Wednesday, March 1, 2000 Bucks County, Pennsylvania

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BucksNet & Sirius Communications present

When a Homeowner’s Fancy Turns to Fix-Ups

Spring is coming, and as it approaches, so do thoughts of warm breezes wafting through your house, the sound of gentle rain pattering on the roof, and the casual luxury of an afternoon in the backyard. You're probably not dreaming of wasps visiting you in your living room, stagnant water pooling in clogged gutters, or April showers dripping down your bedroom wall.

To get the most out of springtime, take a little time now to get your home ready for the season, and head off its less-pleasant possibilities. Take the time to inspect your house, paying special attention to the following likely trouble spots. If you notice any small problems, tending to them now will keep them from getting bigger—and no doubt more expensive to repair—next season. And it will also ensure that you can enjoy the beauty of springtime trouble-free.


Because most screens in windows and doors are removed and reinstalled each year, they are very susceptible to damage. Most small holes can be easily patched, using sections of screen that can be purchased from hardware stores and home improvement centers.

  1. Use strong shears to trim the jagged edges from the hole in the screen.
  2. Cut a rectangular patch about an inch larger than the hole from the new section of screen.
  3. From all fours sides of the patch, remove the three horizontal wires closest to the edges. This will result in vertical wires, free of horizontal crosswires, that can be affixed to the screen.
  4. Bend the ends of these vertical wires to a 45-degree angle. It's easiest if you bend them over the edge of a ruler.
  5. From the outside, place the patch over the hole, making sure the bent ends of wire extend through the screen.
  6. Tape the patch in position, pressing it as tightly as possible against the screen.
  7. From the inside, fold the bent edges of wire toward the center of the hole, making sure that the wires hold the patch firmly in place.

For larger holes, or if you have a screen that has rusted or been torn from its frame, replacing it is more practical than mending. When buying a replacement screen, your best choices are aluminum or galvanized steel, since they won't stain or rust. If you're handy, a local home center can tell you what supplies you'll need and provide instructions; if you're not a do-it-yourselfer, a handyman can help.


Gutters and downspouts must be cleaned annually to clear debris and keep water flowing freely. If water is allowed to back up in gutters, it will eventually back up underneath the roof and create rot and leaks.

Before climbing up to the gutter, make sure you have a pair of work gloves with you, to protect your hands from cuts and make the job of clearing wet debris a bit less unpleasant, and a plumber's snake or flexible cable, for clearing blockages that are out of arm's reach. Check the gutter for leaves and other debris, and for loose joints that will need tightening. Look at the gutter opening, where the water flows into the downspout, which should have a leaf guard. Remove the guard and clean it. Don't forget to check the gutter hangers, to be sure that they're holding the gutter firmly in position. Loose, strap-type hangers can be re-nailed or tightened with a galvanized screw. Broken or damaged straps should be replaced.

Test the gutter for efficiency by pouring water into it from a hose or watering can. If it doesn't flow smoothly and swiftly, adjust the gutter to a slightly steeper slope.

If you find a leak in your gutter, which can cause drips that will stain your house, you can mend it using a wire brush, a putty knife, roofing cement and a canvas patch.

  1. Use the wire brush to scrub away rust. Wipe the area clean with a rag.
  2. Use the putty knife to apply a thin layer of roofing cement over the hole, extending the cement a bit beyond its edges.
  3. Place a canvas patch over the hole, pressing it down firmly.
  4. Apply another layer of cement over the canvas, covering it completely.


A qualified roofer should inspect your roof every other year. Most roof repairs are jobs for experts, but if you have a leak and feel up to the task, and if you aren't daunted by heights, there are some small repairs you can tackle on your own. Make sure you use a roof ladder with secure hooks that will grip the roof. Don't work on the roof when no one is home, just in case the ladder falls or you need assistance.

Pinpoint the leak's location as best you can from inside the house, then examine the area from the outside. You may find one of these problems:

Loose Felt
Many flat roofs are made of asphalt over felt, which can loosen. If it does, use a soft brush to clean dirt that may be lodged underneath it. With broad-head roofing nails placed about an inch apart, secure the felt. Cover the repaired area with asphalt cement extended an inch or two beyond the repaired area.

Blistered Felt
Sometimes felt blisters. If that happens, use a knife to cut away the blistered area, then apply asphalt cement to the area with a putty knife, extending the cement a little beyond the cut-out section. Cut a new piece of roofing felt a big larger than the cut-out, and press it firmly over the fresh cement. Secure the patch with roofing nails, placed about an inch apart, then spread another layer of cement over the patch, extending it about an inch beyond the edges of the felt.

Cracked Felt
Clean the crack and surrounding area, then use the same procedure as for repairing blisters.

Loose Wooden Shingles
Nail them down with roofing nails, placed about an inch apart.

Cracked Wooden Shingles
If the crack is small (less than 1/4-inch wide), you might want to tack the repair yourself. If the crack is larger, or if the shingle needs to be replaced, it's best to consult a professional.

To repair a small crack, remove loose splinters and remove the old nails. Bring together the shingle's edges and nail it down with roofing nails. Take care not to drive the heads of the nails into the shingle, which will damage its surface. Fill remaining traces of the crack with asphalt roofing cement.

Cracked Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles will become brittle and will break easily on a cold day, so make sure it's warm before attempting a repair. If an asphalt shingle has a small crack, remove the nail, lift the shingle gently and apply a generous amount of asphalt cement to its underside, filling in the crack. Use roofing nails to nail the shingle back in place.

Major Damage or Deterioration
Consult your local home improvement center for specific instructions, or call a professional.


We've listed only a few of the simple repairs that your home might need to prepare it for the season. There are, of course, many others, ranging from a simple spruce-up paint job to patio, porch, and driveway repair, to major repairs and additions best performed by professionals. Seth Carson of Carson's Sealcoat & Driveway Repair, Newtown, reminds homeowners to check blacktop for cracks, and resurface with Latex Sealcoat to extend the life of the driveway. Jim Mucci of Levittown does concrete repairs on sidewalks, and can pour a slab for your new patio. Jim says to look for cracking caused by weather or tree roots, and tells us that, in most municipalities, sidewalk repairs are the responsibility of the homeowner.

Almost anything you do to maintain and improve your home makes good sense, both economically and from a quality-of-life point of view. Imagine how satisfying it is to pull into your driveway at the end of long, hard day and know that those nagging little repair jobs are taken care of, and your home is indeed your refuge. You can take that a step further to make it your castle—and add to its comfort, versatility, and value—by adding an outdoor recreation area such as a deck or gazebo. Such additions can be complex and are usually best handled by a professional, or an ambitious and skilled do-it-yourselfer.

© Sirius Communications, 2000.

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