House & Home

Shed, Barn or Gazebo Repair: Shabby to Shipshape

Posted April 16, 2015

April is the month to spring into action and get your property in shape for the long-awaited warm weather (yay!). Summer means lots of different things to different people, but whether you are preparing for a season of leisurely outdoor entertaining, gardening, or revving up your home's curb appeal in order to sell, you'll want to make sure your yard and outbuildings are in good shape. After a long hard winter, sheds, gazebos, and barns often need repair.

Why Repair, Rather than Replace, an Old Outbuilding?

Sometimes repairing a structure may seem like too much of a hassle. It can be tempting to just replace it with a plastic shed from your local big box store. However, if it was solidly built in the first place, effective repair of your old barn, gazebo, or shed, will give you years more useful service and tend to cost you less in the long run. In addition, for the last decade or so, public awareness of the need to conserve the earth's limited resources has been growing … often in proportion to the shrinkage of space available for landfills. And if you own a property that is historic -- or just quaintly elderly -- the vintage outbuildings can be part of its charm.

Inspect Your Outbuildings

Regular inspection of outbuildings twice a year, in spring and fall, is recommended. Look at the roof, walls, and flooring, checking for moisture, mold or mildew, rotting wood, rust, and dents. At the same time, take this opportunity to clear out the past six months' accumulation of junk as well -- this will make it easier to perform any necessary repairs in a relatively cramped space.

Mold or Rot

Frequently, after a long hard winter, you will find problems stemming from moisture in wooden buildings. A leaky roof or poorly built walls, for example, may have allowed rain or snow inside, leading to moldy or rotten wood. Find out what has caused the water damage and take care of that first. Decide how much you are ready to invest in the project and whether you are able to tackle it as a DIY project or wish to call in a carpentry professional. For example, it may be quite possible to perform minor repairs such as cutting out a small water damaged area and patching it with sound wood. (Be sure to caulk the join well to keep out dampness in the future.)

Rust, Bangs, and Dents

You won't have to worry about a tin structure rotting or molding, but it can get pretty rusted, banged up, and dented over the years. Removing the rust ASAP is essential; otherwise it will only get worse and will weaken the building further. Pound out dents with a rubber mallet, working from the interior. Clean the structure well and sand off all rust, using a power sander as necessary. Patch any holes with auto body filler. Once it is thoroughly dry, you will be ready to prime with a rust-inhibiting primer (two coats may be necessary). Dry again, followed by one or two applications of water-based enamel acrylic paint.

Alternatively, you may wish to go for a major improvement in your building's appearance by covering it with wooden boards. This is ideal if you are planning to put your property on the market this year. Practical, inexpensive vinyl siding may also be used but wood siding is more attractive and upscale. Decorate your finished product with a trellis for roses or a few hanging planters.

Laura Firszt writes for

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