There are simple, economical ways to add color and interest that will instantly boost curb appeal. You can clean your fence, mailbox, door and house numbers, hang window boxes packed with colorful flowers and plant ground cover under trees. But if you want to take a deeper dive into dressing up your home’s exterior – and save money by doing it yourself – read on.
Walk across the street and take a good look at your home and yard. What are your first impressions? There’s always a little room for improvement. We suggest four tasks to boost curb appeal: Cleaning, Painting, Pruning and Repairing.
Clean the Gutters
Gutters clogged with leaves, mud, twigs and trash cause dirty water to overflow and stain the siding, so 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.
This is also a good time to see what kind of shape your gutters are in. Check if your drainage system shows any signs of corrosion. Look for holes or leaking joints and check for loose, missing or bent gutter hangers.
Use a gutter scoop to remove compacted debris. Attach a bucket to your ladder with a wire hook for more efficient collection. 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.
Be careful when working on a ladder. For reaching high areas, you may want to invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer.
Clean the Siding
Clean the exterior of your home. A pressure washer will provide the 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. Wash from the bottom to the top to avoid staining.
TSP is highly corrosive, so be very careful when working with it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear old clothing and gloves.
Wash the Windows
Wash windowsills and frames with mild detergent and water before you begin cleaning the glass. Clean the windowpanes using professional-strength glass cleaner and a large squeegee. Start at the top and work your way down to prevent drips. 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. Clean the outside from left to right and the inside from top to bottom to help you to see which side the streaks and smudges are on. To avoid streaks, don’t clean windows when the sun is shining on them.
Maintain Your Landscaping
Your plants, shrubs and flowerbeds need regular trimming, weeding, raking and mulching. 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).
If your grass looks unhealthy, bring it back to its full, green lushness by fertilizing, and reseeding any thin or dead patches. When adding fertilizer, carefully read product instructions before applying.
If reseeding, use a hand rake to loosen and turn over the soil. This allows the soil to receive more oxygen and water. Or use an aerator to thoroughly stir around the loose soil to prepare it for fertilizer, seeds and water. Water the area, giving it a good, long soaking. Spread fertilizer and 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 blends in with the rest of the lawn.
Add hay or straw mulch to facilitate sprouting, particularly on sloping areas. This helps prevent soil erosion and cuts down on watering. However, don’t use too much mulch. The more you use, the more likely you are to get weeds.
Don’t start mowing until the new grass is about 1½" tall.
Fix Driveway Cracks
Is your driveway fading, or cracking and crumbling? Patching cracks in asphalt and concrete driveways will prevent water seepage and further cracking. You can find everything you need at your local True Value hardware store. Whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, before you patch, wash it with a pressure washer and 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 contain 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 Your Front Door or Entryway
An updated front door and entryway instantly upgrade the look of your home. If your door is dirty but in good shape, a thorough cleaning, refinishing, staining or painting often does the trick. Read Update Your Entryway for more tips and advice on refreshing your front entryway.
Fix Window Screens
Check your window screens for damage. 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 unused old window or door screen, you can cut a patch from it. If not, your local True Value hardware store will have replacement screening. While it’s possible to repair the screen while it’s still in the window, it probably will be easier to remove the screen from the window, or take a sliding 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, weave the loose strands through the screen and then bend the strands on the other side to secure the patch to the screen with needle-nose pliers. Once the patch is on, you can add a touch of clear adhesive for even more stability.
If the hole is more than about 3” wide, you’re better off replacing the screen. You can purchase a roll of screening and other tools for the job at your local True Value hardware store.
You’ve worked hard and now your home and yard look awesome. Well done!
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.