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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Catholicism and the Art of Home Maintenance - The Sequel

I've said it before and I'll say it again; the worst decision I've ever made was the decision to purchase a house. In my case, specifically, a town-home.

Case in point:   Some of you will recall my comic escapades a few years ago when I attempted to replace a simple toilet-seat. 

I thank God for the good sense not to have purchased a single-family home. Although I looked at a few, those in my range (back in 2002) were true crack houses needing to be flipped.  Not my market in any way, shape or form. But...that meant the best townhome I could get was among those built shortly after the Dharma Initiative was invaded and destroyed by the Hostiles.

The problem with home maintenance is that it doesn't end. 

In the time since I've purchased my home, I've had to replace the furnace and water heater, both of which were done, providentially, the winter after my grandmother died and left me a small inheritance. (Thanks Grandma! Please say a prayer for her, y'all!)

Other things aren't so expensive, but they add up over time, stuff breaks down, and people like me...well....I'm helpless. I can start a circular saw and I can start a chain saw and operate a Hurst tool, and give me a sledge hammer and your old garage will collapse in 5 minutes as we flee the catastrophe, but gosh darn it, when my toilet breaks someone better call an expert for me right quick!

A few months ago I got a letter from the City stating they detected a small leak in my house and gave instructions as to how to identify the source of the leak.

Obviously I knew by mere observation that no water was leaking out of any of my appliances or accoutrements, therefore I set about trying to follow the very simple instructions.

In fact, I recalled that my garage spigot seemed to have a small leak (or was that from the hose that is still attached, rusted to the spigot itself?).  So I tried that...after I couldn't twist it any more and didn't want to actually turn it ON as it was -20 outside, I wrapped the hose around an old recumbant exercise bike tipped up against the wall and...VOILA'! No more leaking!

I went inside to my furnace-water-heater chamber and tried to reach the internal shut-off for my garage spigot.


Can't reach it.

At all.

When my water heater was replaced, it was replaced with one that was taller and wider (yet somehow more "efficient"?) and as I am  a minimalized-statured individual, it seems that my water heater is not politically-correct enough for me to actually reach the piping and twisty-thingies behind it that are supposed to turn things off.

I have a backup plan in case a pipe breaks somewhere:  Flee the house, knock on every door in the vicinity until someone either tall enough or tiny enough responds to save the day. 

In the meantime, I'll have lots of towels on hand and maybe some teflon tape and...well, duct tape and WD-40.

WD-40 and duct tape fixes everything, you know.

Adventures in Home Repairs

A week ago I realized I was in real trouble and I had a choice: build an ark or call for help.

The unknown small leak has been weighing on me with great anchors for months now, and added to that was a leak that sprung beneath my kitchen sink. That one seemed to be contained after I discovered it one morning on the way to work. (Why are these things always discovered when one has to be somewhere else and has no time to deal with it on the spot?).

So I put an old dog dish under the leak, pulled out plastic bags intended for dog refuse and tried to dry them off - any that weren't already petri dishes for penicillin - and headed off into the big frozen white yonder.

And then...last weekend, as I headed to work, I got ready to go as usual. While drying my hair I noticed that the bath mat where it butted up against the tub was SOAKED.


Quickly I soaked up the water with an old towel and ran downstairs. Sure enough, the water had leaked through the ceiling into my downstairs half-bath! Dirty, nasty water that had been un-filtered through the infrastructure and fan fixture.


So I cleaned THAT up and headed for work after ensuring the leak was not happening so long as I wasn't taking a shower.

I was certain I would come home to an aquarium and a very wet, cold, and pouty German Shepherd.

Time to call for help...

This weekend, my brother, in response to my desperate calls and emails, heroically strapped on his carpenter's belt and quested to save me in my ivory tower.

(Well...actually...after I sent him an email complaining about water dripping through the ceiling, he offered to get into his car and help me with my minor elementary-level  home repairs in the hovel within which I reside as long as the bank allows me to do so. )  

My brother arrived with a box of chemicals and tools, a shopping list and ideas while we inspected the biggest problem areas needing immediate repair.

As it turned out, the toilet leak was a flapper dancing improperly in my toilet. She was removed and re-employed by the department of sanitation and replaced with a more flexible model.

