Home Exterior Care Guide: How to Maintain, Clean and Care for the Exterior of Your Home
The complete guide to caring for different types of house siding
The exterior of your home is the first thing people see, so keeping it in good condition is vital to maintaining your curb appeal. While home exteriors can be susceptible to dirt and mold, they should only need regular maintenance once or twice a year.
In this guide we detail the process for cleaning, repairing and the removal of stains that commonly occur with home exteriors. You'll learn how to spot signs of deterioration and wear and help keep your home exterior looking great for years.
Before making any serious repairs and changes to your exterior always refer to the HOA information that was provided to you when purchasing your house, or reach out to your HOA directly. To start, let's take a look at the most common types of home exteriors.
Types of House Siding
There are many types of home exteriors, but the most common include:
- Brick - Durable, Fire Resistant, Low Maintenance, Conserves Energy
- Siding - Durable, Low Maintenance, Highly Aesthetic
- Sto® - Moisture Control, Fire Resistant, Highly Aesthetic, Sustainable Product, Conserves Energy
- Stucco - Durable, Weather-Resistant, Highly Aesthetic
Each home exterior has their pros and cons, but all are great choices depending on your lifestyle, location and size of home. Caring for these types of house siding also differ between each type.
Brick exteriors contribute to the curb appeal of your home and are extremely durable. Brick, made from fired clay, offers fire resistance, low maintenance, high aesthetic value, and conserves energy.
Caring for a brick exterior is easy as there is very little you'll ever have to do to maintain your brick exterior over the years. Due to its durability brick is easy to maintain, but there are a number of general maintenance steps one can take to ensure their home exterior brick stays pristine.
Cleaning exterior brick is also very easy.
How to Take Care of Brick Exterior
Brick exteriors, like other types of house sidings is just as exposed as other sidings and can break down over time, although it takes a lot longer. Following these steps will ensure that your brick home maintains its structure and looks just as good as it did the day that you bought it.:
- Remove any plants or vines growing on brick walls with a commercial weed killer. Be sure to read the weed killer instructions first. Plants or vines hold in moisture and may cause damage to your home’s exterior.
- Check the caulking between the brick and the windows and doors once a year. Remove and re-caulk as needed.
- Make sure nothing obstructs the weep holes, which keep moisture from being trapped between the drainage plane and the brick. Check once a year.
- Check mortar joints every three years for deterioration.
- Check the transition from brick to stucco for cracking once a year. If there are cracks, caulk and paint them as necessary.
How to Clean Mold off of Brick
Mildew can grow on areas of the brick that the sun doesn't reach. To remove mildew from brick follow these steps:
- Periodically clean these areas with a brick-cleaning detergent, which you can purchase at most hardware stores.
- Apply the detergent to all affected areas of brick and be sure to follow the instructions as noted by the manufacturer. Before purchasing a brick-cleaning detergent, you will want to check which chemicals are best for your brick exterior.
- Pressure washers can also be used to clean mold from brick exteriors, but be careful since this may damage the brick surface if the wrong pressure is applied.
How to Remove Stains from Brick
Most stains on brick exteriors can be removed. With a little attention you can have your brick exterior looking brand new. Follow these steps to remove stains from bricks:
- Mix a solution of household detergent with water.
- Before applying the cleaning solution to your brick exterior, be sure to protect any areas of brick that don't need cleaning.
- Using a stiff brush begin to apply cleaning solution to affected areas.
- Make sure to keep the brush wet with the cleaning solution and only apply to stained areas.
Some stains, such as smoke, paint, and oil, will require special treatments. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning product depending on the type of stain you are attempting to remove and follow the instructions on the packaging.
How to Remove Efflorescence from Brick
Efflorescence occurs when water enters the brick and leaves behind a whitish deposit on the surface from salts. Inspect the brick surface for signs of efflorescence on a periodic basis. Efflorescence does not damage brick, but it can be unattractive. It’s also one sign that water-related issues may be occurring; as a result, it’s important to look for the possible cause of efflorescence, in addition to removing it from the brick’s surface. Measures will need to be taken to mitigate the cause of the efflorescence.
