General Maintenance and Repair Workers
General maintenance and repair workers maintain and repair machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings. They work on plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning and heating systems.
General maintenance and repair workers typically do the following:
- Maintain and repair machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings
- Troubleshoot and fix faulty electrical switches
- Inspect and diagnose problems and figure out the best way to correct them, frequently checking blueprints, repair manuals, and parts catalogs
- Do routine preventive maintenance to ensure that machines continue to run smoothly
- Assemble and set up machinery or equipment
- Plan repair work using blueprints or diagrams
- Do general cleaning and upkeep of buildings and properties
- Order supplies from catalogs and storerooms
- Meet with clients to estimate repairs and costs
- Keep detailed records of their work
General maintenance and repair workers are hired for maintenance and repair tasks that are not complex enough to need the specialized training of a licensed tradesperson, such as a plumber or electrician.
They are also responsible for recognizing when a job is above their skill level and needs the skills of a tradesperson. For more information about other trade occupations, see the profiles on electricians; carpenters; heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers; and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.
Workers may fix plaster or drywall. They may fix or paint roofs, windows, doors, floors, woodwork, and other parts of buildings.
They also maintain and repair specialized equipment and machinery in cafeterias, laundries, hospitals, stores, offices, and factories.
They get supplies and repair parts from distributors or storerooms to fix problems. They use common hand and power tools such as screwdrivers, saws, drills, wrenches, and hammers to fix, replace, or repair equipment and parts of buildings.
Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.
Roofers typically do the following:
- Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
- Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
- Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
- Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
- Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
- Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
- Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
- Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage
Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.
There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:
- Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.
For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.
An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
- Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.
For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).
To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.
A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.