Friday, February 17, 2017

Simple roof and siding fixes to prevent small problems from becoming big problems

And now for something completely different...Rather than writing about a manufactured home today, I’m going to introduce you to three products you can use to keep your house from falling apart, or to fix it if it is falling apart. I’ve picked these three because although I’ve looked at many YouTube videos as I went about making repairs, I never saw references to these three in particular:

1. Self-tapping screws. (Get an assortment of a few sizes, like half-inch ones, and ones that are about an inch long.)
  2. Kool Seal UV Resistant Black Patch & Coat (gallon size available at Walmart or Home Depot).

3. Roof Repair Fabric (fiberglass mesh used with Patch & Coat above, for patching larger areas or cracks).

Whether you live in a stick-built house, an RV, a single or double wide, the old maxim about a stitch in time saves nine still applies. The sooner you can fix a small problem, the better the chances are that it will not develop into a major one.

For example, if you see a damp spot on the ceiling or wall, the time to try to find the source, which sometimes can be very difficult, is right away. The water that is getting in can sometimes be from a crack or opening that is many feet away from where it is leaking. If you wait a month, or sometimes even a few days, you’re risking water damage, mold, wood rot, floor damage, and needing to replace drywall or studs. My house was kind of a wreck when I moved in, and I’ve used these three things to fix many problems.

Leaks most commonly occur around outlet pipes, vents, skylights, edges of flashing, around missing shingles, under swamp coolers, at the juncture of a water spout to the roof, and at the edges of the roof, where roof lines meet, and through cracks in the roof, and around windows.

Sometimes a plain roof with no gables looks boring and cheap, but it is a thing of beauty if you’ve ever had problems with roof leaks at gable joints.

There are a few YouTube channels which feature people who tour abandoned houses and buildings. Sometimes they’ll show a house that looks like it was once an expensive house. Stacks of old magazines or newspapers show it was abandoned only eight years ago. But it is a wreck inside, not because of vandalism, although that is sometimes the case, but simply because it developed a hole in the roof at some point, water got in, or even that a window or two got smashed or were left open. After just eight years, it was rotting and falling apart.  

There are single-wide trailers that are 40 years and older, which look in perfectly good condition because their owners always kept them up, even though trailers from that era were not as well made as they are today.

Small problems may stay minor for quite a while, but at other times they don’t. The longer you put it off, the bigger risk you’re taking. Manufactured homes do not have advantages when it comes to maintenance. They need it just as often as any stick-built house. Sometimes you just don’t know when something is headed toward a disaster, because it is hidden.

 A lot of my neighbors have carports, accessory buildings or houses with metal roofs. A sheet of metal or aluminum will flap and bang at a loose corner every time it is windy. Then a big wind strikes one day and the sheet of metal flies off down the street or into someone else’s yard. Okay, I confess, that happened to me once. LOL.


Sheets of metal can be screwed back on, or better yet, fixed using a few screws before they fly off. A neighbor who worked in construction, mostly on roofs, clued me into using self-tapping screws. Get yourself some self-tapping screws if you have any metal siding, or a metal roof. Putting just a few screws in a piece of metal siding will prevent it from blowing off, and it will keep water out.

Self-tapping screws come in different sizes and are easy to use, because they will start a hole in thin metal without having to drill a pilot hole. That’s why they’re called self-tapping. They seem to hold a lot better than regular metal screws. Get the kind of screw with the flat head with the lip, as shown in the photo. The lip on the edge makes it so the screw head is nearly flush with the surface. They come with different head styles, and this style works the best for me.

Sometimes you have two sheets of metal to screw together, and there is no stud to screw them to. These screws will even hold pieces of metal together.


The next product I stumbled on myself, at Walmart. Usually I don’t like Walmart for building products because some of their building products have been on the shelf too long or they are overpriced. This product was cheaper than at Home Depot. I got my last gallon for $16, I think maybe because it had a big dent in it.

