Maintenance Tips

Exterior Mainenance Tips

Vinyl Siding

It is easy to maintain the beauty of vinyl siding. Vinyl siding comes closer to being maintenance free than most exterior building products. Vinyl siding may become dirty just as does a freshly painted house or a new automobile or any other product which is exposed to atmospheric conditions. With very little effort, you can keep your vinyl siding clean. In most cases a heavy rain is sufficient to clean this product or you can wash vinyl siding with an ordinary garden hose. If neither rain nor hosing does a satisfactory job, follow these simple instructions which are based on a study conducted by the Vinyl Siding Institute on the efficiency of cleaning agents and their effects on the appearance of vinyl siding after two years of outdoor exposure.

Normal Maintenance

Wash using a soft cloth or ordinary long handled soft bristle brush. For textured surfaces, use only a soft bristle brush to avoid smearing the stain into the groves of the texture. To wash an entire house, start at the top and work down to the bottom in order to prevent streaking. For difficult to remove dirt and stains, such as top soil, motor oil, lithium grease, crayon, felt-tip pen, caulking, lipstick, grass, bubble gum, mold and mildew, use readily available household cleaners such as those included in the following list. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on use of cleaners. Most cleaners are inefficient in cleaning stains such as pencil, paint, oil and tar. In these cases, you may wish to us a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as Soft Scrub, Ajax, Bon Ami, etc., but the use of any abrasive material could have a negative effect on surface appearance. Do not use cleaners containing organic solvents or other aggressive ingredients because they could affect the surface appearance of vinyl. Examples of such cleaners are: Chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, strong soaps and detergents containing organic solvents, nail polish remover, and furniture polish/cleaners.

Cleaners for Vinyl Siding Stain Removal

  1. Bubble Gum -- Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap; Solution of Vinegar (30%), water (30%) and Windex (40%)
  2. Crayon -- Lestoil
  3. DAP -- (Oil-based caulk) Fantastic
  4. Felt-tip Pen -- Fantastic, water based cleaners
  5. Grease -- Fantastic, Lysol, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex
  6. Lipstick -- Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap
  7. Lithium Grease -- Fantastic, Lestoil, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex
  8. Mold and Mildew -- Fantastic; Solution of Vinegar (30%), water (70%) and Windex
  9. Motor Oil -- Fantastic, Lysol, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex
  10. Oil -- Soft Scrub
  11. Paint -- Brillo Pad, Soft Scrub
  12. Pencil -- Soft Scrub
  13. Rust -- Fantastic, Murphy Oil Soap, Windex
  14. Tar -- Soft Scrub
  15. Top Soil -- Fantastic, Lestoil, Murphy Oil Soap

Vinyl siding will melt or burn when exposed to a significant source of flame or heat. Homeowners should always take normal precautions to keep sources of fire, such as barbecues, and combustible materials, such as dry leaves, mulch and trash away from vinyl siding.

Brick Surfaces

Surfaces of masonry and masonry walls, especially above ground, generally need no exterior treatment. However, masonry walls sometimes develop "efflorescence," a white, powdery substance. This can often be cleaned off with a stiff brush and water, if it does not respond, use one part muriatic acid to nine parts water. Rinse thoroughly before and after. If the efflorescence is green, use one part caustic soda to ten parts water to remove. We recommend that a professional be hired to do this. CAUTION: If you decide to do this yourself, both muriatic acid and caustic soda are dangerous. Wear rubber gloves and goggles. Pour slowly into water to prevent splashing.

Care for Your Roof

High winds, snow and ice may cause damage to the roof. After heavy storms and each spring, it is advisable to check for water stains in the attic and on the roof overhang. Loose or damaged shingles should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Any damage resulting from severe weather is not covered by Mark Winter Homes warranty program and should be referred to the insurance company handling your homeowner's insurance.

