Home Improvement

Ask the Remodeler: Renovating? You should start here.

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Q. We have a 1965 split-level home that we added a bedroom, bath, and study to in 1993. This addition included replacing all of the windows and the roof. These, and other parts of the home, are showing their age now. In which order should we replace the following things: the roof, the insulation, the windows, and the siding (the original aluminum)?


A. You always want to start with the exterior, going from the roof down. Think like a raindrop, as the saying goes in construction. Siding and windows often go together, but if you had to choose, do the windows first. You should address the insulation after you have secured your home’s exterior envelope.


Q. We live in a small 55-plus condo community. The units are 4 to 10 years old. We have lichen growing on the north-facing sides of most of our 11 duplex buildings. Some patches are already as large as a dime! Maintaining the outsides of the buildings is the responsibility of the board of trustees, but since we’re a new community, there’s not a lot of discretionary money available yet. What can we do? Because the lichen is unsightly, we unit owners are doing our best to clean the vinyl siding on our own, but that can be difficult for people our age. The end walls are at least 25 feet high. Is there some way to remove the lichen without having to climb a ladder? Is the lichen damaging the vinyl? Is there something we can do to keep it off once we get rid of it?

M.H. and A.H., Ashburnham

A. I definitely would not recommend that you get up on a ladder. You could pool your money and buy a pressure washer that has a long reach. There are hose attachments that will hold a cleaning solvent that will also give you a 20- to-30-foot reach, depending, of course, on your water pressure. The key here is to get a cleaning solvent with a mildewcide or bleach in it and use that regularly. Don’t wait until the problem becomes unmanageable and the siding needs more than a bleach bath. Something else to consider is to hire a reputable painting company to come by at least once a year to do a quick power-wash. This is a very simple exercise that is not as costly as it sounds, and the company will take precautions to ensure that the pressure-washing is done so that the water doesn’t get behind the vinyl.


Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing.


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