House Repair Triage a guest post by Heroditus Huxley

House Repair Triage a guest post by Heroditus Huxley

We are in, no lie, a full-on economic meltdown.  Times are hard for everybody

Here’s a hint: they’re always hard for some.  My household is single income.  I budget hard, and carefully, to get the stuff done that needs to be done. 

And sometimes, stuff has to wait

So.  You’ve taken the plunge and become a homeowner.  You smile, and you look at your house.  Your house.  You’re in love with it.  And you move in.

And then…the flaws start appearing.  Repairs that the previous owners should have done (or, as was the case with our house, were gypped on). 

Your money’s really, really tight. 

What do you do?

You do what I did.  You prioritize.  It’s called triage

I grew up watching MASH.  I vividly remember the rapid-fire assessment of soldiers coming in, wounded in horrible ways, and one of the surgeons prioritizing who went in first (because it was a now-or-never chance to save him), who could wait, who wasn’t going to be looked at until last, sometimes because they weren’t that badly hurt, but sometimes because the person doing triage didn’t think they could survive even through the surgery.

You can do the same assessment and use the same kind of bloody-minded reasoning in ordering repairs and maintenance of your own home. 

For example: we moved into this house fully aware that at some point, we’d be replacing the roof, given that there was a bleedin’ hole in the roof over the garage, that dripped into a bucket on the steps down into the garage every time it rained.  And one of the turbine vents was…bent.  And wouldn’t turn.  And dripped rain down through the living room.  We might have been able to put it off longer if we’d found somebody willing to repair a few spots, but everybody wanted to quote for replacement. 

We…couldn’t afford that at the time, so we started socking money back as fast as we could. And placed buckets.

The immediate, as in, must do now, was the drains.  We bought the house, moved in, started living here…and the drains started backing up.  A lot.  Horribly.  And immediately. 

We called a septic tank pumping service, and they cleaned out the system, then said if that didn’t fix the problem, then it wasn’t the tank. 

It wasn’t the tank. 

We called a plumber.  And the plumber went under the house.  And then came back out, giggling.  “[Your drain system] is the worst DIY mess I have ever seen.  The toilets are the only things done right, and one of those is leaking from a cracked pipe.”

Okay.  That…was item number one on the triage list.  It was…spendy, but we gritted our teeth and did it.  Because every drain was backing up.   

Turned out, there was double the length of pipe in the drains that there should have been…at half the diameter they should have been.  As in, the plumbers took two days, and took out two linear feet of pipe for every foot they put back

We did that first because…honestly?  The house, with the drainage plumbing we bought it with, was not livable.  The washing machine drain overflowing with every load?  The sinks making the tubs and toilets back up?  The tub making the sinks vomit?  Yeah, that wasn’t livable.  At all.  The roof drips?  Those kinda were. 

Also in the “not-livable” category was the well pump going out (necessitating the replacement of the pump itself and almost 200’ of pipe) a few years later.  Immediate repair required, and done.  With much gritting of teeth. 

And then…after four years of saving, and living with it…we finally got the roof replaced.  There was more that needed done than there would have been if we’d done it immediately (almost all of the decking needed taken off and replaced because it was crumbling—which it wasn’t when we bought the place, even if having the rafters too widely spaced had the decking warped to the point it was visibly wavy).  But we did the main part of the roof, and re-covered the porch roof. 

We couldn’t afford to do the carport at the same time.  Because it needed a complete tear-down and rebuild, and tuition was coming up due within three months. 

We took another year to save for the carport (and got a significant boost in the form of a gift).  It’s rebuilt. 


…the patio roof has fallen off. 

The one part of the house that never gave us a hint that it was going to give us trouble.  And…it just…fell off.  At the end of August. 

Guess what’s next on the triage list. 

And yes, it’s a list.  We’ll need to replace the heat pump within the next ten years or so; the cook stove sooner than that.  I’d like plumbing done to do both on propane rather than electricity.  But it’s going to have to wait—and wait longer, since I’m going to be rebuilding our emergency reserve from paying for the tear-down of the patio roof, and then next year’s tuition. I’m balancing what needs to be done against what we can afford to do. 

The key question is this: what can you live around?  What must be fixed now because leaving it undone makes the house unlivable? 

Can you live with stairs that moan when there’s weight on them?  (Before you say yes, check the structure!  And there are almost always temporary fixes that will cost less than full replacement: braces, mending a broken joist AND bracing it, and such.)  How about the drains that won’t?  The roof that leaks?  What can you not live with?  What can you afford?  What can you patch until you can replace?

Priorities.  Priorities are everything

Choose wisely. 

129 thoughts on “House Repair Triage a guest post by Heroditus Huxley

  1. Repairs,, property taxes, paying for your own heat, water bills or dealing with a well, and decorating are a few of the reasons buying is more expensive than renting. Investing in real property while keeping a roof over your head with fewer restrictions than renting is all worth it. In most cases.

    1. Not so much more expensive than less predictable. We own rental property, and the rent we charge includes property taxes and other overhead. Tenants are responsible for utilities including heat, water, A/C, entertainment, and some decorating. We cover repairs (as needed), and we’ll do some renovations but on the whole we aren’t going to fancy things up. We’re not, for example, going to replace Formica counter tops with granite, which is something an owner might choose to do. So the renters pay a bit more than they might if they owned the place (we do make a profit most years), but they’re not hit with unpredictable expenses for repairs.

