How to Repair a Leaky Roof and Live to Tell the Tale

how to fix a leaky roof

Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

You wake up after a rainstorm to find a puddle on your living room floor. It doesn’t take a cardiothoracic surgeon to deduce that you have a leaky roof. Sure, you may know to grab a bucket, but beyond that, is this the kind of problem you can fix yourself? Yes—provided you take plenty of safety precautions.

Here’s how to repair a leaky roof.

Play it safe

First, a disclaimer: Mark Graham, vice president of Technical Services at the National Roofing Contractors Association from Illinois, says that he “never recommends anyone go up onto the roof themselves. It’s too dangerous and can lead to serious injury. Let the professionals do their job.”

Still determined? Then take safety precautions, particularly if your roof is sloped rather than flat.

Mark McNicholas, a field installation manager from Home Depot, suggests you “tie yourself to the roof.” You can be connected to anything—the chimney, or even a picnic table on the other side of the house—”as long as it can support your weight in case of a fall.”

Locate the leak

Your first step is to identify where the leak is coming from. According to Graham, “a literal hole in the roof is very rare and something you don’t see too often.”

So how do you know where the damage is? Look for cracks on your roof or shingles that look raised up, damaged, or possibly with mold around them.

McNicholas says that “over the years, the nails on shingles swell and expand from rain. This causes shingle to pry up and become cracked and damaged.”

As for how to repair the problem, it’s based primarily on what type of roof you have: flat or sloped.

For a flat roof…

Flat roofs rarely have shingles, which means small holes can be patched pretty easily and can be done with primer and self-adhesive patching. Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Roof primer and patching system (like Lowe’s Peel & Seel)
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Flat-roof roller


What to do:

  1. Brush off any loose material around the damaged area. Apply primer, overlapping it onto the undamaged sections.
  2. If instructed, let the primer dry (this will depend on which one you buy). Cut off some of that self-adhesive patching and cover the hole.
  3. Smooth it by pressing on the patch with the palm of your hand. After that, take your roller and smooth it even more, making sure it’s a good seal. This will prevent water from creeping in through the edges.


For a sloped roof…

Sloped roofs usually have shingles, which complicates your fix-it job. Here are the materials you’ll need to make repairs:

  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Roofing nails
  • Roofing adhesive
  • Shingles


What to do:

  1. Lift the broken shingle, take out the nails (carefully), and remove the shingle.
  2. Use a pry bar to lift up (but not completely remove) the shingles above the damaged area.
  3. Cut a shingle to the proper length and slide it under the now-raised area, on top of the damage.
  4. Use roofing nails to secure the newly placed shingle.
  5. Put a little bit of adhesive on the head of each nail and push down to make sure the shingle is secure.


While these are fixes you can do yourself, almost everything you do is temporary.

McNicholas says, “No matter what you do, you need to hire a professional to make a permanent fix.” Hear that, DIY’ers?

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8 Things Your Professional Organizer Wishes You Knew

8 Things Your Professional Organizer Wishes You Knew

Ryan McVay/Getty Images

After a few years in a home, you might be surprised by just how cluttered, disorganized, and downright chaotic your space has become. Try as you might, what was once neat and orderly is now a danger zone. Wool sweaters are mingling with swimsuits in and around your bedroom dresser (the horror!); expired food is overflowing from kitchen shelves; and headless Barbies, gobs of Play-Doh, and abandoned monster trucks are making the playroom look like a scene from the day after the apocalypse.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it might be time to call in a professional organizer, who can help you bring order out of the mayhem. But before you fling open your closet doors for your new best friend, you need to understand how you can make the job easier—for both of you.

1. Know your end goal

Don’t make your professional organizer start from scratch. Figure out what you want to accomplish before she shows up. Can’t quite nail that down? Think high level: What areas of your home are highly trafficked or a perpetual mess? Or, worst of all, a highly trafficked perpetual mess?

“There is a vagueness when I walk in the door and the client doesn’t have an understanding of what we do,” says Michelle Hale, a New York City professional organizer and co-owner of Henry & Higby. “The ones that can clearly tell us how they live their lifestyle and what are the busiest places in the house make a huge impact on us being able to get in and do our job efficiently.”

