The Basics of Home Repairs

Learn a few tricks for painting, carpentry, masonry and plumbing repairs that you can perform around your own home.

| March/April 1970

When we lived in a city apartment we didn't even want to know how to fix a dripping faucet or repair a sagging door or paint our storm windows.

It's different when you have a place in the country of your own — you want to learn how to maintain your homestead. You also want to utilize all the labor-saving equipment that is practical. It doesn't seem right not to understand the workings of machines and devices we have to depend on every single day. And what a difference between the resentment you sometimes feel when you have to pay big repair bills and the feeling of real satisfaction you get from making repairs yourself. Even if you've never done more than stand by and watch a carpenter or a painter or a plumber at work there are a few simple repair jobs you can learn to do that will mean a big cash saving and a very pleasant form of recreation. Of course some jobs are annoying, but I do think many are relaxing and fun to do. On days when other things don't go just right you come home from work mentally tired. Then your workshop can be a welcome refuge and little constructive jobs you do will reward you with a sense of accomplishment.

One morning last February, the sink in our kitchen refused to drain properly. When I tried to clear it with the rubber plunger the water only backed up more. Finally, I sent for the plumber and after looking over the situation he dug to our septic tank and removed the lid. By this time I felt pretty helpless because I knew so little about plumbing and hadn't properly understood the trouble at first. This sense of helplessness is something that repair people are quick to notice. It is their cue to be mysterious about whatever repairs are needed and to encourage you to feel more helpless and more completely dependent on their superior knowledge. But I asked the plumber a few questions and he finally broke down and told me that the trouble was simply a blockage of the pipe and that I could have saved about 25 dollars if I had known enough to prevent it.

Insurance underwriters say the majority of all accidents occur at home — accidents that can often be prevented just by replacing a loose board or repairing an electric fixture, or attending to the furnace properly. For this reason alone it's more than worthwhile to learn a few practical fundamentals of painting, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electricity and simple auto maintenance.

Tips for Painting Your Home

The outside of a building is best painted at least once every four years. This is because wood deteriorates rapidly when there is no paint to protect it from moisture. The hardest work in painting is usually scraping off the old paint. However, correct usage of paint remover, wire brush, steel wool, or a scraper can often save you hours of needless work. You should learn how to store brushes properly and also the best method of storing paint for safety from fire. The difference between flat paint, enamel, varnish, wall sizing, and water paints is basic knowledge for every homesteader.

Learning Basic Carpentry

If you like making things out of wood, the first thing to make is a good workshop for your homestead. So many workshops I've seen are located in attics or cellars or barns where it's nearly always too cold or too hot or too damp or too dark to work. The workshop is worth the same consideration and planning as your kitchen. If it must be in the attic or cellar it should be properly heated, insulated and lighted. Once you have a good workshop you can make it pay for itself many times just by doing simple repairing or building. I never did any building until we put up our small barn. Since then I've watched a neighbor put up an entire two-story house single-handed. He says the amount of knowledge needed to build a small house is surprisingly little if you have a good set of plans. A carpenter earns about 15 dollars a day, and by doing your own carpentry you can save that much while you yourself learn to master the fundamentals. Here is a check list of 10 fundamentals in carpentry. See how many you know already:

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