Exterior Home Improvement Ideas: Project Lists, Money Saving Advice, & Stress Reducing Tips

Couple completing home improvement project

When planning your yearly budget, you likely have a fund set aside for home improvement projects. But when it comes time to actually choose what projects you’ll do this year, how do you prioritize? With so many parts to a house, it can seem like the list of improvement (or even maintenance) projects is never-ending. To help you sort through that list, we’ve created a guide to exterior home improvement projects.

Remember: home improvement projects can be exciting. They don’t always have to be draining.

Yes, they are a lot of work, but they add value to your home, brightness to your living space, and overall peace of mind. To help you sort out the different projects, we are going to review the most common home exterior projects. We’ll also provide you with tips to keep each project simple, affordable, and high quality….but also stress-free.

The Three Types of Exterior Home Improvement Projects

Looking at this guide, you’ll soon notice that each project list follows a theme:

  1. Clean it
  2. Repair it
  3. Replace it

We’ve found that these are the three key types of home maintenance and home improvement projects. They also go in sequential order. If you keep an area clean, it won’t need as many repairs. And if you quickly do repairs before more damage occurs, you can wait longer to replace the whole thing. Maintenance is the key to lengthening the lifespan of each part of your home. The longer something lasts, the more money you save.

At the same time, we know it’s impossible to keep everything perfectly clean. If the dishes are clean, the laundry is dirty. If the driveway is sealed, the gutters are clogged. Yes, in an ideal world, you’d perfectly maintain each part of your home. But life is busy. Money is tight. We can’t stay on top of everything.

With that in mind, as you read this guide and prep your budget, we have one recommendation.

Pick what’s most important to you and most pressing to protect your home, and set the rest aside until next time. Then, if you have the extra money in your home improvement budget come the end of the season or year, you can do one of two things. Either use it to clean or repair another part of your home, or set it aside for any upcoming larger projects (like a gutter replacement).

Exterior Home Improvement Ideas

Roofing

exterior home improvement idea: roof cleaning

Your roof is one of the largest parts of your house. In fact, unless it’s completely flat, your roof most likely has more square footage than your house does. It also keeps everything inside your house protected and dry.

Roofing Projects

1. Roof Cleaning

The easiest way to keep your roof clean is to clean it at the same time as your gutters. In most cases, all you need to do is gently clear any debris off the roof with a leaf blower. In other instances, if you live in a humid, tree-covered area, you may need to hire someone to wash the roof. This protects against (or removes) moss and algae on the roof that would otherwise weaken your shingles. When washing your roof, be sure to use a gentle, bleach-free solution, and avoid power washing as it can cause roof leaks.

2. Roof Repair or Tune-Up

Just like everything else in your home, your roof needs repairs and maintenance to last its full lifespan. If you notice missing or lifted shingles, odd-looking areas, or water intrusion in your house, call a local roofing contractor to inspect the roof and provide a repair estimate. Consider having a roof tune-up done every 8-12 years to replace pipe boots, replace any damaged shingles, and caulk exposed nail heads. This will keep your roof watertight and help it last longer.

3. Roof Replacement

Most roofs last an average of twenty years. However, if you have a quality roofing system that you keep well-maintained (and no major storms hit), it could last much longer. Keep an eye on your roof from year to year, and pay attention to how the shingles look. Check for damaged flashing, missing or damaged shingles, algae growth, and missing granules. Once your roof hits the 17 or 18-year mark, start setting aside money in preparation for a roof replacement.

Gutters

Clogged gutter

Now, let’s talk gutters. Gutters are not the largest part of your house, but they do protect almost every single part of your home from water damage. As gutters direct water away from the home, they keep it from entering the roof, siding, windows, driveway, and foundation.

So, let’s go over the different types of gutter projects.

Gutter Projects

1. Gutter Cleaning

We recommend inspecting your gutters for debris at the end of each season. If your gutters (or roof) contain debris, then clean them. By waiting until the end of each season, you’ll know everything that would fill the gutters has already fallen. No one wants to clean their gutters only to see them fill up again within a few weeks.

Side note: if you live in an area with high tree coverage, you might still need to clean them twice in the fall to prevent clogging.

2. Gutter Repair

A few times a year on a rainy day, take a short walk around your property to check on the gutters. Are there any leaks, missing pieces, or overflowing areas? Does every downspout direct water away from the house?

For leaky areas, unless your gutters are extremely old, you can simply clean the area and apply some gutter caulk. If there is an overflowing area, you can reference our guide to gutter overflow to determine the issue. Finally, if you notice your downspouts are draining water right by the foundation, consider adding a splash pad or extension hose.

For more information, you can learn about different types of gutter repairs here.

