Whether you want to refresh your home’s curb appeal to sell it or you just want to make it the marvel of your block, the first impression is usually the only one you get. Don’t wait to improve your home's visual appeal and beauty just for the benefit of future occupants. With just a few quick fixes and cosmetic changes, you can easily make the outside of your home more attractive and inviting, even if you won’t be sticking a ''For Sale'' sign in the yard.
Visit your local True Value hardware store for the tools, products, and expert advice you need to start right.
Before you start, walk across the street and take a good look at your home and yard. What are your first impressions? Most people would probably agree that there's always at least a little room for improvement. To punch up your home’s outdoor impression, you basically need to do four things: Clean, Paint, Prune and Repair.
Often, clogged gutters are the cause of dirt and stains on siding. Leaves, mud, twigs and trash causes dirty water to overflow and stain the siding. For water to flow through your gutters freely, you need to remove the debris that has collected inside. Handheld blowers or wet/dry vacuums are effective tools for removing debris, particularly on dry days when leaves are loose and light. Blow out as much loose debris as possible and collect it in yard refuse bags.
Use a gutter scoop to remove compacted debris. Attach a bucket to your ladder with a wire hook for more efficient collection or to carry tools. Start at the downspouts and work your way in, but avoid pushing debris together — this can create more clogs.
• Wear heavy gloves for protection. Sharp objects such as thorns and roofing nails can end up in gutters.
• Take the necessary precautions when working on a ladder. When using a ladder to reach high areas, you may want to invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer.
This is also a good time to check your gutters to see what kind of shape they're in. See if your drainage system shows any signs of corrosion, and look for any holes or leaking joints and check for any loose, missing or bent gutter hangers. For more information, read Maintain Gutters and Downspouts.
Clean and wash the exterior of your home. Rent or buy a pressure washer for best results. If mildew is present (black or gray spots), you'll need to remove it by washing the surface with a mixture of trisodium phosphate (TSP), bleach and a stiff brush. You should wash from the bottom to the top; this method avoids staining.
• A pressure washer can also be very helpful in removing loose paint. See the next section, Paint below.
• TSP is highly corrosive, so be very careful when working with it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as directed and wear old clothing and gloves.
Wash windowsills and frames with mild detergent and water before you begin cleaning the glass. Clean the window panes using professional strength window glass cleaner and a large squeegee. Start at the top and work your way down to prevent drips. Clean the outside from left to right and the inside from top to bottom to help you to see which side streaks and smudges are on. To avoid streaks, don't clean windows when the sun is shining on them. Using the squeegee, make your first stroke across the top of the pane, with the blade angled so you only clear the top two inches of the glass. Wipe the blade clean with a cloth.
A fresh coat of paint can liven up the look of your home. When painting aluminum or vinyl siding, use an exterior latex primer and paint such as True Value WeatherAll® Exterior Aluminum/Vinyl Siding paint. If you will be painting masonry, such as brick, concrete or stucco, prime with a latex masonry and concrete primer/sealer and paint with True Value WeatherAll® Exterior Masonry and Stucco paint. If you have wood siding on your home, use a quality latex primer and then paint with True Value WeatherAll® latex paint in your desired sheen.
Flat and satin sheens are good for exterior siding because they have little reflection. Semi-gloss and gloss sheens are typically used for shutters and trim. Vinyl or aluminum siding that is slightly dented or worn looks best when repainted with a flat sheen because it camouflages imperfections more; a satin finish is a better choice when the siding is in good condition. In addition, semi-gloss finishes are tough, easier to clean and resistant to mildew and chalking.
• Use the True Value paint calculator to estimate how much paint you need.
• When using a ladder to reach high areas, invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer that attaches to the ladder and braces onto the roof.
For more detailed information read, Refresh Your Exterior.
Your plants, shrubs and flowerbeds also need regular trimming, weeding, raking and mulching to keep them looking neat and well-groomed. And that goes for your lawn, too. Make sure you keep it freshly mowed and edged against sidewalks and walkways (and don't forget to pluck any weeds growing in sidewalk cracks or between bricks). This tender loving care will make your yard look well tended and manicured, and your greenery will reward you by growing healthy and strong.
If your grass looks unhealthy, bring it back to its full, green lushness by fertilizing, and if necessary, reseeding any thin or dead patches. When adding fertilizer, carefully read product instructions before applying and follow them closely.
