Roofing & Siding - 2/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Roofing & Siding

How To: Pressure Wash a House

Get the skills you need to obtain a spotless exterior.

How to Pressure Wash a House


There may not be a magic wand to instantly banish years of mildew, soot, dirt, and grime from your home’s exterior, but pressure washing can get rid of unattractive build-up to restore a tidier look to traditional stucco, aluminum, steel, wood, and brick. Pressure washing can be performed every few years for general maintenance; it’s also a great way to prepare an exterior for painting.

The task takes some skill, however, and strict adherence to these guidelines for how to pressure wash a house. Spraying too aggressively could harm siding or paint—and in fact, pressure washing is not recommended for hardboard, bottle-dash, and rock-dash stucco, all of which could easily be damaged by the process. You’re bound to be in for some physical labor, too: Serious scrubbing is virtually guaranteed if it’s been a long time since the last pressure wash. And failure to follow all safety measures to the letter could result in personal injury (if your home is higher than one story, you may be best advised to hire a pro for the job).

Pressure washers use a high-pressure water spray ideal for tough cleaning jobs on boats, sidewalks, and decks, as well as houses. Their power is measured in pounds per square inch (psi)—the amount of pressure the liquid contents put on the walls of its container. They are available in gas and electric models; the gas variety can create greater psi and is advised for tougher jobs and hardier material. It’s also portable, so better suited to hard-to-reach areas.

The psi required for building materials varies. Painted soft-grain wood siding, stucco, and aluminum siding are best treated with 1,200 to 1,500 psi models. For delicate stucco, it’s also best to use a 25- to 30-degree wider spray nozzle to disperse water over a wider area and with less force, preventing any gouging or nicking. For rugged, unpainted materials like brick, stone, vinyl, and steel, it’s recommended to use a machine rated for 2,500 to 3,000 psi.

Professionals charge anywhere from 10 to 80 cents per square foot, while gas and electric pressure washers may be rented from large home centers for about $100 a day. If you decide to DIY the job, speak with the rental agent and refer to the manual to ensure you’re picking the right machine for the job. Have the rental agent demonstrate how to attach and detach nozzles to the spraying wand, then try it yourself to become familiar with it. Also, ask for a demonstration on attaching the extension wand as well. Note: The bulky equipment starts at around 75 pounds and can exceed 150 pounds, depending on the power and size of the model, so you may need a helper and a truck to get it home.

The instructions ahead are for pressure washing a house with exterior siding. Choose a mild day in spring or fall to tackle the project; preferably avoid strong summer sun, which could dry the cleaning agents before you could rinse them off. With a combination of proper cleaning products, scrubbing, technique, and a good rinse, your home will clean as a whistle once again.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
Duct tape
Measuring cup
Housecleaning detergent with mildewcide
5gallon mixing bucket
Siding brush with extension handle (optional)
Stiff deckcleaning brush with extension handle (optional)
Garden sprayer
Garden hose
Safety goggles or safetyrated sunglasses
Pressure washer with 15 to 30degree nozzles
Gasoline (if using a gaspowered pressure washer)
Extension cord (if using an electric pressure washer)
6foot to 12foot extension wand
Rolling, lockablewheel scaffold (optional)


Follow these precautions when taking on a pressure wash project:

• Wear eye protection. Projectiles of dirt, rock, wood, or anything the water hits are a common hazard.

• Pressure washers are powerful enough to tear off skin or cause blindness if sprayed at eye-level. Never goof around with the equipment to spray a friend or use it to “rinse” your hands or feet.

• Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Close any outdoor plug outlets, or cover them with duct tape to prevent water from getting inside. Also be aware of any overhead power lines that could be struck by the extension wand, and be careful to avoid these as you work.

How to Pressure Wash a House


• Never use a ladder with a power washer. Washer recoil could propel you off right off (even if a helper holds the ladder). Pros commonly use scaffolding, due to the dangerous threat of recoil. If your home is taller than a single story, and you are adamant about DIYing the job, rent, borrow, or buy (for about $200) a six-foot rolling, lockable-wheel scaffolding. Combined with your reach and a 12-foot extension wand, you could be able to manage 24 feet of cleaning.


Protect shrubbery, gardens, lawn, and by covering with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Secure all sheeting/cloths with duct tape.

Follow the package’s instructions for your detergent with mildewcide (available where you rent the machine or home centers) to mix it with water in the five-gallon bucket. Add bleach at a volume of one part for every nine parts of the mildewcide-detergent solution. Pour this solution into the garden sprayer.

Set the pressure washer up prior to scrubbing so it will be ready to go. Locate the hose mount on the back of the pressure washer, and attach the garden hose to this mount as well as to the hose faucet on the outside of the house. For harder surfaces and a higher psi, use a 15-degree spray nozzle. For softer surfaces and a lower psi, choose a 25- or 30-degree nozzle. If you’re doing a two-story structure, you’ll want to do the top floor first, so attach the extension wand. Also set up the scaffolding in advance, following manufacturer’s instructions. Position it far enough from the wall that you can stand in the center of the scaffolding and have between 1.5- to 3-feet reach, with the wand held comfortably in hand. Remember to lock the wheels in position before using the scaffold.

Thoroughly spray a six- to 10-foot section of a single floor of your home with the mildewcide solution. Starting from the bottom of the section and working your way up, gently but firmly scour the siding with the soft siding brush. Working “up” is most effective because, if you start from the top, suds and liquid will run down the wall, potentially obscuring sections enough that you overlook them. If doing a two-story home, start scrubbing on the top floor first, but cleaning from the scaffolding’s “floor” up to the top of the house.

Once the first section is thoroughly scrubbed, don the safety goggles. Standing a three-foot nozzle-to-wall distance, turn on the pressure washer. If this stance allows you to remove dirt without damage, maintain it. If not, move in at increments of four to six inches and gauge the cleaning power, and continue to work from whatever distance seems fitting.

Once you’ve established the right distance, start at the top of the scrubbed section. Spray overhangs first and work your way down. To prevent water from getting under the siding, reach up with both arms (as high as you can safely without recoil knocking you off balance) and angle the sprayer down to a 45-degree angle.

Move on to the next section, repeating Steps 4 through 6, until you’ve cleaned the entire home. When finished, pull up the drop cloths and plastic sheeting, toss the duct tape out, and put the cleaning agents and equipment away. Wait at least two days for the exterior to dry thoroughly before any paintwork you plan to do—or simply admire your sparkling clean home!


How to Pressure Wash a House


All You Need to Know About Stucco Homes

Not just for the southwest anymore, this distinctive exterior is catching on across the country. Find out if it’s right for your home.

