Exterior Upgrades and Improvements for Your Home

Watch this video to find out how to improve the exterior of your home and tackle common maintenance chores.

Exterior home improvements include:

    • Build Retaining Wall: Learn how to build a stackable block retaining wall in your yard using Pavestone crushed limestone and blocks.
    • Maintain Wood Deck: Find out how to go about cleaning and staining a weathered wood deck using Wood Cleaner and CWF-UF penetrating wood finish from Flood.
    • Replace Rotten Wood: See how to remove rotten wood trim and replace it with cellular PVC trim boards from Royal Building Products which can be cut and nailed using standard tools, but won’t rot or be eaten by termites.
    • Remove Mold and Mildew: Learn how to remove mold, mildew, moss, and algae on the outside of your house by using a garden sprayer to apply Wet & Forget Outdoor to the siding and trim. Unlike bleach, Wet & Forget doesn’t need to be rinsed off and is safe for plants.
  • Portable Generator Safety: Tips on how to use a portable generators, such as those from Generac, safely to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and electrical shock.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week, Today’s Homeowner is exploring some easy exterior upgrades. If the outside of your place could use a little sprucing up, you don’t want to miss this. Now, why are you sweating so much?

Wiley Bullock: Man, this is a lot of work right here, now. I’m not into pulling weeds too much.

Danny Lipford: When the weather warms up, we can’t help but turn our attention to projects outside the house. But the more time we spend out there, the more improvements we find that we really want to make. So this week we’re digging into some of those, first, with my old friend, Wiley Bullock.

Wiley Bullock: Well, I’ve lived here probably about eight years now. I’ve always liked the house. I actually built this house in 1984 as a framing contractor. I always loved the layout. You know, big room inside that I always looked for. I like the yard. I had a lot of trees at one time. And, I always thought I’d buy this house one day. And, it turns out I did.

You get a lot of good topsoil around here. My first thought when I bought the house was, all I had to do was blow the leaves up around the trees and there’d be no maintenance whatsoever. It just didn’t turn out that way. I’ve stained it twice in the eight years I’ve been here. I’ve really been happy with it.

Danny Lipford: But then there are the decks. There are lots of decks all around this house. Wiley has expanded them and improved them because he really loves outdoor living. But, despite the loss of all of those trees, there’s still a lot of shade.

Wiley Bullock: So, I have sun in the front, now, but still not enough sun over the deck area to be able to dry it out enough for it not to turn the green, moldy look. That’s my maintenance issue, mainly, with this house is absolutely the decks.

Danny Lipford: However, the missing trees have caused another problem in the front yard… Erosion.

Wiley Bullock: I had a big magnolia out there at one time that actually shaded the whole front yard. But it had some kind of fungus so I had to take it down. It was all just one big, massive root system that held the dirt in place.

Once I removed it, the only thing that stopped it was the street that it ran out on. You know, I thought I’d be able to taper the yard down a little bit? But, you know, with the wash-out from the dirt…

Danny Lipford: You’ve got all kind of erosion right in there.

Wiley Bullock: I’ve got more than a problem and it dumps right into the mobile bay right here. You see, this is a watershed drain.

Danny Lipford: That’s not good.

Wiley Bullock: So, I’ve got to catch this before it goes any further.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, a retaining wall… You can put the retaining wall up. And I noticed your neighbors have some but I don’t think that’s the way they’re supposed to be installed.

Wiley Bullock: No, I think they’ve got a little bit of a sinking problem over there.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, looks like it. We can go along right in here with it and then let it kind of come around some way or the other and taper that out, and no mortars needed, no concretes needed. What about this deck up here?

You know, it’s kind of weird. You’ve got kind of an oddball house anyway with… With two decks. That one, looking pretty good. But this is the one at your main entrance, looks a little weathered, there.

Wiley Bullock: Well, it does. Well, it just don’t get any sun. The power-washing and the bleach, I do that, of course, annually, but there’s got to be something out there that, would probably help it look a little bit better and stay looking better.

Danny Lipford: So, that’s the challenge. A cruddy deck and an eroding hillside. The first step is a trip to the local Home Depot to check out materials for the retaining wall, before Allen joins us to attack that dirty deck.

