Power wash siding
When dirt, mildew and tree sap accumulate on siding, it's time to give your house a good washing. By keeping the siding clean, dry and free of dirt, you'll prolong the life of the siding and reduce the need to paint it. You can hire a house cleaning service to do the job, or rent a power washer for the day (or two, depending on the size of your house), and do the job yourself.

You'll find house cleaning services listed in the Yellow Pages and online at contractor referral services. You may receive a mailer from local companies offering their services, which usually include cleaning siding and decks with a pressure washer. A service will typically charge $872 to clean the exterior of a 1200-square-foot house. You can rent a power washer for $160 a day and do the job and save 82 percent. A popular size power washer is rated 1,200 psi, which means it delivers 1,200 pounds per square inch of water and detergent. The unit has a wand with an adjustable spray nozzle that attaches to a garden hose. In addition to the washer, you need a sturdy ladder long enough to reach the high point of your house, a garden hose and drop cloths to protect the shrubbery. If you have a two-story house, you will probably have to rent scaffolding to safely reach the second floor.

Get specific operating directions from the rental center about the kind of cleaning solution and how much of it to use. For the best results, begin washing on the shady side of the house, following the sun, so it doesn't dry too quickly. And keep the wand moving so streaks of dirty water won't stain the siding. For safety's sake, consider wearing safety glasses with a cord control.

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Pro Cost -- DIY Cost -- Pro time -- DIY Time -- DIY Savings -- Percent Saved

$872 -- $160 -- 13.2 -- 15.0 -- $712 -- 82 Percent