Today's homes are filled with components that weren't so common years ago. They make your home more efficient and less work, but you can't ignore them entirely. So as you plan your chores and projects for the coming year, here are some to keep in mind.

Vinyl windows

Vinyl windows should get a yearly inspection. Clean window tracks of debris, says Burt Harold, a rep for Pella Windows. Make sure weatherstripping is sound and making proper contact. Replace as needed.

When cleaning, never use abrasives, which can damage the window's vinyl skin. If you need to lubricate a track, use pure silicone spray, not WD-40.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for caulking. When washing windows, be aware that bleach can discolor dark vinyl colors. And, remember, window films can void your warranty.

HardiePlank/fiber cement siding

It won't rot, it holds paint and it's very durable. It's the siding of choice on many new homes. Often called HardiePlank, it's almost trouble-free. Still, inspect it annually.

If caulking fails, water can penetrate the joint and damage the wood and framing behind the siding. Charlotte home inspector Dave Hahn recommends using caulk rated for at least 20 years. Choose a high-quality silicone or polyurethane.

Fiberglass doors

Minor dents can be filled with auto body putty. Follow instructions on the can and, just as if you were working on a car, don't stint on the sanding. Uneven spots will show. For larger areas, cut out damaged fiberglass with a grinder. Repair with mat and resin from a fiberglass repair kit. Prime, then paint with 100 percent acrylic.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is still a hot look for kitchens. The biggest complaint about stainless is that it shows all those little handprints.

Clean with a specialty product such as 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish. Such products create a barrier against fingerprints. Avoid products with chlorine; mild abrasives can scratch. Read labels.


These ancient materials are more popular than ever. Not all stones need sealing. Ask your stone pro, and buy the best sealers you can afford. Grit and acids are the biggest threats to marble and limestone.

Clean surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap (available at hardware stores) or a mild liquid dish detergent and warm water. Go easy on the cleaner or soap, because too much can leave a film. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Do not use abrasive cleaners, or ones with lemon, vinegar or other acids.

For deep stains, try a poultice at

Multihead showers

There are six times as many connections that can leak, and six times as many shower heads that can clog. Check regularly and clean with CLR or some other solution. You can use white vinegar to clear a shower head that has been clogged with mineral deposits. Place vinegar in a plastic bag, enclose the head and secure the bag to the shower neck with a rubber band or twist tie. Let stand for at least two hours.

Composite decking

Early on, composite decking was billed as a trouble-free alternative to treated lumber. But you still have to clean it. The best way to prevent stains is to sweep or hose off regularly.

To wash, use a commercial composite deck cleaner such as Jomax. For stubborn stains, allow the solution to sit for a few minutes and scrub with a bristle brush.

Be careful with power washers. Some decking manufacturers recommend against them, and using one can void your warranty. Other makers suggest smaller washers with no more than 1,300 PSI, with the fan tip no closer than 8 to 10 inches from the surface.

The best known maker of composite decking, Trex, recommends that you wash your deck twice a year, in spring and fall, to prevent mold and mildew.