It comes in a gallon can and is called Kool Seal UV Resistant Black Patch & Coat. In 2017 at my Walmart, I think I've always paid less than $20 for this at the store. I notice it’s $25 to $30 online. Write down the exact name. Kool-Seal makes a lot of different products. This one is patching compound for asphalt roofs, although I’ve found it also works on metal roofing and siding, shingle roofs, stucco, vinyl siding, brick and painted wood surfaces too. I’ve used it as caulking around aluminum and vinyl windows, outside, on a wooden structure. When used for caulking windows, use masking tape to get a straight line. And you can paint it when it dries.

 It’s black and looks like tar, but it contains no solvent and hardly smells at all. You can get intoxicated on some of these products, even when using them outdoors, but this is odorless. It has pieces of fiber in it to reinforce it. The first time I opened it, I was surprised at how fluffy it is. But it works better than anything I’ve tried in decades, and that includes expensive latex patch coating, liquid aluminum roof coating and especially tar. You will never go back to tar after using this.

While it’s wet, you can clean it up with soap and water. I wear plastic gloves while using it anyway. And if you get it on your clothes after it has dried, it’s hard to get off, so wear an old shirt.


For use on wider cracks or openings, up to maybe half an inch, use the Kool Seal Patch & Coat with fiberglass roof “fabric,” which I will refer to as mesh from here on in. It comes in a roll usually about 6 inches wide and a 100 feet or more long. You can cut it to any size you need to make a patch.

Here is how you apply it: Put a thin coat of the Kool Seal Patch & Coat down using a plastic or metal tool, like a cheap plastic drywall taping knife (an inch or two wide), a putty knife,  a straight-margin (square end instead of pointed) trowel, a spatula with a square end, or I even use a regular old table knife most of the time.

After spreading the base coat down over a crack or opening, lay the fiberglass mesh on top, and then spread a coat of the Kool Seal on top of the mesh making sure none of the grid pattern shows through. If the crack is small enough, you don’t have to use mesh. A bigger crack repaired with the Kool Seal Patch & Coat alone won’t last more than a year, if that, in areas with standing water. So that’s why you should use this fiberglass mesh on bigger cracks.

For me, this Kool Seal Patch & Coat works at least three times as well as tar and since it doesn’t stink, I like using it a lot more. It doesn’t crack, pucker or peel off as easily as tar either. It says on the can that it dries smooth and flexible, but really, it dries hard, which I like. I guess it has just enough flexibility not to crack.

Silicone is a good sealant, but when it dries it stays flexible, so it might be good for inside a crack, but not so much on a surface that sees a lot of water and sun exposure. I find that silicone just flakes off too often at the edges, and it is very expensive.

Kool Seal Patch & Coat doesn’t last forever, but it lasts longer when used in areas which don’t get constant sun exposure, even though it’s UV resistant. I had a leaky skylight on a shingled roof and the Kool Seal has worked for 5 years without re-application. When I use it on stucco or a painted wood surface, since it’s black, I paint over it after it dries, and it holds paint fairly well.

If you’re using it on an aluminum roof where it’s visible, you can paint over it with some aluminum paint or better yet, aluminum roof coating. I mean the stuff made to spread over your roof that has bits of aluminum in it and reflects the sun, as well as coats and seals the roof. It’s not going to match a metal roof exactly, but it won’t stick out as much as black.

I live in an area of houses where nearly everyone has flat roofs, except people who have manufactured homes. A flat roof has some slope, but not much. Even new houses with flat roofs will develop some roof leaks after 5 years. A friend with a 10-year old house had a leak near one water spout, and he spent $20,000 on a new roof before he told me about it.  

Lastly, if you are doing some patching, screwing or repairs on a sloped roof, wear footwear that doesn’t slip, and take precautions like roping yourself to the chimney or a secure place, for example, a post on the other side of the house if you don’t have a chimney, if you have to. Tie one end of a rope around a post, throw it over the roof, and tie the other end around your waist. Even among professionals, falling of a roof is one of the most common and serious accidents. Ladders are also dangerous.


  1. Great advice! I’m always trying to tell my husband that we need to take care of things far before they get worse. We had a water leak, similar to the one you were talking about, and instead of taking care of it, we waited until it got worst. Bad choice, because it ended up costing us an arm and a leg to repair, later.

    Pleasance Faast @ Shelton Roof


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