Today we’re going for a walk around the exterior of our home.
Required tools for the task? Pencil, notepad, and if time has taken its toll on your weary eyes, preventing you from distinguishing a caterpillar from a missing piece of mortar at 50 paces, binoculars.
What are we looking for? Cracks in the brick, stone work, or foundation. Buckled roof flashing, missing shingles, caulking that has separated from the siding, and anything else that could otherwise be defined as a gap.
Why are gaps and cracks an issue? Because we live in a climate zone where winter allows us to skate on our ponds and rivers. This, as opposed to living in Rio de Janeiro, home of the most recent summer Olympics, which I found somewhat confusing, since they were held during the Brazilian winter. A winter in Rio means rain, then a few days of sunshine, then rain again. As a result, mortar cracks in Rio will fill up with water, dry out, then fill up with water again.
In our part of the world, a late fall rain can turn into an early winter frost. When that happens, the water in our mortar cracks will freeze, causing the crack to expand. Now you’ve got a bigger crack, which will take in more water during the next thaw, then expand further once things freeze again. At some point in time, if left unpatched, this simple crack in the mortar, or foundation, or roof flashing, will compromise your house envelope.
In other words, the rain water or snow melt actually gets into the house this time. Worst case scenario when this happens is a flood. Best case scenario is stained drywall, mold, wood rot, and eventual structural damage. So, with those dismal options in the not so distant future, we fix the cracks and fill the gaps.
As you make your way around the home, make note of every deficiency, where they’re located, which parts are loose, and so on. As far as prioritizing or budgeting the fix-ups go, anything to do with the roof has got to be done first.
However, don’t wait too long to settle the remaining issues. Your window of repair opportunity is from now until the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius.
Once the temperatures are below this number, caulkings and mortar repair cements won’t seal and dry properly, likely having you repeating the repair process next year.
Next, divide the tasks into specific areas or jobs, such as roofing, siding, mortar repair, gutter replacement, etc. Then, call the appropriate professional, and hand him the list.
What about doing it yourself? That’s called being a do-it-yourselfer, and although commendable in theory, its status is overrated. Why? Because a reputable professional will do a better job, and in less time. Plus, by keeping your hands off the tools, and solely on the steering wheel as you perform the daily Tim’s run for the work crew, your chances of falling off the roof, or toppling down a ladder, drop to zero.
Safety is one of those things we often fail to think about until it’s too late. I’m sure a lot of homeowners can re-point a loose brick, caulk around a window, or replace a piece of siding, so long that effecting those repairs allows you to firmly stand on the ground, or your back deck. But what do you do when there are siding, window, or roof repairs to be done that are higher than six feet off the ground? The answer is having not only the proper scaffolding equipment, and the manpower to move it around, but the necessary safety harnesses and tie down straps as well, things most of us handy homeowners don’t have hanging around the pool shed. What we do have in our garages are light-gauge step and extension ladders, purchased when we were young men, 40 lbs. thinner, and better co-ordinated. So, stay off the ladders, call in the professional tradespeople, and get those cracks and gaps filled.