House repair for old people

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 04-21-2018 03:36 PM 781 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5913 posts in 4019 days

04-21-2018 03:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip

I wasn’t sure where to post this, but here goes. First off, I am 83 and that means I am no longer able to do all the things I used to do. There will be others on this forum who will share this I’m sure.

The soffit, facia and gutters on my house are in deteriorating condition and I need to fix it. I would not be able to work on a ladder and certainly not single handed, so I contacted a “handyman” to get an estimate. He came, looked at the house and gave me an estimate of $3500. The amount of work would be on a run of 64 feet of gutter length.. This is a single story house and I cannot afford to spend that amount of money. You don’t have to be old and have to rely on expensive contractors to do the work when with a simple plan, do the work yourself. The only other option is to do it myself. Here is the plan I came up with.

I am building scaffolding to cover a 24 foot run. It will be just a bunch of 2×4’s and 3 sheets of 3/4” plywood. This scaffolding will allow me personally to work at eye level without fear of falling. I bought the material and am in the process of putting it together. My cost so far has been $145. The plywood will add another $100. I estimate the cost of materials to replace the soffit, facia and gutters to be around $300. Total cost will be around $550 to $600; a lot less than the original estimate. I will be able to work at my own pace and safely.

The reason I post this is to let others know that many jobs that due to old age, would require a contractor can be done by the expedient of using scaffolding. I don’t know how many “old” guys are out there who are in a similar situation, but with a bit of planning, you can do tasks that once were beyond you ability. You might also be able to rent scaffolding. In building my scaffolding, I am putting it all together with “deck screws” rather than nails. That is so I can salvage all the wood easily for reuse elsewhere. When done, the scaffolding will be 24 feet long by 3 feet wide. I could have made it 32 feet long, but I chose to save some money and just move the scaffolding as needed.This will result in a stable and safe surface to work upon. I hope others will see the wisdom in my plan. I have drawings if anyone is interested.

10 replies so far

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2699 days

#1 posted 04-21-2018 03:54 PM

Did you get 3 estimates or only 1, always get at least 3 estimates. Frequently the price is based on how busy the contractor is, with the price going up astronomically when they are already booked up with work.

View ralbuck's profile


6546 posts in 3042 days

#2 posted 04-21-2018 04:01 PM

Good idea, great for you, and many of us have other issues besides father time getting his grip on us too.

Unfortunately, from my experiences there are very few reasonably priced contractors that do acceptable work.

The only ones that I have seen around here’ that have a reasonable price and decent work are hard to communicate with! As they have very limited English!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View jdmaher's profile


468 posts in 3355 days

#3 posted 04-21-2018 04:17 PM

Let me urge caution.

Although your picture shows a pretty spry 83 year old, at 64 (with a health issue or two) I’m following my wife’s advice to use whatever help I can get!

I don’t know where you live, but unskilled labor is usually around somewhere and can be pretty reasonably priced. You might want to:
- figure out how to do it
- hire some young(er) and able local labor to help
- let the help do the heavy lifting
- you do the skilled work (cutting, etc.), ON THE GROUND
- you do the supervision and training, ON THE GROUND
- let the younger, hired labor, do the work on the scaffold.

In my area (outside Chicago), it takes a bit of looking, but you can usually find general construction laborers for about $15 – $20 / hour (quote $15, pay $20 for for the good ones). In the city of Chicago, pickup trucks full of general laborers often drive up and down the neighborhood streets between 7 and 8 on the mornings of pleasant days. You just wave them down, describe what you’re doing and what you’re willing to pay, and someone who thinks they can help volunteers. When you find a good one, you overpay and get their phone number for future jobs.

Even less than competent help is better than no help at all.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View CRAIGCLICK's profile


117 posts in 849 days

#4 posted 04-21-2018 04:57 PM

I have had the same experience as you. I live in a boomtown. IF you can find someone to do the work, its expensive.

I would strongly recommend finding a couple of people to help you. Replacing fascia on your own can be tough.

Also, add some sort of safety harness or rail on your scaffold.

-- Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace.

View LesB's profile


2557 posts in 4218 days

#5 posted 04-21-2018 05:37 PM

I always encourage people to do as much as they can and to know when to get help.
In your described situation i would first rent some scaffolding instead of trying to build it. Rental scaffolding has adjustable heights, leg levelers and safety rails; for solid surfaces there are wheels so it can be moved as needed. Rental places also deliver and pick up.
Then I would seek assistance as I could find it. If you have the skills and tools for the job then all you need is to hire some muscle. Possibly a high school shop teacher would know some kids who would enjoy the work and extra money. Ask friends and neighbors who they have used.

