Exterior Cleaning (Brick, Siding, Sto? Finish & Stucco)


The exterior of your home is the first thing people see, so keeping it in good condition is vital to maintaining your curb appeal. While exterior walls can be susceptible to dirt and mold, they should only need regular maintenance once or twice a year. By following these guidelines for routine cleaning, repair and stain removal and learning how to spot signs of deterioration and wear, you’ll help keep your home’s exterior looking great for years.

Brick

The exterior brick on your home contributes curb appeal and is extremely durable.

Brick, made from fired clay, offers fire resistance, low maintenance, high aesthetic value, and energy conservation.

Care and Maintenance

There’s very little you’ll ever have to do to maintain your brick exterior over the years. Follow these suggestions for minor maintenance.

General Maintenance

Follow these maintenance suggestions for exterior brick:

  • Remove any plants or vines growing on brick walls with a commercial weed killer. Be sure to read the weed killer’s instructions first. Plants or vines hold in moisture and may cause damage to your home’s exterior.
  • Check the caulking between the brick and the windows and doors once a year. Remove and re-caulk as needed.
  • Make sure nothing obstructs the weep holes, which keep moisture from being trapped between the drainage plane and the brick. Check once a year.
  • Check mortar joints every three years for deterioration.
  • Check the transition from brick to stucco for cracking once a year. If there are cracks, caulk and paint them as necessary.

See also Exterior Caulking.

To Clean the Brick

There are general practices for cleaning brick. These general practices are applicable to many types of cleaning solutions and many types of brick. However, they may not be effective across the board. For example, the color and texture of the brick, as well as the substance staining the brick, can influence the effectiveness of the cleaning practice. As a result, it’s always best to gather as much information about your home’s brick exterior beforehand and consult a brick manufacturer for advice. Overall, just be careful to select a cleaning product that’s suitable for your brick and to follow the cleaner manufacturer’s instructions.

In general, to clean brick, follow these steps:

1. Choose the proper cleaning solution based on the type of brick and the substance staining its surface.

2. Protect any objects nearby, such as plants, windows, and doors, if necessary. Certain cleaning solutions can damage them.

3. Test the brick’s absorption rate. Wet a small area of brick using a garden hose. If the brick turns darker at once, you should clean only a small area of the brick face at a time. If it doesn’t, clean up to 100 square feet at a time.

It’s important to test the brick’s absorption rate. Knowing this information beforehand allows you to estimate how large of an area you can clean at one time.

4. Saturate the brick area to be cleaned using clean water from a garden hose. Spray the area from the top down.

Brick must be saturated with water before it’s cleaned. If the cleaning solution is absorbed by the brick, it can leave stains behind on the surface. By saturating the wall with water beforehand, the brick is unable to absorb the cleaning solution, thereby preventing any unattractive stains from appearing after the brick is rinsed and allowed to dry.

5. Saturate any brick that’s below the area you’re cleaning. Make sure to keep this brick saturated until you’ve rinsed away the cleaning solution from the brick above. By taking this step, you’re helping to prevent streaking and the absorption of runoff that’s come from above.

6. Apply the cleaning solution to the brick. The exact method depends upon the cleaning solution you’ve chosen. If it’s a commercial cleaning solution, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

7. Rinse the brick face thoroughly after cleaning. Use large amounts of clean water, moving from the top to the bottom of the wall. Make sure all of the cleaning solution is washed away, as any left behind can stain the brick’s surface.

To Clean Mold off the Brick

Mildew can grow on areas of the brick that the sun doesn’t reach. Periodically, clean these areas with a brick-cleaning detergent, which you can purchase at most hardware stores. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see which chemicals are best for your brick exterior.

Be careful when using a pressure washer, since this may damage the brick surface if the wrong pressure is applied.

To Remove Stains

You can remove most stains on exterior brick with a stiff brush and a solution of household detergent and water. Some stains, such as smoke, paint, and oil, require special treatments. Use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning product, and follow the instructions to remove the stains.