2. Your home won’t look like a Pinterest post

We have some tough news for you: An organizer isn’t there to make your home photo-perfect.

“When people first hear ‘organizer,’ they think about those photos where everything is perfectly labeled with a spot for Kleenex,” says Annie Draddy, who, with Hale, owns Henry & Higby. “That works for some people, but our job is to talk to them and figure out how they live their lives.”

Your organizer will be looking for ways to free up space and smooth out inefficiency. They’ll work to create a loose organizational system you can stick to, not some unrealistically perfect regime you’ll give up on two weeks later.

3. Be prepared to throw things away

While it’s never fun saying goodbye to the ratty old T-shirt you wore when you met your husband or your kid’s first backpack, clearing out space is a fool’s errand if you’re not willing to part with some memories.

“You have to be ready mentally to tackle it,” Draddy says.

No organizer will force you to ditch a beloved heirloom or something with true sentimental value. But be prepared to purge some of your possessions.

4. No judging (they swear)

One of the biggest reasons homeowners are hesitant to hire a professional organizer is sheer embarrassment, according to Hale and Draddy. But rest assured: This is their job, and no one will judge you.

“It’s one of the hardest mental blocks,” Draddy says. “They think, ‘Oh my god, this is embarrassing. They’re literally going through my underwear drawers.’”

Your organizer has seen it all. There’s no way you’re as bad as the worst, and for them, it’s actually a fun challenge to figure out how to make everything work again.

“The best clients realize we don’t make a living unless they’re disorganized,” Hale says.

5. Your vertical space is an untapped resource

Don’t be surprised if your organizer comes in and begs you to install shelves. Keeping everything on the floor or at eye level is easy when you first move into a space, but if you’re planning on living there a while, don’t hesitate to build upward—especially in your closet.

“You need to put in additional shelves and actually use your hanging space,” Draddy says.

6. They aren’t handymen…

While your organizer might call for new shelving, an updated built-in, or other handy additions to your household, most won’t actually install them.

“I am not personally capable of putting up all the stuff they need,” Draddy says.

However, most organizers will be happy to help you figure out who can help, and what costs you can expect. If you’re on a budget, make sure to let them know before they start planning an elaborate storage system that requires renovation.

7. … and they don’t clean, either

No need to scrub before the organizer arrives, but make sure things are generally in order—and don’t expect them to get down on their hands and knees to clean your hardwood floors.

“We’re not a cleaning service,” Draddy says.

This goes double for the kitchen, where you might be rearranging shelving or refrigerator space. So you might want to clean there in particular.

8. They aren’t your therapists

Relationship issues often rear their ugly head when couples hire a professional to significantly alter their living space in any way. Especially organizing.

The husband think the sports equipment should go in the basement; the wife can’t imagine it anywhere but the garage. And how is it possibly fair that one spouse’s stuff gets relegated to the storage unit while the other gets to hang on to those never-played guitars?

“We can’t negotiate between partners if they have discrepancies on their needs,” Hale says.

Clutter is emotional. No one blames you for being stressed when you’re sorting through everything you own. Just don’t take it out on your organizer.

“If you truly are on two different sides of the planet, we can’t come in and be your therapist,” Draddy says. “We can help finagle, but we can’t fix it.”

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How to Caulk Sinks, Tubs, and Windows Like a Pro

how to caulk


Do you know how to caulk—or even what caulk is? It’s something you rarely notice, but there it sits every day doing some pretty important work in your home. Once applied, this thin line of goo hardens to seal cracks around tubs, windows, and other crevices, stopping leaks, drafts, and other nuisances and saving you money in the process.

“Caulk serves multiple purposes: It lowers heating and air-conditioning bills by reducing air flow into and out of the home; it prevents moisture that can cause wood rot, mold, mildew, and water damage; and it keeps insects and other pests out,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman.

So taking care of your caulk is clearly an important maintenance measure in any home. And luckily, it’s a fairly simple task most homeowners can do on their own with just a little know-how. So let’s talk caulk and learn how to apply and maintain this all-important stuff.

How often should you caulk?