Wiley Bullock: Well, you have everything?

Danny Lipford: You’re darn right, man. Let’s get going here. First thing we got to do is get rid of these 200 plants you got here. Ya’ll good?

Wiley Bullock: Yeah. You’re not holding anything anyway!

Danny Lipford: Yeah. That ain’t too bad.

Wiley Bullock: No, that ain’t too bad.

Danny Lipford: All right, Allen. It’s all yours, man.

Allen Lyle: All right, thanks. You know, we’re really fortunate that this deck has not been stained or sealed before. That way all I have to do is clean it off real well, and then I’ve got this wood cleaner. If it were stained I’d have to put a stripper on it. But this, this is like for weathered, gray wood. It’s going to make it look just like new.

Danny Lipford: A blower quickly removes the loose dirt from the surface. But Allen is also digging the leaves and crud out of the cracks between the deck boards with a hook he made from an old coat hanger.

Meanwhile, Wiley and I get started preparing for the retaining wall.

So all you have to do is dig down about four inches, about the width of a shovel, and we’ll go all the way down, wherever we’re going to go with them. And then I’ve got, along with the pavers, it’ll be delivered in a little bit, crushed stone that we’ll put in there. A tamp… That’s it!

Wiley Bullock: And that’s it?

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Thankfully this soil is pretty loose. But it’s also pretty damp, so it’s heavy. Even so, the digging goes pretty quickly.

Now, see that? Yeah, see, that’s just about level right there. So we’ll just keep chasing this level right on down all the way to the end.

Up on the front deck, Allen is mixing up the cleaning and brightening solution and soaking the deck and surrounding plants with water before he applies it. Then, he scrubs the surfaces with a stiff brush and rinses them clean with water.

Pretty light work compared to the digging and lifting we’re doing. Man, that wasn’t too bad. Only a couple of hours to get all of this part ready.

Wiley Bullock: Well, you’re not pushing this wheelbarrow.

Danny Lipford: This limestone base material will create a solid foundation for the blocks we’re using to make this retaining wall. Pavestone distributes this stuff in bags which makes it very easy to pour it into a narrow footing like the one here. You know, we had about a four inch drop from there to there. So…

Wiley Bullock: Yeah. Yeah, so looks like we got a little more building up to do in that area, then, don’t we?

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. Once we have a level grade established, we can start packing the base down with a tamp. Then we fine-tune it with a level as we work our way along the footing. While we’re wrapping up this, why don’t you check in with Joe for this week’s Simple Solution?

Joe Truini: When in the workshop, I typically like to clean up at the end of the project, except when I’m working with metal. These metal shavings can be pretty sharp and dangerous, so I like to clean up as I go, and here’s a quick way to do that.

We’re going to pick up the metal shavings with a magnet, here’s a magnet from a kid’s toy game. But rather than just using the magnet, here’s the real trick. Take the magnet and put it in a plastic grocery bag. Then you can use the magnet through the bag to collect the shavings.

See how quickly that works? Right onto the bag, and then even here down here on the floor, just slide the bag along. You see how quickly and easily it gets all the shavings? And now here’s the real trick. Pick up the bag and turn it inside out and then pull out the magnet.

And what you end up with is all the shavings are trapped in the bag. Then you just wrap it up, toss it out.

Danny Lipford: We’re tackling some exterior maintenance chores this week with my old friend, Wiley Bullock. Yesterday, we cleaned his mildew-covered front deck, and prepared the foundation for a new retaining wall to corral some erosion. This morning, while the deck is drying, it’s time for the heavy lifting.

Hey, it took about a half a day for Wiley and I to get everything ready. The ditch dug, our foundation base material in place, and it tamped really well, so, now the fun part in being able to install the retaining blocks. And these will be real easy to install, and it’ll be a very attractive and permanent solution to the problem that Wiley’s been having.

These wall blocks come in different widths and thicknesses that allow you to create a pattern that’s a little more interesting than just one block over another. A lip on the back of each block helps position them so that they don’t topple over forward. And in between the courses, we’re applying landscape adhesive to avoid any shifting.

