Apex Siding discontinued, James Hardie or LP SmartSide solid choices

Despite its numerous strengths, fiberglass siding from Apex, a product we had recommended and installed, was discontinued in the spring of 2015. There are two other products AMEK Exteriors continues to rank as in the top tier of long-lasting siding with superior appearance. Depending on your requirements and your budget, either choice will be a solid exterior siding decision. Here are some considerations for fiber cement vs. engineered wood.

Fiber cement siding which is created from a wood pulp and Portland cement combination is known for its resistance to rot, pest damage from termites and woodpeckers,and fire plus its longevity. Another feature is the minimal maintenance. Some fiber cement products are offered in a range of pre-finished colors while others can be painted with your own color of choice. Paint lasts much longer – 15 years vs. 5 years – which give homeowners the choice to change the color of the home without the worries of frequent paint jobs.

James Hardie Fiber Cement Lap Siding by AMEK

AMEK Exteriors regularly uses fiber cement products from James Hardie on their projects. James Hardie offers a long warranty on their products. According to Paul Schmidt, co-owner of AMEK Exteriors, “James Hardie is the best in the industry for their commitment to quality and service. They have a 30-year warranty on their products which is outstanding.”

James Hardie Lap Siding integrated with Marvin windows by AMEK

Fiber cement siding installation does need skilled people who have the proper tools and who know how to correctly integrate the siding with windows, roof lines, and foundations. “I appreciate James Hardie because they provide installation guidelines and on-site training for our crews,” said Schmidt. “It’s critical that any siding is installed correctly to prevent future water intrusion issues, so I appreciate the dedication that James Hardie has to making sure that contractors know the proper installation methods.”

The appearance of fiber cement is realistic with possibilities of wood grain, cedar shakes, stucco, brick and stone. There is also a wide range of widths and lengths of boards. These options allow for a myriad of design possibilities giving homeowners custom looks from historical renovations to modern elements.

Another solid option is engineered wood. It’s like wood but with superhero characteristics. Formed out of real wood and resin, engineered wood has the advantages of being stronger and more durable. This strength helps it fend off moisture and pests like woodpeckers and carpenter ants plus isn’t easily impacted by rocks or balls hitting it.

Most engineered wood is easier to install because of the tools required and because of the longer pieces available which reduces the number of seams needed. However, trained installers are still vital to making sure manufacturer’s instructions are followed for seams, flashing, and end pieces.

LP SmartSide Siding installed on a Mendota Heights home by AMEK

LP SmartSide has been incorporated into many AMEK Exteriors projects because of its lasting beautiful curb appeal backed by 50-year limited warranty LP SmartSide is available in a large array of colors and textures with matching trim pieces.

AMEK Exteriors is known for its distinctive exterior design, its construction defect knowledge, and its use of quality materials and craftspeople to give homeowners exceptional projects. In 2016, an AMEK Exteriors’ Minneapolis exterior project was

James Hardie Siding on AMEK’s Award-winning Minneapolis Home

presented the National Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the Remodeler of Merit Award (ROMA) from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), and the Gold Design Award from the Professional Remodeler Magazine.

Destructive Testing & Construction Remediation Remediation Case Study: St. Paul Multi-Family Condos

Overview: Initially, performed destructive testing in St. Paul to assist engineers. Did an estimate for the scope of repairs for the litigation case. Hired to do remediation work.

Original Built Date: 2006

General Description: Five-story mixed-use retail and condominium space in St. Paul along a light-rail corridor.Multi-Family Construction Defect

Initial Analysis: Water damage around windows, doorways, and decks on all sides of the building. Trapped moisture also found in areas designed for ventilation. Litigation based on construction defects caused by improper architectural design and installation.

Scope: Determine extent of damage and propose remediation process and cost.

Remediation Scope: Removed brick work and siding around window and door openings and inspected for rot damage, which was extensive in some areas. Reinstalled current windows or installed new windows/doors. Reflashed correctly, reinsulated wall cavities, and redid brickwork and siding on more than 80 openings. Sealed and insulated areas to separate cold and warm areas to prevent more ventilation problems. Removed decking and roofing material for patio areas to assess and repair as needed.

Challenges & Solutions: Intense proactive communication between association board, management company, tenants and residents due to the required access to interior spaces. Managed a sliding schedule required our team to shift as needed to keep the project moving forward. In-depth repairs required our team to be highly versatile and experienced. Determining priorities and developing cost-effective, long-term solutions for remediation work were based on a holistic approach. Analysis of decking material replacement options generated the benefit of cooler materials making the decks more usable on hot days.