Inspecting and repairing caulk should be done every year, both inside your home and out. On the exterior of the home, caulk should be applied around door and window frames, where siding materials join together (joints, corners, and angles), and at the joints between siding materials and trim panels. On the interior of a home, caulk should be applied around faucets, bathtubs, showers, vents, and electrical outlets on exterior walls.

Step 1: Select the correct type of caulk

According to Sassano, latex caulk is ideal for indoor projects in dry areas like around windows and doors; it comes in a variety of pre-tinted colors and cleans easily with soap and water while in liquid form. For outdoor projects, either silicone or polyurethane caulk varieties are best.

“Silicone typically cannot be painted, though polyurethane can and will actually require it as it is not protected from UV rays,” Sassano explains. “These types are much more heat-resistant and waterproof, and therefore require paint thinner to clean up since they are solvent-based. The polyurethane type, because it is waterproof, is best for around tubs and showers.”

If you want one caulk that can do it all, Mark Clement of MyFixitUpLife recommends latex-based elastomeric caulk. Specifically: DAP brand, Dynaflex 230.

“It’s versatile: You could use it for molding, repair for paint jobs, both interior and exterior,” he says. “It’s the best jack-of-all-trades caulk.”

Step 2: Remove old caulk

One of the biggest mistakes people make is insufficiently removing old caulk before reapplying. These bits and pieces can keep the new caulk from adhering properly, resulting in the very leaks you’re trying to prevent.

So to start, use a caulk remover to soften the pre-existing caulk. Once it’s soft, you can use a utility knife to slice through it. If there are several layers of old caulk, you may need to use needle-nose pliers to pull the old caulk out or chip away at it using a putty knife or chisel.

Step 3: Clean and dry the surface

Once old caulk has been removed, use rubbing alcohol to clean the surface. Sassano suggests also using a mixture of one-third cup bleach to 1 gallon of water to kill any mold or mildew. Allow it to completely air-dry for at least a few hours before applying new caulk so it will adhere well.

Step 4: Apply new caulk

Cutting the caulking tube correctly is essential to a good caulking job. While some tubes come with a built-in cutter to remove the tip of the tube, you can also cut it with a knife at a 45-degree angle.

“Don’t cut too low, as the tube is graduated and cutting too low will leave you with too large an opening that is difficult to work with,” Sassano says. “You want to cut the tube so the hole is smaller than the caulk line you want to create.”

The caulk line you will create is called a bead, and you want to continuously apply an even bead. You can either push the tube away from you or pull it toward you—whichever method offers you the best control to complete an even line. Sassano says if you’re a caulking beginner, you may want to begin by surrounding the area you’re caulking with painter’s tape or practicing first on some spare wood.

Step 5: How to tool caulk

“Tooling” is the term for smoothing the caulk bead after you pipe it in. Clement says too often people skip this step, which leads to messy looking results.

While you may need a caulking tool if you’re using a silicone or polyurethane caulk, for latex caulk, you can use just your finger and some water to do the tooling. However, don’t use a paper towel to clean your fingers off while tooling.

“You’ve lost before you started,” says Clement. Instead, “get a bucket of water and a grout sponge and wipe your finger off on the sponge. Be sure to change the water from time to time. Trying to do it dry is like trying to wipe gum off.”

This video shows the caulking process in action. Take a look, and happy caulking!

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Flip the Switch: 4 Ways to Make Your Home’s Light Fixtures Shine

how to make your lighting fixtures shine


Looking for a way to update your home without going broke? Look up.

Lighting matters a lot. If your light fixtures are dated, bringing them into this decade should make the top of your remodeling to-do list. Not only is this one of the easier (and relatively cheaper) projects you can take on, there’s also another big benefit: You’ll generally see a full return on your investment when you sell your house.

Sold? Now here’s how to give your lighting a “wow” factor.

1. Start with function


Before you start shopping, you need to plan.

“Ask yourself: Is the fixture going to be purely decoration or the main source of light for the room?” says Jessica Sutton, lead curator for Dot & Bo, a design inspiration and home décor company.

For decorative lights, you’ll have to make sure you’re OK with anything you choose playing second fiddle to the main light source. If your decorative light ends up outshining (literally) every other light in the room, you’ll mess up the flow. Got that?

