When it comes to cleaning our homes, many of us neglect a certain main area — the exterior. But the importance of cleaning and maintaining your exterior cannot be overstated, as it both boosts your home’s curb appeal and helps prevent serious problems like leaks and infestations.
If you’re simply dreading the task, keep in mind that most of these chores are relatively simple. Below are some quick tips on how to clean and maintain a home exterior, including the siding, windows and gutters.
Cleaning and Maintaining Siding
We’ll start with the most prominent feature on your home’s exterior — your siding. When maintaining and caring for your siding, consider the following tips:
- Listen to the manufacturer. Only use the methods and products recommended by your manufacturer. Doing otherwise may void your warranty.
- Use protection. If using cleaning solutions, put on protective clothing, eye-wear and gloves.
- Rinse from top to bottom. To effectively remove debris and grime, start at the top and rinse down.
- Protect your landscaping. Cover up your plants and shrubs so they won’t get damaged during the cleaning.
Here at Sunshine Contracting, we offer vinyl and fiber cement siding options specifically. In addition to the general best practices above, we recommend also following these additional tips for these siding material types:
1. Vinyl Siding
Vinyl is an affordable and low-maintenance siding option that comes in a wide range of colors and textures. Its affordability is attractive to many homeowners wanting to update their home’s exterior without investing a large amount of money.
While vinyl siding typically lasts for 10 to 12 years, depending on its quality and the climate of the region, it can last for several decades. Especially with proper maintenance:
- Cleaning vinyl: Vinyl is easy to clean — all you have to do is take a pressure washer or hose and spray it. When spraying, avoid aiming behind joints or the individual pieces of siding, as you don’t want to blast water where it won’t dry. Cleaning your siding yearly will remove all the dirt that has accumulated, and you’ll also get rid of mildew, mold and stains. You may even be able to use a cleaning solution before you spray or in your pressure washer itself while spraying. When done, inspect the siding to make sure you’ve removed all of the stains.
- Maintaining vinyl: Although known for its durability, vinyl can still be damaged. Impacts from toys and yard equipment can cause visible damage. While it is possible to fix damaged areas, if the damage is extensive, you may have to take out entire panels and replace them. If your siding was improperly installed, it may loosen with time, especially if rainstorms and strong winds are common in your area. If you notice loose panels, it is critical that you repair them immediately. Otherwise, the panels may become misshapen and cause decay or water damage.
2. Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber cement, a durable mix of Portland cement and wood pulp, is an attractive and easy-to-maintain option.
- Cleaning fiber cement: Due to its mildew and mold resistance, you won’t be spending much time cleaning fiber cement. Simply hosing down this material will remove dirt and make it appear new for many years to come.
- Maintaining fiber cement: This durable material can also withstand everything from extremely high temperatures to termites. Although routinely inspecting fiber cement is not as critical as with other siding materials, it will need a new coat of paint every five to 10 years. If you notice any chips, repair them as soon as possible to avoid water getting inside. Also, make sure to inspect your caulking and apply new caulking if needed.
How to Maintain Home Windows
Your windows are another aspect of your home’s exterior that you want to look their best. To do so, you’ll have to clean them from both the inside and the outside, each of which requires different methods.
To clean the inside of your windows, follow these steps:
- Pour cool, clean water into a large pot or bucket. Add some liquid dish soap.
- Get an empty spray bottle and fill it with two parts water and one part white vinegar.
- Put a large towel under the window so that it can catch spills.
- With a clean sponge or microfiber cloth, wipe the window’s surface, beginning at the top of the window and working your way down. Remember also to wipe down the frame.
- Using your spray bottle with the water and vinegar solution, thoroughly spray your window. Alternatively, you can use a solution of two gallons of water mixed with a capful of ammonia. Commercial products also work well.
- Completely dry your window with a lint-free, clean towel by moving your hand in a Z shape. Paper towels also work well for this purpose.
- If there are still streaks or dirt, repeat steps 4 through 6. For dirty windows, this is often necessary.
- If possible, pick a cloudy, cool day to clean your windows. Hot and sunny weather may cause your cleaning solution to dry too quickly.
The outside of your windows tend to have more stains and dirt, so cleaning them requires a different approach:
- Begin by hosing down the windows, then put some cool, clean water in a bucket. Add in several drops of liquid dish soap.
- Wipe the window’s surface with a soft microfiber cloth. For windows that are higher up, do this with a sponge mop or a mop made of microfiber or soft cotton attached to a pole.
- Use the hose to rinse off the soap thoroughly.
- Mop or spray with the same water and vinegar solution as described above. Using a commercial cleanser is also an option.
- Dry the window with a squeegee that’s clean and rubber-bladed, making sure to work from the top down. Each time you reach the bottom, dry the squeegee using a clean towel. Instead of a squeegee, you can also use newspaper pages or a lint-free towel to get the job done.
- For stains and dirt that won’t come out easily, thoroughly saturate them using water and vinegar and let them sit for a few minutes before you dry them. Rubbing them with a “scrubbie” sponge also works, but make sure to avoid harsh cloths or steel wool, as they will lead to scratches.
- Don’t forget about the screens. They should be rinsed with water, sprayed with a water and vinegar solution and then rinsed once more with water. Allow them to dry completely before you put the screens back on the windows.
