If you live in an older house, chances are that you will want to update or replace cladding, doors and windows at some point. Exterior renovations can give new life to a "tired" home and reduce maintenance significantly. At the same time, you can improve the energy efficiency, security and general comfort of your home.

When you are ready to begin planning, talk with a professional renovator to get ideas and a sense of cost. Make sure it's someone who is experienced in exterior renovations and can offer you both sound technical advice and design assistance.

A new look

Maybe you simply want to update the appearance of your home, or maybe you want to transform it with a different look - now is the time to explore the possibilities. To begin with, there is a great selection of quality exterior cladding products - bricks, stucco and siding in many different materials, colours, sizes and styles. Renovators sometimes mix and match materials to create attractive, custom-tailored exteriors.

Replacing your doors and windows can make a big difference to the overall appearance and brightness of your home. With the huge selection of windows and doors on the market, your best bet is to consult with your renovator: Which style, materials, sizes and types would work best? Can you add more windows? Should you increase the number of windows that open and close for a better airflow? Can you add a sidelight to your main doorway for a more welcoming entrance to your home?

The possibilities for upgrading or adding a porch, a deck, overhangs and decorative finishing touches are almost endless. Looking at other people's homes and browsing through magazines is a good first step. Also, ask your renovator for suggestions. Experienced renovators can often see possibilities that you might overlook.

Energy efficiency

Replacing your siding presents the perfect opportunity to upgrade the insulation from the outside. Based on the existing structure, your renovator can suggest a number of different approaches, such as adding a layer of rigid or semi-rigid insulation or installing an air barrier to reduce leakage. An experienced renovator will also know what to avoid - for instance , trapping moisture between two vapor barriers.

Your renovator can advise you on the right new energy-efficient windows to help capture the sun's heat on the north side, block out sunlight and excess heat gain on the south side and to cut glare.

Also check the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada for helpful information on upgrading the energy efficiency of your home.

Security and safety

With today's new products, it's easier to secure your home. Exterior doors can be fitted with dead bolts and strong locks, and windows can be installed with solid locking mechanisms. Consult with your renovator about other measures you can take, such as bars on basement windows. If you have been thinking about a security system, this may be the most cost-effective time to install one.

Good lighting is also important to safety. Install lights wherever visibility is an issue - over entrances, along walkways and next to sheds or garages. A programmable timer or lights that are photo- or motion-sensitive offer additional security when you are away from home.

Lower maintenance

One of the great benefits of today's exterior building products and materials is low maintenance - no more summers spent scraping, sanding and painting siding, trim and windows. As you select the products and materials for your renovation, consult with your renovator to make sure you understand the maintenance requirements.

The little details

An exterior renovation is also your chance to add the touches that make life just a little easier - moving exterior taps to the right location, replacing taps with frost-free hose-bits. and installing or relocating outside plugs. Take advantage of your renovator's experience and ask for more suggestions.