  2. Highest issue in any wooden house (and all but a few use SOME wood, even structural brick) is water intrusion. Any leak in the roof or plumbing or due a variety of other issues is a major priority as it can do massive damage to the structure and cause lovely things like mold growth. Also high are pest infestations. Carpenter Ants or Termites are bad, Bats, mice or squirrels also not good. The former damages structure, the latter are first rate health issues as mice and bats can carry all sorts of nasty stuff in their urine and feces and then things also can reproduce there.

    Oh and as pleasant as good well water is I’d much rather be on town water. Especially here in the Northeast there is so much Granite and similar in the various strata that Iron, Manganese and Radon are almost always issues and minerals are an expensive pain to get out of your water. And yes pump replacement when the well is a couple hundred feet deep HURTS.

    As one coworker I once had said “Having a house means you are never in want for something to do with your time or money”.

    1. “Bats, mice or squirrels also not good.”

      In our neighborhood, in the 16 years we’ve lived here three houses in our neighborhood have caught fire after squirrels chewed into the attic and then through wiring. One burned completely.

      1. OK, that’s a complication I’d never heard of. Mostly in my experience squirrels just make a mess and tear things up, and of course have some of the same health issues as mice, just usually not as high a quantity.

          1. Also one I’m nopt familiar with. I’ve heard of yersina pestis in prarie dogs, I guess squirrels is a similar issue. The big one with mice is Hanta virus. There were a bunch of deaths in the four corners region in lat ’80/ early 90’s attributed to people getting hanta virus from cleaning up after field mouse infestations in old buildings without dust protection.

            1. People think rodents are cuuuuute until they learn what destructive little disease-carriers they are.

              There’s a ewe-tub channel “Mouse Trap Mondays” about various ways to deal with mice and other pests. 😀

              1. Yeah not fun. Had a squirrel that got into my garage (likely due to some lazy workers doing renovation not closing the dang garage doors for long periods). From there it then went into my basement likely when someone was going through the pass through. I did not realize that said squirrel was in my basement until one of our cats Spike (a large orange 17# tabby, pretty dang smart for an orange cat) was headed down into the basement and started chitting and yowling (Translation: Intruder Alert!!! KILL KILL KILL). I fished him back at great risk to my own skin (handling an agitated cat is dicey at best). I then put out a have a heart trap with peanut butter and gumdrops. Within 24 hours said squirrel was trapped. Trying to move the trap was a challenge. As I came near the trap the squirrel made a scream somewhere between a banshee and a young woman being severely injured. I finally just sucked it up grabbed the trap and moved the squirrel. I can not say I took said squirrel to a local state park and released it as this is a crime in Massachusetts and it is not clear what the statute of limitations is on illicit squirrel transport (transport was illicit, I suppose the squirrel was a legal resident of MA, I did not ask for documentation).

                1. I was having trouble with squirrels climbing the pole to the bird feeder and swiping the food. Before I made the pole unclimbable (4″ duct pipe FTW), I tried trapping. (Different brand than Hav-a-heart.) Pine squirrels were too small to get trapped in the larger trap, because of a gap for the mechanism, but grey squirrels (the worse problem anyway) would get trapped and moved to the other end of the property. Took them a bit of time to find their way back. Maybe 800 feet, but it helped.

                  The weirdest event was when a grey squirrel and a Steller’s Jay went after the bait at the same time. Both trapped, and they killed each other. No evidence of betting on the outcome by the Cute Little Birds who were getting chased away by both critters. (Unlike the ring of hawk droppings around a ground-squirrel hole in the meadow. The Red-tailed hawks liked the service…

            2. When we lived in Manitou springs city workers refused to pick up electrocuted squirrels (they’d decided to er… cuddle in the electrical box for the neighborhood) because they might have died of plague…. 😀

            3. $TINY_TOWN word was that the previous owner’s wife died from Hanta virus, which seems to be endemic in deer mice (mercifully, they’re fairly rare).

              I’ve had some interesting nests in the vehicles, and leave the hoods up for the Subies and the pickup while they’re garaged. $SPOUSE was told about leaving bars of soap in the area (she left them in the package, but the smell passes through). Seems to work well.

          2. Black plague squirrel, and other rodent carriers, is endemic, not just in the Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountain states, provinces, and west to the pacific (maybe not Alaska) and down into the southwest, including Arizona (not sure about parts of west Texas, or into Mexico proper, or not).

            I don’t remember the novel, let alone the author, it has been decades (mid-80’s or ’90s, maybe) since I read it in paperback. The premise was people discovering dead squirrels on trails or in roads, and catching the plague. Plague quickly moving to lungs which is when plague become epidemic in humans. Drama quickly ensues. Including what could happen if pharma gets emergency indemnity free passes (or why I’m not surprised the clotshot and other effects of the jab have come to light … case of life being too dang close to fiction).

            There are cases of plague (non-easily transmittal type) in humans every year in the west. Mostly in those who venture regularly in to the back country, workers, and adventurers. Small percentage. But it happens every year.

            1. The 10-year-old daughter of an acquaintance died of hantavirus, probably acquired from mice on a visit to New Mexico. She got sick the following week when she was back East with her grandparents. ERs there had never encountered it before, and by the time they diagnosed it, it was too late.

              1. When I came back from National Jamboree in 2005 all staff were issued a card to carry to have if we experienced ANY medical problems. Stating been in the east in a high area for ticks and listed the possible systems related to the tick born illnesses caused by tick bites.

