-it-yourself type,” Vixen Hill can recommend local expert installers to help with the project.
Vixen Hill’s website makes selecting and designing the gazebo simple. Extras such as electrical outlets, steps, newel posts or a trellis can be easily added online, which gives a preview of the final product. The website is equipped with a calculator that automatically tallies the price of each component while designing, so there are no hidden or surprise fees when purchasing the gazebo. “And if price is a concern, this feature allows our customers to know the cost up front,” says Peeples.
Made from durable western red cedar wood, Vixen Hill gazebos are naturally resistant to moisture, decay and damaging insects. These structures are built with expert joinery and quality craftsmanship to withstand harsh weather and are guaranteed to last for years. Peeples comments, “Cheap roadside gazebos are not made to last and can even blow-over in strong winds.”
And Vixen Hill wood products are unique because they are air dried naturally. The wood is not forced dried in a machine. “Air drying the wood helps prevent cracking, ensures that the grain is more attractive and retains its natural repelling elements against insects and water,” says Peeples.
For more information on designing a “storybook” stayathome wedding gazebo, visit www.vixenhill.com. Gazebos start at $4,325. Online specials are available.
What’s eating you? Mosquitoes? Rid your backyard of these pesky, biting bugs this summer by hanging an environmentally friendly Vixen Hill bat house.
Bats are known to eat their weight in insects, particularly mosquitoes. And hanging a man-made Vixen Hill bat house helps cultivate these nocturnal, insect-eating mammals. Bat houses are a smart, “green” way of reducing annoying mosquitoes in the backyard. “The bats will come out at night and snack on these blood-sucking mosquitoes, so you can enjoy being outdoors this summer,” says Chris Peeples, president of Vixen Hill. “Bats have highly sensitive radar and they do not like to come near people. You won’t even know they are around.”
Hanging a bat house is a better alternative to using bug spray, which has an odor, needs to be continuously reapplied for effectiveness and some active ingredients can be potentially harmful to kids. “With a bat house, you should notice a decrease in mosquitoes so you can stay out as long as you like without being bothered by the bugs.”
A typical bat house is about 18 inches long with a slanted roof and built with two narrow slats at the bottom where the bats enter and exit. “It basically looks like a thin mailbox,” says Peeples. The house is intended to replicate tree bark that pulls away from the tree. This is where some bats are inclined to hide or sleep.
Experts from the Bat Conservation Organization, recommend hanging the house at least 15 feet from the ground on a tall pole, rather than a tree. And to position the bat house so that it will get at least six hours of sunlight because bats like to sleep in a warm house. They also recommend painting the house black since the dark color retains heat generated throughout the day from the sun.
“We use scraps of our western red cedar wood to make the bat houses that come in natural or black,” Peeples adds. Scrap copper is used for the roof. “It’s just another way that Vixen Hill remains eco-friendly by recycling every bit of product that we use.”