All You Need to Know About Stucco Homes


Stucco siding, a type of hand-troweled masonry plaster consisting of cement, water, and sand, is a definitive feature of Spanish and Mediterranean architecture. These stucco homes feature exteriors in a variety of textures from pebbled to sweeping swirls to virtually smooth, depending on application technique, and provide durable protection against the elements. But this type of masonry does have its downsides, and it isn’t appropriate for every property. So whether your house-hunting has drawn you to this particular look, you’re considering re-siding your home in stucco, or you want to maintain the stucco exterior you’ve already got, read on for a crash course.


The earliest stucco contained lime instead of cement, and because its ingredients are easily found in nature, it’s one of the oldest natural types of siding around, dating back to ancient Greece. Spaniards are thought to have introduced stucco to Mexico and the American southwest, creating rock-hard walls by applying the mixture over stick-, stone-, or timber-framing.

With the mass production of dry cement in the early 1900s, stucco siding entered a new era. Cement increased the workability of stucco, with longer drying times allowing builders greater freedom. Yet the southwest remained the perfect place for stucco, thanks to arid conditions and high sand content that made the soil stable.

Attempts at installing traditional stucco in climates farther north and east met with mixed results. In regions where the soil moved, causing house foundations to settle, cracks appeared in the stucco that allowed rain to penetrate and loosen the siding from its sheathing. Today, the addition of polymers and other agents for increased flexibility, along with refined application techniques, have improved stucco’s resilience, making it a growing choice throughout the United States.


Stucco Homes



Stucco is appealing for a number of reasons, chief among them its fire resistance. A 1-inch coating of stucco provides a one-hour firewall rating, which means it will prevent the spread of fire from one side of the wall to the other side for at least one hour. This makes stucco desirable for multi-family dwellings with strict fire codes, and those in neighborhoods where houses are built in close proximity to each other.

Then there’s looks, and those appealing hues—from soft shades to deep earthy tones—achieved by adding dyes to the mix. Customarily, stucco was often paired with flat roofs and clay tile roofing material, but people find the surface so attractive, you’ll now see stucco on homes with pitched roofs and paired with both shingle and metal roofing materials.

But due to its brittle nature, stucco siding will crack if a house foundation settles. It simply isn’t the best choice in regions where soil is high in clay, notorious for swelling and causing foundations to shift.

Over time, even stucco on homes with firm foundations can develop hairline cracks. While small cracks won’t affect the integrity of the siding and can often be repaired without calling a pro, cracks of 1/4-inch or wider spell trouble. Some stucco homes built after WWII were created with a spray-on form that didn’t prove as sturdy as traditional hand-troweled stucco. As time goes on, these homes may be prone to large multiple cracks and/or chunks of stucco falling off, and the only real option is to have the faulty siding removed and replaced by a reputable contractor.

Finally, stucco hasn’t got an appreciable insulation factor: A 1-inch layer of stucco has a 0.20 R-value, which means it only has 20 percent of the insulation factor found in the same thickness of wood—none too desirable in a cold New England winter!


Stucco Homes - How to Apply Stucco



Stucco is installed in layers, a time-consuming, labor-intensive process done by skilled pros—not a job for even the most ambitious DIYer—and that’s why it can be pricey. In the southwest, where stucco contractors are knowledgeable and plentiful, you can have it applied for $4 to $7 per square foot, but in other climes, expect to pay between $6 and $10 per square foot.

The application process depends on the house’s structure—wood-framed walls require more coats of traditional stucco than block or concrete.  By applying stucco in layers and allowing each layer to set, the contractor gradually builds up the thickness of the siding.

• Traditional stucco is applied in a three-coat process to wood-frame exterior walls. It starts with a “scratch coat” spread over metal lath attached to a house’s exterior sheathing. The rough surface allows the next layer, the “brown coat,” to adhere. The brown coat adds strength and acts as a base for the “finish coat,” which can be hand-troweled to create a custom surface texture.

• Two-coat stucco is used on concrete, brick, and block walls. The existing masonry makes a scratch coat unnecessary. Instead of metal lath, a bonding adhesive is applied to the masonry wall before two coats of stucco are applied.

• One-coat stucco is a relatively new process using stucco mixed with fiberglass, applied over metal lath. Not all stucco contractors offer the one-coat process, so you may have to call around to locate one in your area.


Stucco Homes - Exterior Closeup



If you already own one of these stucco homes, pay attention to its maintenance needs to get the most from this exterior.

• If you worry about foundation settling, take steps to reduce soil movement. By installing good guttering and downspouts, and by grading your yard to slope away from the foundation, you’ll limit soil saturation and lessen the risk of foundation movement.

• Remove dirt and debris that collects on stucco with a medium-bristle brush and a garden hose. Cleaning with a high-pressure washer is not recommended, as it can damage the surface.

• To remove mold, combine one-part non-chlorine bleach with three parts water and apply directly to the stains with a sponge or brush. Allow the solution to soak into the surface before rinsing with a hose.

• Efflorescence, a white stain that can develop on stucco exposed to prolonged moisture, can be removed by spraying with white vinegar. Allow several minutes of dwell time before rinsing with a hose. Re-treat if necessary to completely remove the stain.

• Keep in mind that stucco can be painted if you tire of the color, and and you can probably do the job yourself. With just a little care, your stucco siding will keep its distinctive look for years to come.

Are Gutters Actually Necessary?

The seemingly simple fixture that runs along the edge of your roof is tasked with a most important responsibility. Read on to learn why gutters are so essential—and how you can make sure yours do the best job possible.

The Purpose of Gutters


Those new to homeownership and home maintenance may question whether gutters are an absolutely vital component of their homes’ exteriors, or just some sort of decorative element. While it’s true that professionally installed gutters create a crisp, clean edge around your home’s roofline, their main purpose is far from mere adornment. Contractors install a gutter system on every new house they build because its job—guiding rain and storm water off the roof and away from the foundation of the house—is essential to the home’s structural well-being. That is, when the gutter is kept clean and free from debris.

A Little Water Never Hurt Anyone, Did It?
No matter how gently rain falls onto your roof, the water builds up as it runs off and creates a powerful surge that, if not diverted, can hammer the ground next to your foundation—and water and foundations do not mix. Pounding water along the foundation line erodes the soil and can seep down along the foundation, increasing the risk of basement leaks and structural instability.

Gutters that safely manage storm water do more than simply protect your house. They also preserve your yard and your neighborhood. Without fully functioning gutters and downspouts to control runoff in a safe manner, rainwater could cut pathways through your yard as well as your neighbor’s, creating ditches, pooling in low-lying areas, and even killing lawns, flowers, and other vegetation.


