A handyman helps homeowners with almost any type of problem. While you might typically think it's time to call a handyman when the job is too messy (drywall mud) or you don't have the tools (tile wet saw) to get the job done quickly, the fact is they bring more knowledge to the job.
A house is made up of many interconnected systems that must all work together to keep you safe and comfy. Many homeowners call my handyman business asking for help with a problem when in fact, they may really only know the visible symptom of the problem. An important rule for any home repair is to back track until you find the source of the problem and fix that first. There is little point to repairing sheet rock if the water leak isn't fixed. You also need to understand how the water traveled to the ceiling stain because often, and especially when water is involved, there is hidden damage that must also be corrected.
How Bad Can a Water Problem Be?
At my handyman business, we get lots of requests for help with repairs due to some type of water damage. The damage may come from a roof leak, gutters not working properly and all sorts of problems involving a home's exterior. There are also the fun, okay maybe it's not fun when it's your children, problems like the kids letting the bathtub overflow to see what happens … not realizing that the damage will be more obvious on the floor below them.
Yes, a lot of homeowners (I'm guilt too) put off critical repairs. We don't have time right now, or don't have the money to spare because there are higher priority things in our lives. Lots of things can be deferred but repairs that involve safety issue or water damage should always be handled promptly.
So let's go back to the house puzzle. We all understand gravity and when water doesn't flow the way you intended, i.e. onto the bathroom floor rather than down the drain, it is gravity that will determine where it goes. For fun, let me put plumbing leaks in perspective.
- Water leaks where you see the water immediately, i.e. tub or sink overflowing, are good because you know about the problem right away.
- Water leaks that happen inside your walls or maybe under the kitchen sink, are a bigger problem because you don't find them right away. It may be weeks or months until you stumble onto the problem, and the water may have traveled further causing lots of hidden damage in the way of mold and/or wood rot.
- Water problems that are horrible are those involving waste water, i.e. those above are almost always clean water. This happened at my rental home where we stayed while building our new house. The area flooded and the septic tank backed up and water came pouring out of the basement toilet.
A Real Customer Story
So we're talking about water … right? Yes, as that's the most common reason why sheet rock repairs are needed.I had a month long conversation a client about their ceiling problems. The challenge (common one) was an open floor plan where the living room ceiling where the water stains were, flowed directly into the dining room and the front entryway. When you repair a ceiling, unless it was painted in the last 6 months … you're going to have to paint the entire room ceiling (or multiple rooms as the case shown here) to make it look seamless. I did my best to offer my customer ideas to reduce the number of rooms needing to be painted and considerations for possible water leaks in the future. Here is one day's dialog:
Mary in Manchester, NH sent this email. “We'd like to have your company do some of the work for us. My husband and I plan on taking down the affected area of the ceiling ourselves and we will purchase the needed materials so we can save a little money. Once the area is ready, I will call to set up a time for your person to come over to install the sheet rock. Hopefully we'll have everything ready in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for your help!”
My replay went something like this. I was glad to help explain the steps involved in making the repairs, with enough detail so Mary could pick which steps in the process she wanted to handle.
- First it's important to understand where the water leak came from. This should be fixed before repairing the sheet rock or you might have to do it all again. For a roof leak which this was, we recommend waiting several weeks (months in the drier seasons) to make sure the roof repairs worked.
- Next we had a long discussion about the location and shape of the stain. It was near an outside wall so I recommended leaving a foot of sheet rock along the walls to avoid having to also paint the walls. The area was in the living room but the ceiling continued into 2 adjoining rooms so I gave options:
- Paint the entire ceiling so the color is consistent.
- Create a simple wood trim border for the living room, to provide a place where the new paint could stop … and the bonus would be some additional dimension/value to the home.
- Similar concept but using less wood, look at doorways and consider extending the the door trim up around the ceiling, giving more definition to each room.
- When taking down sheet rock, you want to cut lines as straight as possible, to make it easier to fit the replacement pieces into place, i.e. think of the challenge when fitting puzzle pieces together. Ofter after flooding, homeowners or even demolition crews will leave us with jagged lines of drywall, which then have to be cut a second time.
- Sheetrock comes in different thicknesses from one-quarter inch to 5/8ths. Make sure to take a piece of your old sheet rock to the store so you get the right thickness. Do not buy the tape and mud as each of my technicians has their personal preferences, so we let them work with what they know best.
This is a great example of how a professional handyman service works. We don't assume or require that we do all the work. We work hard to understand a customer's needs, and offer choices to help each homeowner find a viable solution. This includes letting homeowners buy the materials and/or do some of the prep or finish work.
Every home professional, not just a handyman business, should focus on building lifelong relationships with their clients.