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A brick house is a strong house. Just ask the Three Little Pigs! But if you want those bricks to look good and stay in good shape, you’ll want to try some or all of these tips.

Start with a clean surface. A power washer is a good choice for cleaning a brick exterior. Make sure you are careful not to cause damage to wood trim, glass windows or other vulnerable areas. Make sure that water doesn’t leak into the house as you work.

Take out your notepad and do a walk-around and note areas that need to be spot cleaned, have loose mortar, cracked bricks or mortar, missing caulk and things like that.

Mildew spots can be removed with a mixture of bleach and water. If you can cut branches back to let the sun in, perhaps you can avoid some of the mildew. A sealer will help prevent more from coming back, too.

Cracks in mortar or loose mortar should be replaced right away. Remove loose mortar and install new. Mortar repair is easiest to install with a caulking gun, but larger quantities are available for larger areas. Make sure not to seal up weep holes, which are located around the base of the walls.

Cracked bricks can be sealed back up with regular exterior caulk. You might even be able to find a matching color if you do some shopping around. If the brick needs to be replaced, you can use a masonry bit on your drill to drill a series of holes, around the brick, through the mortar, then chisel it out. Butter the brick with new mortar and push it into place. Smooth the mortar and make sure it fills the joint and looks similar to the rest of the mortar joints.

Caulk areas where other materials join the brick to seal up seams.

You can apply a water seal to the whole brick siding to add more protection, if you want to.

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Q: I know I need to renovate my white kitchen, but I’m on a budget and not ready to pull the trigger on it yet. I do, however, need to clean and refill some of the grout joints in my tile countertops. What should I use for this? – H.C.

A: Start with bleach and water (half and half) to clean and sterilize the grout. Use a grout saw to remove the really badly stained areas or areas that are cracked or damaged. Then just refill the joints with new grout. After it’s all clean and dry, use a grout sealer. Most are applied with a small paint brush. The material needs to be wiped off the tiles if it goes over the edges on them. Then give it plenty of time to cure – overnight, in most cases. You may want to do this every year or until they are replaced. This is also a great way to keep bathroom tiles cleaner longer, too.

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Has your water pressure dropped off through the years, especially your hot water? Many times this is due to a buildup of mineral deposits in your plumbing system. There’s a little trick you can play with a dime on your pipes to clear out some of these deposits. I’ve written the steps down so that you can try this yourself. With any luck at all, you’ll improve your water pressure and you’ll even get your dime back! This information and more is available on www.thesuperhandyman.com. Check it out!

Shoptalk

Valspar makes a spray paint for appliances. It’s quick and easy to use, is scratch- and stain-resistant, and comes in white, almond, black and even stainless steel colors. So, if your appliances don’t match or are just scratched or ugly, you can paint them to give them a whole new look in just a day. It’ll take a few thin coats for the best coverage, but is simple enough for most of us to tackle. Check it out at www.valsparpaint.com or at your hardware or paint store.

Got a question or a handy tip? Visit www.thesuperhandyman.com. Those of general interest will be used in future columns.