Cleaning Gutters by Hand


Maintaining Your Home’s Main Defense
When you fail to clean your gutter system you’re inviting problems, because clogged gutters can be nearly as bad as having no gutters at all. Rainwater trapped in a clogged gutter or downspout has nowhere to go but over the edge of the trough, rendering your gutter system virtually useless. And if the leaves, twigs, and other debris remain during winter, snowmelt can pool and refreeze in the gutters, potentially weighing them down so much that they can pull free from the house. Clogged gutters also increase the risk of ice dams forming at the edge of the roof.

If you have traditional gutters on your home, you should clean them at least twice a year: once in the spring and again in the fall, before winter arrives. With traditional gutters, you have two maintenance options: You can haul a ladder over to the side of your house and clean out the debris by hand, which saves you money but can be dangerous. Or, you can pay to have a professional gutter-cleaning crew clear the gutters and downspouts.

A third option, however, can save you from ever having to worry about your gutters again. Instead of performing regular maintenance, you can alter the structure itself: Install a patented seamless gutter system that never clogs and never needs cleaning.


LeafGuard Gutters Funnel Rainwater Without Debris


A Work- and Worry-Free Option
LeafGuard Brand gutters, as the name suggests, combine the funneling functions of the traditional gutter with a patented curved-hood design that shields against leaves, twigs, and other debris. Roll-formed from sheet aluminum, the LeafGuard gutter hood arcs over the top of the gutter, directing runoff from the roof into the gutter while blocking airborne debris from entering. Even leaves that fall onto the roof and are washed off slip right over the edge of the gutter and down to the ground below. The result is a clean, clear gutter that never clogs.

This system features an unparalleled durability, which is recognized and backed by the Good Housekeeping Seal. The sheet aluminum used to make LeafGuard gutters is thicker than the aluminum used in traditional gutters, and trained installers secure the gutter with internal hanging brackets for extra stability. Ultimately, all these factors combine to create a system that can handle up to 32 inches of rain per hour—virtually any rain Mother Nature can dish out. Moreover, the gutter can run from one corner of your house to the next without any seams, thereby eliminating the risk of leaks at connection points. This feat is possible because the entire gutter trough is extruded—right on site—from a single sheet of aluminum to fit your house’s specific dimensions.

To top it off, LeafGuard‘s innovative design boasts good looks too. The one-piece construction eliminates unsightly seams, and the gutters come in a variety of colors that can complement, even enhance, your home’s aesthetic appeal. The ScratchGuard paint finish on them comes with a lifetime warranty so that they always look as good as the day they were installed.

If you’re tired of cleaning your own gutters twice a year, or having to shell out for a professional crew to do it, it’s time to consider the third option of LeafGuard’s cutting-edge gutter technology.


This post has been brought to you by LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of

All You Need to Know About Roof Inspections

Don't underestimate the importance of this yearly checkup for your home.

Roof Inspections and Their Importance


Your home’s roof is its first line of defense against storms and extreme weather, be it a foot or more of snow dropping from the sky overnight or high winds that tear through the town. When homeowners place blind faith in their roof and neglect it completely until the first sign of a leak appears in the ceiling, they could already be facing much larger problems—unwanted structural issues, mold growth, or damaged insulation, for starters. Spare yourself a headache down the road by having your roof periodically inspected.

When to Schedule Roof Inspections
After a hailstorm or other significant weather event, most homeowners recognize the need for a thorough roof inspection to determine whether their roof suffered damage. But that shouldn’t be the only time you consider your roof’s health.

Perhaps the most vital time of year to have your roof inspected is the fall, before the cold of winter sets in. Timing is key. Frigid temperatures can compromise the success of new roof installations and such repairs as shingle replacement because new shingles can’t seal down properly when it’s too cold outside. Moreover, attempting repairs on icy roofs can be treacherous, so roof problems uncovered too late in the season may have to wait until spring to be fixed. Another argument for a fall inspection is the fact that certain roof repairs should be initiated in the fall so they can be completed the next spring—for example, treatment for moss and lichen. The solutions used for either of these invaders can require an extended amount of time to work, sometimes up to 180 days. If moss or lichen are discovered during a fall roof inspection, there’s still a chance to get at them before cold weather sets in. Then, the treatment can be working during those long winter months, and the dead lichen can be swept or rinsed off in the spring.

Roof Inspections with a Professional Roofing Contractor


Homeowner Inspections vs. Professional Inspections
Most homeowners can spot obvious roof problems, such as missing or flapping shingles, without climbing on the roof. Other types of damage, however, are not as visible to the untrained eye, which is why it’s important to get a professional opinion. If your roof is relatively new (less than five years old), shows no signs of interior leaks, and hasn’t been exposed to major weather events since the last time it was inspected, you can probably get by with a visual inspection from the ground and a quick check for leaks in your attic. In any other case, however, a comprehensive roof inspection should be completed by a roofing professional who knows what to look for.

For seasonal roof inspections, especially if your roof is more than 10 years old, call a reputable roofing contractor to come out and take a look. If you’re going into a roof inspection thinking that your roof has been damaged in some way, call your insurance company—they might cover the cost of repairs. Your agent will arrange for a qualified roof inspector to examine the roof and make a determination.

What to Expect from Professional Roof Inspections
A roof inspector will be looking for leaks, unusual wear and tear, damage caused by windblown debris, organic growth issues, and problems that may have occurred during shingle installation or subsequent repairs. Ultimately, a roof inspection gets broken into four facets: structure, materials, interiors, and workmanship.

• Structural Inspection: The inspector will check for uneven roof planes and signs of sagging, in addition to examining the condition of the soffit, fascia, and gutter system. Masonry chimneys should be inspected at this time for cracks, crumbling grout, and damage to chimney caps. The inspector may also check the venting in your attic; improper venting can lead to heat and moisture buildup that reduces roof life and increases the risk of ice dams forming at the roof’s edge.

• Material Inspection: Here, the inspector will be looking for loose, missing, or curling shingles; stains; moss; rust; and missing flashing or fasteners. Shingle aggregate that has settled in roof valleys or on the ground at the bottom of gutter downspouts is a sign that the roof could be near the end of its useful life. The inspector will also check the rubber boots and seals around vent pipes, looking for gaps or deterioration.

• Interior Inspection: Because roof leaks ultimately damage your home, the inspector will check interior ceilings, the attic, and interior walls for water stains, mold, rot, and other signs that water is making its way into your house.

