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Category:  Home Improvement

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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 - 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 it.

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 part!

#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.


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