I recently came across a Zen quote that said, “Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” True, indeed. The grass is in, the flowers are blooming, and I think to myself: how great would it be if my exterior home-cleaning checklist followed the example of the grass and took care of itself this year?
Daydreaming and wishful thinking aside, it isn’t going to get done by sitting quietly, doing nothing. Longer summer days and warmer weather provide some motivation and enthusiasm for keeping my home’s exterior tidy. If additional encouragement is still needed, consider this. “Curbscaping”—improving the exterior appearance of your home—provides some of the highest returns on our investment not just visually, but also financially, experts say.
Consider the following checklist to help you refresh and rejuvenate your home’s exterior.
The exterior walls of your home attract the most dirt and yet are often neglected. Wash away accumulated dirt with a solution of 1 teaspoon of trisodium phosphate dissolved in a gallon of water. This solution, created from a common cleaner found at most hardware stores, also works well on masonry, rock, wood and painted surfaces. Work from top to bottom of your home, and take care to protect your shrubs and plants. A long-handled brush can help with the harder-to-reach areas. Rinse thoroughly with clear water using a hose or pressure washer.
Brick exteriors should be hosed down to wash away accumulated dirt. Mold, mildew or moss on brick can be treated with a solution of 1 cup of oxygen bleach mixed with about a gallon of water. Use a natural or synthetic brush; wire brushes can leave behind residual traces of steel that will rust and discolor bricks.
Doors may not talk, but they do make a statement. Are your doors saying what you want them to say? If not, take a Saturday morning and make some changes. Start by thoroughly washing away dirt and scuff marks. Touch up paint where needed or repaint the whole door, perhaps in a bold new color. If the hardware on your door is dated or out of sync with the overall style, color scheme and appearance of your home, consider replacing it. At the very least, clean or polish the handle, hinges and house numbers to restore their original shine and luster. Replace your weather-worn doormat with a new one. Adorn your front door with a pretty wreath or seasonal accent to greet family and visitors to your home.
To increase the visibility and impact of your entranceway, consider a unifying color scheme. Choose a color or two that complements the color of your front door and repeat it in your wreath, plants and flowers, containers and doormat.
Windows should be sparkling clean and in good condition. Repair any areas on the sills or trim that are weathered or worn. For a really clean, crisp look, apply a fresh coat of paint to paintable trim. Repair or replace damaged screens and wash them thoroughly before reinstalling them. Make sure your window treatments are clean and pressed, since they are clearly visible from the outside.
Shutters are also magnets for dirt, dust and debris and can really detract from the overall beauty of your home if not cleaned periodically. You can wash them with the same solution used to clean your exterior walls. Consider a fresh coat of paint for a high-impact, low-cost improvement; shutters are a great place to try out a bold new color without too much commitment or cost.
Dingy, old light fixtures can date your home and give it a rundown appearance. First, don’t overlook the obvious by neglecting to replace burnt-out bulbs and swiping away pesky cobwebs. Keep the fixtures clean with good old household cleaners and elbow grease. Little details, like swapping out old light fixtures for new, can also add up to big improvements. Select fixtures that both express your personal style and complement the overall style and theme of your home.
Remove any debris lodged between the deck boards, and clean your deck with hot soapy water, or a cleaning solution of 1 teaspoon of trisodium phosphate per gallon of water. Apply with a long-handled stiff brush and rinse well with a garden hose. For surface discoloration and harder-to-clean areas, a power washer that delivers about 1,200 psi of blasting power will be just the right amount of water pressure to get the job done; any washer packing much more power could do more harm than good by damaging your deck. For really stubborn stains and deeper discoloration, use an acid-based deck restoration product and carefully follow the directions.
If your lawn furniture is outside year-round, it might need a thorough cleaning. Hot soapy water is the first line of defense, but if that isn’t enough, try 1/8 cup of trisodium phosphate per gallon of water to remove most grease and grime. Add oxygen bleach, according to package directions, to remove mold and mildew to make your patio furniture sparkle. Remember to dry thoroughly with an old towel or nonabrasive cloth.
Create comfortable outdoor seating arrangements on your newly scrubbed deck or patio. If your cushions are a little worn or faded, treat yourself to some new patio cushions and throw pillows to update and refresh your outdoor living spaces.
Lawn And Flower Beds
Our landscape is often the dominant focal point of the exterior of our home. After weeding and generally cleaning up the yard and flower beds, consider adding summer annuals for more pop.
Draw attention to your hard work and creativity by bordering your landscaped areas with clean-edged lines or a decorative border. Think of edging and borders as the frame around a pretty picture or piece of art on your wall. Use them to define, accentuate and complement your outdoor “artwork” on display around your home.
Now sit back, relax and admire the results of all your efforts, or invite your favorite people over for a barbecue. Enjoy these long, lazy days of summer knowing your home is beautifully curbscaped.