• Workmanship Inspection: A thorough inspector will examine your roof for problems in workmanship that could increase the risks of leaks or other roof damage in the future. Incorrect flashing around roof penetrations—including vent pipes, skylights, and chimneys—would all be red flags.

Roofing Analysis
After the inspection, you’ll receive a detailed report about the condition of your roof and what repairs, if any, are necessary to keep it in good shape. If repairs are necessary, schedule them as soon as possible—before the snow flies, if you can. That way, when snow blankets the neighborhood, you can be confident that your roof is in good shape.

5 Things to Know Before You Invest in New Siding

Siding can make or break the appearance of a home. But remember, beauty is more than skin deep: If a siding replacement project looms in your future, make sure you choose a material that will offer durability, ease of maintenance, and insulation as well as looks.

How to Choose Siding - Front View


The blistering heat of the Southwest. The bitter cold of the Northeast. Every region faces a set of unique climate challenges that—no matter where you live—slowly but surely work to erode the integrity of your home. As a first line of defense, exterior siding goes a long way toward keeping the elements at bay, and it may do so unfailingly for decades. But no siding lasts forever. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before yours will succumb to driving rain, whipping wind, and the other threats it once protected against. When the time finally comes for siding replacement, many homeowners proceed with the project intending merely to restore the status quo. But according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, re-siding actually presents a rare opportunity. “In one fell swoop,” he says, you can “boost not only the outward look of your home, but its performance as well.” Of course, as in any home improvement project, only careful consideration and planning can ensure satisfying, if not jaw-dropping, results. At the outset, therefore—before you make any final decisions or spend any money—the wise course is to learn more about the role siding plays in the home and the clear-cut advantages replacement offers. For a detailed discussion of the main considerations to weigh in your decision making, continue reading now!



How to Choose Siding - High Stakes


Cladding the entire home from the foundation to the roofline, siding easily ranks as the single most conspicuous element of the exterior. That being the case, its condition has a huge impact on curb appeal, largely determining the impression your home makes on first-time visitors and passersby. If your siding has begun to rot or crumble—or if it’s developed a great many cracks, holes, and gouges—then it’s compromising not only the appearance of your home, but also—and much more importantly—its structure. “Don’t rule out the possibility of repair,” Eldredge of Sears Home Services says, pointing out that modest fixes can be made to modest-sized problem areas. In cases where the extent of damage makes repair prohibitively expensive, Eldredge says, “replacement often offers a cost-effective alternative.” The key is not to delay. After all, unsound siding leaves your home in a precarious position. For one thing, even small breaks in the material allow moisture to reach and potentially rot wood components of the interior, including the framing. And openings that let in water can also invite potentially damaging pests and other unwanted critters. True, many of these invaders are more nuisance than threat, but some are capable of causing extensive, expensive-to-resolve headaches. That’s why Eldredge summarizes, “If you want to keep living in your home, you need siding that can keep it protected.”



How to Choose House Siding - Material Energy Efficiency


It’s not cheap keeping a home at a comfortable temperature year-round. In fact, heating and cooling equipment consumes more energy than most other appliances combined, accounting for more than half of the monthly utility bill in average homes. That said, if your current siding isn’t performing up to par—if it’s allowing air to exit and enter the home freely—you may be paying even more than strictly necessary. Why? To counter the heat lost or gained by air leaks, your HVAC system must work harder—and consume more energy—to maintain the target temperature set on the thermostat. Although “it’s rarely something that homeowners expect from the project,” Eldredge points out, re-siding can help make your home more tightly sealed, not only eliminating the discomfort of drafts, but creating the ideal conditions for climate-control technology to operate with peak efficiency. Of course, on its own, siding of any material can offer only so much insulation. If you insist on better thermal performance, limit your search to siding products like the Weatherbeater line, routinely and exclusively installed by Sears Home Services. Thanks to a special foam underlayment, Weatherbeater siding boasts an enhanced insulating capacity, or R-value. In fact, all three levels of Weatherbeater siding are certified by Energy Star for their efficiency advantages.



How to Choose Siding - House Maintenance


How long does siding last? “It’s tough to generalize,” Eldredge says. Much depends on the siding you install, and whether you’re prepared to maintain it. While some siding materials deliver first-rate performance without asking much in return, others require regular care to remain viable. For instance, wood siding appeals to many for its traditional beauty, but according to Eldredge, “it’s probably the most demanding of all.” In addition to seasonal inspection, wood requires periodic refinishing to look and perform its best. In the past, if you were hesitant about such a high-maintenance siding material, “you’d probably have chosen to go with aluminum instead,” Eldredge says. But over the years, “aluminum proved to be a lot more hands-on than expected.” The metal itself would last for decades, sure, but once its enamel coating faded, the material would require repainting. As well, its tendency to become scratched, pitted, or dented often necessitated the hassle and expense of repair. Fortunately, the market now includes a broader, better range of options. Today, Eldredge says, vinyl siding trumps others in popularity, because it provides the “best of both worlds”—that is, the look of traditional wood siding without all the hassle. In fact, low-maintenance Weatherbeater vinyl siding from Sears Home Services rarely needs anything more than a rinse with a garden hose.



How to Choose Siding - Curb Appeal Aesthetics


As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Of course, while the phrase is typically used to emphasize the importance of eye contact and a firm handshake, it also applies to our homes—especially their exteriors. To approaching guests, or simply to people walking or driving by, the outward appearance of your home can express a great deal about your personality, your style, and your priorities as a homeowner. If you suspect that your current siding isn’t sending the right messages about you, there’s no easier, less expensive, or more effective option than painting. The catch is that although a fresh coat of paint may be able to usher in a dramatic new look, it cannot solve deeper, performance-related problems with your siding. But don’t forget: Although you may be choosing to install new siding for expressly practical reasons, you can leverage the project to resolve your aesthetic concerns at the same time. The sheer number of options makes it easy to find a combination of color and texture that reflects your preferences, highlights the architectural style of your home, and suits the surrounding neighborhood. Eldredge concludes, “There are dozens and dozens of possibilities, even if you look only at the Weatherbeater line,” the siding installed by Sears Home Services. In other words, he says, “homeowners are spoiled for choice!”