                Wow. Never thought of that complication. I thought everyone knew about the hantavirus, especially medical. That 100% could happen with black plague, with all the visitors to our western national parks and monuments. Especially how people feed them cute begging chipmunks and squirrels. A bite will transfer the plague virus, not the deadly human transmittable version, but transfer it, bites will.

            2. Alan Nourse did a novel about that. Several subplots including the drug companies promoting an expensive cure with crippling side effects, even though a cheap, easily made antibiotic was completely effective, but not profitable. (The first researcher to discover this died by accident before he could get the news out. It was a real accident, too).
              Mind you, by the end of the novel, when the antibiotic has been rediscovered, people are burning pharmaceutical execs alive, to general applause.

                1. As a matter of fact … Yes.

                  The difference being the plague aerosol form is deadly to populations. As deadly now to all demographics of the population as it was when it devastated the old world repeatably. There is no effective vaccine or treatment that is universal, even now.

                  CCPFlu, 100% false that it was as deadly as portrayed. 100% false that treating the symptoms were not ever effective.

              1. Several subplots including the drug companies promoting an expensive cure with crippling side effects, even though a cheap, easily made antibiotic was completely effective, but not profitable.

                That would be it.

                Along with the mystical subplot of seeing an out of context, the same ragged dirty barefoot child, herald of the pandemic incoming, just before or after a dead rodent (usually squirrel or chipmunk) was discovered.

                Not only was the true cure inexpensive and unprofitable it was something that could be cooked up in every kitchen.

                Yes. The executives who pulled the switch had financial indemnity. Physical, once the word got out? Not so much.

                1. The “plague child,” also featured in another story of his. I had the feeling he’d taken it from medieval legend.
                  Whoever saw him first died.

                  1. Yes. What triggered the entire investigation was the reporting to the main protagonist, a forest ranger, of hikers seeing the “plague child” and the dead chipmunks/rodents. The forest ranger does see both, but isn’t the “first” to see the plague child at that location. Also not the last location the plague child is spotted, but the same process holds. Yes. Pretty sure author pulled the theme from medieval legends. Did not know the theme had been used in another of his books. By the way. This book is where I learned that plague is endemic in the west. He took the this truth with the legend and wrote the book. What the pharmaceuticals pulled was suppose to be fiction, not a playbook. And, if I remember right, there was no governmental imposed restrictions. Restrictions yes, but self imposed. He didn’t go for the government overreach.

            3. Yosemite National Park had (still has? Been a couple of decades) warnings about plague in the chipmunk population in the Valley.

              The ordinary grey field mice aren’t supposed to be Hantavirus carriers, but deer mice are. (I’ve only seen one example, died of unknown causes.) Before we did various tricks, the Subaru Foresters were prime nesting locations for field mice (uniform light grey). One was to get an automotive air freshener, stick it in a not-quite airtight baggie, and put it in the compartment above the spare tire. I’ve stopped trying to kill them off, but the soap (and moth balls has discouraged rodent activity. Emergency food is kept in sealed containers after the first event.

              I need to try the same trick for the shop/barn; it’s closer to the river and the critters think it’s great shelter. No food (as commonly considered as such) is available. Some mice have found a way into one of the salvaged kitchen cabinets there, and even insulation at the roof has been infested, once. (They were climbing up a support for the pole barn. Couldn’t get to other bays, but fixing that one was disgusting.

              1. Not surprised about the warnings. I’ve never noticed the warnings but then it is something I’d see and think “duh”, and promptly forget the signs are there. Not ignoring the warning, just warning that isn’t needed. It is one of the reasons I’m make sure the dog can’t get fleas or ticks. (I don’t know that dogs can be a plague vector, but not taking any chances, besides I am allergic to bites.) Then there are the warnings about the wild animals are not in a petting zoo. Those we make jokes about. Not really a joking matter given how many people can’t read, or listen, regardless of what language they read or speak. The rangers earn whatever they are making, and then some.

                People. I swear. It is bad enough with my small service dog. The times strangers have come along and swept her up for hugs. She’s on a leash, at my side. She’s good mannered about it, and kisses are their “punishment”, but dang it is irritating. Most do ask. Since generally waiting and watching as hubby takes pictures, granting her permission to interact happens, but if they don’t even ask? Grrrrr (that is me).

                1. “Not really a joking matter given how many people can’t read, or listen, regardless of what language they read or speak. ”

                  But it helps keep evolution a working proposition by culling out stupid, so there’s that. Personally, it would warm the cockles of my black heart to release a pride of sabretooth tigers in PETA headquarters……

                  “Mother Nature red of tooth and claw” isn’t just a saying…..

            1. At least once a year we get a squirrel outage in our neighborhood. My friend’s sister, unafraid of dead things as her parents are biologists, terrorized the neighborhood boys by picking up an electrocuted squirrel by the tail and swinging it at them more than once. Sanitary? Heck no. Funny to watch? You betcha!

            2. When my late MIL lived in (the late-ish) Paradise, CA*, she lost landline telephone service. As did some of her neighbors on the street. $SPOUSE was visiting and called it in. Pac Bell rep’s comment (soto voice) upon hearing this was “Damned Paradise squirrels”. Seems they’d break into the neighborhood switchboxes and eat to their heart’s content, or until they found high enough voltages.

