Archive for the ‘exterior’ category

Quick Tip #19 – My Siding Is Dirty

June 23rd, 2014

M040 Wash Siding – Work UpAll types of siding eventually accumulate dirt and grime, maybe even some mildew. It might make you think you need to paint the siding. But that’s not so. Often, it’s easy to wash dirt from the surface if the underlying finish is in good shape.

Some professionals use a pressure washer on siding, but that is really overkill. It can damage caulk and force water into the siding.

Try washing your siding with a mild detergent and water. You can wet the surface and then spray with the detergent/water mix in a garden sprayer. Use a soft brush – the kind you use for washing a car – and put the brush on a long pole to make the job easier. Work from the bottom up, and keep wetting the area below the part you’re scrubbing to prevent dirty wash water from streaking dry siding. Rinse with clear water.

If your siding has gray, black or green spots, try washing with JOMAX – a great product for removing mildew. Just follow label directions. You spray the product on the surface, wait and then rinse it off. For tougher dirt, you may need to scrub a little.

You will be surprised at how a little elbow grease and detergent can make your siding look like new.

Quick Tip #13 – That *#%! Stuck Patio Screen Door

May 19th, 2014

Patio Screen Door AdjustmentSticking, rubbing, cheap, nasty, impossible patio screen door! Well, the door takes a beating, and most patio screen doors are not the highest quality. But often there is a fix.

Most sliding patio screen doors can be unstuck with a little maintenance. First, look at the lower track. Clean it with detergent and water or even a little solvent on a rag. If the track is bent or squashed, straighten it with smooth pliers and file.

Find the rollers at the bottom of the door. Above or on the side of the rollers, you will see an adjustment screw. Use this to raise the door so it runs on the rollers rather than rubbing on the frame. You may need to lower another set of rollers located above the door, allowing the door to rise within the frame. Lubricate the rollers with silicone or a light lubricant like WD-40; don’t use other lubricants that will attract dirt.

If the door still does not operate smoothly, you may need to replace the plastic rollers in the base of the door. Or you could switch the top rollers (normally, these show little wear) with the worn bottom rollers.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #12 – Is Your Roof Worn Out?

May 7th, 2014

Worn Asphalt ShinglesShould you care about wear and tear to your roof? You betcha. A worn roof at the end of its life span is prone to leaks. You don’t want to deal with damage caused by roof leaks, and you don’t want to worry about mold in your home. Plan for that roof replacement.

In most cases, an asphalt shingle roof lasts about 20 years. The life span depends on the roof’s original quality and the amount of sun exposure. Sunlight breaks down the asphalt base of the shingles and eventually causes shrinkage, curling, granular loss and potential leaks.

Take a look at the illustration; it shows what to look for. You can check your roof from the ground with binoculars or work from the edge of the roof. Check the sunny side — that’s where you will find the most wear.

You can also note the spacing or shrinkage between shingle tabs. Newer roofs will have a tight, clean space about 1/4″ inch wide between shingles. Older roofs will have a gap that increases with age up to about 3/4″ inch when the roof is worn out. Contact a professional if you suspect your roof is worn.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #11 – Inside Info on an Outdoor Fixture

April 28th, 2014

Hose Bibs - Types, DetailsHere’s a bit of fix-it trivia for you: the exterior faucet to which you connect lawn hoses is called a hose bib. You can toss out this technical term to impress friends and neighbors, right? Whatever you call it, keep these tips in mind to help things run smoothly.

For cold climates, locate the interior valve before winter sets in so you can turn the water off. Remove any hose attached to the bib, then open the exterior valve. This allows water to drain from the piping so it can’t freeze and break a pipe.

For both warm and cold climates, some type of vacuum breaker should be connected to the hose bib. It might be a round brass fitting attached to the threaded connection. In newer hose bibs, the vacuum breaker is built in; look for a large cap on the top of the valve.

Why does your hose bib need a vacuum breaker? It prevents dirty water from flowing backward into your drinking water system. If there’s low pressure in your home’s system, water can be drawn indoors from a hose lying in a dog dish or connected to a garden chemical sprayer — yuck! Such low water pressure could occur, for example, when a fire department’s pumper draws water from elsewhere in the municipal system, creating low (negative) pressure all down the line.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Quick Tip #8: The Sinking Sidewalk

April 7th, 2014

M001A sinking sidewalk is bad news for you and your guests. Where the pavement is uneven, someone’s bound to trip eventually.

Pavement sinks because exterior concrete is always on the move. Soil settles. Moisture moves soil up and down. In cold climates, frost can heave and lift concrete slabs.