If you’re going for main light source, you’ll have to make sure you’ve chosen the right light for the size of your room. And don’t forget to map things out ahead of time. If you have high ceilings and a lot of square footage, a large hanging pendant makes sense, but trying to cram even a medium-size fixture in some small spaces can be overpowering.

“Literally just an Edison bulb dangling from a cord above your bar can look perfect in a small space,” Sutton says. “It lets air flow through so the area doesn’t feel cramped.

2. Think realistically

Kitchen Renovation

We all want the awesome modern light fixtures we see in interior design photos (thanks a bunch, Pinterest!), but what we see online might not always be practical for every space in our house. If you’re going above and beyond simple recessed lighting, you’ll have to think about placement.

“The enamel farmhouse style [fixtures] are really great because they’re so simple and feel so very modern,” Sutton says. “But they cast light straight down. So they’re perfect for the kitchen island, but things might get a little toasty on the sofa with those right above your head.”

And then consider what the fixture will actually look like when it’s off the design pages and in your house. Sutton is loving the whitewashed or neutral beaded chandeliers that are popular now, but they won’t work in every space. Try as you might, those rustic beads might look a little strange in your industrial-style loft.

3. Find a common element

Eclectic Living Room

But what if you have an eclectic style? You can’t be tied down by just any old light fixture, and you’re throwing some serious shade to those modern traditionalists you know.

Good news: You can blend light fixtures from different styles or time periods together cohesively—but only if you stick to a common element.

“You may love the light, but there can only be so many different textures in one room. Even if you mix different styles, the tones need to be similar,” Sutton says. “For example, look for a common color—like a dark hue—on every light fixture.”

4. Place with purpose

Brooke House

Once you’ve picked out the fixtures, be creative in their placement—don’t just pop them in the middle of the room.

“Light fixtures often get lost in the middle of the room,” Sutton says.

Instead, think outside the (light)box. Try placing fixtures over pieces of furniture in order to create a focal point in the space.

And if you’re working with a group of smaller lighting fixtures—like those Edison bulbs currently reigning over Pinterest—you can add another level of visual appeal those lights wouldn’t have on their own.

“If you have a cluster, dangle lights at a different cord length,” Sutton says.

Finally, don’t forget how those lights will look in an empty room. If you do decide to sell your home, you’ll want those lights to be noticed.

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4 Fall Yard Maintenance Chores to Tackle Now (and 1 to Skip)

Fall chores you should do in september; digging up soil


Another glorious autumn season has arrived—and that means your lawn will require some serious fall yard maintenance. We know, we know—that’s not exactly your idea of fun, but your yard is quietly crying out for a little TLC before it drifts into the deep freeze of winter.

Good news: If you put in the time to tackle chores now, you’ll be all set and sitting pretty come spring. Even better news: There are actually a few traditional fall maintenance tasks that the experts say you should actually skip!

Go ahead, read on to learn which chores to do and to avoid.

Things to do right off the bat

1. Pull a soil sample

The most important fall yard chore is the one least done: pulling a soil sample and sending it in for analysis at your County Extension Office—the government agency charged with helping citizens improve the land under their feet, free of charge. (You can find your local agent at

“It will give you a baseline level that might tell you to reduce the fertilizer you’re applying, which will save you money and keep extra nutrients out of the environment,” says Jeremy DeLisle, program coordinator for the University of New Hampshire Extension Education Center in Goffstown, NH. “It’s important to pull the sample before the ground freezes.”

So do it. Soil test results will tell you what your soil lacks and what amendments you should add to give green things a fighting chance to survive. That might mean adding compost or lime to soil before winter sets in, which will condition the soil so you’re all set come spring when you start planting.

2. Protect fragile plants

Newly planted trees, fussy ornamentals, and roses can use a sweater in winter, especially in colder areas of the country where winter burn, caused by sunlight and dry soil, is a problem. Burlap is a good winter wrap, because it lets plants breathe. Pound in three stakes around the shrub, drape a double layer of burlap over the stakes, and fasten them with twine or staples. When the weather warms, remove the burlap and stakes.

Meanwhile, established plants that have survived several winters will love a fall layer of mulch, which warms soil and helps retain moisture (which plants need even in winter).