              The issue with underground utilities (beyond occasionally sketchy protection of the lines; was a worry for us once) is that occasionally things have to go above ground. I’d love to see the locksmithing kit a squirrel totes around. I’m sure nobody ever forgets to latch the box, and the vents are rodent proof. /sarc

              (*) When she passed away, the next door neighbors bought her house. Their own house survived the Camp fire (modulo water supply contamination), but MIL’s old house is now an empty lot. Seems wooden decks Are A Bad Idea in fire country.

          1. Unactivated wires, too. Had a critter eat the 4WD activation wire in a pickup. Apparently, some of the insulation has ingredients that mice/chipmunks find tasty. ’03 Chevy. Haven’t had problems with wires in the Subies or the Honda.

              1. It’s been a while, but I have a vague recollection that some wires of that vintage were using soy. [rolls-eyes]

  3. The Reader doesn’t know where you live so take this with a grain of salt. In the muddled climate we have in VA near Richmond, a heat pump with a supplemental propane burner that kicks in around 37 deg F has been a pretty good solution for winters here.

      1. Yeah, the only one that would work in you neck of the woods would be the geothermal earth coupled units.

      2. A previous neighbor tried one in his showcase (snerk) log-look home. Seems 0 degrees F defeats air heat pumps. That unit came out, and the current owner uses a lot of wood to back up the electric heat.

        1. Gas or propane heat units have problems in the cold too. Newer ones anyway. Condensation drainage lines freeze. Ours is finally fixed correctly so we don’t have that problem (heat tape and insulation). But mom has a secondary hose that she switches to and pulls across the hall to drain into the hall bath’s tub. The heat tape we have would work on her primary hose if it had been originally setup that way, retro fitting, given the clearance under the house, is the problem. If we lose power we’ve had the insert wood stove for backup (when we had wood) but in no way does it heat the whole house even if the fan is working.

  4. Proper drainage would always be high on my list of priorities.

    It’s so much less convenient to have to correct it later, if you don’t put it in right the first time sullen glare at the foundation drainage on the house parents are building.

    1. This! The Reader has been paranoid about drainage on all 3 of the houses he has built from scratch. It is more challenging when the house requires wheelchair access and you want to do it without steps and also without an unnatural looking ramp.

      1. The house my parents are building is designed to have minimal clearance between the exterior grade and the interior floor level. The way we accomplished this is by having the floor joists hang between the foundation walls, rather than rest on top of them, so the exterior grade can come right up to within a few inches of the bottom of the wall, without ever risking soil contacting wood.

        The problem is that the house is located on a mountainside with a lot of seasonal springs. And we didn’t put any drain tile across the middle of the crawlspace to remove the water that seeps up into it.

        Partly that’s my fault – it’s the first house I’ve designed, and I didn’t insist that we fill between the footings with gravel before pouring the foundation, which would have allowed us to pour the extra concrete into the crawl space as rat slabs, and saved us the work of dumping bedding sand into the crawlspace through holes in the subfloor After the exterior shell was built, and acted as a vapor barrier in itself. Partly that’s my stepfather’s fault – he’s acting as the general contractor, and he figured that the exterior foundation drainage alone would be fine. Spoiler: it isn’t.

        So we have water condensing on and dripping off the bottom of the floor joists. And we can’t put vapor barrier down in the crawl space, because … it’ll get holes poked in it when they’re down there installing the plumbing. Also, we didn’t put quite enough bedding sand in for the water to stay below it, so there are puddles, and he’s talking about having us put more sand down in there next summer.

        What we need is somebody with the equipment to drill horizontally and install a drain pipe that will go diagonally across under the crawlspace, and out the cut bank. Which is a summer project.

        Triage sez: finish the interior framing, and insulation. And gosh, maybe varnish and install the one door that’s keeping you from putting down the floor in the bedroom.

        I’m supposed to go up tomorrow and help them work on it over the weekend.

        I probably ought to cancel, considering that my current attitude is “I hope there’s blizzard that makes it too hazardous to travel up there.”

        1. We did it by having a poured concrete covered porch that imperceptibly sloped away from the floor level and then extending that as a sidewalk using a LOT of rebar to tie sidewalk to porch / foundation. Each involved a few thousand dollars of extra concrete but none settled or cracked (oldest one is now 27 years old). Only downside is that no plants that thrive on acid can be planted next to the sidewalk – you can’t put enough acid fertilizer down to counteract the leaching from the concrete.

          We also did the garage without steps. Instead the garage floor slopes 6″ from entry to house to garage door with a ‘flat section’ immediately around the door. Got into code hassles with the first one we did in 95 (funny story associated with that). The last two were passed without notice.

          1. My sympathies on the underwater springs issues. We have an underground river running under our house, which we discovered when we started excavation for an addition and could not get it to dry out. Two sump pumps in the new basement and a huge long French drain later . . . we haven’t had a flood yet, though our foundation is built on slushy silt. The house next door is over a century old and has no basement, only a rather dodgy crawlspace that is frequently wet after long rainstorms.

  5. Part of your checklist before closing is to schedule a “camera inspection” of the plumbing. That way you don’t discover you have rusted thru galvanized iron which is not only clogging now, but has undermined your “prairie soil” foundation for trouble years later.

    Ask me how I know. 8-(

    1. We had that done on our house. Went fine. A few months later, we had issues—and some lovely person told us to contact the city first, in case it was on their side of the property line. It was. They paid to fix it.

      “It” was, in this case, a complete break of the sewer line due to subsidence. There was less than an inch of overlap, which is why it started burping out the clean-out point, but how it worked until then I do not know.