How to Choose Siding - House Resale Value


When homeowners undertake a home improvement project, they often do it begrudgingly. “Nobody likes to spend money,” Eldredge points out. Put off by the price tag? Think of it this way—you’re not the only one who knows that re-siding involves considerable costs. Prospective buyers are also aware of this fact, and often act on that awareness by walking away from homes that have siding that needs work. You may not have any immediate plans to move, but whenever you do decide to sell, having chosen to re-side your home could work to your ultimate advantage. Plus, Eldredge says, “don’t forget that you’re making an investment, not simply throwing money away.” When it comes time to sell, the purchase and installation of new siding often gives a boost to home value. In fact, Eldredge estimates that upon resale, homeowners typically recoup more than half of the project cost. Certainly, not every home improvement offers a favorable return on investment, but siding replacement definitely does—especially when you add in the amount Energy Star-rated options like Weatherbeater siding can save you on climate control. To gain even more confidence in your re-siding project, make it a point to find a solution that’s backed by a solid guarantee. For instance, Sears Home Services provides peace of mind with a one-, two-, or three-year limited warranty (view details).


Typically, homeowners undertake an improvement project on their own timetable, to enhance their enjoyment of their house. Sprucing up the kitchen, adding a deck in the backyard—these are purely elective projects. Re-siding, in comparison, may not be quite as fun, but in terms of consequence it edges out most others by a mile. Indeed, siding replacement can help ensure the continued health and happiness of your home. Under the circumstances, and recognizing that the eventual success or failure of new siding hinges largely on proper installation, it’s only prudent to work with professionals whose skill and experience are commensurate with the importance of the job. Don’t simply flip open the phone book and settle on the first name you find. Do your due diligence. Hire well, and you can look forward to getting the job done on time, on budget. But if you opt for a well-established, nationwide company like Sears Home Services, you get something else too—peace of mind. To begin, schedule a free in-home consultation right now. Expert project consultants can help you assess the condition of your current siding, and if replacement proves necessary, they can guide you each step of the way through the entire process. Perhaps best of all, in a demonstration of its commitment to the quality of your customer experience, Sears Home Services supports all its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee.

How to Choose Siding - House Rear View


This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Forget About Your Gutters for Good

Cleaning gutters is a seasonal hassle that protects against other, much worse headaches later on. But what if this year—and plenty more years to come—you could skip the task altogether? Read on to learn how you can retire this tiresome task forever.

How to Forget About Gutters - No Clogs


As the days grow shorter and the heat of summer eases into autumn, it’s tempting to just kick back, relax, and enjoy this season of invigorating weather, game-day tailgating, and must-see television. Experienced homeowners, however, know all too well that the shift indoors doesn’t signal an end to outdoor maintenance. Fall is the time to winterize the lawn, replace weatherstripping, and make necessary house repairs before temperatures really take a dive. But topping the list of must-do tasks: the unpleasant duty of cleaning out your home’s gutters before precipitation starts to freeze.

Gutters and downspouts perform the crucial function of channeling rainwater away from the house, preventing it from collecting at the base and seeping down between the soil and foundation. Particularly in areas that are high in clay soil, over-saturation at the foundation can cause the soil to swell and exert lateral pressure on the foundation walls, creating structural problems and increasing the risk of leaks. To keep this from happening, water must be able to flow freely through the gutters. Unfortunately, left unattended for just a few months, typical gutters can become clogged with windblown seeds, leaves, twigs, and other debris that can obstruct drainage, cause rainwater to overflow, and prevent the system from doing its job.

Even if you’re lucky enough to get through autumn without clogged gutters and their attendant foundation problems, stopped-up gutters in winter can bring even worse consequences. Moisture and standing water trapped by debris can freeze and expand, breaking the gutter and pulling it loose from its mounting brackets—and leaving you with an expensive repair bill. And as spring arrives and the debris decomposes, windblown tree seeds that settled in the gutters can sprout, growing into unsightly saplings that weigh down an already stressed gutter system. Within a very short time, the extra burden can damage the gutter. The sad fact is, if your home has traditional gutters, you can’t skip even one seasonal cleaning. The traditionally high-maintenance drainage system demands attention every spring and every fall, and possibly even more frequently if your backyard boasts an above-average number of trees.


Regular gutter cleanup often comes down to two options: DIY versus professional. Handy homeowners who choose to tackle the chore themselves save money, but the labor is tedious and often unsafe. To minimize risk, gutter cleaning should be a two-person job, with one person on the ladder cleaning the gutter, and another down below holding the ladder steady and handing up tools as needed for scraping out or disposing of debris. To reduce the risk of falls, it’s imperative that the person tasked with the climb never stand on the ladder’s top rung or stretch past his or her natural reach. Ultimately, the safer route is to call in the pros. A reputable gutter cleaning company relieves you of the risk and responsibility and, equipped with the right tools and experience, can speed through the work quickly and effectively. But in the long term, spending a few hundred dollars on a professional service two or more times each year can really add up.

Fortunately, homeowners aren’t limited to those two options. There’s a third way, a design solution that can eliminate the need for cleaning gutters altogether, no matter the season. The innovative LeafGuard Brand Gutters combine a hood and gutter into a single, uninterrupted fixture that does all the dirty work. The unique roll-formed design directs runoff from the roof into the gutter trough while simultaneously keeping leaves and other airborne organic matter out. This ingenious arrangement doesn’t allow anything into the gutter that would need to be manually cleaned, making maintenance a thing of the past.

The rest of the system is built to work just as hard: The gutter trough and downspouts are substantial enough to handle even the heaviest rains, up to 32 inches per hour. Plus, built from a continuous sheet of aluminum, LeafGuard is immune to those leaks that commonly develop where parts join together in traditional gutters.

And, because they’re professionally extruded on-site from heavy-gauge aluminum prior to installation, you can be confident that the custom gutters will flawlessly fit your house. No guessing or piecing gutter sections together. No sagging or breaking. And LeafGuard gutters look as good as they perform, offering 12 scratch-resistant colors to choose from—including classic white, tan, gray, and even Musket Brown—so homeowners can find a style that truly complements their house’s design.

Go ahead! Rake up the leaves on your lawn, caulk that drafty window, and change your furnace filters. But this fall, make a new plan. Instead of scaling a rickety ladder to clean your gutters, simply climb into your hammock for one last nap. When you choose LeafGuard, your gutters will flow freely, protected from clogs without your having to lift a single finger, and you’ll be able to cross gutter maintenance off your to-do list—forever.

Attractive Leafguard Gutters Match Any Home Design


This post has been brought to you by LeafGuard. Its facts and opinions are those of

3 Reasons to Build with Metal Roofing

These three hidden benefits build a strong case for an equally strong roofing material.