3. Gutter Replacement

The average aluminum gutter system lasts 20-25 years. After that point, the gutters can start to deteriorate and develop leaks throughout the system that caulking won’t fix. If your gutters are 20+ years old, consider having a professional inspect your gutters to see when they need to be replaced.

Siding

Peeling siding

Siding projects vary depending on the type of siding you have (wood, vinyl, aluminum, fiber-cement, or stucco). In the Raleigh Triangle Area, most homes have vinyl or fiber cement siding. Just like your roofing and gutter systems, siding needs regular cleanings as well as some repairs and, eventually, replacement.

Siding Projects

1. Cleaning

For vinyl siding, experts recommend cleaning it every 2-3 years. However, if you live in a shady, windy, or humid area, it may need more frequent cleanings. You can either have general power washing done or you can have soft pressure washing. We recommend using a cleaning solution appropriate for your style of siding in order to kill any mold or algae. There are many different store-bought and homemade solutions available depending on both the type of siding and how dirty your siding is.

2. Repairs

If you have wood or fiber-cement siding, the siding can begin to accumulate water damage and rot over time. However, some sections age quicker than others depending on how much water runs over the siding. Areas near the gutters and rooflines are especially prone to wood rot. In those instances, you can save money by only having sections of your siding replaced rather than your entire home.

3. Painting

Over time, siding can start to fade from sunlight or develop permanent stains. If you have wooden or fiber cement siding, the paint can begin to peel and chip over time. Or maybe you just bought a home, and you hate the color. All are viable reasons for repainting your siding. We recommend selecting a paint that is extremely weatherproof.

4. Replacement

Finally, you have the full replacement project. Each siding material has a different lifespan. Not only that, your siding could last longer (or less long) depending on maintenance and climate. Wood siding can last anywhere from 15-40 years; vinyl siding lasts 20-50 years; and fiber cement siding lasts 25-40 years.

For homes with wood and fiber-cement siding, our technicians start to notice moderate to significant wood rot after the home hits the 20-year mark.

Windows

Window with rain droplets

Similar to siding, window frames can be made from vinyl, aluminum, or wood. In some instances, they’ll be made of fiberglass. While windows do not require as much maintenance as other parts of your exterior, it’s still a good idea to inspect them annually for any issues.

Window Projects

1. Maintenance

There are a few areas of the window that could require maintenance. Check the areas with caulking to make sure the caulking is still there and intact. Otherwise, the areas may need to be recaulked. Secondly, keep the window tracks clean so the windows won’t stick. Lastly, check your window screens for any rips or punctures. Most areas have a local shop that can repair window screens.

2. Replacement

Like everything else, windows do not last forever. If you have older wooden windows with one pane of glass, you may want to do a window replacement to improve your home‘s insulation. Otherwise, depending on the material, windows can last an average of 15-50 years. A few signs your windows are aging include cracked windowpanes or frames, fogged glass, soft frames, windows sticking, drafty rooms, and high energy bills.


By this point, you’re probably thinking, “Man, do I just need to replace the entire exterior!?” We totally get it. Home maintenance can be expensive. And, in the end, no part of a house lasts forever. However, by following these maintenance practices and keeping on top of maintenance, you will extend the life of your house. Not only that, you’ll have the knowledge needed to accurately plan ahead for larger replacement projects.

To finish, let’s go over some ways to save money and reduce stress as you choose and tackle different home improvement projects.

How to Save Money

  1. Do your research, and hire a quality, local home improvement contractor.
  2. DIY the cleaning and caulking projects.
  3. When it comes time for a replacement project, have a storm inspection done to see if insurance might cover the project.
  4. Ask your contractor if they have any discounts or referral programs.
  5. Install gutter guards to protect your gutter system from damages and reduce gutter cleanings.

Ways to reduce stress

  • Decide what matters most in this season, and set the rest aside.
  • Hire out the work that drives you crazy.
  • Get the right equipment for DIYing.
  • Do some research and learn how to DIY the right way.
  • Get the family involved (unless that itself would be stressful; we know how it can be).
  • Hire out the professional work to a local, quality company with their own crew and good warranties.
  • Keep 2 house budgets: one for maintenance, and one for upgrades.
  • Be okay with leaving some things unfinished.

Remember that exterior renovation projects have a great return on investment for your home‘s value. Each exterior home improvement project also increases your home‘s overall curb appeal. Furthermore, by doing routine maintenance, you’ll make each part of the exterior last as long as possible.

We wish you luck on your home improvement projects! Stay tuned for our next post where we’ll provide you with a free seasonal home maintenance checklist.

Want to hire out the work that drives you crazy? Click here for a free gutter cleaning estimate, and click here for a free roof estimate from our sister company, Artisan Quality Roofing.