Allen Lyle: Oh, look at this. Daniel!

Danny Lipford: Just like my mama used to call me, “Daniel.”

Allen Lyle: I’m seriously going to knock you in the head if you keep doing that. Stop!

Danny Lipford: I’m backfilling.

Allen Lyle: Not yet! I need to be able to get to the back of these. Lord, that’s looking good. Who did this foundation?

Danny Lipford: Thank you. Thank you.

Allen Lyle: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: As you lay the first row, you may occasionally have to make a few adjustments to the base to stay on a level course.

Allen Lyle: Oh, so I was right on. Right on. Right on it!

Danny Lipford: That little hook on the back of it is perfect, when you think about the amount of pressure that you’ll have as far as the dirt and the water that can build up behind it.

And also this is kind of cool, because it’s not sealed up. Like, if you had a block wall, you’re just holding back all of that water. And there’s all kinds of problems. You’ll have the creation of efflorescence, that white, chalky material on the front of the block. This way, it leeches out just a little bit. Doesn’t make any deposit at all. And it’ll keep the pressure off the wall and it’ll end up looking great.

I’ll tell you what, a couple more hours, this thing will be ready for Wiley to take over on the landscaping. The progress speeds up and slows down depending on how many adjustments need to be made as the wall spreads out. The good thing about working with a friend is that you can make yourself at home when it’s time to break for lunch. You built all of this stuff?

Wiley Bullock: Yeah, I actually built it. I added on to it. Made it the size it needed to be to have people over.

Allen Lyle: And you have a bed?

Wiley Bullock: And I have a bed. I have a bed for the hard days.

Allen Lyle: Wait, a hard day for you is, like, two hours of work, six hours right here.

Wiley Bullock: Yeah, I know. I don’t know how I got that reputation. But I sure got it.

Danny Lipford: Once we go back to work, we get a clue about how Wiley got that reputation. While Allen and I were churning away on the wall… Wiley spends an awful lot of time taking phone calls.

Wiley Bullock: Business don’t stop!

Danny Lipford: Despite that slowdown, soon we’re putting the cap blocks in place. The pie shape of these things allow you to alternate the angles as needed to follow the curves of the wall.

You may need a few taps to the front and the back to straighten out the lines, but once that’s done, I can finally do the back-filling I’ve been waiting to do all day. Now, why are you sweating so much?

Wiley Bullock: Man, this is a lot of work right here, now. I tell you, it’s been an all day’s effort but it sure looks good, don’t it?

Danny Lipford: You sound like you did it all by yourself.

Wiley Bullock: Well, I did. You just showed up in front of the camera here, you know?

Danny Lipford: It does look good, though.

Wiley Bullock: Oh, I’m real happy with it. I like the top of the cap and of course the pattern is different, too.

Allen Lyle: Of course, we still got the deck. It’s dry, the sun’s moved out of the way, because we don’t want to put it on direct sunlight. So, it’s ready.

Danny Lipford: So, while I’m all alone with my back-filling, Allen and Wiley get started on the deck. This penetrating wood stain they’re using is from Flood, and in addition to protecting the wood from moisture, it also protects it from ultraviolet rays and sunshine. Kind of like a sunscreen for the wood.

Wiley Bullock: I like the natural look, you know?

Allen Lyle: Mmm-hmm.

Danny Lipford: Wiley has chosen a natural wood coater to contrast with the dark stain he used on the siding of his house.

Allen Lyle: So you actually had a lot of plants up here.

Wiley Bullock: I’ve killed a lot more than I have. I experiment, I guess, you know? I think I just like to plant stuff and dig it up the next year. The way it works out, but…

Danny Lipford: This stuff goes on almost white, but then quickly dries to a natural wood tone.

Wiley Bullock: If I painted for a living I wouldn’t make very much money. Especially because I probably would never finish a job.

Allen Lyle: So the referrals would be really few.

