Home repair. The bane of any homeowner. No matter what you fix, something else goes wrong. Especially if you own an older home, like I do.
In fact, I have two houses to fret about. The one I live in, a late ’40s ranch, and my house in St. Augustine, Florida, a 1920s termite-ridden jewel that my mother calls home.
Two houses that need continual upkeep and no one to do the work. It wasn’t always like that.
I used to have a husband who fixed everything. I took that for granted. Home repair was something I never worried about. He did. It was lovely. I’d break things and he’d fix them. Rot? Not a problem. Same for plumbing, electrical work, remodeling. I was spoiled!
Then I became a widow and the reality of home repair became a living nightmare! I had to hire handymen to help me with everything. I went from living with a man who moved houses in the early days of Atlanta, from one neighborhood to another, to being on my own, unable to replace a simple light bulb in that long odd stairwell to my basement.
Two years ago, during those fall months when rains drenched Metro Atlanta, my basement developed seepage. The two rooms, which I had finally turned into living space, after re-purposing hundreds of tools and several office desks, started leaking water. At first it was minimal – just annoying. Then the water came further out in the room and I knew I had a foundation problem. I hired my first handyman.
A good friend suggested I use the handyman that worked on her bed and breakfast, a huge home in Inman Park, a historic part of Atlanta, that had never been renovated and required constant upkeep.
“You’ll share?” I was so excited! I didn’t have to find my own handyman. I’d use hers.
Later my friends would kid me I did not hire a handyman, I got Murphy Brown’s painter Eldin! Do you remember the TV show Murphy Brown starring Candice Bergen? Eldin was the painter that came to paint her apartment and stayed as nanny to her baby. Eldin never left until the show was cancelled!
I started to feel my handyman would never leave. He started work on my basement in September and moved from project to project until March the following year. He was at my home three to four days a week. After all those months of juggling my schedule for projects, I was over it. I’d find a way to do some things myself.
I didn’t want to see a handyman ever again!
Unfortunately, I still have to hire to get many things repaired. But I have learned to do some things creatively on my own.
My repairs make strong men weep. My female friends cheer me on and understand.
I’d like to share my latest fiasco and my crafty way of dealing with it.
Last Monday I became possessed to clean house. The kitchen floor was my target. I swept all the dog hairs and small branches, gifts from my dear dogs, out the door. I do this every day, sometimes twice a day. But Monday I decided to also mop the floor. I used the kitchen sink to squeeze out the mop. By the time I’d finished, the drain was full of grunge and dog hair. That just would not do!
At first, I tried to grab at the gob in the drain with my fingers. No luck. The plunger didn’t help either. In a deranged moment that can only be brought on by cleaning house when you’d rather be napping, I reached in a side draw and pulled out a long shish-kabob skewer.
At first I picked at the top of the drain with the tip of the skewer. Gunk started to surface. Then my frenzy started building. I put the skewer in deeper and more gobs of stuff came up. Finally, in a frothy moment of jubilee, I pushed the skewer deep down the drain and the final goop came out.
My work completed, I rinsed the sink with a disinfectant and silently applauded myself. “Job well done!” I almost called a friend to brag.
I stepped back to admire my clean sink and drain, then looked down. I was standing in a huge puddle of water. Water was dripping from the base cabinet. I opened the doors and looked at the plumbing. I’d punctured through a rust spot in the drainpipe with my skewer and water was leaking everywhere from the small hole I’d created. It was even dripping on the bottle of Drano I’d forgotten was there.
I had a meeting in two hours, with a 30-minute drive ahead of me! I needed to do something quickly!
And so I did.
I make jewelry by putting together recycled parts. I have found my jewelry glue to work on many household projects. It has become for me, the chick method of home repair. Simply glue.
For instance, the decorative antique mantel in my kitchen has a bead of jewelry glue behind it. The late-night project to secure the mantel was a disaster. The heart of pine was almost petrified. I didn’t have an electric drill and no amount of hammering would put a nail through the mantel. I wanted it done at that moment and the glue worked like a charm!
My feet in the water I started looking at my kitchen counters. My basket with odd jewelry supplies was within reach. I grabbed my tube of E6000 glue, and dug through my stash of jewelry parts, until I found a brass stamping of a beetle, that curved ever so slightly. Reaching down inside the cabinet I put a thick ring of glue around the hole, which was the size of the tip of my finger. Next, I filled the beetle with glue in the center and around the edges. I pushed the two together then taped the beetle in place, holding it steady until the glue dried. This glue is amazing, but the short dry time allows things to slip. I could not afford to have my bug land in the wrong place.
That was six days ago. My repair is holding. I am sure sooner or later I’ll have to get a plumber in. In the meantime I giggle with glee at my creative repair that got me to my meeting on time.
When I finally call my plumber, I hope my small repair won’t bug him!
Barbara Barth, The CEO of Life