How to Maintain and Repair 7 Common Home Exteriors

Maintaining your home's exterior is important. Here's how to maintain and repair seven of the most common exterior types.

Your home’s exterior is visible to everyone, so you want to keep it looking like new. To do that, fix the little things. Doing so will protect your home, keep it looking sharp, and avoid big problems requiring major work.

Meet the Expert

Courtesy Aaron OuelletteCourtesy Aaron Ouellette

Aaron Ouellette is the production manager at Stinson Services, a Minnesota-based roofing and exterior company.

Replacing Pieces of Vinyl and Steel Siding

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To replace a piece of vinyl siding, you’ll need to expose its nailing flange, which is done easily with an inexpensive siding removal tool.

Working on the panel above the one you need to remove, slide the hook of the tool under the panel’s bottom edge to disengage the clip holding the pieces together. Then slide the tool along the whole piece. Now you can lift that bottom edge, see the nailing flange and remove all the nails that hold the cracked piece in place.

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After removing the cracked piece, put the new piece in place, snapping its bottom edge onto the piece below it to lock them together. Then nail the new piece into place. Snap the bottom edge of the piece above your new piece onto the new piece, and you’re done.

Vinyl Siding Maintenance

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The least expensive option, vinyl siding can last 30 or more years with minor maintenance needs and occasional cleaning. It doesn’t dent or scratch but can crack if struck or hit by hail.

To clean vinyl siding, wipe it down with detergent, then spray it with a hose. Try to avoid pressure-washing any exterior. If your vinyl siding cracks, it’s a relatively easy fix, and a new panel typically costs less than $10. Of course, you’ll need to know the exact brand and color to get a good match.

Steel Siding Maintenance

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Like vinyl siding, steel can last 30 or more years with little maintenance. Unlike vinyl, steel may need repainting. Steel siding doesn’t crack like vinyl, but hail and the neighbor kid’s baseball can dent it.

Metal siding is installed like vinyl, but replacing a panel involves more work. You can’t just lift the panel above the damaged one to get at the nailing flange because metal doesn’t bend like vinyl. To get to a damaged piece, remove all the panels above it, then replace them in order after you replace the damaged panel.

Vinyl and Metal Siding Pricing

A price range includes old siding removal and new house wrap. Price also depends on the color, since light colors are less expensive than dark. Other notables are the lengths of warranties that contractors supply to property owners, which can increase the average price.

Vinyl siding

  • $700 to $1,000 per square for thin vinyl (0.042 in.);
  • $800 to $1,200 per square for medium vinyl (0.044 in.);
  • $900 to $1,400 per square for thick vinyl (0.046 in.).

Metal siding

  • $1,300 to $1,600 per square.

Like roofing, siding is priced by the square, which is 100 sq. ft.

Replacing Lap Siding Boards

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Sometimes you need to remove all the boards above the damaged lap siding. But with a little ingenuity, you can usually avoid that.

To remove one piece, pull all the nails securing it. If the top nails are underneath the panel above the one you’re replacing, gently pry that board up to access all the nails in the damaged board. If this isn’t possible, use an oscillating multi-tool to cut out the damaged piece. If the board is face-nailed as shown, cut the nails using an oscillating multi-tool.

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Slip the new board into position. Make sure it’s aligned with the adjacent pieces, then nail it into place.

If you’ve just slightly pried up the piece above it, you won’t have enough access to hammer nails at the top of the new piece. In this case, face-nailing through both pieces is the only option. Fill any nail holes with exterior putty and repaint to match.

Wood Siding Maintenance

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Properly maintained wood siding can last 20 or more years. But it demands more maintenance than other types of siding — you’ll need to paint or seal the wood every four to six years. Wood siding is also the least energy efficient. Because it’s a natural material, it’s susceptible to moisture, can turn brittle as it ages, and also cup or warp from seasonal moisture changes.

Cedar Lap: The price range includes old siding removal and new house wrap. The low-end price doesn’t include trim around windows and doors. The cedar market fluctuates quite a bit throughout the seasons.

  • $1,700 to $2,000 per square.

Engineered Wood Siding Maintenance

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Engineered wood siding, such as LP, is one of the most durable options, lasting about 25 years. If this type of siding gets scratched or dented, you don’t need to replace the whole panel. Just fill the damage with exterior putty and paint it to match.

Engineered wood siding requires minimal maintenance, except for cleaning and repainting as needed. The wood fibers have an insect repellent to prevent damage from pests.

In my opinion, this type of siding is stronger than fiber cement siding when it’s installed correctly, and when the corners and edges are well painted. You can easily replace a panel that’s beyond repair.

Fiber Cement Siding Maintenance

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Fiber cement siding, such as Hardie Board, lasts about 25 years with minimal maintenance when properly installed. But it does require regular painting and is more susceptible to cracking than engineered wood siding. A cracked piece can’t be repaired, so you’ll need to replace it.

Because of its rigidity, fiber cement siding is more difficult to replace than wood or engineered lap siding without nailing through the visible surface. But the replacement procedure is the same.

Engineered wood and fiber cement siding: Price range includes removal of old siding and new house wrap. The low-end price represents primed LP/Hardie installation without trim; the high-end, prefinished siding with trim around windows and doors.

  • $1,350 to $1,800 per square.

Brick Maintenance and Repair

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Whether your house has structural brick or brick veneer, pay close attention to the mortar joints.

As with stucco, keep a close eye on the mortar and fix little problems in mortar before they become big problems. Once things get bad, call a pro. They’ll charge $25 to $30 per linear foot of mortar joints.

Fortunately, taking care of little areas is easy. All you need is a bag of mortar mix and a couple of inexpensive masonry tools.

Clean out any loose mortar. If some areas show cracks but not loose material, use an angle grinder with a diamond wheel to remove the cracked mortar. A grinder is a better choice than a masonry chisel. The chisel creates more vibration, which can result in further cracking!

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Mix a small batch of mortar and slide it into the cleaned joints using a tuck-pointing trowel.

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When the mortar just begins to harden, dress the joints using a brick jointer sized to suit your mortar joints. By pressing the mortar firmly against the adjacent bricks, you’re making the mortar surface more impervious to moisture.

Repairing Cracks in Stucco

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Stucco can last 30 or more years, and it’s the most energy-efficient option. Its longevity depends on patching holes or cracks immediately, painting the stucco regularly and cleaning. Again, pressure-­washing vinyl is not recommended. Use detergent and rinse it off with a ­garden hose.

With stucco, you need to be vigilant about checking for cracks. Even small cracks allow moisture to seep in, creating bigger problems down the road. You can fill those little cracks easily, and your work will hardly be noticeable.

Specially formulated stucco patches, available at home centers, or closely matching caulk can do a lot to hide cracks. Once cracks are wider than 1/8-in. or so, you’ll find it difficult to hide them, and getting paint to match perfectly is hit or miss. If your stucco has lots of cracks or cracks wider than 1/8-in., call a pro.

To seal hairline cracks, simply apply the stucco patch or caulk. Avoid spreading the material beyond the area of the crack.

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Use your finger to press the patch material into the crack. Your finger is soft and can press the material down into the stucco’s texture, making the patch less visible.

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Brad Holden
As deputy project editor for Family Handyman, Brad has seen and done pretty much everything around home repair and DIY projects. His experience with tools, plans and projects gives him a voice of authority with anything from plumbing to furniture building.