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The reusable G-CLEAN bags are compact and space-saving. When mixed with water they fill up to 1 gallon of cleaning solution.

Sustainable Pressure Washing

The phrase sounds a bit forced. "Sustainable pressure washing." Sort of like attaching "green" to every verb or noun, slapping it on a product label and counting on undiscerning consumers.

But in this case, there's something to the claim. Green Earth Technologies has released a line of sustainable/reusable collapsible pressure washer cleaning solution bags, called their G-CLEAN line. Filled with biodegradable, ultra-concentrated detergent, the bags are lightweight, space-saving and free-standing. They can be placed on the ground or hung on the pressure washer and are filled with 12 ounces of detergent. Consumers need only add water to fill the 1 gallon bag. Each bag of detergent is good for a total of 21 gallons of mixed solution.

The product comes in three different lines: Siding & All Purpose Cleaner, Concrete Cleaner & Degreaser and Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. Bags of this stuff can be found at Home Depots across the nation.

And just in time for Spring Cleaning. Nice to see more Earth-friendly products hitting the shelves.

For those who aren't familiar with the practice of pressure washing, watch this How To Video on Pressure Washing for decks, concrete and siding to get the idea.

You'll also want to brush up on the importance of Routine Deck Maintenance and Sealing and Staining a Deck.

Best of luck out there with your spring cleaning chores. What's on your list of things to do?

Photo courtesy of Kebony ASA

Sugar-Coated Wood

Do you love the look and durability of tropical hardwoods but hate the idea of destroying the rainforest? The Norwegian based company Kebony has found a solution. Their "kebonization" process is a non-toxic treatment that gives softwoods that exist outside of the rainforest like maple and pine the strength of teak and ipe.

The kebonization process involves soaking the wood in furfuryl alcohol, a waste byproduct from sugar cane, that is completely non-toxic, unlike other pressure treating methods. The resulting wood can be used for siding, roofs and decking and is so strong the company claims roofs built using it can last 30 years.

Alas, the company has not yet opened an American office. Until then, the material must be imported from Europe. Kebony, come to the U.S.!

Keep the grill away from the house for happier vinyl siding.

Vinyl Siding: Served Medium Rare

Despite the pervasive “where did the summer go” question I hear at this time of the year, there’s still plenty of grilling yet to be done. If you’re lucky enough to live in more temperate areas -- or if a little snow and sub-zero temperatures don’t scare you -- you might be one of those grill owners who count the number of potential grilling days in the year at 365.

Whatever your grilling habits, here’s a piece of advice: Keep the grill away from the house. In a recent conversation with a local contractor I discovered that replacing melted vinyl siding was one of his most frequent jobs. Folks push their grill right up against the side of the house, where the 300+ temperatures do a warp-job on the heat-sensitive panels.

The Home Safety Council recommends placing the grill 10 feet away from other objects, including the house and bushes. While it might be tough for some homeowners to abide strictly by that rule, do yourself a favor and at least don’t push it flush with the side of the home. You’ll help keep your vinyl siding from looking like it belongs in a Van Gogh painting. So tell us: What's your worst grilling error?

Consider converting attic space into a bedroom to increase the resale value of your home.

Top 4 Homeseller Must-Do Makeovers

Preparing to sell your house can be an overwhelming time. One of the biggest worries is whether you'll get the sale price on your home. HGTV.com suggests four home updates every seller must do. They are:

1. Minor Bathroom Remodel
2. Siding Replacement
3. Minor Kitchen Remodel
4. Attic Bedroom

For each remodel, the article includes the cost of the project, the average resale value and the percentage of the cost recovered. Very useful information if you're considering a renovation and planning a future resale.

Why Not Use the Bark?

I'm a big fan of simple designs that fit the surroundings, which may be why I find siding made of bark so interesting. This style was quite popular in Appalachian mountain resorts at the turn of the century until the chestnut blight hit in the 1940s and the bark was no longer commercially available. A shame, too, because the bark siding was thick, rugged and gave buildings a rustic look. Now Highland Craftsman has reinvented this look using poplar bark, which is actually more durable than the original chestnut. The sample they sent me embodies the word "TOUGH." When properly installed, bark siding can last over 75 years and resist some of the toughest weather conditions found in America, all without chemical additives. This is green building at its finest. The bark used in producing the siding is normally discarded in conventional timber harvesting but, in this case, is reclaimed for use. The bark siding is kiln dried, resists infestations and meets the most stringent building code standards for flammability. Another plus, with bark shingles, there is no need for paint. Yay! There is a limited season for harvesting and production of bark shingles so customers are encouraged to plan ahead. Contact information for Highland Craftsman can be found on their web site. You can also call 828-765-9010 to request a sample and brochure, pricing information or place an order.

Trim can have sheen but what about shingles and clapboards? Trim can have sheen but what about shingles and clapboards?

To Shine or Not to Shine—the Siding Question

Staining the side of our house seems to be an ongoing process. Every year we attack more of it, catch up on some and give an extra dose of stain elsewhere. The challenge was compounded this year when we added an addition that blends new boards with existing 30 year old siding. Well, just try and match those colors! So, my husband has diligently added coat upon coat, returning to the store frequently for fresh gallons of stain. Last weekend, the same stain went on the house, but it had a shine to it. I freaked. What had changed in the formula? Can they change it without telling you? Of course, I thought, that's why they always advise you to buy enough for the job. Another thought: Could it be ponding on the surface or "flashing?" I'm not really sure where the answer lies. All I know is that I want it to dull out and look normal again. Experts promise that weathering will take the sheen away. I'm not at all sure, especially since it's never happened before. Any thoughts?

Update Your House with Bark Siding Update Your House with Bark Siding

Updated Tree House

Here’s a siding option that is starting to make a comeback—tree bark. Proponents of this exterior cladding applaud the way it reduces the visual impact of the home on the surrounding environment and its low-maintenance longevity—bark siding can last as long as 75 years. When harvested properly (without chemicals), bark is also an environmentally friendly product. Typically sourced from poplar trees, this by-product of the furniture and plywood industry would otherwise be discarded or turned into mulch. Opting to use it as siding helps make full use of trees are already felled for other purposes. Kiln-dried bark is apparently best, as the heat sterilizes the product against fungus and insects. Again—no chemical pesticides or fungicides used. Now before you go running off to find a local supplier, I suggest doing a little extra research. I’m not certain in what regions this siding performs best. The last thing a homeowner wants is a failing first-line of defense. Check out Highland Craftsmen’s website at www.barksiding.com for more info. This is the tree to bark up—they’ve been at it for years.

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