    2. We’ve learned that lesson too with a prior house.

      Current house we had septic issues immediately. That was the septic companies fault (septic was pumped as part of the house purchase agreement). They had not put the septic lid back on properly. Thus they had to come out, clean up the mess, and fix it, on their dime. Now we are on city sewers thanks to federal courts. Unanticipated cost in the mid-’90s along with having to replace water line between meter and house (thanks to two Giant Sequoias planted in the front yard, not by us or prior owner). Luckily the sewer connection requirement came with interest free loans. Both the water line (with copper ,not plastic, pipes) replacement/reroute, the new sewer line work to the house, and “our” frontage sewer line cost (not free, but required), came under that interest free loan. Which, while didn’t quite take every single month allowed to pay it off, we did take as long as we needed.

      The interest free/delayed loans is how we’ve replaced appliances (fridge, freezer, hot water heaters, furnace, etc.), generally over 6 months to 3 years, on most. Always paid off before the last month, but at payments we could afford.

      We need to replace our roof (it is time, + leaky skylights). Will be the second time since we’ve bought the house (we have lived here for 34 years). We could pay for it in cash, but likely to get a home equity loan. It depends on what is happening with interest rates … can we earn more keeping the money over what we’d have to pay out in interest. The other consideration is pulling $25k + what we have to pay in state/federal taxes, what that money does to our annual taxable income tax rate. That isn’t the biggest problem we’ve got. Getting roofers to quote or call us back after we have questions on the quote! A huge problem!!!! Note, the leaky area has been thoroughly tarpped off, but there is existing damage beyond just replacing the skylights and the roofing material around them.

  6. The more you can do yourself, the better. Get familiar with basic tools and their use. Fortunately, in the modern age, there are YouTube and other tutorials on just about anything. Caveat is, you don’t want to screw it up and make things even more expensive to fix.

    1. Ah, YouTube. Also known as “how we kept from having to pay to have our dishwasher repaired,” or “our washing machine repaired,” or “replace the shifters on the eldest’s bike,” or “replace the window lifter in the truck,” or…

      Also, my husband was able to correctly diagnose a mis-wire on our furnace that was setting off the furnace and the AC at the same time, simply through circuit diagrams.

    2. But there comes a time when you do not want to do it yourself. Hubby and son could remove the roofing material and put on new roof material, including fix the damage related to the leaky skylights and put on the new skylights and flashing (do not even need YouTube videos). BUT, hubby is almost 71. He does not belong on that roof! Period. Son works 40 – 50 hours a week. Needs to get done faster than son has the time.

      1. Oh, yes. That’s part of the triage process.

        Going on the MASH mention – I recall an episode where, for some reason, Hawkeye was the only surgeon in the unit when a batch of wounded came in. He was running from table to table between hard cases – with the nurses doing surgery and everyone else acting as scrubs (including poor Radar, until he fainted…)

      2. I replaced the roof on our 2000 vintage manufactured home in 2009. As usual in such homes, they did things on the cheap, so I wanted to get it done before problems showed up. 30 year shingles with proper felt in much of the places, and ice-dam membrane where needed. FWIW, I did a similar roof on $SPOUSE’s shop in 2005, and the roof is going strong.

        That was about $3000 in materials. The pitch was gentle, and aside from thunderstorms (needed some creative tarping), let me use a slowish pace to finish. OTOH, I was in my mid ’50s. Did my last(!) roof in ’20 for a garden shed. That one was lockseam metal, and should outlast me.

        I’m a pretty good electrician, a so-so carpenter, but plumbing ain’t my forte. The OEM shower controller needs regasketing, and if I can get hold of our regular plumber, we’re going to talk to him about replacing the shower enclosure while we’re at it. I’ve done one (tiled, even), but no. Just no. Not again.

        1. And true to the philosophy of manufactured homes, the shower controller is a semi-obscure (AKA Cheap!) brand. And the cover plate is well and truly sealed on to the enclosure’s wall. I’m afraid of wrecking the enclosure trying to get the plate off.

      3. Alas, but I’m getting there. I’m not very handyman capable, but things I did 10-30 years ago (pre-UTube) are things I wouldn’t attempt know. Of course, at least until Bidenflation reduces our retirement, I can afford a good handiman.

        1. least until Bidenflation reduces our retirement

          There is that.

          Definitely have to have someone remove old, put on new roof tiles and vents. But, as much as I do not want to we are going to end up painting the house. OTOH hubby wants to have someone do the upper story 3 sides that we shouldn’t be on the roof getting done. Who is going to want to bid just that portion? I do have a painter I have asked a total quote from under the “friends and family” discount (a 2nd cousin). No quote yet. So …

    3. YouTube tutorials, amazon, and ebay are lifesavers. Recently had the thermostat go out on the refrigerator. OEM part was $116, ebay part $14.50 shipped. YouTube showed me step by step how to do it, total time, 20 min. I have had similar results with replacing a broken microwave oven door handle, dishwasher door latch, and replacing the fuel pump in my 2001 Olds. If I hadn’t done those things myself, it would have cost hundreds of $.

      1. Replacing the gas gauge sender on a Ford van, though…it’s part of the fuel pump. Which costs $700 and you have to pull the gas tank to get at it. I really should bite the bullet; I’m beyond tired of the gas gauge always showing over full even when it’s under empty.
        Bring out yer dead!

