Emergency Cabin Repairs You Should Know How to Fix
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Emergency Cabin Repairs You Should Know How to Fix

While you may not have a contractor’s license, some basic DIY tips can save you considerable money by preventing minor problems from snowballing into major headaches.

Written by Rose Morrison


 Photo: Sean Gatz / Unsplash


Your cabin’s appeal lies in its sweet location, far from the madding crowds. There’s just one small problem — when something breaks, the nearest repair tech may be hours away, and scheduling such jobs can take days, even weeks. In the meantime, you need to know how to make certain emergency repairs to protect the value of your investment against damage and maintain your standard of living. 

While you may not have a contractor’s license, some basic DIY tips can save you considerable money by preventing minor problems from snowballing into major headaches. Here are four emergency cabin repairs you should know how to fix — at least temporarily until the pros with the big drill and caulk guns arrive. 


Emergencies and the Reality of Off-Grid Living 

People who have spent most of their lives in urban environments often fail to realize how vast some rural land expanses can be. The further from civilization you go, the fewer licensed repair professionals you’ll find per square mile.  

How do you get a flatbed truck full of roofing supplies down a single-lane, unimproved dirt road riddled with washed-out areas and boulders? In some cases, you might have to “truck” in supplies via helicopter or horse, which takes considerable money. You might need time to save up the cash or simply to schedule a professional with the requisite time, experience and know-how to tackle such a mammoth task. 

In the meantime, that hole in your roof keeps dripping moisture within — upping your electrical fire risk, spurring mold growth and ruining your grandmother’s checkered gingham tablecloth. When there’s a storm in the forecast, knowing how to apply an emergency patch prevents your living room from transforming into an unwanted swimming pool. 


Emergency Cabin Repairs to Master 

Mastering the following  mergency fixes can preserve your cabin’s value until the cavalry arrives. Although they aren’t permanent repairs, they can prevent further damage while you work out the logistics. 


1. Plumbing Leak 

You open the cabinet below your sink and notice water. Unaddressed water leaks can spur mold growth and damage underlying wood. If a pipe bursts, it can spell disaster for your belongings. 

Fixing such leaks is sometimes a simple process of tightening a slip-nut or the hose clamps. Before beginning any plumbing repair, turn off the water at its source, which will probably be a valve connected to your well if you are far from city connectivity. 

If a simple tightening doesn’t do the trick, try wrapping the affected area in plumbing or Teflon tape. You can also apply epoxy putty or silicone to seal the leak. Contact a professional to have them inspect the fix as soon as possible and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Tips for Preventing Pipe Freezing: Frozen pipes can be a real bear if you use your cabin only during the summer months. Fortunately, the process for protecting your investment is similar to leaving home for vacation over the winter. Start by disconnecting any exterior hoses. Inside, begin by insulating your pipes. Then, winterize your toilet and drains with a little RV antifreeze — not the vehicular kind. Leave the water dripping and monitor your cabin’s temperature using smart home technology, as a hard freeze can still affect your pipes. If you don’t plan to use your cabin at all over the winter, shut off the water at the main valve and use an air compressor to blow the remaining water out of your pipes. 
  • What to Do If Your Cabin Floods: If more extensive flooding occurs, do not enter your cabin before turning off the power at its source if you can do so without stepping in the moisture. Safety first — current can travel through water, electrocuting you. Once you ensure the power is off, begin the drying process. Open windows and buy or rent blowers or fans to eliminate moisture before mold can form and wood rot. Once dry, clean affected surfaces by laundering soft items like pillows and treating hard areas with full-strength cleaning vinegar or peroxide. Avoid mixing the two substances — doing so creates peracetic acid, which can burn your eyes and lungs. 


2. Power Outage

A power outage can cause significant consternation, depending on how far your cabin is from civilization and whether it’s connected to the grid. For example, troubleshooting a solar system means checking the battery and inverter and inspecting your panels for damage, dirt or snow. Those connected to the grid should receive a notification from the authorities regarding the cause of the outage and estimated restoration time.  

A power outage can cause your pipes to freeze if you usually keep your heat on to prevent it and render your food unsafe. Your first order of business is to run damage control. Remove any perishable items from your refrigerator and freezer, placing them in coolers and either eating them quickly or bringing them elsewhere. Unplugging your appliances protects them from damage in the event of power surges.  

Many who live the off-grid lifestyle keep a separate generator handy as a backup. Please use it safely, keeping it outside of your living area and garage and directing the exhaust away from your windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 


3. Leaky Roof

Leaky roofs can damage interior belongings, foster mold growth and even spark electrical fires if water runs into your cabin’s walls. You should ideally inspect your roof once or twice per year to detect issues like loose shingles.  

However, preventive maintenance won’t keep Mother Nature from depositing a heavy branch that leaves you with a hole. In such cases, a plastic tarp is your best friend until professional roofers arrive. Spread it out, ensuring it covers both the damaged and adjacent undamaged areas to prevent it from spreading until the calvary pulls in. Secure it with screws or nails to keep a stiff wind from blowing your patch away. 


4. Clogged Chimney 

That cozy fireplace in your cabin can choke you with fumes if critters nest in your flue, sending smoke billowing back into your abode. Creosote can also build up, creating a fire hazard. Cleaning a clogged chimney takes a ladder and a little courage, but going the DIY route might eliminate the need for a sweep. 

You’ll need PPE, including glasses and a mask to guard against soot and dust. You’ll also need a ladder, hard hat, safety harness and a special brush. Before you climb onto your roof, put a drop cloth around the base of your chimney to catch any debris that falls into your cabin. Secure and don your harness and have a second person on the ground to monitor the ladder.  

Begin by removing the chimney cap and then shine a light within to confirm nothing living there is going to emerge and startle you. Scrub the flue thoroughly with the brush, using a vigorous up-and-down motion to dislodge any unseen nests and scrub away creosote. If you do see a nest, you might be able to remove it yourself, although spying eggs or critters within warrants a call to the game warden for help. 

Shine a flashlight down once more to ensure you have cleared any obstructions and replace the cap. Finish by cleaning out the fireplace, using a shop vac or broom to remove creosote and debris from the bottom up. Run preventive maintenance by occasionally burning a special creosote removal log, available at most home supply stores. 


Master These Emergency Cabin Repair Fixes 

Living far from the nearest repair shop means it can take weeks for a professional to arrive. Knowing how to perform the emergency cabin repairs above safeguards the value of your investment.  

Knowing what to do in an emergency increases your sense of confidence. Whether you live off-grid full-time or part-time, having the requisite know-how to manage cabin repair emergencies makes you a more responsible homeowner. 


See Also: How Often Should You Check In on Your Cabin?

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