Danny Lipford: Once the edges and rails are cut in with a brush, the larger areas can be covered with a roller. Then they back-brush the stain to force it into the pores of the wood. While these two wrap up the deck, let’s check in with Jodi for this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: Okay, let’s talk a minute. You don’t have to do a major renovation in a room to get a fantastic look. You can just do very simple projects, say like hanging crown molding.

But in order to really do those projects quickly and efficiently, you need a pneumatic nailer. And chances are you’re going to also need to have a compressor and you’re going to need to have a hose. And instead of buying those things independently of each other, why don’t you get a kit?

Well, look right here. Porter-Cable has done just that. They’ve put this great little combo kit together. You’ve got a six-gallon air compressor, you have a 25-foot hose, and you’ve got this awesome pneumatic nailer. Now, this is a 16-gauge finish nail driver. It’s not a brad nail. So, this is a great gun to have in this kit.

So, whether you’re doing a small project, or you’re doing a large project, this is definitely the tool to have.

Now, it goes up to 150 PSI, so you can get a lot of punch when you’re working. If you dial it down to 90 PSI, then you get more of a continuous recovery so that you can move really quickly.

And what I like best about this is the price point. It’s very affordable.

Danny Lipford: This week, Today’s Homeowner is exploring some easy exterior upgrades. If the outside of your place could use a little sprucing up, you don’t want to miss this. Now, why are you sweating so much?

Wiley Bullock: Man, this is a lot of work right here, now.

Danny Lipford: So far this week, we’ve helped my old friend, Wiley, revive a wood deck on his home, and address some erosion problems with a brand new retaining wall. This house belongs to another friend who recently relocated and put his house on the market.

Well, I can see exactly what the realtor was talking about. It’s got all kind of damage around here.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, that’s what the potential homebuyer is going to see first and kind of scare him away.

Danny Lipford: But you know that cellular PVC that you got will be perfect for this. I think we’ve got enough to replace all of this.

Allen Lyle: I think so too.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, let’s do it.

Allen Lyle: All right.

Danny Lipford: Because this house has no overhangs and no gutters, these walls and windows get much more water than they deserve. So it’s no wonder his wood trim is rotting.

You know, obviously, these are not the original windows that were installed in this house. So, someone installed them at some point. And this is something that we see all of the time.

Check this out right in here, where they had the new framing that they established around the window, but then they had an opportunity to put insulation in here, there’s absolutely nothing in this cavity. And those little cavities around the windows can be the ones that really allow a lot of that air infiltration.

So what we’ll be able to do is put a little insulation in here, while we’re doing this replacement and that’ll help a lot in keeping the air out of the house. It’s something that’s so easy to do, and so many people neglect it.

Once we’ve filled that void, we can get busy creating the replacement pieces for this window trim, from our one by six cellular PVC trim boards. Oh, you’re using these little marks on there.

Allen Lyle: Yeah, I went with the little marks.

Danny Lipford: Really? Is that why those glasses are necessary? Or are those safety glasses? I assume, because you definitely wouldn’t wear those normally.

Allen Lyle: They are not eyeglasses, they are definitely plastic for safety.

Danny Lipford: All right. If you cut that piece off of there then we’ll have both those pieces.

Allen Lyle: Okay.

Danny Lipford: But I’m here if you need me.

Allen Lyle: I appreciate that.

Danny Lipford: Don’t get nervous. It ain’t good to be nervous around power tools.

Allen Lyle: You need to catch the other end of this, that’s what you need to do.

Danny Lipford: Oh, you want me to be your helper? The curve, or width of the saw blade, will waste an eighth of an inch on this one by six. But a one by six is actually only five and a half inches wide. So ripping off this three and five-eighths-inch piece will leave exactly the inch and three quarter inch piece we need for the cap.

You’ll notice the sawdust from this material is white. That’s because the color goes all the way through it. But, as you can see, it cuts and shapes just like wood, so anyone can work with it very easily.

We’re gluing and nailing the top piece and cap together before we install it, and, as you can see, it nails just like wood as well. The folks at Royal Building Products who make this stuff tell me that the only difference is that you need to pre-drill for nails when the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

That and the fact that cellular PVC will never rot and termites won’t eat it. And this water-prone application, that makes it the perfect material to solve this problem.

