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During the Thaw: Maintenance Tips for Exterior Surfaces from Milwaukee/NARI

Feb. 26, 2013

As old man winter teases us about releasing his hold, it’s important to remember that taking care of your home is a full-time, four-season job. And that means staying on top of things, even during winter. Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 51 years, recommend the following maintenance tips as we experience a thaw or two, and dream about spring.

Driveway
“When it comes to driveway maintenance, shovel regularly and don’t allow the water to seep into the concrete to freeze and cause breaking,” said Lawrence Brinkman, President of Dornbrook Construction in Wauwatosa. “Remove all snow and ice right away after a snowstorm, especially on any north facing concrete driveways or sidewalks,” he adds. Daytime sunshine and then freezing temperatures overnight create a freeze/thaw cycle that will eventually break the surface. “In addition, bent or worn metal shovels, and any other sharp metal object used to break up ice, can tear up a concrete surface. Therefore, it is better to use plastic shovels,” said Brinkman.

De-icing agents containing Ammonium Nitrate, Ammonium Sulfate or Magnesium Chloride attack concrete chemically and cause damage over and above the effects of freeze/thaw cycles. Rock salt (Sodium Chloride) or Calcium Chloride are a better choice as they will do less damage, but they have drawbacks as well and can harm vegetation and corrode metal.

Garage Floors
“Just like the driveway, it is important to keep concrete garage floors clean and free of water, salt, etc.,” said Brinkman. Many pros will actually recommend that, in this climate, you don’t park your vehicle in the garage because of the constant freeze/thaw that goes on, with the added bonus of road salt to eat away the floor. However, not many of us have that luxury. Therefore, once the garage floor is dry, Brinkman recommends vacuuming the debris with a shop vac or old vacuum. “Then mop the floor with a solution of liquid dish soap, laundry detergent, or vinegar with water. Afterwards, dry it with a dry mop or cloth so nothing else freezes,” adds Brinkman.

Protective finishes for garage floors have their pros and cons, but most will tell you that because there is a lot of important prep work before you even get to the application, it is smarter to let a pro install one. These can vary from epoxy compounds to mats or tiles. If you go the epoxy route, many also recommend sand be placed in the mix as it’s applied for traction.

Wood decks
“If you have a wood deck, or even a synthetic deck, try and avoid shoveling the snow off,” said Randy Miller, owner of Allrite Home & Remodeling, Inc., in Milwaukee. The deck was built with plenty of strength in mind and the weight of the snow should not damage it (heat and dryness are actually worse). If you must, try a broom first, or shovel with a plastic shovel parallel with the deck boards. “Never chop ice off your deck, and never put salt on a wood deck,” said Miller. Prevention is better, so seal/repair when weather permits during warmer months, and be sure that no nail or screw heads are sticking up come fall. In fact, Miller recommends a synthetic material over wood, for “they are maintenance free, including requiring no staining.”

Roofs
Of course, the best way to care for your roof is to have bi-annual inspections. During the winter, just like everything else, snow and ice is the enemy. “Ice dams can form when snow is not removed and it later begins to melt, and then re-freezes at night. This makes a dam and blocks runoff, weakening shingles and can cause leaks. Therefore, we recommend that you purchase a roof rake and use it after every storm,” said Miller. Another option for chronic problem areas is heat tape, applied in a zig-zag pattern, to promote drainage. Ventilation and proper insulation can also can be huge a factors, so be sure your inspections include an assessment of these as well.

“People forget that gutters are a critical component of draining water off your roof, and more importantly, away from your home,” Miller said. Icicles, while pretty, can cause serious damage and should gently be removed. They can bend or even collapse a good working gutter system. Gutter covers are an option, but simply paying attention and keeping your gutters clean and working will pay off. In addition, keep an eye on downspouts, as they can blow off or bend during storms and cause serious issues. “Remember, you never want a downspout facing a neighbors house and they should be three- to five-feet long to route water away from your home. Keep an eye on these and be sure their drainage path is also free and clear,” said Miller.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 750 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.

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