Should You Make Repairs ?


Owning a home has long been an American dream. For most buyers, the purchase of that home represents their most significant lifetime investment. Most people know the initial cost of a house, but many are not aware of the continuing cost of maintaining and repairing it. As costs of materials and labour increase, more homeowners are assuming the role of “handyman.” This publication is to help you, step by step, with your outside repair jobs.

The chief reason for repairs is to maintain and improve the condition of the building to prevent its deterioration and loss in value.

Examine your house once a year. Its parts and materials wear out with
use and time.

Houses grow old. Know the condition of materials under the surface.
Hidden damage or decay could become a serious problem.

Do not do repairs and maintenance piecemeal. Plan. The parts of
a house depend on and affect each other.

After you have examined your house, decide whether you will make
repairs yourself or call a professional.

Assuming the Role of “Handyman”

To decide whether you should make the repair, or hire an expert, answer these questions:

  • What type of repair must be made?
  • What is the extent of the repair?
  • What are your actual or potential skills?
  • How much time will it take?

q How important is the repair compared to your time?

q What will it cost?

  • Are reputable repairmen available and how are their prices?
  • Are standard types of materials required and are they readily available to you?

q Will the repair require more materials than labour, or more labour than materials?

  • How much will you save if you do the work yourself?

The cost may not compare to the difficulty of the job, but price will help you set the upper limits beyond which you may not wish to risk your money and time.

Consider time. Do not begin a repair unless you have time to do it right.

Base your planning on your own abilities, not those of your neighbours. Is there someone you can pay for advice if you become “stumped”?

Once you begin a repair and invest time and money, do not expect that a
repairman will come in and finish the job for substantially less than what
he would have originally charged.

Avoid the cost of repeating the same repair because you used faulty
materials or procedures.

a Professional Repairman

Did you decide to hire help?

Before you contact a repairman, figure out the kind and quality of the repair needed. This can improve communication between you and him and reduce misunderstandings. It can fortify you against “switcheroo” tactics in which a lower price is offered in the beginning to “sell” you and then you are persuaded into switching to a more costly product.

Contracting for work, having it done, and getting satisfactory results can be a trying experience even with a reputable repairman. For your benefit and his, put your agreement in writing. Do not rely upon “reputation of honesty,” “word of honour,” or “verbal understanding.”

To reach a clear and binding agreement, you should know and write down in detail what you expect for money you are to pay. This means writing a specification. (Or have the repairman prepare it.)

The specification should be brief and to the point. Do not overspend, but plan to use quality materials since labour will often be your main cost.

The specification will vary slightly depending upon the nature of the repair. It should include:

  1. The exact location and extent of the repair.
  2. Indication of any repairs that are to be made beforehand, if the job involves new work (for example, putting new siding on the house).
  3. Type and quality of materials to be used.
  4. Colour and sizes of materials.
  5. Number of coats to be applied, if painting.
  6. Agreement that the work shall conform to local and state codes.

An agreement between the contractor and owner should be executed. The agreement describes:

  1. All material, labour, and equipment necessary for the job.
  2. When the job is to be completed.
  3. Who cleans up the mess that results from the job.
  4. The amount in which the repairman or contractor shall assume responsibility for damage to your property or that of your neighbours.
  5. That any changes in the contract shall be made in writing and agreed to by both parties.
  6. That the agreement frees you from all liens that may be placed against the job for failure of the contractor-repairman to pay for materials, labour, equipment, etc.
  7. The schedule of how and when payments are to be made.

Try to select a repairman or contractor whose work you know. Examine some of his previous work and ask the owners if they are satisfied. If you need help, consult with an architect, businessman, or the Better Business Bureau in your area. Seek at least three bids before you choose a contractor.

The contract should show the cash price. If you are not paying cash, it should show the cash down payment, the unpaid balance, the amount financed, and the total number of payments. This will show you the amount of money you are paying for financing, above the cost of the work.

You may wish to check on the work in progress. However, stay out of the way. Interference can cause delays, affect the quality of the work, or cause disagreements and added costs.

Inspect the project with the repairman when the job is done. If there are questions, refer to the contract. Sign off on the contract and make final payment after all the work has been completed correctly.

Basic Tools

You will need a few basic tools for most home maintenance jobs, and some special tools for special jobs. Some are expensive and are not needed very often. Is there a place where you can borrow or rent those?

Here are some basic tools and materials you may need for doing simple repairs on the outside of your house.

Nail Set

nail set is a small metal device used to sink the heads of nails slightly below the surface you are driving them into (fig. 1).


The framing square is a handy measuring tool for lining up materials evenly and making square corners. It is usually metal (fig.2).

The try square is smaller and is also used for lining up and squaring material. One side is made of wood and is not marked to measure with (fig. 3).

