Batten Down the Hatches!

With El Niño rains waiting in the wings, the time is now to tackle your outdoor projects
Fridays On the Homefront
This summer put some focus on your home's exterior. The small area of Eichler pictured here exposes three important areas to consider: the roof, siding, and exposed beams. Photo: David Toerge
Fridays On the Homefront
Dry rot caused this atrium beam to undergo replacement.
Photo: courtesy the Building Company

Ah, summertime, as the great mid-century minstrels opined, when the livin' is easy. It's here—along with glorious sunshine and warmth.

However, if you want the livin' to be similarly easy October through May, you'll take advantage of our weather's dry spell—are El Niño rains really on the way?—and show your mid-century home a little love in the process.

But where to focus your attention this summer—besides the beaches, lakes, and other delightful distractions?

From front to back, floor to ceiling, there are important maintenance projects throughout a home best done when rain is least likely: exterior painting, re-roofing, skylight upgrades, siding replacement, and beam repair.

"Those beams get beat up, exposed to the sun, the wind, and the rain," says Frank Larson, owner of Larco Construction Services, which has worked for two decades on beams in Eichlers. "With a 60-year-old house, this is not a new problem—[it's just] you are now noticing it."

To test for hidden rot in your exposed beams, experts recommend simply climbing a ladder and poking them in various places with a sharp implement. If you find soft spots, but only in less than a fifth of the beam's surface, repair with spackling paste or an epoxy filler is an option. Any more damage than that will require replacing the beam entirely.

The flat or low-sloped roof common to mid-century modern homes has its own specific challenges, primarily the lack of gravity-driven drainage, a condition that often leads to ponding. Most professionals recommend re-roofing homes every 12 to 15 years, and it has to be done in dry weather. A professional inspection will confirm a roof's condition.

Eichlers and other MCM homes originally had tar-and-gravel roofs, but popular options today include modified bitumen, polyurethane foam, and an array of single-ply systems, the most popular of which in California are Duro-Last, Johns Manville, and IB Roof Systems.

And while we're up on the roof, another summer project to consider is repair or replacement of skylights that are brittle or leaky.

"I get homeowners all the time who have big skylights that are causing issues," says Rick Abril of Abril Roofing. "They can leak or cause condensation, and I've seen them blow off the roof in heavy winds, when installation isn't done properly."