Living Green 365: Greening your home's exterior

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Greening your home's exterior

Summer is an ideal time to work on home improvements that will help your home last longer, keep you healthy, and increase energy efficiency. Take a walk around your home and assess what improvements need doing this summer.


Inspect the foundation for cracks. Foundation cracks can be a pathway for moisture and pests to enter a home. Excessive moisture can lead to mold and structural deterioration, and pests can affect a home’s structure and indoor air quality. Repair indoor and outdoor cracks right away or hire a professional to do it.

Inspect gutters and downspouts for damage or blockage. To prevent water from coming into your home, gutters should drain several feet away from the foundation. Add downspout extensions if needed. Consider a raingarden at the base of a downspout to soak up the water, but locate the garden at least 10 feet from your foundation.

Remove vegetation within one foot of the foundation. Planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next to your house creates dead air space that insulates your home in both summer and winter. But keep full-grown vegetation at least one foot from the foundation to minimize moisture problems.

Increase slope next to foundation. Over time, soil has a tendency to settle, which can cause negative sloping that directs water towards, rather than away from, a home's foundation.  Encourage proper drainage by sloping the ground away from the house. This video shows you how.

Install a rain barrel. Save water and money by irrigating grass and ornamental plants with water from a rain barrel. Most commercially sold barrels are designed to keep mosquitoes out. You can also make your own! Organizations like Friends of the Mississippi River offer classes that teach you how.

Check the roof for damaged shingles. Repair or replace loose and raised shingles or bent flashing around chimneys and vents. For improved durability, consider installing a metal roof or a light colored, 40-year asphalt roof. For more information on roofing choices, see Eco Roofing Options.

Check siding for peeling or blistered paint. Replace peeling and blistering paint. If repainting, use exterior paints that are low- or no- VOC (volatile organic chemicals) and formaldehyde-free.

Seal exterior air leaks. Sealing on the outside of your home not only prevents air from entering, it can also prevent damage to siding, walls, insulation, windows, and doors due to moisture intrusion.

There are many places to apply caulking or foam to weather seal the exterior of your home: doors and windows; vents for furnaces, dryers, water heaters, air exchangers; entry points for wires, pipes, cables, faucets. Learn to caulk and seal your house by downloading the Home Energy Guide from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

If re-siding your home, choose long-lasting materials. Steel and fiber-cement siding are especially durable. Steel can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Remember to do an energy audit if you replace siding. Properly installed, new siding can make your house much tighter, which can change the fresh air requirements for occupants or for some combustion appliances.

Upgrade exterior lights. Switch exterior bulbs to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LED). Consider upgrading to ENERGY STAR qualified outdoor fixtures. Adding motion detectors to exterior lights can also save energy.

Build a greener deck or patio. If you build a deck, use:

  • Recycled-content (composite) materials.

Another option is to install a patio. Compared to decks, patios typically require fewer materials to construct. Consider constructing your patio with pavers that let the water through. Pervious pavers allow water to soak into the ground, which helps to recharge groundwater and reduce pollutant-laden runoff.

Consider solar. Adding solar electricity panels or solar hot water panels can reduce your carbon footprint and save you money in the long-run. An installer will perform a site assessment to determine if your house is a good candidate for solar. Find an installer near you at Clean Energy Project Builder.


Launch your career and join Minnesota GreenCorps! Applications due June 9

What do Minnesota GreenCorps members do?

Minnesota GreenCorps is an AmeriCorps program, coordinated by the MPCA, which places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend 11 months addressing environmental issues and building community resilience. More information on the program is available here, and a summary of the 40 service positions is available here

MPCA is planning to place up to 40 full-time Minnesota GreenCorps members with local governments, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions statewide to serve on projects in the areas of:

  • Air Quality (including Energy Conservation and Green Transportation)
  • Waste Prevention and Recycling
  • Green Infrastructure (including Urban Forestry, Stormwater Management, and Local Foods)
  • Living Green 

Where and when will you serve?

All service positions are full time for 11 months beginning September 13, 2017 and lasting through August 2018. Members must complete 1,700 hours of service (around 40 hours per week).

Member Benefits

In addition to gaining valuable skills and experience in the environmental field, members receive a living allowance of $1,148 per month, an offer of health insurance, and loan forbearance. Upon completing the program, participants receive an Education Award of up to $5,815 which can be used to pay off qualified student loans or to finance future education.

How do you apply?

Please submit a completed member application with a resume to by the deadline of June 9, 2017. The member application and guidance document are available at:

Community events and resources

Landscape Revival -- Native Plant Expo and Market. June 3, 9 AM - 3 PM. Location: Cub Foods Community Pavilion,1201 Larpenteur Avenue West, Roseville, MN. The Landscape Revival -- Native Plant Expo and Market offers gardeners one convenient location to shop for Minnesota native plants from 12 local native growers. Attendees can also learn from conservation organizations how to effectively use the plants. Free and open to all, rain or shine.

WaterFest 2017. June 3,11 AM - 4 PM. Location: Lake Phalen Park ,1600 Phalen Drive, Saint Paul. WaterFest is a free celebration of our clean lakes and offers outdoor fun and opportunities for hands-on learning about the water quality, wildlife, and special ecological features of our beautiful watershed.

Cell Phone Summer Kickoff Party by Tech Dump. June 10,11:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Location: Tech Discounts - Bloomington, 724 West 98th Street, Bloomington, MN. Cell Phone Summer aims to be a ton of fun, literally. Tech Dump and Tech Discounts are going to collect ONE TON of cell phones by Labor Day! They'll kick off with a celebration of all of the fun that summer offers in Minnesota. Play beach games! Pet a puppy! Meet special guests including The Gadget Guy! Enjoy refreshments! Bring a phone to donate and be eligible to win a $100 gift card to Tech Discounts! #CellPhoneSummer

Make & Take Rain Barrel Workshop. June 20, 6-7:30 PM. Location: Wellstone Center, West Side St. Paul. Registration required. What’s one of the simplest, high-impact ways to save water and help protect our local watersheds? Using a rain barrel. This workshop covers how home lawn and garden practices impact our waters and then guides participants through the process of creating their own rain barrel ($35 per kit). Claim your spot and rain barrel-to-be on the event page. (Please note, the last rain barrel workshop sold out over two weeks in advance.) Sponsored by Friends of the Mississippi River.

Thank you for reading Living Green 365. This newsletter is a publication of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Please send questions or comments about living green to the address below.


Erin Barnes-Driscoll and the Living Green Team