Spring is an active time in the Hamptons. As the days warm up and the snow melts away, many people are anxious to turn on their outdoor showers and open their swimming pools. While all of these seasonal preparations are exciting, there are also many important preventative maintenance items that are often overlooked or ignored. Like a car that sits in the garage for too long without being driven, a house needs special care after a long winter sitting vacant in our harsh local environment.
Without performing regular maintenance on the various components of your home, you will unnecessarily spend your time and money repairing or replacing things long before the end of their planned life cycle. Over the years as a professional estate manager, I have found that clients are more than willing to do the overt things like replacing the air filters, mulching the landscape beds or changing the smoke detector batteries. But one of the most overlooked items is the exterior maintenance of the house.
Moisture is woods’ kryptonite. Elevated moisture levels in wood accelerate rot and decay, as well as promote various types of spore growth such as algae, mold or mildew.
Some wood products, such as cedar shingles and ipe decking (a tropical hardwood material pronounced E-pay), are designed to be left unfinished. These woods are naturally resistant to water absorption, which is why they are used for these applications. However, if these unfinished wood products are in constantly damp areas, spore growth can quickly take over. These colonies of spore growth should be treated with a special cleaner that kills the spore (not bleach as many people believe) and washed away at the first sign of green or black discoloration. High pressure “power washing” can make the spores airborne where they can spread and can also damage the grain on the wood surface. Heated, low pressure water should be used instead. Additionally, low hanging branches and climbing vines that create excessive shade and block sunlight and air flow should be trimmed back away from your house. Keeping the wood surface dry is the first line of defense against all types of spore growth.
Other types of wood used on the outside of your home such as the less expensive, softer wood used for the soffit, fascia and trim, must to be protected from the elements. Most wood products used in local construction are kiln dried to a moisture content lower than what can be achieved by air drying. This means that once this wood is installed on the house, if it absorbs any moisture, it cannot be dried back to the kiln levels. Painting this trim helps seal the wood and protect it from this moisture. However, the salt in the air eats away this paint over time. Thin areas and chips in the paint should be touched up each spring so that no raw wood is exposed. And all unfinished decks should be cleaned and sealed annually with a product specifically designed for the higher traffic deck application.
The small incremental cost of maintaining your home’s exterior will keep your house rot free. Properly maintained wood can last many decades without replacement.