Avoid walking on the roof except when absolutely necessary. In addition to the obvious personal hazard, you may easily damage the roof. In hot weather, asphalt shingles become soft and the granules are easily damaged. The installation of antennas, the replacement of broken shingles, etc., are best performed by those who are experienced. If you do install an antenna, be sure to caulk any holes made. Wood shingles and asphalt shingles require little or no maintenance unless they are physically damaged. After a period of years, the mineral granules coating the top surface of asphalt shingles may wear, exposing black felt. If this condition develops, the asphalt shingles should be replaced by a competent contractor.

It is the homeowner's responsibility to remove snow to prevent ice dams at roof edges. Melting snow, which is backed up by an ice dam, can cause leaks and severe damage to the roof and the home interior. Extreme caution must be used when removing snow to avoid damage to the roof. Gutters and downspouts require regular cleaning to avoid water damage caused by a clogged system. Leaves and debris should be removed by hand, leaf blower, or by a professional contractor.

Foundations, Walks and Drives

Concrete by its very nature develops shrinkage cracks over time. Even reinforced concrete floors, aprons, patios, steps, walks, driveways and porch slabs may develop hairline cracks. This condition is normal and can be expected despite all precautions taken during installation. Cracks in concrete can be repaired. Simply choose an appropriate caulk or Portland cement bond material that will adhere to concrete and re-grout or seal obvious cracks. Another frequent problem is pitting or flaking of concrete driveways and garage floors caused by melting snow mixed with salt from cars. When possible, avoid parking salty, wet cars on driveways and concrete surfaces. Never use salt based ice removers and seal concrete regularly. Snow removal should also be done with care to prevent damage to walks. On concrete, asphalt or brick walks and driveways, use "kitty litter" during winter conditions to avoid permanent damage to top surfaces. Seal-coating of your concrete driveway on a yearly basis will extend the life of the driveway.

Frequently check landscapes and walls and fill for soil erosion and depressions. Check driveway and walks for cracks and soil erosion. Fill and mend as needed. Basement home drain tile systems and sump pumps generally provide the only reliable system to insure a dry basement. Gutter systems with properly drained downspouts, along with a well maintained surface drainage system are necessary to avoid basement water problems. The surface water must have positive drainage from the entire foundation at all times. Certain soil conditions or changes in subsurface water table levels may cause changes in the water content of soils around foundations over time.

Landscaping and Grading

Your yard is graded so that surface water drains away from your foundation and is consistent with the overall drainage pattern for your property in relation to your neighbors. These patterns should not be changed when you work on your yard or install landscaping. Drainage swales facilitating water run-off should not be leveled and should be kept clear of leaves and debris.

It is extremely important to maintain the slope of the ground away from your home. The backfill around your foundation will settle over the course of time and this settlement may cause low areas in which water may become entrapped against the foundation. Water entrapment near foundations is a prime cause of wet basements and high humidity problems in cold climates. During this settlement period, it is important to fill these low areas in order to maintain positive drainage away from the house. Similarly, it is unwise to plant shrubbery within two or three feet of the foundation because of water entrapment. Further, avoid lawn sprinklers from wetting the house and causing puddles to form alongside the foundations. As in the case of backfill settlement, settlement may occur over trenches that were dug for sewer, water and utility services. It is similarly important to fill any depressions caused by settlement.

In spite of your understandable desire to beautify your yard as soon as possible, we recommend that you delay major landscaping projects until after the first year of occupancy at which time most of any settlement that is to occur will have taken place. Your lot may be seeded or sodded in order to establish a stand of grass and to stabilize the lawn for erosion control. In the case of newly seeded/sodded lawns, it is imperative that the lawn be heavily watered particularly during the early morning hours until the lawn has "taken". Please review specific lawn care directions described in Addendum MWL, if applicable.

To prevent soil erosion, plant ground cover, grass or shrubbery on slopes and banks and direct water run-off to avoid the formation of gullies. Erosion caused by water running off the roof can be minimized by installing sod or rock from the foundation to well clear of the roof overhang. With gutters and downspouts, soil erosion can be minimized by the installation of splash blocks. Before digging in your yard, make sure you know the location of buried electrical, gas, and telephone lines. If in doubt, your local utility company is normally very willing to locate the lines for you.