Vol.2, No.8

10 simple repairs outdoors

Learn how to repair foundation cracks, wood decks, ornamental iron, stucco, aluminum siding , gutters, wooden gates, sprinkler risers, concrete steps and wood siding.

A fixed sprinkler head
Photo Credit: Rick Rhay
Home repair is a never-ending job. Here are ten simple repairs that the average home handyman can do.

1. Patch and fill cracks, gaps and holes

Repair foundation cracks with a can of expanding foam insulation. Wear disposable latex glove because the foam will stick to your skin. Fill gaps around utility, cable TV and phone line connections, dryer vents. water pipes and faucets. Use silicone caulk to fill gaps around windows and doors.

2. Clean and reseal wood decks

Desks are damaged by the sun's ultraviolet rays, foot traffic and warping. Use a hammer to pound down protruding nails or pull the loose ones and replace with galvanized wood screws. Apply deck cleaning solution with a power sprayer or washer, working a section at a time. Wear old clothes, goggles and rubber gloves. Some stubborn stains may need to be scrubbed with a broom. Rinse with a hose. After the wood is dry, apply a coat of stain and wood preservative.

3. Remove rust and paint from ornamental iron

Rust is the perennial enemy of all things iron. Left unchecked, rust can loosen hinges and rails. Remove with a wire brush or an electric drill's wire brush attachment. Stubborn rust must be removed with a chemical remover. Wear rubber gloves and goggles. Apply with a disposable paint brush and let it work for however long the manufacturer recommends. Rinse off with water. Apply a coat of primer to the iron. Let dry. Follow up with one or two coats of paint.

4. Repair stucco cracks and holes

No surface lasts forever. Stucco can be damaged by house settling or impacts by objects. Use a screwdriver to dig loose material out of cracks. Vacuum the debris. Apply paintable silicone caulk to the crack. Use a finger to match stucco texture.

Fill holes with latex patching compound. Clean the hole as above. Mix the patching compound according to the manufacturer's instructions. Apply the patching compound with a putty knife or trowel. Once all the holes have been patched, thin the compound to a batter-like consistency and splatter it onto the patches with a paintbrush to match the stucco's texture.

5. Repair dents in aluminum siding

Aluminum siding is a great long-lasting product but it can be damaged from impacts by objects. Repair the dents by first drilling a 1/8-inch hole in the middle of the dent. Put a washer on a self-tapping screw and drive the screw part way into the hole. Grab the washer and pull out the dent. Remove the screw and fill the hole with plastic aluminum filler. Lightly sand and feather the patch to blend with the surrounding surface.

6. Repair sagging wooden gates

Over time, wood gates become misaligned as the hinges wear, resulting in a sagging gate that eventually gets stuck part way through its swing.

Buy a repair kit containing a cable, corner mounting brackets and a turnbuckle. Attach the kit's metal bracket with galvanized screws onto the back side of the gate in the upper right corner or hinge side. Install the other bracket opposite in the lower left corner. Attach the cable to each bracket and tighten the turnbuckle with a wrench until the gate rises and swings freely when opened.

7. Repair sagging gutters

Gutter hardware can break and gutters damaged by falling limbs and other objects. Attach a string at both ends of the gutter. Pour water into one end of the gutter. It will puddle at low spots. Remove loosened spikes and replace with lag screws using a power drill, but do not tighten. Use a level to measure gutter slope, about a quarter inch for each ten feet of run. Adjust the sag until standing water flows freely. Tighten the lag screws.

8. Replacing broken sprinkler risers

Risers made of plastic are susceptible to impact damage from shovels, rakes and lawn mowers. Remove soil until the riser and water supply line are exposed. Be careful not to cut the supply line or sprinkler connections with the shovel. Use a rag to clean debris and dirt from around the riser so it doesn't fall into the pipe when you remove it. Use a pair of channel locking pliers and carefully remove by turning counterclockwise. Plastic elbows and tees are fragile. If the riser is broken, tap a chisel into the broken part, wedge the chisel against the edge and turn. Or use an easy-out tool, essentially a pair of pliers that grips from the inside out. Insert the tool, tighten the grip and unscrew. Apply some Teflon tape to the riser threads and install the new riser. Don't overtighten.

9. Repair breaks in cement steps

Cracks allow deeper water penetration that can freeze and expand, widening a crack until part of the step falls off.

Remove all loose and crumbling material with a sledgehammer and masonry chisel. Wear safety goggles. Sweep up the debris and clean the area with a garden hose. Mix the concrete patch material according to the manufacturer's directions. Apply a concrete bonding agent to the area to be repaired. Let set. Cut a piece of plywood form equal to the height and a few inches longer than the damaged area. Brush a light coat of motor oil on the plywood's surface that will face the repair. Fit the form bottom snugly against the top of the step below the one being repaired. Fit the form against the repair and stack some bricks against the wood to hold it in place. Pack the concrete patching material between the broken stair and the form with a piece of wood. Smooth the top of the patch with a concrete float. Cover with plastic after it begins to set. After the concrete has completely set, carefully remove the form and bricks.

10. Repair bows in wood siding

Clapboards can bow outward caused by temperature changes or excess humidity. Saw a relief cut into each end of the board with a handsaw. Open the cut with a small wedge driven up under the board on both ends. Apply waterproof glue to the exposed wood. Remove the wedge, drill pilot holes in both ends of the board. Secure with wood screws. Cover the screw heads with putty or caulk.

Completing these home repair jobs will help maintain the value, beauty and safety of your home.