Tag: home improvement

Handy Around the House

It is a simple pleasure to feel handy around the house. In these days when just about anything can be farmed out, it’s nice to do-it-yourself now and then, to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well-done. We’ve occasionally done things around the house. In our old townhouse, Kelly has repaired drywall, installed a ceiling fan, and replaced wall outlets. I painted rooms, fixed toilets, and tended the landscaping. Our new house–not really new anymore, since we’ve been here over two years now–is older than the townhouse, but had been completely updated much more recently. There hasn’t been much to do. Until an opportunity came up last week.

Our microwave oven died back in July. I would have said this is the first time a microwave has ever died on me, but I would be wrong. We kept telling ourselves we needed to replace it, but neither of us was in the mood to look for replacement. We muddled along without a microwave for six week, until finally, last week, we decided to head over to Home Depot and pick up a new one. It’s an “over-the-counter” microwave, we decided we’d do the whole thing ourselves, rather than have someone come out and remove the old one and install the new one for us.

Late one afternoon, we started the work. I got the old microwave unmounted, and then fought with the mountings already in the wall to get those off. They didn’t match the new microwave. I measured and identified places to drill. My old drill wasn’t really up to the task, and much of the “drilling” was improvised with alternative tools. Which meant it took longer. Eventually (after borrowing a much better drill from a neighbor) I got things squared away and Kelly helped me life the new microwave into place, and held it while I tightened the bolts. We plugged in the new device and it turned on. We tested it out, and it worked. I put in a request with the city to come pick up the old microwave, cleared away all the debris and boxes. Our new microwave was installed. It only took four hours.

The newly installed microwave

The following morning, my entire body was sore. My arms were sore. My shoulders were sore. The palms of my hands were sore. The day after that was even worse. It dimmed the achievement of getting the microwave installed in the first place. The lesson, I decided, was that you have to pick your battles. Fixing a toilet is a battle that is simple enough to be worth tackling. As for replacing the microwave: I should have paid the fee to have professionals do it. My body would have thanked me for it.

On Thursday, during trash collection, the city came by to pick up the microwave, but they were too late. Although it was there first thing in the morning when I went for my walk, it was gone by the time the city came around to pick it up. Someone is now the proud owner of a completely dead microwave.

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The List That Never Ends

Eventually, school ends. Workdays come to a close. Vacations last only so long. Careers wind down. But things to do around the house last forever, it seems. I sometimes wonder if you took the sum total of the time that there was nothing that needed to be done around the house, and compared it to the sum to total of the time there was things to do around the house, which would be more? I suppose that if we’d bought a brand new house with brand new furniture and appliances there might be a honeymoon period in which nothing needed to be done around the house. Then again, our tendency seems to be to settle on something, and then change it as soon as we can.

I was thinking about this phenomenon as I considered the growing list of things we have to do around the house.

We need to replace our microwave. Back on July 17, our microwave oven died. It just stopped working, turned off, and no amount of cajoling and prodding will get it to turn back on. We are back to living in the early 1980s. We’ve managed more or less fine without it for more than a month, but we do miss its conveniences, particularly for reheating leftovers, and for heating Kelly’s tea in the morning. Replacing a microwave doesn’t sound like particularly big chore, but it is more involved than I initially thought. There are several steps to the process:

  • We have to find a suitable replacement. This meant measuring the current unit to know what size we needed. It is an over-the-stove-mounted microwave and that meant there are a couple of features I wanted to retain: the stove light and the fan. So we need a properly-sized over-the-stove microwave with a stove light and fan.
  • We have to compare prices in order to make sure our investment will be worth it and that the thing won’t die a few years from now.
  • We have to order the thing.
  • We have to uninstall the old unit.
  • We have to install the new unit when it arrives.
  • We have to reach out to the county to have the old unit picked up. Apparently, you can’t just toss a microwave in the trash because, well, microwaves.

It seems like a lot of work for such a small thing that we haven’t really needed in more than a month, but that’s how it goes.

our dead microwave

We need to get rid of the nest wasps have built inside the basketball hoop. One of the things we decided the house needed after we bought it was a basketball hoop in the driveway. We used it quite a bit at first, and then pretty much stopped until a few days ago when the family went out after dinner to play. It didn’t last long. Apparently, wasps had built a nest within the metal tubing that frames the backboard. You could see them clustered there, disturbed by all of the shots that jostled the backboard.

Once, when wasps built a nest outside the backdoor of a house I lived in, I got a spray that you could shoot at the nest, which worked great. But how on earth do you use a spray for a nest that is somewhere within a metal tube, with entry holes barely big enough for the wasps themselves to climb through? Do we have to call an expert for that? Does that mean getting on the phone and comparing prices and all of that? For a nest in a basketball hoop? I wonder how that conversation would go.

“Hello, I need someone to come a remove a wasps nest.”

“Where is the nest located, sir?”

“Inside the piping that supports the backboard of our basketball hoop.”

“Is this some kind of joke, sir?”

Maybe, if we just leave the wasps alone, the cold of winter will take care of them.

Put French doors in my office. When we bought this house, we said we’d put French door between the living room and my office. It has been on my to-do list for over 2 years now with no progress made. This is another one of those things that should be simple, but involves lots of phone calls, estimates, and stuff that I do enough of at work and don’t really want to do at home.

Put a storm door on the front door. I think ours may be the only house on our street that doesn’t have a storm door on the front door of the house. I light having lots of light, and while our house is pretty bright, it would be nice to be able to keep the front door open and have additional light filtered into the house through the storm door.

There are other things that need to be done:

  • Several light bulbs are out and need to be replaced.
  • One of the security lights out front doesn’t come on when it should.
  • All but one of the lights around the perimeter of the deck are out.
  • The storage room downstairs needs a complete makeover. I’d like to put shelves and a freezer in there.

Then there are the things that I imagine will eventually need to be done:

  • Replace the air conditioner. Every summer I worry that it’s going to give up the ghost. Every summer it surprises me. I think it is attempting to surprise me into complacence. How long can it really last since it was pretty old when we moved in.
  • Replace the hot water heater. Every time we go on a trip I worry that it will finally give out. This is why I always shut off the main water valve before we leave town. I check the water heater frequently for signs of wear, rust, or leaks. It’s old but it is hanging in there. I think the water heater is in league with the air conditioner to lull me into complacence.

The problem, of course, is the same problem with mowing a lawn in the spring: even if I could manage to get everything on this list done, by the time I’d finished, the list would have simply grown back and I’d have to start all over again.

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