When you own a small business, you become handy out of necessity. You learn how to unclog drains, repair buckling floorboards, rewire a lighting fixture — whatever you can do to keep your costs down. But not all hasty repairs last forever, so you need to either do the job correctly the first time or revisit your handiwork and make it better.

Following are some common maintenance shortcuts that can cause headaches down the road if not corrected.

The wrong tool for the job

Did you disassemble that basement drain pipe and remove a stubborn clog? If so, you probably saved yourself a pretty penny in plumbing costs. But did you put it back together and “secure” the pipe using the same rusty coat hanger that’s been there for ages? That’s a shortcut that can cost you.

Maybe the building’s previous owner thought coat hangers were an acceptable substitute for heavy-duty pipe hangers, but when wastewater pipes don’t have proper supports, you increase your risk of a nasty pipe failure. Don’t cut corners when it comes to plumbing.

Duct tape has its limits

There’s a lot you can do with duct tape. You can wrap it around a hose to plug a leak, tape wires to a desk to keep them out the way — the hosts of the TV show MythBusters even constructed a suspension bridge out of duct tape! What you shouldn’t do is use it to fix furniture.

If you want to fix your own lawn chair with duct tape, that’s fine. But if you were to repair a piece of furniture that employees or customers use and it collapsed, you could be liable for any injuries. Replace broken-down furniture, or have it professionally repaired.

Don’t fix it more than once

The first time a floor tile or piece of trim comes loose, it’s OK to temporarily secure it with whatever you have on hand — duct tape or glue, most likely. But don’t get in the habit of fixing the same problem over and over. If a tile is insistent on detaching itself from the sub-floor, it’s probably warped and needs to be replaced. Trim or baseboards that are loose should be secured to the wall with nails. If you apply adhesive repeatedly, the underside of the trim can become lumpy or uneven, and the trim won’t lay flat. Save yourself the hassle of replacing the entire piece by fixing it correctly.

Those little ‘tricks’ won’t last

If any of the interior doors in your building can be opened only with a special maneuver, you’re eventually going to encounter a time when that maneuver doesn’t work. Say, for example, you have to jiggle the pantry doorknob in just the right way to get the door open, that doorknob probably needs to be replaced. Do that before it falls out of the door and makes it impossible for you to get to the coffee supply. And if you have sticky doors that require brute force to pull open, you’re probably going to sustain a door-to-the-face someday. Try planing the edges so the door can move freely.

It’s hard to find time for maintenance if you’re overseeing payroll, inventory and everything else that comes with running a small business. But setting aside a few hours a week to make minor repairs will make your building safer and help you avoid potentially costly problems in the future.


Originally posted on September 13, 2013 @ 4:32 am

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