  7. My hubby always tells people, “Anyone who buys a house deserves it ”

    Since triage of house repair has been the story of our life.

    It helps that he is seriously talented about household and automotive repair. He can literally build and/or fix absolutely anything.

    But raw materials are super expensive too, as are proper tools. And he works long hours so repairs take away from his meager free time.

    I don’t know how people afford to hire someone else to do repairs.

  8. Triage everything. Even personal health. Chest pains? NOW. Foot pain? Later. Tooth pain? Soon. Bad knees? Later.

    Do what you can, when you can. Have an older car? If there are parts available, some things are stone ax simple. Oil change? DIY, buddy. Replace headlamps, tail lights, markers? Same, all you really need are screwdrivers for most of that.

    Plumbing? If you have PVC, a monkey could do most of that. Probably did, if you have/had a house like mine. Sink drains are not hard. Nor replacing toilet guts, or a leaky faucet. Drywall? If it doesn’t have to be pretty, do it yourself. I can do pretty drywall, if there’s time. I just don’t want to unless I have to.

    Cooking? Definitely DIY. Cheaper, better, better for you, potentially. Tastier, too, once you get the knack.

    If you’ve the stomach for it, try asking a hunter to teach you how to properly clean a kill. A bullet in the right spot is a lot cheaper than something bought in plastic from the grocery. Hunting for the pot is no shame. It’s good eating is what it is.

    Workarounds exist for a lot of things. Thewriterinblack’s advice is true- you can screw a good lot of things up quick as an amateur. I did, more than once. But those skills can come in mighty handy, betimes.

    1. Check your local code: last I heard PVC of any type is verboten inside a building. And PEX you don’t want to use within about 6 feet of a faucet, because the change in pressure from turning it off and on will make the connections leak. Metal hard pipe isn’t difficult to work with though, even if you don’t want to try sweating things.

      1. Yep. PVC gets grandfathered in, in most of the places I’ve worked at. If it’s there when you bought it, you’re probably okay (best check and make sure though). PEX is better stuff, but can be a different kind of pain in the rear.

        One thing though- that tiny copper tubing? The kind that feeds your ice maker in your fridge? Sod that stuff. I’d rather sweat copper that doesn’t kink when you look at it funny.

      2. That’s the first I’ve heard of PVC being either forbidden or that PEX is bad. Are you meaning CPVC? Because that makes sense, but I have left plenty in place. Which type of PEX are you refereing to? Because here in Upper Left USA, PEX is amazing, particularly the UPONOR version.. It’s all we use. Never had issues.

        1. The inspector that told us that PVC was not allowed said CPVC was okay. Don’t ask me how that’s supposed to work. (He was inspecting the pump house that holds the pressure tank, pump, and filters that sit between the well-and-cistern, and the house.)

          The inspector also said that PEX was okay to put between the pressure tank and one of the pumps, which we found out was not true when it imploded.

          When we talked to an actual plumber, he said “only hard pipe in there”. He’s the one who said you don’t want PEX near fixtures that get opened and closed a lot. So I think what the plan is, is to run hard-pipe from the fixtures to the under-floor, and use PEX from there to the supply. It’s not that PEX is bad, it’s that you don’t want it near sudden and repeated pressure changes, is my understanding.

          But the inspector only checks for what meets code. Not what actually works. And their interpretation of what meets code cost my parents at least $3000 in wasted materials and multiple days of labor.

          Which is why we’re not calling inspectors anymore. (This may not work in your locale)

          1. PVC pipe must be a state thing, because in my state, PVC pipe is not a problem to get or use.

          2. “Which is why we’re not calling inspectors anymore. (This may not work in your locale)”

            And it may not work well with your homeowner’s policy regardless of locale. Make sure of what it says about repairs not certified. Because otherwise you might find it as part of a claim denial.

  9. On the car repair side…

    My hubby is manager of a local automotive parts store. They do a lot of tail light bulb replacement and wiper and battery replacement too. Free of charge. Sure you can go to Walmart and get them cheaper but then you have to replace them yourself and you might not have the tools. If you go to a repair shop they will charge you shop rate.

    My advice would be to send the wife or daughter to ask about it. Or, better yet, a teenage son to ask if someone could show him how to do it. If you are running some sort of code on your car, they have code readers to check out and see BEFORE you go to the mechanic so you know what you might be looking at and what to expect. They can also clue you in on who the most honest and cheapest shop to go to if you don’t already have one. People in this industry try to be helpful to the customer, generally speaking. You can also look up how to do it on YouTube. So many helpful people putting information on the internet. Your parts person can tell you if a repair that you need is possible for someone of your skill level. Sometimes even a headlight replacement must be done at a shop because they are one piece units that have no replaceable bulbs.

    This will NOT work at an O’Reilly’s or AutoZone or similar. They hire Walmart level employees who don’t actually know cars. Nothing wrong with Walmart level employees. But it’s a different type of expectation for service. Walmart doesn’t expect it’s employees to install equipment either. You need to find a store that is local chain level at most.

    1. Even some of the headlights with replaceable bulbs are nearly Dealer or Body Shop jobs, as the whole housing must be removed just to pop the bulb out and in.

          1. My BIL a lifetime working mechanic, can’t work on his own cars now that he is retired. He can’t afford the shop machines required.