Additional Project Notes: Flexible with financial aspects to allow association to undertake such a giant project outside the insurance coverage. Outlined to homeowner association future maintenance and relating schedule needed to maintain a healthy building

Completion Date: 2016


Door and frames were damaged by moisture causing peeling painting and wood rot. Replaced with metal doors and frames which were properly integrated into the water management system to prevent future problems.


Improperly integrated vapor barriers caused rot below the windows and doors. Decking areas were all damaged from moisture. Action plan: Remove the deck, flat roof and all components down to the floor trusses. Remediation plan: Add spray foam to ceiling below to stop the vapor transmission coming from the warm side of the home. We then added blown insulation to fill the remaining space in the truss cavity. Next, installed new gray-colored TPO roofing system to replace the black EPDM. The gray reduced the sun absorption to allow more enjoyable use of the rooftop patios. Another failure was the original deck patios were attached in approximately 46 places penetrating the roofing membrane for each patio deck causing framing members under the roofing to deteriorate. Created a new solution only involving 6 points of penetration which were each completely sealed to avoid water intrusion.


When the building was constructed, the windows were not installed correctly for a water management system. This failure allowed water to get behind the weather resistive barrier (WRB) causing rot. Remediation plan: Remove bricks around the perimeter of windows, remove windows from their opening, reinstall window property tying it into the water management system and into the WRB of the brick, and then installed new brick around the windows.

Distinctive Curb Appeal: A Case Study in Minneapolis Design & Exterior Renovations

Overview: Being in a new suburban development means there can be a lot of similarity in the house styles. This family wanted to give their home a face-lift to add some uniqueness to the neighborhood. In addition, they desired a front porch to sit and relax. AMEK Exteriors was invited to bid on this Minneapolis design & exterior renovation because the client had seen other projects being done in their neighborhood. In the end, we gave the home more balance, texture and color to create the enhanced curb appeal they were looking for.


Original Built Date: 1997

General Description: Rambler single-family home

Initial Analysis: The first consideration was diminishing the prominence of the garage and sliding the focus to the main entry. Because the couple intended to stay in the home for a long time, another strong factor was creating an enduring distinctive look using quality long-lasting, low-maintenance roofing and siding products and implementing solid construction techniques.

Design Plan: One of the primary design goals was to shift the main thrust and focus of the garage to the front door. To do this, we pulled out the roof line in the front to create an inviting front porch. Eliminating one of the gables and enlarging the remaining one balanced out the proportions to the garage gable. Selecting the stone first provided a base for all other color choices. Adding the earthy yellow color and columns added depth to the home’s appearance. In addition, the garage doors were upgraded with windows and a darker color to connect with the stonework and to provide additional contrast. Using James Hardie siding including shakes allowed for solid, durable cladding with the option to change the color if desired.

Challenges & Solutions: In order to build long-lasting columns, additional time and cost were involved to put in footings that went approximately 4 feet below grade and several feet above grade. The steps and porch floor were designed to make sure there was an overhang so water drains off the edge beyond where the stonework is. AZEK pieces known for their low maintenance were used for trim and also for the porch ceiling. Creating symmetry between the existing and new pieces was important, so the new peak over the front door had to be aligned properly to generate a unified look.

Additional Project Notes: This project was the start to a trusted relationship. AMEK has done several other projects for this client.

Notable Project Products: Buechel Fond du Lac stone, James Hardie siding, AZEK trim

Completion Date: 2010

AMEK Featured in Southwest Journal

The following article was published by Sarah McKenzie in the Southwest Journal  Home Guide on May 4, 2016.  See a case study on this project and also a design award it won!

When Anand Karimpuzha and his wife Anitha purchased their 1925-era home near Minnehaha Creek in the summer of 2014 they had to brace themselves for some major work ahead.

“Once we started looking at it, it became clear that we may be getting really, really over our heads very quickly,” he said.

The couple had signed on to work with Bloomington-based AMEK Custom Builders to do an exterior renovation of the house. They wanted to relocate from Woodbury to a neighborhood in the city near the Chain of Lakes.
Southwest Minneapolis - Before and After
When AMEK co-owner Paul Schmidt initially reviewed moisture test reports and inspected the home, he confirmed that house was rotting and had sustained serious water damage due to the improper installation of windows and vapor barrier when the home was renovated with a second-story addition in the 1980s.

Trapped water around the windows and moisture from poor ventilation systems created extensive damage.

