Spring has arrived and it is time to start exterior cleanup from the winter. Now is the time to take stock of how the exterior of your home looks. Whether you are getting ready to put your home on the market or are going to remain living there for many years to come, there are simple fixes to make the property look better. Many of these do not cost a bunch of money either. We tend to get house blind, unless the shutters are hanging loose or the roof has a big hole, and we don’t really look closely at the outside most of the time. Maybe you go in through the garage and only get out on the porch to pick up the UPS deliveries. Let’s face it, homes are a big and sometimes overwhelming responsibility and little things can add up when we have other priorities in our busy lives. Here are some projects that can be done to spruce up your home and increase that curb appeal.
Start with the really simple stuff first. Do your gutters have plants growing in them or are your windows all spotty from the winter? Spending a day or a weekend cleaning up the outside of the home early in the spring can give big results. These clean ups can head off future problems as well. Backed up gutters can ruin roofs or worse. Nailing that loose siding board down can ward off pest infestations or rot. We all wash our cars, our clothes, the dishes, and so on, but who has washed the outside of their home? It gets dirty just like everything else. Dingy siding can be cleaned with Benjamin Moore’s multi- purpose exterior cleaner and a low pressure power wash. The life of the coating on siding can be greatly extended by simply cleaning it every couple of years. Don’t forget those sidewalks, walkways, and driveways either. High pressure washing isn’t necessary in most cases, but you will want to use a cleaner because the water alone is not enough. With any tool, you should observe all standard precautions. With a power washer you don’t want to aim it directly at glass or electrical outlets. Use a wide fan tip and a glancing blow from about 12 to 18 inches away to avoid damaging the surfaces. We rent power washers and accessories and we are happy to walk you through how to use them so that your project is a success.
Once the siding is clean, it is time to really step back and look at the exterior of your house. Many homes still have the original brass hardware or house numbers still in place. It is usually badly tarnished or worse yet, peeling. This is an eyesore that can be fixed cheaply. House numbers can be replaced or taken down and spray painted. The light fixtures can also be primed and painted. They need to be cleaned and masked off, and of course, shut off the electricity before working on them. Satin black is always a classic look for these items, but you can also use a metallic color for a more modern look. A little investment of time can really make a difference on these small yet important detail items.
Upgrading the front door is another great way to boost your curb appeal. Does the door look shabby and worn? Is the coating peeling? Does it just disappear into the siding and not stand out? The door is usually the first thing that someone coming to your home is going to see up close. The front door is the house’s calling card. It is a great area for a pop of color to draw interest. The traditional black, dark green, and red are all fine, but it can be updated with new colors to still work with your homes existing siding and trim. Some of the new Benjamin Moore colors that would work great for doors are Fiery Opal 077 (bright but not overpowering, good with darker siding and can pick up the color of red brick), 2078-20 Raspberry Glaze (a pinkier red, lighter than the traditional fire engine red, bright pop with pale siding, strong enough for a darker siding color), 290 Fresh Butter (this paler honey yellow works great against wood tone sidings or even the weathered wood look), 2054-60 Old Pickup Blue (this pale blue works great against a lighter siding while still providing color), 2147-30 Jalapeno (this color takes us away from the traditional dark green and spices it up, the lively color pairs well with lighter siding),and CW-405 Damask Gold (darker that the fresh butter, it provides more pop and evokes the colors of fall.). Traditionally shutters are matched to the front door, but in the case of these colors, you would probably choose a more neutral color for the shutters. You can also coordinate flowers for the porch or deck to match with the front door color. This adds a more unified decorator look.
If you have decided to paint the front door then usually you remove the lockset. Even if you don’t, now is the time to look at the hardware. Is the finish worn off? Does the lock and handle work smoothly? Remember that the lock set is the first mechanical piece a potential home buyer encounters. If the locks on the front door don’t work right, then what else has been neglected? Replacing these will be more costly than a bit of paint but consider these the jewelry of the house. I had a friend that was an accomplished flipper. He was very frugal on his flips, but he would spend money on making absolutely sure the locks and handles on all the doors and windows worked flawlessly and looked good. It always paid off for him because buyers would often comment how everything seemed to work well in his houses. It is a small detail, but who wants to fight with locks that don’t work right or doors that won’t close easily? When painting the exterior light fixtures you could color coordinate with the new lock and handle set to really bring it all together.