              1. OMG. Tell me about it. I’ve told this before but our 2019 Santa Fe the “engine off” feature quits working. So mentioned it. There are a lot of conditions that have to be “correct” for it to actually activate, one of which is engine temp (too high, too low, won’t trigger). But could prove not working. (Incidentally, not working now. Not going to say a word. Not a chance.) They could verify not working. Fine. In the shop to fix … Four (4) months later, fixed and stays fixed. It took a computer replacement to get it fixed. But before that point they had to:
                (1) replace the battery. Fixed it, didn’t stay fixed, made things worse.
                (2) bad battery replacement, repeat. Of coarse getting said batteries was a whole other problem.
                (3) Replace driver side electrical harness (whatever that was). Fixed, didn’t stay fixed.
                (4) Replace onboard computer … Fixed and stayed fixed, until it didn’t about 9 months later.

                I repeat. Not worth it to be without my car again. Yes, they gave us loaners. Not worth it.

      1. It’s weird my first vehicle with a non SAE standard bulb was a 1989 Ford Mustang. Replacing the bulbs here was simple.
        1) Unscrew a closure with a nice fat O ring.
        2) Remove the dead bulb
        3) Replace with new bulb (note handle bulb with paper towel, the oil on your fingers left on the bulb could combust on the light and crack it when next turned on)
        4) screw the watertight fitting back on making sure the O ring was in place.
        For about $12 and 10 minutes voila a new bulb
        NONE of my Hondas (1995 accord, 1998 civic, 2004 civic, 2007 accord, 2012 Civic 2017 CRV) has EVER been that easy. The 2007 accord had one light that was easy (passenger side?) but the other one involved removing the battery, which is ALL kinds of nuisance. I don’t think ANY of the others could be done without access to a lift or removing things far more complex than just the battery. Honda just DOESN’T design for user serviceability. Part of it is their target market doesn’t do their own maintenance (oil changes are just as hard without a lift). Part of it is that all the streamlining of the hood and body mean everything is seriously crowded under the hood.

        1. I found Hondas have certain tricks, and often you got to bite down and do it that way only. Even in the 80’s, the best way to do some things was to drop the engine. Doing so carefully, you could quickly change a belt pulley, or whatnot, without having to unplug it totally. Have not messed with much newer than my ’98 now for years. Sis’s Lexus headlights was the latest. I managed to get to the aiming mechanism to move, but some electrical aiming would compensate and point the lights too low again. Ma paid to have a shop look at it and they couldn’t get them to aim correctly either (they did some other work as well but they didn’t charge them for the light work).

    2. Get a code reader yourself. Seriously. We had an electrical issue with the car that was so intermittent that the local garage wouldn’t take it, and it wouldn’t read a code after the fact. We had a code reader plugged in when the issue happened, and presto! The garage knew exactly what to look at, and honestly, the fix was less than the cost of the tow.

      Not to mention that it’s a reassuring thing to have on long drives, so you know if that check engine light is a Now or a Later.

      1. And don’t trust the dealership if you have an older car. The local [redacted] dealer can’t deal with a mid 1990s model because it doesn’t have a computer. The kids who work there don’t know how to troubleshoot something without a computer. We found a shop that likes older cars, and is run by motorheads, and they now do everything for that vehicle.

        1. I can recommend a few automotive repair channels run by folks who are very good at diagnosing the problem and explaining their logic.
          South Main Auto
          Watch Wes Work
          Pine Hollow Auto Diagnostics
          Schrodingers Box

  10. Heinlein’s; “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. ”

    I’d add plumb or re-plumb a house, replace a roof etc., I suspect the only reason he didn’t so note is such truths are self evident.

    Gotta admit I’ve never planned an invasion or died gallantly but I’ve, as have many, done and stumbled through the rest of the list and don’t regret any of it.

    It goes without saying (As I, of course, say it anyway.), hope you’re raising your kids with that attitude and skill set, in this day and age.

  11. Wasn’t this house inspected before purchase? I’ve never seen a real estate purchase contract that didn’t require inspection, and appropriate adjustments made if there were significant problems…

    1. Depends on the market. A lot of homes over the last few years have been “no inspections” on the offer. Granted, dang few that require a bank note. But then it means losing the house in a market where there is a single open house, with will accept offers for 3 days; and there have been multiple offers. This is changing now.

      Note, even in ’89, in some locations, it was possible to say “no” to repairs that came up. We did. Roof was within X years of requiring replacement. Bank required it to be replaced. We were barely covering the original purchase + closing costs as it was. We said “no”. Potential owners came back and requested to rent, they’d replace the roof, then the house closed. Longview is where this was. Housing had stalled over the prior 9 years. Inventory was limited, but was coming on. Time to sell, but not time to make a (unlike last these last few years).

    2. Read the fine print carefully. Yes, in my case, an inspection was required; a “camera inspection” involving visual inspection of the piping below the slab from the inside was NOT.

      1. What you need to do is plan to show up and go through the house with the inspector. He has his list, you take yours, pay attention adding to yours if you must, ask questions.

        1. I did. The regular inspection didn’t show this issue, and apparently inspectors who perform “camera inspections” on plumbing are few and far between (at least in Plano 2006), require separate scheduling / specialized equipment and separate licenses, and were rather expensive, even if I had known to ask for one.

