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Time to spruce up the house

By James and Morris Carey
For The Associated Press
Early summer is an excellent time to take on outdoor maintenance tasks that have been on the back burner awaiting warmer weather.
Right about now we pull out our pressure washer and go blasting around the house on a cleaning spree. Beyond a good sprucing up, a power washing will reveal cracks, gaps and wear-and-tear to tackle next.
Here’s a guide to a thorough summer cleaning:
Pressure wash
A pressure or power washer uses water under high pressure to strip away grime on all sorts of surfaces. Sometimes you can combine bleach or other cleaning agents, but we find that water is all we need for most tasks.
Power washing a roof can be daunting and dangerous. Unless you work well with heights, we suggest that you hire someone to do the work for you. If you choose to take it on yourself, wear rubber-soled boots and use a safety harness securely anchored to the opposite side of the roof and your waist.
After the spray-down, your gutters will probably be filled with all sorts of muck from the roof. Since a power washer may be too powerful for this tight area, we suggest that you use a garden trowel along with a garden hose to thoroughly clean the gutters and downspouts. Use the garden hose as a snake to flush downspouts and drain pipes.
Next, move on to cleaning eaves, soffits, siding, windows and trim to remove grit, grime, spider webs and wasps nests. Work from the bottom up to prevent potential streaking and staining.
Vinyl siding may require a bit of detergent and water and some scrubbing with a nylon truck brush to remove oxidation or staining. Then rinse thoroughly. We like to leave the window screens in place for ease of cleaning and then, once clean, remove them to clean windows and frames.
Make repairs
Beyond a good sprucing up, a power washing will reveal repairs that need to be made:
– Repair hairline cracks in stucco using an exterior-grade latex caulk. Slightly dampen the area with water and inject a small amount of caulk into the crack. Use an old paint brush and water to remove excess caulk to prevent the caulking from appearing through the paint. Place texturing sand in the palm of your hand and blow it onto the surface of the fresh caulk to have it blend in more thoroughly to the surrounding finish.
– Use a high quality exterior caulk to fill in gaps in siding and around windows and doors. Less is more: Inject the caulking into the joint and remove the excess with a damp finger and/or sponge.
– Remove any loose paint that may remain after the power washing by scraping or sanding. Fill in voids using an exterior grade vinyl spackling compound. Allow it to dry, then sand and prime with a high quality exterior grade primer/sealer and apply a coat or two of finish.
– Repair damaged or missing mortar using a mortar patch and a jointer ó a narrow trowel that gives mortar that smooth, uniform look. Be sure to dampen the mortar first to prevent dry mortar from drawing moisture out of the fresh mortar, which can result in cracking and poor adhesion. Seal the brick or stone and mortar with a high quality exterior grade brick and stone sealer to prevent freeze and thaw damage in winter.
– Wash your windows ó never in the sun or the heat of the day. Use a touch of vinegar in warm water, wipe with newsprint. Wipe the inside of the windows vertically and the outside horizontally.
If streaks do appear, you’ll immediately know what side of the glass they are on and can readily eliminate them.
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For more home improvement tips and information and an opportunity to win a $10,000 deck and backyard makeover, visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com or call our listener hot line at 800-737-2474 (ext 59).

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