Installing Metal Roofing


A homeowner doesn’t usually give much thought to the roof on his or her home until the worst happens and it’s time for repairs. So, under normal circumstances, “upgrade the roof” doesn’t sit toward the top of most homeowners’ to-do lists, which are usually crowded with curb appeal projects or energy-saving fixes—but maybe it should. Modern metal roofing boasts numerous benefits, from its long, low-maintenance lifespan to the year-round energy savings it generates, that have made its use more attractive. Read on for just a few of the reasons why customers of American Building Components—one of the leading manufacturers of residential and agricultural steel products—select, install, and love their metal roofs.

Gone are the days of “tin roofs” on barns, sheds, and shacks. Modern metal roofs are better engineered than ever before, promising even stronger shelter and a wider selection of colors, styles, and profiles. Roofing manufacturers like American Building Components offer panels in “Radiant Red,” “Hawaiian Blue,” “Desert Sand,” and more than two dozen other color options—a rainbow array to complement any style of building.

Now that there’s no need to compromise curb appeal for durability, a metal roof can stay stylish for as many decades as it remains functional—and this is a significant span of time, as a properly installed, warranty-backed metal roof has the potential to outlast your lifetime. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Metal Construction Association determined that metal roofs last at least 60 years, a strong selling point for those homeowners who want their next roof to be the last one they’ll ever need, as well as those concerned about their home’s resale value later on.

Installing Metal Roofing - Dormer Detail


While a premium metal roof may incur a higher initial cost than other roofing materials on the market, the minimal maintenance it requires over its long lifespan saves homeowners a bundle. And then there’s the money this investment puts back into your pocket: From energy savings to tax credits, even potential insurance savings, this home upgrade starts to pay off immediately.

Metal roofing can have a significant impact on a home’s energy consumption, especially in the summer. Specially formulated paint pigments applied to the metal create “cool roofs,” or surfaces that reflect and emit the sun’s energy rather than soaking in the heat and trapping it in the attic. With cool roof technology available from suppliers like American Building Components, a homeowner could see energy savings of up to 40 percent, depending on the climate in his region. Additionally, because the cooling units in these homes don’t have to work as hard to keep interiors at a comfortable temperature, there is the potential to actually extend the lifespan of your air conditioner—ultimately saving you from shelling out extra money for a replacement. If that isn’t enough incentive, add to those yearly savings a one-time tax credit of up to $500 on Energy Star roofing materials purchased before the end of 2016.

Then there’s the insurance-savings potential that comes from the roofing’s impressive durability during many types of natural disasters, including fires and hurricanes. After a 1991 firestorm in Oakland, California, wiped out more than 3,200 homes, one famous image depicted a lone house standing unscathed amidst a fire-razed neighborhood. What saved it? Its metal roof. Meanwhile, other roofs of asphalt and wood were lost to the tiniest of sparks in those arid conditions. Today, fire safety isn’t the only reason insurers love metal roofs. Engineered metal roofing, like that offered by American Building Components, stands up well to most inclement weather: snow, hail, even hurricane-force winds of up to 140 miles per hour. Ask your insurance broker about discounts for weather-rated, impact-resistant, and fire-resistant metal roofing. In some places, homeowners see a savings of up to 35 percent on their policy.

A roof that fails midwinter under the weight of snow is every homeowner’s nightmare—except, that is, for a homeowner who sleeps underneath a metal roof. The winter months are when metal roofs work hardest. First, the sleek roofing material is designed with grooves that shed snow and sleet, thereby reducing the burden that a couple of feet of snowfall might otherwise put on a rooftop overnight. Additionally, snow guards can be used to break larger mounds of compacted snow into smaller piles to safely offload the icy precipitation. Then indoors, the metal structure and its insulating underlayment prevent heat loss, so the heating system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the house toasty.

Homeowners ready to make the switch and reap these benefits this winter, as well as those who—as a result of snow damage—end up needing to repair their existing roofs midseason, will be happy to know that this particular installation is not off-limits in winter. In fact, there may even be savings to be gained by installing in December or January. Because most homeowners rush to get their roofing needs met before the first snowfall, doing the work in midwinter might mean that local roofing contractors will have less work lined up, so you may be able to negotiate a better rate on labor. (Let’s not forget the tax benefit you could get if you squeeze the project in before December 31, 2016.)

If you’re looking into repairing or replacing your existing roof, consider saving yourself some long-term hassle—as well as a fair chunk of money every year—by investing in metal roofing panels. There’s no reason to delay. Make this the last time you ever worry about your home’s roof.

Installing Metal Roofing - Top View


This article has been brought to you by American Building Components. Its facts and opinions are those of

Material Matters: Expert Advice on 3 Top Options in Roofing

Is it time to put a new roof over your head? There's much more to the project than its cost. First things first, you must decide what type of shingles to install. Read on for one expert's take on a trio of the most enduringly popular options.



It’s hard to overstate the importance of a sound roof. Besides keeping out the weather, the roof also contributes to curb appeal, making it one of the few components consequential enough to impact the home both in terms of performance and aesthetics. When the time comes to replace something so pivotal, the usual rules of home improvement cease to apply. Most projects are purely elective, after all, but re-roofing isn’t a choice—it’s an essential step toward protecting the structural integrity, outward condition, and long-term health of your biggest investment. Given the high stakes, not to mention the costs, re-roofing tends to intimidate. Only adding to the stress are all the unfamiliar terms that planning a re-roofing project brings into play. There are tough choices to make, too. Perhaps trickiest of all is selecting a new roofing material. Unfamiliar with the relative merits of the many different options, the average homeowner often doesn’t know where to begin. For guidance, we spoke to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services—a nationwide company with a decades-long history of helping customers navigate the re-roofing process from beginning to end.




Before modern manufacturing delivered a host of new options to the market, wood shakes and shingles served for decades, if not centuries, as one of the few materials commonly used in roofing. Though by no means as ubiquitous as in the past, it remains a popular choice today, particularly among those seeking to enhance the period authenticity of a historic home. You can’t beat the look: Whether cedar, redwood, or pine—machine-sawed or hand-split—wood shakes and shingles offer an undeniable appeal. Their charm comes at a cost, though. With a price point at least twice as high as other roofing types, “wood simply isn’t in the budget for many remodelers,” according to Eldredge. “There’s also the issue of maintenance,” he says. Wood and water don’t mix. It’s that simple. So in order to remain free of rot and mold, wood roofing must be treated periodically with preservative, fungicide, or both. For those willing to meet their demands, wood shakes and shingles offer the reward of a 25-year average lifespan. But as Eldredge puts it, “not every homeowner feels comfortable committing to such a high-cost, high-maintenance material,” regardless of its aesthetic virtues.




