Many types of disasters that we try and anticipate bring destruction along with them. This is no more clearly seen than in the storms that hit St Louis (tornado) and the New Jersey seashore (hurricane). In both cases (as well as many other disasters), homes were damaged and even destroyed.
It’s bad enough trying to survive the aftermath of a disaster when your home is intact and well-stocked with supplies. If your home is damaged, the problems just increase. Trying to survive in a damaged home can be just about as bad as trying to survive out in the wilderness, especially if one doesn’t have the wherewithal to repair their home.
While it might be nice to have an entire lumberyard behind your home, just to take care of any damage to your home, it’s just not practical. Not only is having a whole lumberyard expensive, but it would take up room that you need for your chickens and vegetable garden. Nevertheless, if we’re trying to be prepared for anything and everything that comes our way, then it would be a good idea to be prepared to make some emergency home repairs as well.
Let me get something straight here; I’m talking about emergency repairs, not rebuilding your home and making it look like new again. If a hurricane damages your roof or blows out a few windows, you don’t need to take the time to rebuild it according to code, you need to get it dried in so that you can live in your home. That’s a whole different world than making your home like new again.
Let me explain. When a hailstorm sweeps through an area, many homes have their roofs damaged. The homes which seem to be the heaviest hit are those with wood shake roofs. The damage to those roofs from a hailstorm can be bad enough to make the roof leak. The roofing companies that evaluate that damage don’t immediately try and fix the roof; they can’t. They don’t have enough workers to repair all of them at the same time. Instead, they cover the roof with tarps to protect the home.
That’s the type of repairs you need to be ready to do. While it might be nice to be able to totally restore your home immediately after a disaster strikes, it’s not really practical. So you’re better off being ready to take care of what you have to, so that your home is still livable.
The nice thing about that task is that it takes much less variety of material to deal with a wide variety of potential problems with your home, if all you’re doing is trying to make it livable. Later, after things get settled down and the supply chain is back in place, you can get the necessary materials to properly repair your home. But that’s not where you start.
So, what construction materials should you have on hand, in order to be able to take care of those problems? You want materials that will give you the most possible repairs, for the least amount of material investment. I’d say something like this:
- Plywood – You can fix anything from a hole in the wall (roof or floor) to a broken door with plywood. Don’t worry about having a lot of 3/4” plywood either, 1/2” is cheaper and you can store more.
- 2”x 4” studs – The basic construction framing material. If your home has any structural damage, you can shore it up with 2”x 4” studs.
- Tarps – There are a million uses for tarps, but in this case, I’m thinking of covering damaged roofs. Even if part of your roof is missing, you can fix it with plywood and tarps. It’s almost impossible to have too many. Make sure that they’re big ones.
- Lath or furring strips – This is just thin strips of wood. Your tarps will work better if you can keep them from flapping in the wind. Nailing them down with lath or furring strips works well. In a pinch, if you don’t have these, you can cut strips from cardboard boxes.
- Clear plastic sheeting (in rolls) – Some people think of this as drop cloth material, but it’s useful for a lot of things. Pretty much anywhere you can use a tarp, you can use clear plastic sheeting. Specifically, if you have broken glass, clear sheeting will work better to cover a window, as it will let light in.
- Caulking – Ideal for fixing leaks of all sorts. Be sure to buy a caulk gun as well.
- Duct tape – Is there any doubt as to the usefulness of duct tape? It is the all-purpose repair material. Also great for general survival.
- Wire ties – Almost as useful as duct tape for holding things together. Even if you don’t need them for repairs, you can find a million uses for them.
- Plumbing fittings – At times, a home’s plumbing can get damaged. Being able to make a repair can mean the difference between having water and not having water. This is especially true when everyone in the city is having problems. If you have your home plumbing patched, the city will probably turn yours on first. Be sure to have caps, as you can always cut off damaged parts of your home’s plumbing and cap those pipes.
- Extension cords – While it won’t meet code, you can jury rig repairs to just about any part of your home’s electrical system with extension cords. Make sure they are medium to heavy duty ones, not the lightweight ones.
- Wire nuts – You’ll need something to attach the wires together with, this is what electricians use. Get some good quality electrical tape to go with it as well.
- Hardware – A good assortment of nails, screws and other fasteners will be needed to go with the materials on this list. Get a bunch of different sizes, as it always seems that you need the size that you don’t have.
With that list of materials, you should be able to take care of emergency repairs for just about anything that nature can throw at you; as long as your home is still standing. Remember, we’re not talking about “pretty” here, or even meeting the requirements of the building code, we’re talking jury-rigged repairs to keep you going.
Of course, having all those materials isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t have tools to work with. A good set of tools can be worth its weight in gold at such a time. Don’t count on power tools, though, as you may not have electrical power. If you already have power tools, that’s great, but don’t run out and buy a bunch for your emergency repair kit. Rather, spend your money on hand tools. They might not be as easy to use, but as long as you are moving, you can get the job done.
Once again, the list of tools you might need is limitless. However, to take care of most emergency repairs, you can get by with a minimal number of tools:
- Pry bar (bigger really is better)
- An axe (demolition is part of repair; also good for chopping firewood)
- Bow saw (for cutting off broken tree limbs)
- Claw hammer (standard carpenter’s hammer)
- Hand saws
- Staple gun (for attaching the tarps)
- A good utility knife with extra blades
- Pliers (channel locks, needle nose, vice grips)
- Tape measure
- Good quality leather work gloves (don’t scrimp here)
- A ladder (tall enough to reach your roof)
- Tubing cutter (for plumbing)
- Wire cutters/strippers (for electrical repairs)
Of course, the more tools you have, the more you can do. But at the same time, there’s no reason to have tools and materials that you don’t know how to use. So, be sure to limit yourself to things that you can really use. Don’t let some salesman talk you into buying things just to make his commission.
Storage of your materials is important, as well. You don’t want any wood getting wet, as it will begin to decay. Fortunately, these materials aren’t adversely affected by heat, so you can store them in the garage, a shed or the attic without any problem. While they may not be convenient to get to in these locations, they won’t be in your way, either.