Protect any areas of brick that don’t need cleaning.

To Remove Efflorescence

Inspect the brick surface for signs of efflorescence on a periodic basis. Efflorescence doesn’t damage brick, but it can be unattractive. It’s also one sign that water-related issues may be occurring; as a result, it’s important to look for the possible cause of efflorescence, in addition to removing it from the brick’s surface. Measures will need to be taken to mitigate the cause of the efflorescence.

First try to remove efflorescence using a dry brush. If this method doesn’t work in full, then try to remove efflorescence using clean water and a brush. It’s best to wash the wall with water only when the outdoor conditions are warm and dry, since adding more water to the wall during washing can actually contribute to efflorescence. If the efflorescence is tough to remove, use a solution made specifically for removing efflorescence from brick. Follow the solution manufacturer’s instructions. It’s always a good idea to test the solution on an inconspicuous part of the brick first to make sure it won’t stain.

Efflorescence occurs when water enters the brick and leaves behind a whitish deposit on the surface from salts.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation. For more information about brick, visit the manufacturer’s website. 

Siding

The siding on the exterior of your home increases curb appeal and is easy to maintain.

Your home has either vinyl or composite siding – two types of siding that resemble wood in appearance. Both exterior materials are attractive, durable, and low maintenance. Vinyl is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), while composite siding is a combination of wood or cement fibers.

Care and Maintenance

Follow these care and maintenance suggestions for your home’s siding.

General Maintenance

Follow these maintenance suggestions for your home’s siding:

  • Keep sprinklers and other forms of forced water away from siding.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts work properly, so water is directed away from the siding. Downspouts should pour water away from your home.
  • Make sure there’s a 6-inch vertical space between the bottom of your siding and the ground. This space prevents siding from absorbing water from the ground.
  • Make sure plants are placed at least 2 feet away from the siding.
  • Keep hot items, such as grills, away from vinyl siding. The heat can permanently damage the siding.
  • Clean all types of siding with clear water from a garden hose and a soft-bristled, long-handled car brush. Don’t scrub too hard.
  • Remove difficult dirt, mold, and algae using the siding manufacturer’s recommended cleaning products, and follow the instructions for cleaning.
  • Inspect wood siding for evidence of problems like termites, cracks, rot, and water damage.
  • Check around the exterior of your home for separated or deteriorated caulk approximately one to two times per year.

Check Caulk Annually

Check the caulk in the following areas:

  • Where the siding meets the corner board.
  • At window and door trim.
  • Around pipes and vent pipes coming through the siding. At J-channels (on vinyl siding) around windows and doors.

If you see any separation or deterioration of caulk, remove the caulk, and reapply as necessary.

See also Exterior Caulking.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation.

For more information about siding, visit the manufacturer’s website. 

Sto® Finish

If your home has a Sto®* exterior, it will look great for years with regular maintenance.

*Sto® is a registered trademark of the Sto Corporation.

The Sto® finish has the appearance of a traditional stucco coating. If your home has a Sto® finish, you received a Sto® maintenance guide at your Closing. Read and follow your Sto® maintenance guide to keep your Sto® walls in good condition and looking their best.

Care and Maintenance

Your exterior walls shouldn’t need refinishing for many years. However, you may need to clean them occasionally to remove natural and chemical pollutants deposited from the air.

To Protect Your Walls

Landscape around your home to minimize splashing around the foundation. Mud and dirt will dull the finish of your home’s exterior.

When you lean a ladder against the walls, protect them from scarring and damage by padding the ends of the ladder.

Check and replace damaged caulking as needed to prevent water entry into your home.

See also Exterior Caulking.

To Fill Hairline Cracks

Hairline cracks in your home’s Sto® finish are normal. If you wish to fill these cracks, follow these instructions.

Unpainted surface

Use stucco color coat or an acrylic sealant. Follow the instructions on the package.

Painted surface

Use acrylic-latex sealant. Follow the instructions on the package. Follow the Application with touch-up painting.