The terra cotta color and half-cylinder shape of clay roofing tiles are the perfect complement to the stucco finish found on the many Mediterranean-style homes in such warm-weather states as Florida and Arizona. “It’s expensive,” Eldredge says—sometimes even quadruple the cost of a budget-friendly material—but since tile roofs commonly last more than 100 years, “you get bang for your buck.” Some homeowners cut costs by opting for concrete, not clay, tiles. But compared to the genuine article, concrete tile roofing—though it fares better in colder climates—lasts only half as long. Still, “if there’s one major downside to tile,” Eldredge says, “it’s how much the stuff weighs.” Whereas a typical roof weighs about 230 pounds per ten-foot-square area, a tile roof covering the same area can weigh over 1,000 pounds. If you’ve never had a tile roof before, don’t commit to one without first consulting a structural engineer. “It might not be possible for your roof to support the anticipated weight,” Eldredge concludes. Of course, you can always add structural reinforcement to bolster the strength of your roof, but to do so would add even more to the cost of an already expensive job.




If you were to close your eyes and picture the roof of a typical home, chances are that you would imagine a roof with asphalt shingles. “They have emerged as the industry standard,” Eldredge says. In fact, among the three lines of shingles routinely installed by Sears Home Services, all are asphalt, and for good reason. For one thing, asphalt shingles are often the most cost-effective option, not least because their ease of installation helps keep labor fees low. For another, “Asphalt shingles need little maintenance,” Eldredge says. The one knock against them—that they are unremarkable looking—no longer applies. “A lot has changed over the last 20 or so years,” Eldredge says. “Gray isn’t your only option anymore.” Today, companies like Sears offer asphalt shingles in a range of designs and colors. “But don’t pick your shingles based on aesthetics alone,” Eldredge advises. Instead, once you have found a look that you like, take the time to check the warranties of any roofing products on your radar. Whereas some guarantee 20 or 25 years of problem-free performance, others—including the Owens Corning shingles installed by Sears—carry a full 50-year warranty (view details).


Make no mistake: Roofing product warranties are key, but if the shingles aren’t installed correctly, even a best-in-class guarantee can’t do you much good. Also note that, as Eldredge says, “Roofs develop leaks and other issues more often because of poor installation than because of faulty shingles.” That being the case, the long-term viability of your new roof depends most of all on the skills and qualifications of the pros you trust to handle the job. Sears Home Services sets itself apart here, because unlike most small, local contractors, the nationwide company provides a limited warranty on labor (view details). Normally, if you hire a reputable contractor, you hope the work gets done on time and on budget. With Sears Home Services, you can expect more, thanks to the company’s trademark Satisfaction Guarantee, which promises a commitment to the success of your project that continues even after its completion. Still don’t know what type of shingles are best for your budget and needs? Schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Experts are ready and waiting to lead you through the entire process. Selecting a new roof material is just the beginning!


This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Maintain Stucco

Stucco isn't delicate. Whether applied as exterior siding or as a finish for interior walls, the age-old material requires little in the way of ongoing maintenance. Occasional cleaning or patching may be necessary, but with the right combination of products and tools, any homeowner can get the job done. Here's how.


Over the course of millennia, builders have used everything from animal horns to whiskey in the making of stucco—an attractive, durable plaster finish suitable for both interior walls and exterior siding. Today, the material typically consists of more familiar ingredients like cement and sand, but it remains as tough as ever, often lasting as long as 50 or 80 years. However, in order to live out its expected lifespan successfully, stucco tends to require a modest amount of care and attention. How much largely depends on the nature of the application. Indoor stucco may call for nothing more than a new paint job now and again. But with exposure to the beating summer sun, the howling winds of winter, and simply the dirt and dust kicked up by passing traffic, it’s only a matter of time before stucco siding needs minor repair or, at the very least, a simple cleaning. For many homeowners, stucco maintenance starts and ends with a close look at the surface or surfaces in question. If your inspection reveals a reason to go a step further, read on for advice on ensuring your stucco looks and performs its best.



How to Maintain Stucco - Cleaning


A porous material, stucco collects dirt and absorbs stains, even indoors. The good news is that cleaning indoor stucco usually takes nothing more than water and a bit of elbow grease. Simply scrub the dingy stucco with a dampened nylon brush to saturate the surface, then rub away the buildup with a moistened microfiber cloth (or clean cotton rag). In extreme cases—for instance, with deeply set stains—you may find that you need more firepower. Experts recommend, not a conventional household cleaner, but a chemical solution known as trisodium phosphate, or TSP. Though it’s commonly available at home centers and hardware stores, be advised that in order to use TSP safely, homeowners must take the proper precautions. Ventilate the area by opening windows and running a fan, and when working, wear the right gear (rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and long-sleeve clothing). Once it’s safe to proceed, combine the TSP with water in a bucket, diluting to water-to-TSP ratio of 15 to 1. Finally, apply the TSP to the affected area by means of a nylon brush and allow the stucco an hour or two to dry.

In outdoor applications, when used as a siding material or even a garden wall finish, stucco tends to get a lot dirtier and for that reason, requires more frequent cleaning. The process doesn’t take long, though, so long as you use either a garden hose (equipped with a spray nozzle) or a power washer (on its lowest setting). First, with your chosen tool set to spray in a mist formation, saturate the stucco from bottom to top. Next, switch to a more concentrated spray and proceeded to clean, not from bottom to top, but from top to bottom (that way, dirt higher up on the wall doesn’t simply settle at the base). After spraying, check the stucco for any lingering buildup and, if you encounter any buildup, dislodge it with a stiff-bristle brush. Just be careful not to scrub so vigorously that you grind down the stucco. Now, if blemishes still remain on the siding, there’s one more step. With a pump sprayer or a hose wand with a built-in soap reservoir, apply diluted TSP (described above) directly to the affected areas. Then, having allowed sufficient time for the stucco to dry, finish up by rinsing the stucco surface one last time.



How to Maintain Stucco - Repair Area


Why does stucco last so long? In part, its durability owes to the fact that unlike other, more flexible materials, stucco boasts the gift of rigidity. That said, the rigidity of the material can also be a curse, causing it to develop cracks, chips, and gouges over time. Inside the home, surface stucco imperfections are merely an eyesore. But on the exterior, gaps in stucco siding can lead not only to further degradation of the stucco, but also to a host of nasty issues— mold growth, for example, or pest infestations. Don’t give a minor crack the chance to become a major headache. Take swift action. On your own, without having to hire a contractor, you can restore both the outward appearance of your stucco and, in the case of siding, its ability to defend your home against the elements. Modest stucco repairs are easily within reach for do-it-yourselfers because of products like Rapid Set Stucco Patch. On the one hand, Stucco Patch simplifies the crack-filling process, and on the other, speeds it up. In fact, due to its unique formulation, you get the job done in remarkably little time.

