Allen Norwood

From deck coatings to interest rates

From the home columnist’s notebook:

Debbie Zimmer answered a few of your questions about the new deck restoration products, but she’ll have additional advice after more testing.

Zimmer is spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute, which tests all sorts of coatings for corporate clients. Exterior coatings are tested on outdoor panels in Pennsylvania.

I told her I was getting questions from readers about the deck restoration products, thick coatings that are used to smooth the surfaces of old, weathered deck boards. I have no experience with the products. I’ve heard from friends that (a) the stuff is harder to apply than manufacturers hint and (b) you’ll use more than the can says.

Reviews online are decidedly mixed.

The institute is testing a variety of the coatings on its panels. The institute doesn’t provide specific product recommendations, but Zimmer said the products are performing about as advertised after a year in the weather.

She’ll know more after a few more years. Meanwhile, here’s her take:

• These products aren’t bandages for decks that need major repairs.

• They’re products of “last resort,” she said. You wouldn’t use them on a new deck, but if your deck’s walking surface is badly weathered you might get another year or two of useful life.

Have you tried the products? If so, drop me an email about your experience.

Shop for loan rates!

Bill Saint says that high-end appliances and natural stone backsplashes aren’t the most important items that push up a home’s costs. For the main “driver,” look to the interest rate.

I’ve heard Saint, president of the Home Builders Association of Charlotte, make the pitch before. He was especially persuasive in a recent interview when he tossed in some hypothetical figures.

“It’s easy to get (a mortgage loan) below 4 percent,” he said. “For a $300,000 house with 20 percent down at 3 1/2 percent, the monthly principal and interest would be $1,077.

“At 7 percent, that same house would cost $1,596 a month,” he said. “That is an astonishing 48 percent more.”

In a recent column, Allen Tate Mortgage’s Chris Cope, president-elect of the Mortgage Bankers Association of the Carolinas, said his industry has worked hard to deliver pretty much the same message. Saint agreed with Cope that it seems to be getting through to more buyers, as confidence returns and rates remain near record lows.

More evidence that you ought to spend as much time shopping for a loan as for a stainless steel stove.