The rubber ball was rubbing against the wall (get your mind out of the gutter - we haven't gotten there yet!), so the arm had to be bent back to center and the screw  had to be adjusted a little for a more proper flow.

Once we fixed THAT problem (or so we thought), my brother tried to show me how to scrape off the old cauk and clean the grout in the shower. It was petrified and the tool...useless.  The best we (meaning me, actually) could do was clean it up along the base, and within the tub, spray mildew/mold killer, which, much to my surprise, did a lot to whiten up the grout! There are still problem areas, though, so we determined that all we could do was caulk the base for now - which is the area that was leaking.

So...I have a new skill! I can caulk the base of a bathtub like nobody's business, and then clean up the mess! Yay!

Of course, in this process I learned that no matter what guys do, they leave a mess behind. Ladies, all the stereotypes about men and women are true.

Case in point: Brother stood on toilet seat to reach the malfunctioning fan overhead. Dust and dirt and foulness came down - right into the basket where I kept my brushes and lotions, etc.! Could he maybe have either moved it or asked me to put it elsewhere before he "cleaned" above?

No, apparently not.

He'd already observed that my upstairs sink was draining slowly and in need of a snaking or drano. So what did he do? He rinsed the nasty grate in the sink, which will be GUARANTEED to completely stop it up! Oh, and when the water drained, there was all that nasty stuff in the sink that naturally, he didn't wipe up himself.

I stood, stretching out my aching back, demanding to know what he was doing by dumping that crap in my otherwise clean sink.

"I'm a guy", sez he.

Yeah. "Idiot" sez I. Glaring, I wiped it up.

As I went about my house, I realized that everywhere my brother went, he left a trail of dirt from weird sources and I was constantly cleaning it up after him.

Even when we re-arranged my livingroom, dusting and vacuuming electronics as we went, when he was finished, there was STILL stuff on the floor where he had been kneeling, making electronic connections. Where did THAT even come from?????

It didn't help that the living room was in utter chaos as we rearranged it, moving things temporarily to this and that spot, moving sacred images and statues, sacramentals and books, research materials and old paperwork that needs to shredded.

Indeed, the dog had to quite literally get into the mix so she could see what was going on. Unfortunately, because of the constant state of flux, she didn't have any place to BE! As it turned out, this was not a good thing for her...or us.

As I vacuumed up old dog hair and dust from behind the areas previously covered by furniture, a terrible smell arose. My  brother, seated on the floor, commented upon the stench of the dog who seemed to have burped nastily in his face.

This being unusual for my dog, I stopped to inspect her and indeed, she smelled...pukey. As did the air in the  livingroom. Very pukey.

I took her outside, then once we were back in, the wave of stench nearly knocked me backwards.

I peered around the apocalyptic "living area" in confusion,  finally spied the source of the stench: indeed the dog, anxiety-ridden by the sudden upheaval of the main room, added her own upheaval in the form of what was left of the dinner she'd eaten 5 hours earlier.


Already, we had the windows open upstairs and fans blowing to clear the area of the fumes from the mold/mildew cleaner.

Already, we had the door and windows open downstairs because that same chemical smell and those fumes from the WD-40 for other projects was permeating our senses.

And now...the smell of sickness. The terrible, terrible smell of sickness, and the realization it was sickness that was destructive to some historical documents which then had to be thrown out, for they could not be preserved.


By 3:00 am or so, the order and normal scent of the house was more or less restored, the dog's anxiety calmed by the stability of at least some of the objects with which she was familiar, and it was time to retire to our rooms and finish up as much as possible the next day.

Final Status:

I'm happy to report that the toilet seems to no longer to leaking, the doors  no longer squeak, there is not a flood to be found in my house, and the caulk is curing as we speak.

The dog kept her breakfast and dinner down just fine, and in the production of the event and subsequent blog post, no bad words were used by either my brother or myself. ;-)

Now, there's only one thing I didn't do this time, so I guess I completely contradicted the advice given in my post from a few years ago:  I didn't call a priest. Maybe next time.

1 comment:

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this post. I'm glad your bro could help. Poor Fuzzy-mega stress. I hope she is better and YOU too. Home repair can be stressful.