Allen Lyle: Here you go.

Danny Lipford: All right. Perfect. Now, you notice we’re using the smooth side on the cellular PVC material. And it also has a wood grain in case your house has a grain in the corner boards or around the window trim or fascia. It’ll work either way.

Some of the biggest enemies to the exterior finish on a home are mold, mildew, moss and algae. But you can get rid of them without scrubbing or pressure washing. This formula called Wet And Forget Outdoor works with the wind and rain to gently eliminate these growths over time.

It’s non-caustic, non-acidic, and contains no bleach, so it’s safe for any surface and for use around plants. There’s even an indoor formula to clean, deodorize and disinfect kitchens, baths and basements in one easy step

Allen Lyle: Hey, Danny, I had a thought.

Danny Lipford: What’s that?

Allen Lyle: I got some more of this cellular PVC in a crown mold.

Danny Lipford: Oh!

Allen Lyle: What do you think about dressing up around the outside of the house, too? Because that would really spruce it up.

Danny Lipford: Well, that looks a little odd that it has that offset like that. They used to do that in the older houses, but that should be perfect to tuck right under there. And just notch it right in.

Allen Lyle: Good point, yeah.

Danny Lipford: That’ll make a lot of difference.

Allen Lyle: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Sounds good. Royal makes this material in a variety of profiles, like this crown, which means you can use all kinds of applications in almost any architectural style. After a little caulk and putty for the nail holes, our work is complete.

Boy, our portable generator really saved the day for us today since this house has no power. But if you’re using a portable generator, a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure you’re nice and safe.

First of all, never use it in any enclosed area. Even a carport’s not a good idea because the carbon monoxide may find its way inside your house. And when you’re using it outside, like we are here, make sure that the adjacent window is closed.

Also, don’t overload it. Make sure you know exactly how much your generator can handle. Also, when it’s time to refuel it, make sure you turn your generator off, allow it to cool down a little bit before you add the extra gasoline.

Man, that looks a lot better. I’m a big fan of this trim.

Allen Lyle: Well, the trim’s going to outlast the house. Probably so.

Danny Lipford: Looks like we need a little painting on that siding, don’t you think?

Allen Lyle: Just a touch.

Danny Lipford: Robert writes, “How can I attach a wood handrail post to concrete?”

If you’re not as lucky as these homeowners and could mount your handrail post right down into the ground, then it’s a lot easier than you think to mount it to concrete.

This is one of the things that makes it really easy. It’s just a post bracket that attaches right to the concrete. Then you can put your post in place, even trim it out to make it look great.

How do you attach that to the concrete? Well, that’s pretty easy as well. It’s a lead anchor, basically a threaded sleeve, that you use a hammer drill and a sharp masonry bit to drill down into the concrete, you tap this in place.

Then, when you attach the bracket with your screws or bolts, it expands that lead anchor just a little bit and that’s where all of the strength comes in. And it makes it really easy to have a very strong post and one that will last for a long, long time.

Whether you’re trying to get your house ready to sell or simply trying to solve some nagging problems that have plagued your home’s exterior too long, you can see that there are some fairly simple ways to solve those problems with a little knowledge, the right tools and materials and some hard work.

Wiley’s certainly seeing the benefits now because he can now do the kind of outside work that he really loves.

Hey, the front deck, the wood up there looks so much better than it did before. You’ve got a few plants back up there. That looks pretty good.

Allen Lyle: And you have to admit, the new retaining wall makes a heck of a lot better statement than what you had.

Danny Lipford: Now, talking about a statement, I’m glad you brought that up, Allen. Because, we’ve got a few things here we want to go. It’s not cheap having Allen and I out doing the work. And, so there’s a few things there that we need to go over.

Hey, we hope you enjoyed this week’s show and seen some of the things that you can do on the exterior of your home. And I guarantee you, if you do it yourself, it won’t be as expensive as it’s going to cost Wiley.

Hey, thanks for being with us, I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.

Wiley Bullock: So, you got a second estimate?

Allen Lyle: How do I turn it on, Danny?

Danny Lipford: The button in the front there. You’ll be all right.


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