To begin, clear any loose or crumbling material away from and out of the crack, whether simply by using your hands or by employing a wire brush. At the same time, remember to eliminate any chalk, dirt, or oil that would inhibit the ability of the repair compound to adhere properly. Next, if the crack you’re addressing isn’t already at least a quarter of an inch thick, use a cold chisel and a hammer to widen it that much (and if possible, chisel the crack so that its edges are perpendicular to the wall). At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to assess the ambient conditions where you’re working. If it’s especially hot (or if you’re outdoors, especially windy), take the time to pre-moisten the stucco surrounding the crack. Otherwise, assuming you’ve prepared the stucco surface, you can proceed directly to preparing the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. In a wheelbarrow, mixing tub, or bucket, combine Stucco Patch with water in a 4-to-1 ratio and, with a drill-mounted paddle, mix the material for a few minutes until you have achieved a smooth, uniform, lump-free consistency like peanut butter.

Now you’re ready to apply the Rapid Set Stucco Patch. Working with a putty knife or small trowel, press the material firmly into the crack. Then, after completely filling the crack, run a flat board over the area. Doing so ensures that the patch doesn’t protrude beyond the plane of the existing stucco. What happens next depends on the texture of the existing stucco—and, depending on the size and location of the patch, if you deem it necessary for the patch to feature the same texture. Of course, if the existing surface features a smooth finish, then no problem—you can smooth the patch to an equally smooth finish with a traditional plastering tool. If, however, you need to match a decorative effect like stippling, then you may wish to take a cue from the pros who often employ ad hoc tools like sponges and kitchen whisks to create the desired effect. Once you have finished the patch to your satisfaction, you can more or less call it a day. There’s no complicated curing process involved with Rapid Set Stucco Patch.

Rapid Set Stucco Patch sets on its own, and a lot more quickly than other similar products. But that’s not the best part. When you repair stucco with other materials, you have to wait as long as 28 days before being able to paint over the patch. That’s 28 days before you can cross the project off your to-do list. Meanwhile, true to its name, Rapid Set Stucco Patch is ready to receive paint only 90 minutes after application. That’s why both pros and homeowners favor rapid-setting repair materials that give them the ability to move quickly through the process, from the beginning all the way to the end. The emphasis on speed only makes sense given that, after all, many stucco failures are time-sensitive, with prudence favoring a sooner-rather-than-later repair.

Overall, though stucco doesn’t require a great deal of care, you can’t forget all about it. Inspect it periodically—once per season, in the case of stucco siding—and clean or repair the material as necessary. Give stucco the modest amount of attention it demands, and it’s likely to reward you with decades of beauty and weather-tight performance.

How to Maintain Stucco - Rapid Set Stucco Patch


This article has been brought to you by CTS | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of

Solved! What to Do About a Leaky Roof

When it's raining inside your house, there's never time to spare. You may not always be able to fix a leaky roof yourself, but you can take steps to mitigate the damage—and the cost of repair.

Leaky Roof


Q: Help! I woke up after last night’s storm to find a discoloration on the kitchen ceiling and a puddle underneath. What do I do about this new leak?

A: There’s nothing quite like an indoor puddle to put a damper on your rise-and-shine routine, is there? The first thing to do is mitigate any moisture damage. That can get complicated, since a leaky roof doesn’t always appear as a puddle on the floor (or at least not immediately). Occasionally, the only sign of a leak is a subtle discolored patch on your ceiling or wall, caused by water pooling behind it. When you’re lucky enough to spot it early on, intervene as soon as possible using the following steps.

Secure the scene. If water’s just dripping onto the floor, consider yourself lucky and move a bucket to catch the falling drops. (While you’re at it, save your sanity by propping up some scrap wood inside the container to mute the annoying drip-drip-drip sound.) If you’re dealing with more than mere drips, move as much as possible out of the water’s path and use thick plastic sheeting to cover items that are too heavy to relocate.



Drain the water. Get up on a ladder or sturdy chair and puncture the water-damaged patch with a screwdriver. You may think that you’re making things worse by punching a hole, but if you skip this step more moisture will seep in. In fact, the weight of the water could even cause your ceiling to sag or collapse, adding one more repair to your growing list. Ultimately, patching up a small, 1/2-inch drainage hole is a lot easier and cheaper than dealing with structural damage.

Start sleuthing. So, where’s the source of that pesky leak? Water travels down trusses or flashing until it finds a weak point, so the spot where the water’s entering the room isn’t necessarily underneath—or even near—the portion of the roof you’ll have to fix. If you have attic access, start by heading up there during daylight hours. Turn off the lights and look up to see if there’s any small opening that lets sunshine stream through—an obvious source for your leaky roof.

Fight water with water. Can’t spot any signs of damage from the attic? Then your next step is the water-test method: Have someone stand outside on the roof and, using a lengthy hose, shower the roof in small sections until water starts dripping into the room again, giving you a second chance to pinpoint the source.

Phone a professional. Sometimes, finding the source of a leak is more complicated than simply spotting a hole in your attic’s ceiling. From failing flashing to clogged gutters to crumbling shingles, the list of potential causes is very long. If you’ve conducted a thorough inspection and you’re still not certain what’s causing your roof to leak, it’s time to call in a pro to both locate the problem and recommend a fix. The actual repair will depend on many factors, including roof pitch and type of shingle.

Meanwhile, lay out a tarp. If you’ve found the roof leak but can’t get a same-day repair, you’ll have to take temporary measures to protect your roof and home from snow, rain, and more water damage. If the roof is dry enough for you to climb safely, try covering the affected area with heavy plastic sheeting or a tarp (at least six millimeters thick) and some 2×4’s. Start at least four feet out from the problem area and slowly roll the plastic over it, past the the ridge of the roof, and four feet down the opposite side to cover the leaky portion completely. Place one 2×4 at the “top” of the tarp (on the opposite side of the roof) and one at the bottom (below the leaky spot) to weigh the tarp down. Fold the tarp back over each plank and fasten it to the wood with a staple gun. The bottom 2×4 should rest on an eave or against a fascia board. Lay a third 2×4 on the top board, which you’ve already wrapped in plastic sheeting, and secure it to the wrapped board with nails to help anchor the covering. Place more 2×4’s along the perimeter of the plastic if you’re worried about wind.

While you’re working outside, remember: Proceed carefully and—unless you want to compound the problem with a few more leaks—do not puncture your roof by nailing or screwing boards directly to it.