After assessing your door take a look at the porch or stoop. The concrete or wood surface can be painted to match or contrast the home’s exterior. It really cleans up a normally nondescript area. You can even get a bit fancy and paint it to resemble tile or paint a fake runner down the center in a contrasting color. A bit of paint and some work are all that is required to brighten up this area. While you are at it, make sure the railings are in good shape. Fixing a loose rail now can help prevent larger repairs in the future.
There are a few larger projects that may require a professional’s help. One of these is the trim and gutters. When I make deliveries to my contractors, I will look at the houses in the neighborhood. Many of the homes have siding that looks okay, but the trim looks awful. It is dirty or has stains coming out from the wood below. Many of these homes are 5 or 10 years old and still have the builder’s coat of paint on the trim and it is getting a little worn out even though the siding is still all right. Sometimes cleaning will make this trim look good again but most of the time it needs a refresh. Exterior trim in our area tends to be rough sawn cedar. Often that type of trim is not actually painted but has a solid color stain applied to it. This type of stain is a very low sheen finish that is a fully opaque product but allows the texture of the wood to come through. It is generally applied in two coats and a primer usually is not required but will be needed for areas of bare wood or if bleeding staining is present. We carry several types of stain with Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat as our top performing exterior product. A trim job, as the painters often call it, is a lot less than painting a whole house. Usually you can contract the painter to power wash the entire house for a little extra money since they will need to clean the trim before painting it anyway. Make sure the contract includes re-caulking any loose or failing seams as well.
Another project that can be a larger investment is shutters. You see these homes that look fine, but the shutters are faded and worn out looking. Shutters can be painted but you have to make sure they are paintable. You can see if a shutter is paintable by carefully removing one from the house. They are usually secured by 4 long screws. If the shutter is a thinner plastic and the same color on the back as it is on the front, then they are not paintable. These are the less expensive varieties and are not meant to be painted and they have to be replaced. If the back is a different color or if the shutter is of the heavy fiberglass variety, then those can be painted. They can be painted in place carefully. They need to be cleaned and masked off from the siding, and then 2 coats of exterior paint can be applied. The best choice for shutters is either the Moorgard low lustre or Moorglo soft gloss paint by Benjamin Moore. These 100% acrylic finishes are formulated to adhere to worn or less prepared exterior surfaces.
Landscaping can be a large project as well but is a definite boost to your curb appeal. From a smaller perspective we need to look at any landscaping that is causing problems to the house itself. Are there branches that are rubbing the siding? Are the bushes so close that the siding can’t dry out? Are the branches of the trees so close to the roof that they act as bridges for the local wildlife? Often times simply pruning back the landscaping can help prevent problems like rotting and peeling siding. Too many times I have gone out to look at a project and the shrubs are right against the house and the painter can’t even set up a ladder, let alone get to the siding. If the siding is constantly damp rot easily sets in and you don’t even see it. Trimming up the plants will help to keep things tidy and also lets you keep an eye on the exterior of the house. Also, keep the mulch off of the siding. It traps moisture and looks unsightly when the rain bounces it up on to the siding. If you have overgrown mature landscaping, maybe it is time to call a landscaper to remove it. We see many beautiful homes obscured by old shrubs, trees, and hedges that have simply gotten too big to prune into a good shape anymore. They become a distraction from the home and ruin the look. Consider replacing these with new species that complement the house. A good nursery center will have design services to help pick what works for your exposure and tastes.
As with paint, plants can add color and interest to your home. Adding some small plantings to the front of the house can really add interest. Consider a stone or block border to build up a planting bed that can be filled with perennials for an easily maintained pop of color. You can add annuals in to the mix in order to get instant color since it takes time for perennials to establish and mature. These areas can be built up over time from simple to elaborate. The biggest thing to remember is to keep it manageable, because if it isn’t, then you end up with the overgrown mess you probably removed in the first place. I’m a fan of perennials because they are easy to care for and just require some occasional love to keep them healthy and under control. They do the rest themselves.
There are many simple fixes to make your house look great and boost your curb appeal. Many are easy, but overlooked, like power washing. Others are more labor intensive but really give big results. In any case, a little exterior maintenance can go a long way to not only beautify your home but to preserve it and your investment in it. Stop in any time at Blue Jay Paint and Blinds for more solutions or advice on your personal curb appeal project.