Mitre Box

With a mitre box, you can saw off a piece of board at an exact angle. It may be of wood, to use with a separate saw (fig. 4). Or it may be steel, with the saw set in the steel box (fig. 5).

Masonry Trowels and Jointer

The trowel is used to build or repair masonry walls, sidewalks, etc. It has a flat, thin, steel blade set into a handle. The “brick trowel” is the larger and is used for mixing, placing, and spreading mortar. The smaller “pointing trowel” is used to fill holes and repair mortar joints (fig. 6). This process is called “pointing.”

The jointer is another masonry tool, used to finish joints after the wall is laid (fig. 7). Finish joints are made on the outside of a masonry wall to make it more waterproof and to improve appearance. The “V” and “concave” joints are the most weather tight. A different type of jointer is needed for each type of joint used.




Both a single portable ladder and a stepladder are needed for home repairs. Proper placement of the portable ladder is especially important, for


The single ladder consists of one section and rests against a surface. An extension ladder will be necessary for working at heights of more than 15 feet.

The base of the ladder should be placed so that the distance from the wall is equal to one-fourth of the length of the ladder (fig. 8). Take the following precautions when using the ladder:

  1. The ladder should have a nonslip base if you use it on smooth or sloping surfaces.
  2. Never let the ladder rest against windowpanes of glass doors.
  3. Before using the ladder, check treads and side rails to make sure they are sound and tight.
  4. Is the ladder long enough? At least two treads, or about 3 feet, should extend above the point to which you need to climb (fig. 9). This is important since you should not climb over the top of the ladder.
  5. When climbing or coming down, always face the ladder and use both hands (fig. 10). Raise or lower your materials and tools with a rope and sling.
  6. Never lean from a ladder. If something is beyond safe and easy reach, move the ladder to the proper location.
  7. Never leave the ladder standing, except for short breaks in your work. When you finish work for the day, take the ladder down and put it aside out of the way.
  8. The stepladder is self-supporting and can be used in more ways (fig. 11). Do not use a stepladder over 12 feet high.


Portable Power Circular Saws

The portable power circular saw can save you “muscle power” and time (fig. 12). You can rent or buy one. It may be used as a crosscut saw or a ripsaw — depending upon the type of blade used.

The saw blade should be adjusted so that the amount of blade that extends below the “shoe” is slightly greater (1/16 to V% inch) than the thickness of material to be cut. As you guide the saw forward, the blade is exposed for cutting (fig. 13).

For ripping work, circular saws come with a “ripping guide.” After adjusting the blade, set the ripping guide the same distance from the saw as the width of the material to be cut off.

Then place the guide against the edge of the piece as you cut (fig. 14).

For crosscutting, or cutting off material, turn the ripping guide upside down, so that it will be out of the way. Using a framing square and pencil, draw a line to mark where to cut. Then guide the saw blade carefully along the line.

Using a portable power saw can save much time and effort. For safety and the proper use of the saw, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure that the saw you use is equipped with a guard that will automatically adjust in use so that none of the teeth are exposed above the work.
  2. Make sure the saw is equipped with an automatic power cut off button.
  3. Always wear goggles or face mask when using a power saw.
  4. Carefully examine the material and make certain that it is free of nails or other metal before you start cutting.
  5. Grasp the saw with both hands and hold it firmly against the work.
  6. Never overload the saw motor by pushing too hard or cutting material that is too thick for this small saw.
  7. Always try to make a straight cut to keep from binding the saw blade. If it does bind, back the saw out slowly and firmly in a straight line. As you continue with the cutting, adjust the direction of the cut so that you are cutting in a straight line.
  8. Always pull the electric plug before you make any adjustments to the saw or inspect the blade.




Locate the leak as closely as possible from inside. Place and secure the ladder, then examine the condition of the roof from the outside.

Loose Felt Edges

Using a brush, clean out any dirt that may have blown under the loose felt (fig. 1). Then, using broad-head roofing nails, nail loose felt in place. Start nailing away from the felt edge and work toward the edge, to prevent making a blister in the felt. Place the nails 1 to Vi inches apart (fig. 2).

After the felt is nailed in place, cover the patched area with asphalt cement. Make sure the cement extends 1 to U/2 inches beyond the repair area (fig. 3).

Blisters in the Felt

Using a knife, cut the blister (fig. 4). Then put asphalt cement into the area, like filling a crack. Continue, using the repair procedures for cracks. (See steps 2 and 3 below.)

Cracks in the Roofing

  1. Clean out the crack and the area around the crack.
  2. Using the brush or putty knife, place a thin layer of asphalt cement over the crack. The cement should completely cover the cleaned area around the crack (fig. 5).