If reseeding, use a hand rake to loosen and turn over the soil in these bad patches. This allows the soil to receive more oxygen and water. Additionally, you can use an aerator to thoroughly stir around the loose soil to prepare it for fertilizer, seeds and water. Water the area using a garden hose, giving it a good, long soaking. Spread fertilizer and some topsoil (if needed) to the patch and then water thoroughly again. Spread grass seed over the area using a seed spreader (for larger areas) or by hand (for small patches). Lightly aerate the soil again using the hand rake or an aerator to work in the seeds and fertilizer into the soil. Water the spot every day for a month or so until the grass has regrown and blended in with the surrounding lawn.
• You can add hay or straw mulch to facilitate sprouting, particularly on sloping areas. This helps prevent soil erosion and cuts down on the need for frequent watering. However, don't use too much mulch. The more straw or hay you use, the more likely you are to get some weeds.
• Don't start mowing these spots until the new grass is about 1½" tall.
Fix Driveway Cracks
Is your driveway fading, or cracking and crumbling? Patching cracks in both asphalt and concrete driveways will prevent water seepage and further cracking. You don’t need to call in a professional. You can find everything you need at your local True Value hardware store. Whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, before you patch, always wash it with a pressure washer and then let it dry.
For asphalt driveways, choose a water-based acrylic filler/sealer. For best results, use filler/sealers that fill cracks up to 1/8" wide and look for crack fillers that have rubberized asphalt emulsion.
For cracks up to ½", use crack filler. Be sure to keep the filler in the crack, not on the driveway surface. For cracks ½" to 2" wide, fill the crack with nonporous foam backer rod material before applying crack filler. Potholes or cracks that are wider than 2” require a little more repair. You will need to use cold-patch blacktop to fill them. After filling holes and cracks, seal the asphalt with asphalt sealant.
To fill hairline concrete cracks, you can usually use a patching compound to make the repair.
• Use gloves, goggles and a dust mask when preparing the driveway or handling cement products.
To patch large concrete cracks (more than 1/8'' wide and 1/2'' deep), use foam backer rods and then patch the area as you would with a small crack.
For more detailed steps, read Repair Driveway Cracks.
Maintain Front Door/Entryway
An updated front door and entryway instantly upgrades the look of your home. If your door is dirty but in good shape, a good cleaning, refinishing, staining or painting often does the trick. Read Update Your Entryway for more tips and advice on refreshing your front entryway.
If your door is worn or even insecure, it's probably time for a replacement. Note that you may not be able to simply replace it with a duplicate if you don't know the original manufacturer. If this is the case, you'll need a full frame replacement, which means a new door pre-hung in new jambs. When you find one you like, carefully note its dimensions and thickness. Also, be aware of where the door’s hinges are located. This will help make installation easier.
Fix Window Screens
Check your window screens for damage or poor fit. If they're torn, a simple patch can substitute for a replacement. First, measure the hole in your screen. Holes that are ¼" or smaller can be patched with a little dab of nail polish, clear glue, or an adhesive, such as rubber cement. After the glue is applied and hardens, it forms a seal that keeps out little intruders. If the hole is bigger, you’ll need to patch it.
If you have an old window or door screen sitting around somewhere, you can cut out a patch from that. If not, your local True Value hardware store will have replacement screening available to purchase. While it’s possible to repair the screen while it’s still in the window, it probably will be easier to remove the window screen from the window, or if you’re repairing a sliding screen door take the door off the track.
Using a utility knife or shears, cut a square patch that is 1” to 2” larger than the hole. Unravel a few strands on all four edges of the patch, leaving single strands sticking out along each edge. Overlay the patch on the damaged area and weave the loose strands through the screen and then bend the strands on the other side to secure the patch to the screen. Use needle-nose pliers to maneuver and bend the wires. Once the patch is on, you can then add a touch of nail polish or clear adhesive for even more stability.
If the hole is bigger than the bottom of a coffee mug or something equivalent in size, you're better off replacing the whole screen. You can purchase a roll of screening and other tools for the job at your local True Value hardware store.
Add Finishing Touches
A few finishing touches can instantly enhance your home's visual appeal. You don't have to spend a lot of money. Here are some inexpensive but effective suggestions that can add color, warmth and interest that instantly boost curb appeal:
• Install inexpensive, yet stylish vinyl shutters to add style and dimension to your home's exterior windows.
• Hang window boxes and plant them with seasonal flowers for a bright jolt of color.
• Enhance your porch or walkway with planters filled with decorative plants and flowers.
• Plant an assortment of flowers around the trees in your yard to enhance your landscape appeal.
• Make sure that all the fine touches are in place. Keep your fence, mailbox, doormats, house number, and kick plate regularly cleaned and maintained.
Good work! Your home’s first impression should now be a great one.