Vinyl siding is generally a maintenance-free exterior finish, but you can wash it occasionally with a mild detergent and a garden hose to remove dust. Do not use a power-washer as you can force water behind the siding and cause water damage.

Masonry refers to the stacking of bricks or stones bound together by mortar to create a wall. Clay bricks, concrete bricks, natural stone or many types of manufactured stone available on the market are used in masonry. Masonry veneer walls, a non-structural brick/stone wall laid in front of a structural wall, are made of brick or stone laid in a mortar bed and anchored by metal ties to the wood frame of the home.

The masonry limits the inward movement of moisture. An air space located behind the masonry prevents further absorption of moisture and allows air circulation for drying. Any moisture that does pass through the veneer is drained downward to the wall base where it’s redirected back to the exterior.

Do not allow snow to accumulate against a masonry surface. Sprinklers, especially automatic sprinkler systems, should never be directed against the wall surface. The volume of water a sprinkler projects against a wall, in even a short period of time, is significantly more than that of the most severe rainstorm.

You may notice empty vertical joints (no mortar in the seam) between adjacent bricks or stone units along the bottom row of masonry on a wall. Empty joints are not a builder oversight. Rather, they are called ‘weep holes,’ intentionally placed during construction to drain moisture from behind the masonry veneer to the exterior. Weep holes also help circulate air to evaporate moisture. Do not fill or block them. Planting beds should not cover masonry weep holes.

Hairline cracks between bricks or stones and mortar have little impact on a wall’s ability to manage water. However, loose bricks or stones and missing mortar should be repaired or replaced.

What are those white streaks on my home’s masonry?

Efflorescence is a mineral salt deposit, usually white in colour, which may develop on the surface of masonry. All masonry materials are susceptible to efflorescence. As water moves through the body of these materials, it will dissolve any available mineral salts. As the moisture evaporates at the surface, it will deposit these salts on the surface. The degree of efflorescence varies with the age of the finished surface, the type and colour of the cement materials, weather conditions and the availability of water and salt sources.

There are several potential sources of mineral salts. The most common source is the salt naturally present in cement-based construction materials that are not yet bonded by chemical reaction with the cement particles. The water used to mix cement-based materials may also contain salt. Tap water is usually low in dissolved salts but well-water can contain high concentrations.

To limit a significant salt source, avoid the use of de-icing salts adjacent to any masonry. Soil also provides a continuous supply of moisture and salts for absorption so avoid placing planting beds up to masonry.

Unless there is a source such as soil or de-icing salts present, efflorescence tends to lessen with the passage of time (1-2 years after construction) as the cement materials ‘purge’ themselves of salts.

Wood or composite wood sidings & trims

Wood siding and wood composite sidings and trims may require new primer and paint every few years. In Alberta, south and west facing exterior exposures will weather the most due to prolonged sun exposure.

Sealant is often applied where wood siding pieces join or where they butt up against a trim (e.g. at a window). Once a year, exterior sealant should be examined for voids and shrinkage that could allow wind-driven moisture into the wall cavity. Remove any defective caulking and replace it with a bead of high-quality sealant. Some silicone blends will accept paint. Read sealant tube labels carefully and follow directions.

Before you repaint wood siding or trim, examine the old paint for any patterns or discolouration that could indicate an underlying problem you should address prior to painting. Follow the advice of a reputable paint store for preparing and refinishing the siding or trim.

As a final note, when watering lawns, avoid excessive overspray on any type of exterior cladding.

Cement board sidings are made from a mixture of cement and wood fibres and come in planks, shingles and panels. Because this siding has a painted finish, you will need to repaint at some point. The life of your paint will depend on the colour, sun exposure and driving wind and rain. Consult the siding manufacturer before selecting a paint product.

If the exterior of your new home is finished with stucco, hairline cracks may appear in the finish coat. Minor cracking (hairline cracking) is expected with stucco surfaces and is most noticeable on smooth finish coats.

Do not wash your stucco with a high pressure spray or let your lawn sprinkler saturate the wall, especially within the first year of it being applied. Stucco is a porous material and water will eventually make its way behind it, accumulate and leak into the wall.

When exposed to water, especially a new stucco surface, the water may bring out salts contained in the stucco that have not yet had a chance to bond in the material. Like masonry, discussed on page 52, the salt appears as white streaks or spots on the wall. The salt can usually be removed with a brush.