I’m always a little bit leery about bringing in unknown (street corner) day laborers. There is a reason they don’t have full time jobs, from alcohol and drug problems, illegal alien status, or just plain criminal behavior. So don’t put yourself and your property in the position of being victimized. Once they become familiar with your property and situation they could just come back uninvited. But what the heck, I’m just an old retired Sheriff who believes in the saying, “just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you”.

-- Les B, Oregon

View GrantA's profile


2573 posts in 2183 days

#6 posted 04-21-2018 05:55 PM

You might consider renting a manlift rather than building scaffolding. Safer and no climbing a ladder to get up there. You sound like my grandpa, and I mean that as a compliment sir. He’s always tinkering with something to allow him to do something he otherwise couldn’t
Stay safe

View Kelster58's profile


759 posts in 1315 days

#7 posted 04-21-2018 07:56 PM

The scaffold idea is a good one and if you manage to get the work done that’s excellent. I know in our area the big box stores and some charitable organizations do work for our older residents in need. I have done repairs as a volunteer for the MS Society. Check with some of your local building supply stores and other organizations. Ask every organization you can find. Someone will find you some help some where.

-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4019 days

#8 posted 04-21-2018 08:11 PM

Thanks for all the great advice. First off, this guy was a “handyman”, not a licensed contractor. Liability would be an issue, Second, he wanted money up front; not a good sign. Third, the ground around my house won’t support a manlift. Forth, I don’t want day laborers, usually illegal, on my property. They can’t be relied on to do good carpentry work and fifth, I have my son and grandson next door to assist me if needed.
I just modified my plans and am building the scaffolding 32 feet long instead of 24 feet; just means around an extra $50 of scaffolding material. When I’m through with the house, I have to do the same with my shop building and that has 96 feet of soffit and facia. I can reuse the same scaffolding. At first I didn’t want to spend money for scaffolding, but when you consider the difference in cost between a contractor and doing it myself, the cost for the scaffolding is trivial. It looks like I have all bases covered. I will let you know how it all turns out.

In response to the last reply; If someone does work for free and it turns out poor, I can’t complain and I can’t accept charity.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1695 days

#9 posted 04-22-2018 01:30 AM


I built my own scaffolding from 2×4s, 1×3 furring strips, and ¾” plywood for doing some vaulted ceiling work in our home. Since you mentioned no construction details, I thought I would mention a couple of lessons I learned. Although, being familiar with your other prior posts, I doubt much is mentioned that you have not already considered.

The 2×4 posts extended up past the platform and were used to add 2×4 railing. The rails were attached on the platform side of the posts. Not only did it prevent me from taking a tumble, it made me feel safer and more comfortable since the location of the platform was defined by the railing which was always visible out the corner of my eye.

I found that a portable shelf consisting of a piece of plywood long enough to bridge the railing was a handy place to set screws, the drill, and other items. It had a pair of screws on each end of the plywood placed on the outside of the railing and about 1” from the railing to keep the plywood shelf from accidently falling. The shelf could be easily lifted out of the way and repositioned when stepping to the other side of the shelf.

One end featured a series of 2×4 steps that were equally spaced at a comfortable distance. This made climbing onto and off the platform easier.

I made the platform 2’ wide. This seems ideal since a single sheet of 3/4’” plywood could yield 16 lineal feet. While ¾” or even 5/8” OSB could be used and is cheaper, ¾” plywood would have greater use when the project was done. It was wide enough so that a helper could slip past me when a second hand was needed. The 2×4 long rails connecting the end frames of the scaffolding had 2×4s connecting the rails (“joists”) 2’ OC and setting atop the long rails to provide support for the plywood platform. I also installed 8’ long diagonal bracing. The bracing was 1×3 furring strips (about $1 per 8’ length) and did a good job of eliminating racking.

The ceiling work was completed and there were no mishaps. The materials are long gone; used for other things.

The only pic I could find is not very good, but here it is…

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4019 days

#10 posted 04-22-2018 04:51 PM

Here is a shot of the scaffolding I am building. There will be a total of 5 such blocks spaced about 6 feet apart for a total length of 32 feet. The short upright will be close to the wall, so no railing is planned there; only on the outside. I will plan for some form of steps at one end. 1×4’s will be used as cross bracing. I am using deck screws instead of nails for future reuse once I am done.

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