Home Maintenance Lessons Learned
By Nikki Willhite
A couple of weeks ago my husband had to leave town for two
weeks, and I was left alone. I have been left alone many times, as my husband is
an insurance adjuster, and through the years he has gone to the scene of many
natural disasters. If you haven't read it, I put on a page about some of his
experiences during Hurricane Andrew -
Things have been going rather smoothly lately, so when my
husband prepared to leave town for a couple weeks, I wasn't expecting any
problems. I do my best to prepare for emergencies by having extra food in the
house, and things like that.
However, these last 2 weeks showed me how unprepared I really
was. I let some of the basics slip, and I paid the price.
Three things went wrong. One of them cost me several hundred
dollars- an expense that would have been a lot less if I had just taken the time
to learn a little more about home maintenance.
The others were not as financially hurtful, but upsetting. In
order that others may learn from my experiences, here is another story from the
journals of my family!
#1. The Water Heater
The most unexpected and financially harmful thing to happen was
that our water heater broke. The seams just rusted out at the bottom, and water
started cascading out like a waterfall.
I called my husband on his cell phone, and he said to get
someone out to replace the unit. He suggested an acquaintance- a handyman who we
have used before.
I tried to reach this person, but they were not home. So I
called a professional company. They said they could be out in 2 hours.
Thankfully our water heater is in the garage, and up high. At
first, in my panic, I tried to sweep all the water out of the garage. Then I
realized this would just be replaced with new water, and I couldn't keep up with
My husband had suggested I turn the main water valve off at the
street. However, it is a very gross place, and I doubted I had the strength to
turn the valve, even with the big wrench.
I finally decided to call one of my neighbors. They were
wonderful. They ran right over, turned off the water on top of the unit, turned
off the gas, and then drained the tank with my garden hose.
Now there was no emergency. I could have waited until I reached
my handyman. However, by this time, I felt it was too late to cancel the new
installation. So I let them come and replace the water heater.
If I had known how to turn off the gas, water, and drain the
tank, I could have waited for my handyman, who later told me he would have done
it for half the price.
You can bet I now know how to do these things. If you donít know
how, learn now! It is so easy. I paid dearly for my ignorance, and for someone
who espouses emergency preparedness; it was a major blunder and oversight on my
#2 The Toilet
My husband wasn't gone more than a day when the toilet broke. I
knew it was just the chain, and that it was an easy fix. However, I had never
done it. I had always relied on my husband to take care of these annoyances, and
never even bothered to watch him do it.
I studied the toilet, and I knew all I had to do was reattach
the chain to the ball on the bottom. I tried a few things to see if I could fix
it temporarily, such as attaching the chain to a safety pin, and then trying to
stick the pin in the ball, but it didn't work. The ball was too hard.
This didn't cost us any money, but it was a major inconvenience.
Thankfully we had another toilet in the house. However, the situation was
aggravated because the first time I went in to use it, I lifted the toilet seat
and there was a HUGE spider sitting on it.
The spider disappeared before I could get the broom to kill it.
So I spent 2 weeks trying to frequent that bathroom as little as possible!
#3 The Car
Before my husband left, he had the brakes fixed on my car.
However, after he left the warning lights started coming on. There were two
different lights. One of them said Brakes, and the other was the icon that
represents the car's electrical system.
I got out the carís manual and started reading. It stated that
if the lights came on and didn't go off, or even came on intermittently when you
were driving, that you needed to take the car in to be looked at.
I started thinking about what would happen I drove the car and
damaged it to the point that we needed a new car. We kept our previous car for
17 years, and I had always assumed that this car would last as long. The thought
of car payments was enough to put me in a high state of panic.
So, I was grounded. I tentatively ventured out to get food, and
go to the post office, but that was it. It was not a pleasant 2 weeks.
And it was unnecessary. When my husband came back we talked
about the problem and what to do. We talked about where to take the car and have
it looked at. Then my brain finally kicked in.
The problem had started after the carís brakes were serviced.
Why not take it back there, and ask them why this was happening? Perhaps they
didn't fix the brakes correctly. Maybe there was a reset button they missed. The
only thing that didn't make sense to me was why the warning light to the carís
electrical system was coming on.
So my husband took the car back to the brake place. Turns out,
in computer language, essentially the carís electrical system need to be
rebooted. All they had to do was unplug the wires from the battery, let it sit
for minute, and then attach them again.
How easy that would have been to do myself. I killed my
nerves and curtailed my life for nothing.
Anyway, I hope that someone gains something from my experiences.
It is somewhat embarrassing to talk about my misadventures and lack of
knowledge, but as they say..."No experience is ever wasted if you learn from
it". Hopefully a lot of people will learn from my mistakes.