3. Plant and pack up bulbs

If you want glorious daffodils to greet you in early spring (and, like, who doesn’t?), plant their spring-flowering bulbs in fall or early winter. These bulbs need several months of cool temps to prompt them to bloom in spring. But don’t go nuts making sure you plant them before the first frost. If you can dig the soil, you can plant bulbs, which have their own energy stores. If the ground is frozen, you’re out of luck for that season. Live with it.

In warmer climates, pre-chill spring bulbs for six to eight weeks in your fridge, then plant them in December or January. You’ll have a shorter blooming season than your northern neighbors, but you should see some beautiful color before the weather turns hot.

While you’re planting spring bloomers, don’t forget to retrieve and pack summer bulbs such as dahlias, gladioli, caladiums, and elephant ears, which will rot in the ground during winter. Clean and store bulbs in a breathable container, like cardboard packed with sawdust, sand, or newspaper. Place in a cool (40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit), dry area. Check monthly during the winter, and toss any bulb that, despite your best efforts, has become mushy.

4. Sweat the fine details

  • Even when temperatures fall, your landscaping needs an occasional drink so soil and roots don’t dry up. Mostly, nature takes care of that during autumn rainstorms. But if you’re in a drought area, water regularly.
  • Aerate and seed lawns, which will green up more uniformly and faster in spring.
  • Lower your mower blade to its lowest setting at the end of the mowing season, which will let the sun reach grass crowns.
  • Gather seeds from spent plants, like sunflowers and salad greens, which will save you money during spring planting.


And one to cross off your fall maintenance list 

1. Don’t be a neat freak!

Here’s what fall yard maintenance doesn’t mean: Raking, deadheading, and pulling every last piece of dead organic matter in your yard. That’s so last century. Today, experts say you should leave fallen leaves on the grass, then shred them with a mower into shards that decompose and feed the lawn all winter and into spring. While you’re at it, leave dried, hollow stems of plants so pollinators, like native bees and wasps, can move in for winter. It’s their version of going to Palm Beach for the season.

“There’s a shift in landscaping not to be overly tidy,” says DeLisle. “Native pollinators use hollow stems to hibernate. Leave some of them standing.”

Pollinators particularly like the stems of gladioli and black-eyed Susans. Still, you’re not entirely off the hook: You should still collect and shred fallen branches; bag and toss diseased plants; and gather and store garden stakes and cages. But don’t go crazy, OK?

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How to Install Floating Shelves

Line up holes with grout lines to prevent cracks in tile

Catherine Nguyen Photography

Seeming to defy gravity, floating shelves are a chic, streamlined addition to a home’s decor. But how do they actually stay up, and how many knickknacks can these bracketless wonders actually support?

For the answers to these and other pressing questions, read on to learn how to install floating shelves. Trust us, they won’t fall if they’re installed right!

Check for studs

Don’t just bang away before making sure you know what’s behind your walls.

“Floating shelves should be installed where there are wall studs—a framework of wood behind the wall—to give more support,” explains J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman in Ann Arbor, MI. Use a stud finder to locate them. No studs? You’ll need anchors. Buy hollow ones for plaster walls and toggle anchors for drywall. Anchors or studs are strong enough to support the shelf without brackets.

Measure twice, drill once

This next step requires a level and a pencil. Place the level on the wall where the shelf will hang, and make marks with the pencil on both ends. Using the level as your guide, draw a light pencil line across the length of the area to make sure the shelf will be straight on the wall.

Use a level to make sure your shelf is straight.

Drill, baby, drill

Place the bracket on the wall and mark little pencil holes where you find the studs to determine the correct placement for the anchors. To get those anchors in, make it easy on yourself and power up a hand drill to pierce the wall. The bracket should be aligned with the anchor-filled pilot holes.

“Follow the directions on the package to insert the anchors into the wall,” says Sassano. Next, align the bracket with the anchor-filled holes and screw in the anchors with a regular screw driver to attach it to the wall.

Add the shelf

The last step is to insert the floating shelf over the bracket. Before arranging your display, make sure you’re within proper weight range. Most of the weight factor has to do with the anchors themselves. Each anchor size is labeled according to how much weight it can hold, but it’s best to stay on the lower end of the maximum load.


Once your anchors are in place, slide on the shelf
Once your anchors are in place, slide on the shelf.

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