The exterior of the home, because it is exposed to the elements, can sustain the most damage from the weather. Rain, high winds, and baking sun can damage the exterior walls, and if not taken care of as quickly as possible, can decrease the value of your home.
Wooden exteriors require the most maintenance. A painted wooden exterior should be repainted at least every 5 years to keep it in top shape. On a regular basis, look for other damage to exterior siding and trim, and inspect for insect damage or loose siding.
Split wooden siding can be repaired by easily by carefully opening the crack with a chisel to apply an all weather adhesive. Use a wood screw to hold the repair in position. You can also drive a nail part way into the board below the one being repaired to hold the repair in place. Remove the nail after the adhesive has had a chance to cure. If a board is beyond repair, there is more of a challenge, especially in older homes. Replacing a board can be tough, because finding a match at a local hardware is not always an option. A good wood working shop can correctly custom mill a siding board for you if your efforts to find a match are fruitless. In the meantime, remove a board from an inconspicuous place on the home, and make the repair to your siding. Remove the damaged area with a circular saw after removing all nails. Replace the removed area and insure that the fit is snug, nailing in place. Fill nail holes with caulk and paint to match.
To repair damage to stucco, use a cold chisel and hammer to remove the loose stucco from the wall. Blow out any dust from the removal process. Staple new wire mesh over any that has been damaged by the removal process. Now, spray the area with water. Mix the stucco patch compound according to label instructions, and apply to the area. If the area is larger than six inches, you will need to do this repair in two layers. Spread the first layer evenly over the wire mesh, insuring that the stucco works into the holes of the mesh for a better bond. Give the repair time to cure, and apply the second coat. Instructions on the package label should give you cure times. When the repair is finished, keep this area damp for at least four days. The key to a successful repair of stucco is matching the color, and allowing for proper cure time. Matching the color can be done by adding pigments to the final coat of the repair. Texture can be reproduced by adding sand or small pebbles, and recreating the texture with a trowel, brush or float.
Small defects in aluminum siding can be repaired easily. If there is surface scratches, apply a rust retardant metal primer to the area. When dry, apply acrylic house paint to match the area. If there is corrosion, buff the affected area with fine steel wool, prime with rust retardant metal primer, and when primer is dry, apply acrylic house paint to match.
Small dents, such as from a kid's baseball, can be repaired by first drilling a small pilot hole in the center of the dent, Screw a metal screw larger than the pilot hole into the siding, leaving enough screw to grasp with self locking pliers. Pull the dent out with the pliers, remove the screw, and apply two part auto body filler to the screw hole(S) with a spatula. When dry, sand with 120-grit sandpaper, and apply acrylic house paint.
Replacing large areas, such as places where wind damage has removed large sections of siding, is accomplished by first removing the damaged area. Make vertical lines on either side of the damaged area. Using a cordless drill, drill holes halfway down on the panel, and use tin snips to remove the lower half, leaving the upper half in place. Cut the replacement panel so that it is three inches longer than the original damaged piece. With tin snips, remove the slotted flange from the replacement strip. Using a polyurethane caulk, apply liberally to the upper half of the damages panel that you left in place. Slip the replacement siding into p[;lace over the damaged area, and snap into place. Prime the new siding and paint to match the original color.
Vinyl siding is much easier to care for than aluminum. The color of vinyl siding permeates the vinyl, and should be washed every other year with a laundry detergent or TSP to keep it looking new. It paints well, and two coats of acrylic house paint will cover it. Vinyl siding is subject to punctures and tears, and is replaced much the same as aluminum siding. You will need a zipper tool to remove the damaged siding. Unfasten the panel directly above the damaged panel with the zip tool to expose the nails holding the damaged area. Pry out the nails from the damaged panel and remove. Mark vertical lines on each end of the damaged area, and use tin snips or a sharp utility knife to remove the damaged section. Cut a new piece from the replacement panel at least two inches longer than the damaged area. On a corner, you only need an additional inch. Clip the top edge into place, nailing into the sheath with box nails, insuring that they penetrate at least one inch. Using the zip tool, lock the upper panel into place. Caulk the panel with polyurethane caulk to insure a good weather seal.
Because the home is your single most important investment, taking care of the exterior should be of highest priority.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.