How to Spring Clean the Outside of Your Home
By: Danny Lipford
Cleaning and repairing the outside of your home doesn’t have to be a spring project, though it is nice to get outside and enjoy the warm weather after a long, cold winter spent inside. Here are some often neglected outdoor maintenance projects you might want to consider tackling.
A pressure washer can make quick work of cleaning the outside of your home, but be careful since the extremely high pressure can damage wood and other softer materials.
While scrubbing is not necessary with a pressure washer, adding detergent to the reservoir on the machine serves to loosen stubborn dirt and get the job done faster. Be sure to use a cleaner that is made for pressure washers and intended for the type of surface you’re cleaning. Cleaners are available for specific applications such as siding, decks, and masonry surfaces.
If mold or mildew is present, spray it with a product such as SporiCLEAN or Concrobium. A mixture of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water can also be effective on mold on nonporous surfaces. Wear protective clothing and rubber gloves when working with bleach or other harmful chemicals, and cover or wet down any plants or grass with water before applying. Allow the bleach mixture to remain on for 10 – 15 minutes, then wash it off with a hose or pressure washer.
Driveways and sidewalks need periodic maintenance, too.
- Start by removing any grass or weeds that are encroaching on the driveway or growing in cracks.
- Follow this by a thorough cleaning with a pressure washer to remove dirt and grime.
- Next, patch any cracks or holes in concrete surfaces with a concrete resurfacer.
- Worn asphalt drives can be restored by applying a coat of latex asphalt sealer to make them look good as new.
Wood decks take a lot of abuse from the elements, and they need a good cleaning from time to time to look their best.
- Start by applying a specially formulated deck cleaner in a pump up sprayer.
- Once it has had time to work, clean the deck with a pressure washer—being careful not to damage the wood—or a long handled scrub brush.
- Rinse the deck, and allow it to dry.
- If refinishing is needed, apply a sealer or stain with a pump up sprayer, going over it with a brush to smooth it out.
- Allow the sealer to dry thoroughly before using the deck.
Clean and Repair Screens
Window screens can be cleaned by soaking them in a child’s wading pool filled with soapy water, followed by a gentle scrubbing with a soft scrub brush on a flat surface. As a final step, rinse the screen with a garden hose using a fine spray setting to keep from damaging the screen.
To repair small holes in screens, flatten the fibers out and brush on several coats of clear fingernail polish for a seamless repair. Large tears or holes are best fixed by removing the rubber spline from the screen frame and installing a new piece of screen using a screen spline roller tool.
Spring is also a good time to examine your roof to see if winter snow and ice have caused any problems that need attention.
- Look for torn or missing shingles that might need replacement or repair.
- Pay particular attention to flashing around chimneys, plumbing vents, and other openings that are prone to leaks. Seal any gaps with roofing cement.
- Cover exposed nail heads with a dab roofing cement.
- Remove leaves, sticks, or other debris that has built up in valleys and against chimneys, porches, or dormers.
Ready the Grill
Whether its charcoal or gas, spring is a good time to get the grill ready for action.
- Use a wire brush and degreasing detergent to clean the wire racks and inside of the grill and remove any rust that has formed over the winter.
- Inspect burners on gas grills for deterioration from rust, and clean the surface. Make sure the holes in the burners aren’t clogged. If necessary, use a small piece of wire to clean them out.
- If the outside of the grill needs painting, prepare it first by lightly sanding the surface and washing it thoroughly to remove all grease. Once it’s totally dry, coat it with a high heat spray paint (often called barbecue and stove enamel).
Clean and Repair Gutters
Gutters are an often overlooked project that needs special attention in the spring. To clean and repair them:
- Make a homemade gutter scoop by cutting down a narrow plastic container such as an antifreeze jug, and use it to remove the bulk of the debris.
- Rinse out gutters without leaving the ground, by making a U-shaped gutter spray wand from ½” or ¾” PVC pipe and couplings. Glue a cap to one end of the pipe with several small holes drilled in it, then use two 90° elbow fittings to create the proper shape, with a threaded adaptor on the other end attached to a garden hose.
- Downspouts have a tendency to clog, so check them by running water through them, and use a plumber’s snake to unclog if needed.
- Check for leaks at gutter joints. When dry, repair gutter leaks from inside the gutter with gutter sealant.
Spring pollen and dirt can work a number on your windows, so take the time to wash them down and clean them once the pollen has settled.
- Work in the shade to keep the cleaner from drying out too quickly.
- A 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water makes a great natural window cleaner.
- Use crumpled up newspaper, rather than paper towels, to clean and dry your windows.