Easy Tips for Improving the Curb Appeal and Safety of Your Home


Three things even non-DIYers can do to fix the uglies

By Bob Wilkes, Chief Engineer, Mechanical Systems

Keeping the exterior of your home in great condition does more than improve its appearance. As engineer and entrepreneur Bob Wilkes explains, it also can help prevent safety hazards and expensive repairs. Thankfully, there are simple repairs that anyone can do to save money and upgrade your home’s curb appeal.   

  • Paint your home’s trim with a light color. “A fresh coat of paint is relatively inexpensive and is one of the fastest ways to increase its curb appeal. But the sun fades paint colors. You don’t want to have to repaint every year to keep your exterior looking fresh. Light colors don’t show the fading as much. To safely dispose of paint cans, you need to let them dry out. Mixing the remaining paint with cat litter will make it solidify quicker. And if you’re not handy, consider removing old wooden shutters entirely. If they are not in good shape, they detract from your home’s appearance.”
  • Replace rotted expansion joints. “Once those wooden expansion joints rot away, you’ve actually got three problems,” Wilkes explains. “You need to manage the weeds, and you don’t want to use chemical because they can wash into the storm drains and into local ponds. Those empty spaces between concrete slabs are also tripping hazards, especially for scooters and skateboards as well as women wearing high heels. And without a barrier, rainwater or pressure washing can flow beneath the concrete slab, eroding the soil. Then when you park your car in your driveway, the unsupported concrete may crack, shift and/or lift. We’re talking about a very expensive repair!”

Traditionally, the fix was dig out what was left of the old expansion joint and replacing it with new wood or using self-leveling caulk. “Neither option is easy,” says Wilkes. “Inevitably, the slabs have moved and wood won’t fit any more. And the gooey caulk needs just the right technique and it is weather-sensitive. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s hard to make it look nice.”

The easy way to fix this problem, and potentially save thousands of dollars in maintenance, is by using durable Trim-A-Slab. Made in the U.S. and available in black, gray or walnut, you just press it in with the heel of your hand and clip it to the right length. “Unlike other joint repairs, it can be easily used to fill a variety of gap sizes. It doesn’t require much preparation. And it slides in easily and holds itself in place.” Because it’s such a simple fix, miles of Trim-A-Slab are now sold each month to homeowners across the country: 

  • Remove and keep mold /mildew off of your house paint. You can easily clean this off, and prevent it from returning for a year or two, with a light brushing and a mild bleach solution. I find that a soft brush, like you might find for washing cars or boats, works well with a household bleach solution. Use about a half cup per gallon, brush over the affected area (it will literally disappear before your eyes!), then rinse, and you will be mold-free for several seasons, without harming your house’s paint.”
  • Use a timer to make your yard more festive after dark. “You can often get off-season bargains on exterior timers that are intended to turn on Christmas lights when it gets dark, and keep them on for a number of hours. These are great for turning on patio lights all year round. It’s an easy way to make your backyard more festive and inviting, and it may even act as a crime deterrent.”

Bob Wilkes, Chief Engineer, Mechanical Systems

Bob is an expert in mechanisms, fluidic and electromechanical systems for both the space environment and on the ground, and has focused his entire career developing new products.  

He is currently Chief Engineer of Mechanical Systems in the Design and Analysis Group at Jacobs Engineering and Tech Fellow of Product Development at Jacobs.  Previously he was a team lead and Project Manager during the design and development of Extra-Vehicular (EVA) equipment for the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station, and developed tile repair methods for the Space Shuttle after the Columbia accident. Prior to manned spaceflight work, Bob produced sensors and instruments at the University of California Berkeley Space Science Laboratory for NASA-sponsored spacecraft, and was chief engineer at Petrolphysics, Inc., developing enhanced oil recovery systems based on water jet drilling.   

Additionally, Bob is a licensed professional engineer in the state of California, and a registered patent agent. He has received numerous awards for his technical work and is a named inventor on more than a dozen US patents.