Steps for removing efflorescence from brick:
- First try to remove efflorescence using a dry brush.
- If this method doesn't work in full, then try to remove efflorescence using clean water and a brush
- It’s best to wash the wall with water only when the outdoor conditions are warm and dry, since adding more water to the wall during washing can actually contribute to efflorescence.
- If the efflorescence is tough to remove, use a solution made specifically for removing efflorescence from brick. It’s always a good idea to test the solution on an inconspicuous part of the brick first to make sure it won't stain.
Home Sidings - Vinyl and Composite
The siding on the exterior of your home increases curb appeal and is also easy to maintain.
There are two types of homes which include vinyl and composite siding. Both of these types of house siding resemble wood in appearance. These exterior materials are popular amongst home owners as they are attractive, durable, and low maintenance. Vinyl is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), while composite siding is a combination of wood or cement fibers.
How to Protect Your Home Siding
By following these easy steps you can make sure your vinyl siding and composite siding are kept clean and safe from potential damage:
Steps to Maintaining Home Siding:
- Keep sprinklers and other forms of forced water away from siding.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts work properly, so water is directed away from the siding. Downspouts should pour water away from your home.
- Make sure there’s a 6-inch vertical space between the bottom of your siding and the ground. This space prevents siding from absorbing water from the ground.
- Make sure plants are placed at least 2 feet away from the siding.
- Keep hot items, such as grills, away from vinyl siding. The heat can permanently damage the siding.
- Clean all types of siding with clear water from a garden hose and a soft-bristled, long-handled car brush. Don't scrub too hard.
- Remove difficult dirt, mold, and algae using the siding manufacturer’s recommended cleaning products, and follow the instructions for cleaning.
- Inspect wood siding for evidence of problems like termites, cracks, rot, and water damage.
- Check around the exterior of your home for separated or deteriorated caulk approximately one to two times per year.
How to Inspect and Care for Exterior Caulking
Checking exterior caulking is extremely important and can help extend the life of your exterior home siding. Exterior caulking is what helps ensure your house siding has a water tight seal that prevents water from getting behind and between your siding.
Where to inspect exterior caulking;
- Where the siding meets the corner board.
- At window and door trim
- Around pipes and vent pipes coming through the siding.
- At J-channels (on vinyl siding) around windows and doors. If you see any separation or deterioration of caulk, remove the caulk, and reapply as necessary.
Sto® Exterior Finishes
If your home has a Sto®* exterior, it will look great for years with regular maintenance.
The Sto® finish has the appearance of a traditional stucco coating. If your home has a Sto® finish, you would have received a Sto® maintenance guide at your closing. Read and follow your Sto® maintenance guide to keep your Sto® walls in good condition and looking their best.
Your home exterior walls shouldn't need refinishing for many years. However, you may need to clean them occasionally to remove natural and chemical pollutants deposited from the air.
*Sto® is a registered trademark of the Sto Corporation.
How to Protect Sto® Walls
To Protect Sto® walls you will want to follow these easy steps:
- Landscape around your home to minimize splashing around the foundation. Mud and dirt will dull the finish of your home’s exterior.
- When you lean a ladder against the walls, protect them from scarring and damage by padding the ends of the ladder.
- Check and replace damaged caulking as needed to prevent water entry into your home.
How to Fill Sto® Cracks
Depending on the surface and the type of crack you will want to use the below steps as a guide:
- Hairline Cracks: Hairline cracks in your home’s Sto® finish are normal. If you wish to fill these cracks, follow these instructions.
- Unpainted Surface: Use stucco color coat or an acrylic sealant. Follow the instructions on the package.
- Painted Surface: Use acrylic-latex sealant. Follow the instructions on the package. Follow the application with touch-up painting.
How to Clean Sto® Stains
Sto® like other types of house siding is susceptible to stains, but is easy to clean and repair.
For walls soiled by dirt, mold, or algae you will want to follow these steps:
- Use acrylic-latex sealant. Follow the instructions on the package. Follow the application with touch-up painting.
- Apply the solution to the entire soiled area.