Windows occasionally get stains containing mineral deposits, which is especially common in places that have hard water. You can remove these stains using one of several methods. For example, you can use a commercial cleanser which takes out rust, lime and calcium stains. Consult your manufacturer if planning to use these products.
How to Maintain Rain Gutters
Gutters are an important component of your roofing system, especially if your climate experiences abundant rainfall. Your gutter system, which includes downspouts and extensions, works to collect the water on your roof and direct it away from your foundation, preventing your siding from rotting and your basement from flooding.
But for gutters to work properly, they cannot have debris and leaves inside. Otherwise, the outlets will get clogged and the gutters will fill with rainfall and eventually be pulled loose. Furthermore, water that sits in the troughs will cause wood gutters to rot and steel gutters to rust.
While you can pay someone to clean out your gutters, doing this relatively easy job yourself will save you at least $100. Aim to clean out your gutters two times a year, and if your roof lies directly under trees or if your region experiences many storms, clean them out even more often. However, you should only attempt this if you feel comfortable working on a roof or a ladder. If your roof is more than one story above the ground, we suggest that you hire a gutter-cleaning professional instead.
If you decide to clean your gutters yourself, we recommend the following equipment:
- Ladder: This ladder should be sturdy and extend above your roof’s edge. Your ladder’s base should always be on a level, solid surface. Never lean to a side while on the ladder.
- Plastic bucket: It should be equipped with a wire handle.
- Leaf scooper: There are many things you can use as scoopers, including garden spades, trowels and plastic jugs with handles. Even an old spatula should do the trick.
- Garden hose: A regular garden hose will do.
- Plumber’s snake: A plumbing snake is a long auger that is used to unclog pipes. This item is only necessary if your downspouts are clogged and cannot be unclogged using your hose.
Step 1. Pick A Method
When cleaning your gutters, the first thing you need to do is decide how you’ll collect the debris in the gutters. This will depend on whether the debris is damp or dry.
If the Contents Are Damp
If the contents in the gutter are wet, cleaning will be a messier endeavor, although sometimes it is necessary to clean when the debris is damp. In this case, you have a choice between two methods — the gutter bucket method or the scoop-and-drop method.
- The Gutter Bucket Method: This method is quite common and involves the use of a plastic bucket with a handle made of metal. Cut the handle right at the center, then bend its ends to form hook shapes, which can then be hooked onto the gutter’s edge. Just scoop the debris out and put it in your bucket. You’ll have to empty this bucket frequently, so be prepared to climb up and down the ladder many times.
- The Scoop-and-Drop Method: This method involves you scooping the contents out of the gutter and simply dropping them onto a drop cloth or plastic tarp down on the ground. This way is faster and only requires you to move the cloth every time you move your ladder. When the cloth fills up, just empty the debris into a trash bag or compost bin.
If the Contents Are Dry
If the debris in your gutter is dry, we recommend using the gutter bag method. This involves getting a plastic bucket, cutting the handle and then bending its ends so that you can hook them over the gutter’s edges. Then, cut the bucket’s bottom off and attach a trash bag around the bucket under the handles. You can attach it tightly using duct tape, a Velcro strap or a big rubber band. When scooping out the dry leaves and putting them in the bucket, the bucket will serve as a funnel and send them into the bag.
Do not fill your bag to the point where you can no longer carry it down your ladder safely and easily.
Step 2. Clean Your Gutters
Now that you’ve picked the method you want to use, it’s time to clean your gutters. To stay safe, work in small sections and don’t reach far to one side. While this will require you to move your ladder frequently, staying safe in this situation is critical. Never climb higher on your ladder than is stipulated by your manufacturer.
Step 3. Clear out Your Downspouts
Once you’ve completely cleared out your gutters, it’s time to move on to your downspouts. Clean them out by doing the following:
- If the downspouts come with horizontal extension pipes, take these off before clearing your downspouts.
- Stick a hose in the downspout’s top opening where they attach to the gutters. Have someone else turn the water on and check the flow of the downspout. If it appears clogged, clean it out.
- At the downspout opening, use a rag to pack the space around the hose to seal it tight.
- Turn the water on fully. Keep an eye on the other end of the downspout and see if it clears.
- If it’s still clogged, take the hose out of the downspout and lower in a plumbing snake until it hits the clogged area.
- Once you think that you’ve unclogged the downspout, test its flow by repeating steps 2 through 4.
Step 4. Flush out Remaining Debris
Once you’ve cleaned out the gutters and the downspouts, give the entire system a big rinsing to flush out any remaining contents. You can do so by inserting a hose in the section of your gutters that is farthest from the opening of the downspout and turning the water on. Allow it to run until you no longer see any debris coming out of the downspout.
Hire Sunshine Contracting for Replacement or Preventative Maintenance
If you live in Northeastern Virginia and need any component of your exterior siding, gutters, windows or roofing replaced or maintained, Sunshine Contracting can provide the services you need. Our factory-trained and certified crew performs a variety of installations including siding, windows, doors, roofing and gutters, all of which come with a 10-Year Labor and Workmanship Warranty. We also install leaf protection guards, which protect gutters from leaves so you’ll never have to clean them out again.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free estimate, fill out our online form or call us at 703-935-4663.