Tearing out, hauling away and replacing an entire sidewalk or driveway is expensive – and hard on the environment when all that concrete ends up in a landfill. But if your concrete is in pretty good shape, you can avoid this process. By “pretty good shape” I mean large sturdy pieces and a surface that is smooth and solid.

If that’s the case, a process called mudjacking can level the concrete slab. For about one-third the cost of replacement, a specialized contractor will drill holes in the slab and pump ground stone or a cement slurry under it. With just a little bit of pressure, the slab will be raised back into position. A few more holes are used to fill voids, and then a concrete mix is applied to patch the holes flush with the surface.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Use Quick Tips for your own content!

Stains on the Roof From an Old TV Antenna

March 26th, 2010

We have two “stains” on our roof from where we had our TV antenna. The antenna was removed about a year ago. Is there any way to remove these stains?


A TV antenna can cause two types of “stains.” Both types of stains will not damage a typical asphalt shingle roof, and don’t need to be removed. They may be ugly, but it’s not a serious maintenance issue.

RISR_WebsiteA rusty colored, black stain is from rusting metal on the antenna or the fasteners. This type of stain will lighten with time as the weather and sun bleaches out the color. You could try a rust removal chemical like Whink Rust and Iron Stain Remover, but I suggest waiting for the stain to disappear.

The other type of “stain” may be a lack of fungus growing below the metal of the antenna. The zinc coating on the metal becomes an oxide with rainwater, and as it runs down the roof, it stops algae growth. If the stain is a light color, the rest of the roof has algae. The algae can be removed with Jomax or a similar product.

I don’t suggest a homeowner should attempt to clean a roof – it’s just too dangerous. A dry roof is dangerous enough. Adding cleaning solutions, water, and chemicals can make a roof slippery and even more dangerous. Leave the cleaning to professionals.

Mildew on Gutters, Siding

March 1st, 2010

I have mildew growing on the gutters and vinyl siding on the side of the house that doesn’t get much sun. I noticed on your website that you suggested the use of Jomax, bleach and water. Is this recommended for gutters?


Mildew or mold will always grow on exterior surfaces that don’t see much sun – at least in our Wisconsin climate. I would definitely wash with a Jomax solution, bleach and water. Follow the label instructions. Often you can just spray the solution on the stains with a garden sprayer and then rinse them off. This is an inexpensive cleaning solution that “activates” the laundry bleach.

I’m not sure how the Jomax chemical works, but I know that it works great on vinyl, aluminum siding, and aluminum gutters. It also works on any hard surface with mold or mildew. I found that it does not harm plant materials, but I would wet them down before and rinse them after you use Jomax.

Patio Door Sticks in Winter

January 7th, 2010


My patio door is harder to close when it gets cold. I think it needs to be lubricated on the bottom. What kind of lubricant should i use?



A patio sliding door often sticks in the winter because of changes in temperature and humidity that causes wood to move or expand. The frame, door, and home structural framing move. This movement also makes any lack of lubrication or dirt compound the problem.

You should clean the lower track with a vacuum, then wipe it down with a damp cloth. Follow the dampened-cloth with a silicon lubricant on the raised lip of the track. The silicone will lubricate the metal and limit dirt accumulation.

To properly lubricate the rollers, you will need to remove the door. You need to remove the top, inner stop that is normally screwed in place. Tip the top of the door in, then inspect, clean, and lube the top and bottom rollers. This is a two-person job, so have a helper.

You should also observe the operation of the door in the opening. If it’s rubbing on the track, then raise the door with the roller adjustment. If it’s rubbing on the top, lower the door. You might be able to solve your problem with a simple adjustment.


Asphalt Shingles – Premature Failure

December 23rd, 2009


My CertainTeed 30-year shingles are 9 years old. They are brittle and curling up at the corners. Do I have a recourse?



Yes, there has been a problem with a certain type of CertainTeed brand shingles regarding premature failure. You should contact the original installer and/or CertainTeed for the terms and conditions. They provide some type of credit depending on the specific conditions.


How to Tell the Difference Between Latex and Oil-Based Paint

November 30th, 2009


This summer I will be painting the old home I just bought. I would like to match the type of exterior paint. How do I tell if the paint is oil based or latex?


Wet a rag with denatured alcohol and rub the paint surface. If paint comes off in the rag or the paints gets tacky, it is latex paint. If the surface remains untouched, it is oil based paint.

Most professionals do recommend matching the type of paint for good bonding and to match the hardness and flexibility characteristics. Often latex is applied over oil because it is more flexible and can breath if there are minor moisture problems.

Oil paint should not be applied over latex because it dries to a harder, less flexible, less porous, surface and to may peel and crack.