“We found out that the structure of the home had sustained the worst damage I had ever seen in my career doing stucco renovation,” Schmidt said.

Still, he had faith in the potential of the project and the prime location, telling Anand and Anitha that if they trusted him, he could deliver an “award-winning” home. The couple has a daughter, Annika, and dog, Max.

He kept his word. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recently awarded AMEK with the 2016 National Contractor of the Year (CotY) winner in the residential exterior renovation category for projects $100,000 to $200,000 for their remodeling work on the couple’s Fulton home.

“We created something that was exceptional,” he said. “[Before] the house was kind of confused because it had really weird, rounded lines.”

AMEK also worked with Minneapolis-based Randall Buffie Architect on the project.

The 3,800-square-foot home went from a being a stucco, waterlogged property with odd, rounded lines to a breathtaking, modern house with a mix of cedar and cement siding.

The renovations were primarily done in the fall of 2014. Due to winter’s arrival, final and painting and punch list items had to be completed the following spring and summer.

Schmidt said AMEK focuses on the details that can make or break projects.

“Five percent of the details cause 90 percent of the problems,” he said. “So we micro focus on the 5 percent of those details that cause high failure rate.”

In the case of this home, Schmidt repaired the walls, removed heavily rotted sections and made sure the new Marvin Integrity windows were properly installed and the new cladding would be durable. They used James Hardie cement siding painted with latex and the cedar wood accents to give the house the modern aesthetic Anand and Anitha were looking for.

The windows were enlarged, bringing more light into the house.

“It’s wonderful,” Karimpuzha said of his family’s home.

He called the renovation project an “adventure” and credited Schmidt with being a partner invested in the project’s success.

“We clicked the first day we talked to each other,” he said.

As for advice, Karimpuzha urged people to “research, research and research” before embarking on a major remodel and prepare for spending more than budgeted and dealing with unknowns, such as the major water damage they faced.

He said installing new windows was worth the investment.

“We didn’t want the problems that plagued the house to come back again,” he said.

Schmidt also has tips for people to consider before moving ahead with a major renovation project: establish a budget; have an idea of what you want; do your homework; be honest; like and trust your contractor; and have a realistic expectation.

Making a budget is key before you start interviewing contractors and architects.

“I understand you’ll feel like you’re showing your hand at a poker table, but if you can’t articulate what you’re willing to spend on the project you’ll have a design that’s $100K over what you’re expecting or something too simple and you don’t get what you want,” Schmidt said. “The last thing you need is to be disappointed with the outcome of the design, or, even worse, the project.”

Patience is also important.

“Too many times we see the TV shows and you see the beginning of the project, and the last part of a one-hour show you see the final project. What you don’t see are the months of planning before hand. … Ask your contractor to give you a timeline of the project and add 20 percent more time, just to have your own expectations,” he said.

Brothers Matt and Andrew Schmidt founded AMEK in 1996 and later their brother Paul and father Mark joined the company. In addition to custom exterior renovations, the contractor builds custom homes in a variety of styles and does a range of remodeling projects.

Paul Schmidt said the company is excited about the national recognition for its work on the Fulton home.

“As a family company, it is a great honor for us to receive industry recognition as one of the top remodeling contractors in the country,” Schmidt said. “We are humbled being able to work with such wonderful homeowners across the Twin Cities who share their unique visions and allow us to turn their dreams into reality.”

Deck Installation Tips from Your Minneapolis Exterior Design Company

Construction techniques and materials when building and installing a new deck are important considerations according to AMEK Exteriors’ Co-owner Paul Schmidt. Schmidt was recently featured in the From the Expert section of the April/May 2016 edition of Midwest Home magazine.

Paul SchmidtQ. What should I consider when building a new deck?

A: Having a deck is prime real estate when the weather warms up. If your old deck is deteriorating – or if are you thinking of adding a deck to a new home or remodeling project – make sure your deck is designed correctly and built with quality materials to withstand our sometimes harsh Midwest weather elements.

Fortunately, there are some products on the market now that can endure this climate – plus look great – for years to come. While clients request a range of materials, AMEK regularly uses AZEK, a PVC material that resists stains, scratches, and mold, and is available in a wide array of colors. It looks great and requires minimal maintenance.

If you want a beautiful, durable, well-built new deck in Minneapolis, do your research and hire a company that understands how your deck needs to integrate with the house. Every year, we are hired to fix defective decks, windows and doors because of poor installations and safety concerns. Get started with your new deck installation by contacting us today