- Clean the surface lightly using a soft-bristled brush.
- Rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water. If you’re unable to remove soils or stains using these methods, you may need to recoat your walls.
Things to Avoid:
- Hard scrubbing and hard-bristled brushes can damage the wall’s finish.
- Don't pressure-clean exterior walls.
- Don't attempt to clean your walls with an unapproved solvent or with acid-based cleaners.
Your walls may be reconditioned or recoated using any of several available Sto® architectural coatings. You should use an experienced wall-coating contractor to do the work. If your walls become damaged, you should hire a qualified stucco or plaster contractor to make repairs.
*Sure Klean® is a registered trademark of Prosoco.
Stucco Home Exteriors
A stucco exterior looks great and protects your home from the elements. Stucco is a type of exterior material that enhances the curb appeal of your home. The appearance of hairline cracks in the material is normal.
How to Care for Stucco Exteriors
Follow these maintenance suggestions to care for your home’s stucco:
- Keep sprinklers and other forms of forced water away from stucco.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts work properly, so water is directed away from the stucco. In general, downspouts should always direct water away from your home.
- Make sure there’s a 6-inch vertical space between the bottom edge of your stucco and the ground. This space prevents stucco from absorbing water from the ground.
- Make sure plants are placed at least 2 feet away from stucco.
- Use caution when operating lawn and landscaping equipment that can throw objects that will chip or damage the stucco.
- Check annually for large cracks in your stucco, and repair those wider than 1⁄16 inch.
How to Clean Stucco Walls
Cleaning Stucco walls is very easy and can be done in two simple steps:
- Gently scrub the exterior finish with a deck brush and a solution of laundry soap and water.
- Rinse the stucco with clean water. Gently rinse your window screens occasionally to remove dirt that may run off onto the stucco below the window and leave streaks.
Pressure-cleaning your stucco walls isn't recommended.
How to Remove Mildew From Stucco Walls
To Remove Mildew Spots you will need to:
- Spray a 50/50 solution of bleach and water onto the affected area.
- Let the solution stand for five to ten minutes.
- Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water.
- Repeat as necessary.
Don’t spray herbicides and pesticides on the stucco. These chemicals can discolor and damage the stucco surface. Use caution when operating lawn and landscaping equipment that can throw objects that chip or damage the stucco finish.
How to Repair Stucco
Stucco cracks can due to normal wear and tear as your stucco siding is exposed to the elements. To repair stucco cracks is easy and the method you choose ultimately depends on how large the crack is. Below we will provide the steps to fix both small and large stucco cracks.
Small Stucco Cracks
Small cracks in stucco that are 1⁄16 inch wide or less are normal and can easily be repaired with minor filling and repainting, if desired. When doing the repair, make sure the temperature outdoors is at least 40°F and rising and no higher than 100°F. It’s also important to keep in mind that cooler temperatures and higher humidity outdoors will increase drying time.
To fill small Stucco cracks:
- Clean any loose particles, dirt, and debris from the crack using a wire brush.
- Fill the crack with an elastomeric latex sealant. Make sure the sealant fills the entire crack, keeping in mind that the sealant will shrink slightly. This sealant can be purchased at most home care centers.
- Use a finishing tool to give the sealant a texture that matches the surrounding area.
- Wait for the sealant to dry according to the sealant manufacturer’s instructions.
- Paint the repaired area to match the existing exterior color. Keep in mind that paint color does fade over time, making it difficult to match the existing color exactly. If your home has many areas that need repainting, then you may want to wait until you can repaint the entire area at once.
Large Stucco Cracks
Check annually for larger cracks in your stucco, as those larger than 1⁄8 inch can allow moisture to enter your home. Common signs of moisture entry are any walls that appear patchy or have shading variations. It's very important to repair stucco cracks when they are bigger than an 1⁄8 inch.
To fill larger stucco cracks:
- Clean the damaged area.
- Use a recommended sealant to bridge the crack if it’s bigger than 1⁄8 inch. This product can be purchased at most home care centers.
- Paint the repaired area to match the existing exterior color. Repaint the stucco every five to seven years to help preserve it.