Everything is in a State of Decay

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Everything is in a state of decay. Those of us over the age of 40 know this all too well. In this article, though, I am specifically talking about the exteriors of built structures; siding, paint, roofs, metal, windows, doors, even concrete. While working in the construction industry for the last 20-odd years, I’ve seen countless repairs and replacements, most of which could have been prevented by proper maintenance. After running an exterior washing business for the last 11 years, I see daily the effects caused by not properly and routinely maintaining exteriors of residential and commercial structures. 

Much of the maintenance has to do with the timely, proper and safe removal of things that can promote biological growth. Mildew, fungi, algae, and others are catch-all phrases that describe biological growth. These are biological contaminants that grow everywhere and cause damage to almost all surfaces, especially when left untreated for long periods of time. Anywhere plant remnants are allowed to stay can cause rot, staining or decay by holding water on the surface or leaching tannins into the substrates. Much of the damage and decay can be prevented by simply sweeping off leaves and other plant debris from surfaces. Places commonly overlooked are window sills and places where things (almost permanently) sit, like grills and potted plants. It’s smart to pay attention to the most obvious places like patios, sidewalks, and driveways, as well. 

Another area of concern would be decks. Keeping decks clear of debris does wonders for preventing growth. The leaves, pine needles and other items sitting directly on decking (either wood or composites) allow moisture to sit on the wood. Leaves, pine needles (and even sticks) leach tannins, which stain many surfaces. When allowed to sit for a time, things sitting in direct contact with surfaces promote also speed up biological growth. At Pelican Exterior Washing, we recommend a periodic simple wash with an algaecide or fungicide. There are many chemicals that will do this, but simple household bleach is the most cost-effective and um, effective. Don’t fall for “Outdoor Bleach”, “Deck cleaners”, or any “set it and forget it” cleaning solutions. Most are expensive and the main ingredient is, you guessed it: Sodium Hypochlorite, (which is commonly known as household bleach.) Proper and scheduled maintenance can more than double the life expectancy of the surfaces, saving you thousands of dollars while maintaining a clean atmosphere. 

Another example is painted surfaces. Biological contaminants speed the decay of paint. The paint’s number one job is to protect the substrate’s surface, with aesthetics being secondary. Biological growth needs moisture. We almost always find that the sides with the heaviest accumulation of growth are the North and West-facing sides. Other factors that affect growth are shaded areas, shady trees and water sources like ponds or waterways. In the Lowcountry, we are in a subtropical, humid climate, so there is no way to prevent this growth. With proper maintenance cleaning, the growth, and subsequent decay, can be controlled and delayed. Generally, if you put off maintenance, you will have more expensive repairs later. Expensive projects like deck replacements, repainting your house and roof shingle replacement could be delayed for years with proper maintenance. 

Asphalt shingle roofing, painted wood and cement board, even aluminum gutters will succumb to damage, if not properly treated. Many people, (including me), put these simple maintenance issues on hold. Out of sight/out of mind is a problem, as is the “I’ve got better uses for my money now” attitude will cost (much) more money later. To be fair, I run an exterior washing company, Pelican Exterior Washing, in Charleston SC, and the roof and siding on my personal home need cleaning right now. 

The remedy? Simple: When you finish reading this article, take this simple step: schedule a walk-around of your property after work one day this week. Many people never see one or two sides of their house. For the higher areas, you can look out of your windows upstairs. A 5 min walk-around is all that is needed. When you complete your assessment, schedule for your exterior maintenance for the next available day. If washing your whole property is too much, break it up into chunks and schedule accordingly. If you don’t schedule it (and stick to it), it won’t happen. If it doesn’t happen, in the near future you’ll be looking to get a much more costly new paint job, gutter replacement or deck repair/replacement and you’ll know that 

it could have been prevented or delayed. If you think you can pass it onto the next buyer, beware; home inspections catch the repairs and you’ll get less for your home. 

A grand plan would be to schedule, once a year to do a walk-around and full assessment of your property, so you’ll know what’s going on with your home’s exterior. I suggest scheduling the assessment for the day before your birthday or New Year’s Day, (and include checking your smoke alarm batteries). 

If you can’t bring yourself to do the manual labor, (or simply don’t want to), hire a professional. I’ll post the following article about what to look for in hiring a professional service provider, being “exterior washing” specific. 

Hope this helps.