Anatomy of Home Repairs

Home repairs and improvements usually require a continuous round of attention. If left, the volume can quickly become overwhelming and be, at least, a chore. To keep one’s home in order requires regular inspection and attention at the most likely sources of trouble and deterioration.

When carrying out work of home maintenance, start at the top and work downwards. You will need ladders and other types of access equipment. It is important to ensure that these are in good condition, suitable for the job, and anchored against movement-and used correctly. Always carefully inspect a ladder for damage. A broken rung could mean a broken back! Repair any damage or replace the ladder.

Do not be tempted into ‘lash-up’ arrangements when working on pitched roofs. Use a correct roof ladder; these can usually be hired.

Scaffold towers enable safe working and can be built up to various heights and moved around as work progresses. It is also easier to work from a scaffold tower than from a ladder. Two scaffold towers, with intermediate staging or decking between, enables work to be carried out over a span or distance.

Remember, however, that the rule is safety. This equally applies to people below, who could suffer injury if items fall or are dropped from above.

Start an inspection at the chimney. TV and radio aerials may be mounted either directly to these or to a mast. Fixings which secure aerials should be firm, since continual strain from winds can weaken fastenings. Brickwork must also be inspected to see that it is firm and has not suffered from supporting the aerial structure.


Chimney-pots, if not in use, may be clogged by birds nests. This obstruction restricts the free circulation of air and can cause damp to form in the chimney-stack. Birds often nest under eaves, guttering, in hopperheads, and where spaces have been left by fallen or displaced slates and tiles. Inspect these areas and remove any obstruction.

Eaves often harbour insects, such as carpet beetles, which can invade property through brickwork cracks and breed in carpets and furnishings.

Flaunchings (the sloped concrete on top of a chimney-stack, into which the pot is set) and haunchings (the mortar fillet between a chimney-stack and a roof) should be inspected.

Main ridge tiles are usually bedded in mortar, which may have cracked or deteriorated. Use a cold chisel to remove old mortar and remove the tile carefully.

Old, shattered concrete should be cut away and the area brushed clean of dirt. Prime the area with one part of PVA bonding agent to one part of water and make good the mortar using a stiff, 1:5 mix of cement and soft sand. A little PVA in the water will assist bonding.


Flashings (which go over tiles) and soakers (which lap beneath them) should be inspected for soundness. Lead and zinc can be affected by atmosphere and, in time, corrosion can weaken and pit the material. Where lead has curled back, tap this back into place with a wooden mallet or a hard rubber hammer.

Damaged sections of flashing can be replaced with self-adhesive or bituminised aluminium strip. These can be stuck to almost any building material and form a waterproof seal. First, surfaces must be brushed down and be clean and dry. Porous surfaces may have to be primed – a PVA is suitable.

Slates and tiles

Slates and tiles can become displaced as a result of high winds. Remove a broken or displaced tile, push it back slightly and lift it. If the tile does not move easily, lift an adjacent tile as this will help you move the damaged or displaced tile. Tiles may be nailed at intervals to roof battens. Where a tile is nailed, lift the two above it to expose the nail, which can then be prised out easily.

Once you have substituted a new tile, slide the others back with the ‘nib’ of the tile over the batten. Where a new tile is difficult to engage, nibble away the edge with a pair of pincers.

Where slates have to be replaced, the nails holding them in place have to be removed before the new ones can be fixed. A ripper-a tool which can be bought or hired -is used. Again it is important to replace any broken ridge tiles or replace ridge mortar.

Gutterings and downpipes

Gutters and downpipes leak for three reasons: they are blocked up; they are cracked or holed; or they have faulty joints. These are best cleaned out with a hose, though a piece of stout timber may have to be used to clean obstructed pipes.

Broken guttering brackets should be replaced, because these weaken the support of the system, causing a likelihood of leaks at the joints. Outlets, stop ends and hoppers should be cleared of debris.

One way to prevent debris collecting is to stretch fine wire mesh over the tops of downpipes and hopperheads. Leaks at seals on cast-iron guttering and pipework can be prevented by removing surface rust and painting with a heavy bitumen paint. This can also be brushed off and neutralised, painted with a metal primer and then repainted.

Severely defective guttering should be replaced. Plastic guttering is lightweight and easy to fix. It can also be connected to existing cast-iron guttering by means of adaptors.

Proprietary sealing strips and mastics can also be used to repair seals and gaps. For severe holes, glass-fibre can be used.


Brickwork usually needs little maintenance. Dirty brickwork can be treated with brick paint or conditioner or scrubbed with a proprietary renovator. Normally, cleaning with a scrubbing brush and soapy water will suffice.

Damp conditions give rise to algae on roof and wall surfaces. Although proprietary chemicals can be used, scrubbing with domestic detergent is usually as good.

Efflorescence on bricks – an unsightly, chalking deposit also found on plaster and concrete – is brought about by salts in the brickwork which are drawn to the surface by evaporation, where they solidify.

While brushing will remove some of the deposit, a proprietary neutralizing solution which penetrates the surface and prevents the salts from emerging may be the answer.

Various siliconized and non-siliconized waterproofing solutions are available for use on both interior as well as exterior brickwork as a protection against pene- trating damp, where bricks are old or porous or exposed to severe weather conditions. These can be applied either by brush or high-pressure spray, such as a garden insecticide spray or paint sprayer. Crumbling pointing may have to be raked out and replaced. This can be less of a drudge if a routing head on a power drill is used. Otherwise, use a small cold chisel and a hammer.

10. November 2011 by admin
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