To Clean Soils and Stains

For walls soiled by dirt, mold, or algae:

1. Use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning product, and follow the instructions to clean the walls. Or, use a commercial cleaner available from Demand Products, Inc.™, Wind-Lock, or Sure Klean.®* In any case, testclean a small area first to make sure you get the desired results.

2. Apply the solution to the entire soiled area.

3. Clean the surface lightly using a soft-bristled brush.

4. Rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water.

*Sure Klean® is a registered trademark of Prosoco.

If you’re unable to remove soils or stains using these methods, you may need to recoat your walls.

Hard scrubbing and hard-bristled brushes can damage the wall’s finish.

Don’t pressure-clean exterior walls.

Don’t attempt to clean your walls with an unapproved solvent or with acid-based cleaners.

Your walls may be reconditioned or recoated using any of several available Sto® architectural coatings. You should use an experienced wall-coating contractor to do the work.

If your walls become damaged, you should hire a qualified stucco or plaster contractor to make repairs.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation.

Stucco

A stucco exterior looks great and protects your home from the elements.

Stucco is a type of exterior material that enhances the curb appeal of your home. The appearance of hairline cracks in the material is normal.

Care and Maintenance

Follow these maintenance suggestions for your home’s stucco:

  • Keep sprinklers and other forms of forced water away from stucco.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts work properly, so water is directed away from the stucco. In general, downspouts should always direct water away from your home.
  • Make sure there’s a 6-inch vertical space between the bottom edge of your stucco and the ground. This space prevents stucco from absorbing water from the ground.
  • Make sure plants are placed at least 2 feet away from stucco.
  • Use caution when operating lawn and landscaping equipment that can throw objects that will chip or damage the stucco.
  • Check annually for large cracks in your stucco, and repair those wider than 1⁄16 inch.

To Clean Stucco Walls

1. Gently scrub the exterior finish with a deck brush and a solution of laundry soap and water.

2. Rinse the stucco with clean water.

Gently rinse your window screens occasionally to remove dirt that may run off onto the stucco below the window and leave streaks.

Pressure-cleaning your stucco walls isn’t recommended.

To Remove Mildew Spots

1. Spray a 50/50 solution of bleach and water onto the affected area.

2. Let the solution stand for five to ten minutes.

3. Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water.

4. Repeat as necessary.

Don’t spray herbicides and pesticides on the stucco. These chemicals can discolor and damage the stucco surface. Use caution when operating lawn and landscaping equipment that can throw objects that chip or damage the stucco finish.

To Fill Small Cracks

Small cracks in stucco that are 1⁄16 inch wide or less are normal and can easily be repaired with minor filling and repainting, if desired. When doing the repair, make sure the temperature outdoors is at least 40°F and rising and no higher than 100°F. It’s also important to keep in mind that cooler temperatures and higher humidity outdoors will increase drying time.

To fill small cracks in stucco, follow these steps:

1. Clean any loose particles, dirt, and debris from the crack using a wire brush.

2. Fill the crack with an elastomeric latex sealant. Make sure the sealant fills the entire crack, keeping in mind that the sealant will shrink slightly. This sealant can be purchased at most home care centers.

3. Use a finishing tool to give the sealant a texture that matches the surrounding area.

4. Wait for the sealant to dry according to the sealant manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Paint the repaired area to match the existing exterior color. Keep in mind that paint color does fade over time, making it difficult to match the existing color exactly. If your home has many areas that need repainting, then you may want to wait until you can repaint the entire area at once.

To Fill Large Cracks

Check annually for larger cracks in your stucco, as those larger than 1⁄8 inch can allow moisture to enter your home. Common signs of moisture entry are any walls that appear patchy or have shading variations.

To fill larger stucco cracks:

1. Clean the damaged area.

2. Use a recommended sealant to bridge the crack if it’s bigger than 1⁄8 inch. This product can be purchased at most home care centers.

3. Paint the repaired area to match the existing exterior color.

Repaint the stucco every five to seven years to help preserve it.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation.