Re-Energize Your Little Library–Repair & Maintenance

By Megan Hanson

Now that some Little Free Libraries have been out in the weather for several years of hard winters, hot summers and storms of all kinds, many of them are ready for some repair and updating. If yours is leaking in the monsoons or creaking because of thousands of visitors opening and closing the doors, here are some tips to help renew it.

Keep it Looking Good, Keep it Dry…and Safe!


Unless you favor the weathered barn look, even the Amish barn wood Libraries need a bit of rejuvenation to look their best. A coat or two of stain can help protect the Library itself as well as the contents. Little Free Library co-founder Todd Bol, who with Amish carpenter Henry Miller has handled thousands of Libraries to date, is a fan of Sikkens Cetol DEK finish, also intended for decks, lattice, railings and benches. You can get sample cans in four colors, natural oak, cedar, natural and mahogany (slightly darker). Two coats, he says, will help preserve the wood longer.

Note: An alternative is Sikkens Cetol SRD, which only requires one coat and can also be sued on siding, roofs, shakes, shingles, fences and logs. So if you buy a gallon it can go a long way. Like Cetol DEK finish, it offers UV protection and is water repellent. However, Cetol SRD is not available in all states. To protect air quality, in 13 states only Cetol SRD RE and Cetol SRD 250 may be shipped and sold.


If you have used interior paint, chances are you already know this: your beautiful work can disappear pretty quickly if it’s outdoors in the weather. And it doesn’t offer nearly as much protection as a coat of exterior paint over a coat of primer. Better to be safe than sorry.


Rust or heavy usage is likely to weaken your Library’s door or trim. It pays to replace the hinge with a heavier version and other metal anywhere the rust is evident. Wherever you can, replace nails or staples with screws or bolts.


Broken Plexiglas? It’s not hard to replace. Just don’t try to nail or screw it in without pre-drilling the holes. If the window keeps breaking (usually with the help of adolescent mischief), you might consider attaching a clear plastic material like a piece of a shower curtain with velcro. Or a less desirable option, replacing the see-through window with a panel of wood. A better choice– move the Library to a location less tempting to mischievous minds.


The more windows and Plexiglas, the more likely your Library might be to leak as it gets older. One thin layer of plywood simply doesn’t have the strength of a double layer of protection. A nine year-old we know offers this simple solution—an umbrella! You can put together a more durable roof with some shingles or standard roofing material. And remember to design it so water can drain away from your Library’s contents. Leave a hole or two in the floor—not the roof!

Do you have other questions about Little Library maintenance and repair? What works for your situation?

Upcoming Posts in the Rebuild and Revitalize Series: Renewing Enthusiasm for Your Little Free Library.

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