          1. Kind of like between the wall problems, unless there are clues. The inspector cannot open walls to find the problem.

            The house we bought. We knew there was too much wall paper … did not know it would be a PIA to *remove, but we knew it was there. We knew the carpets were cheap and some were horrible (to us) colors. House solid for all of that. Then too we were on a time crunch. The other possibilities, one had to be rebuilt from scratch inside, deliberately torn up. We didn’t have the time even if we could have gotten the house discounted. The other possibility was the rental we were in. We made an offer, it got turned down. (When it finally sold they got less than we offered. Felt bad for the elderly owners. OTOH did not have to deal with the elderly original farmhouse next door that was also a rental,. Both properties had to sell together.)

            (*) Ended up putting up paneling over the 3 of the 4 worst sections (we like wood so accent walls, okay). Fourth section was the kitchen (4 LAYERS!) and the resulting removal damage was tiled over. Upstairs when it was redone, the company took 1/4″ wallboard and covered over the wallpaper. Adjusted the window treatments to make everything look correct. Note. I don’t care if wallpaper is coming back in style. No, a thousand times NO.

      2. And the holes in the roof etc…? I’ve also never seen a house sold without an in-person inspection….

    3. FWIW I did my own home inspection. And I had to have one, due to getting a Agriculture loan. I also know many people who have done the same – admittedly they are all old fashioned folks who know lots and have good horse sense. And I remodel for a living.

      1. No doubt…In our area, you pretty much need a licensed inspector if you are getting a regular mortgage…

    1. It’s uncanny how things only break right before or during holidays, at 5:45 PM on Friday, or just as the weather turns so bad that no one can get out and about for repairs. Or when you have company over. Or yes.

      1. My sister had stories of when she was working for a warrantee dispatch location of people calling on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, because their oven had broken down (they hadn’t used it all year…) and they wanted someone out there NOW to fix it because the family was over for dinner…

        1. Personal story: with my family, as a teenager, visiting my grandparents for Christmas. Used the restroom. Washed hands. Towel rack disassembled itself over toilet – little set screw released from wall bracket, post dove into bowl narrow end first and basically disappeared.

          Christmas day plumbers are expensive, I’m told, but Mr Bumble did not grab me by the ear and try to sell me, so I guess I lucked out.

          As an adult I’ve done all the simple toilet replacement things, so for that problem I would not have called a plumber. I might now, being a lot adult-er than I was when wrestling with porcelain last.

      2. My aunt’s house, weekend of her memorial service, there are eight? ten? of us in her house. Three bathrooms. Two of the toilets back up and are unusable. Fortunately, my cousin and his eldest are well versed in plumbing repairs. Cousin owns a snake. They fixed both toilets in record time.

    2. That’s ALWAYS when it happens. Evening of July 3. Calling a plumber at holiday emergency rate was financially impossible, so Walmart and McDonald’s were our only bathrooms for 36 hours until I could rent a big-ass drain auger from the local building supply.

      1. Long ago (1960’s? 1970’s?) there was an appliance repair place that did amazing business and many wondered how. The answer was simple: [OPEN 5 PM – Midnight]. Everyone else was closed, so…

  12. Oh yeah. Hubby started keeping an extra wax ring for the toilet back in the day when number three son AKA The Mad Flusher became interested in toilets.

    For about two years it was a constant problem.

    Always after the hardware store closed. I dunno how he knew since he wasn’t old enough to tell time.

  13. Two comments (well, one comment and one question) before I even read the existing 52 comments:

    That may be the best allegory, even if unintended, that I’ve read for the problems afflicting the republic today and how they need to be handled.

    Have you ever watch a flick called “The Money Pit” starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? You should, even if it would be like watching a rerun of your personal experience. 🙂

    Anyway, good luck on your repairs/renovations; I’ve done enough of them to fully sympathize, although not quite as extensive.

    1. Bah! Ditch “The Money Pit” and rent the original: “My Blandings Builds His Dream House” starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Melvyn Douglas! I learned enough from that movie to save us a bundle when we started house hunting.

  14. Off topic, but your link to DST (below in chrome on my phone) takes me to a dead link on Amazon. I’m guessing it still points to the old Baen version. Just thought you’d like to know. Hope I’m not the fiftieth person to tell you when it’s all WP’s fault…

  15. I had the same annoying experience with a roofer – having asked for an estimate for some minor repairs and improvements, I received one for replacing the entire bleeping very large roof. Other repairs and such took priority, but I may start calling some others early next year to see if they would be willing to work by sections.

    1. Heck. We are looking for roofers for our entire roof. Not just the area containing the bad skylights. Not having much luck. Still haven’t gotten a quote from the latest. Suspect hubby needs to mention this to the neighbor who is the one who knows the roofer in question. This is getting irritating. The coming housing downturn, hate to say it, is going to good for the homeowners like us who need large projects done. Trades should actually be available.

    2. That happened with the fencing company our landlord called (we do most minor repairs, fence is his issue). I spoke with fencing guy and told him we need a quote for just that side, between the two houses (one section has collapsed), and I told him that only the sides are part of this lot. The back fence is on the property of the house behind (our lot ends at the back retaining wall, and the back fence sits on top of that). Fencing guy comes back with estimate for all of the back yard. LL says, no, what is it for just the one side. Fencing guy comes back with an estimate that is a whopping 10% less… LL is looking for new fencing company.

      1. When we rented in ’85, the house didn’t have a grass yard in the back (prior inhabitant had a backyard garden) nor a fence. We said if LL paid for materials, we’d put in both. That was what was done. It was to both our benefit.

        1. That did cross my mind, but materials supply chain is also an issue. So, we wait. We do know the neighbors on the other side of the broken fence, and they never use their backyard, so it’s not really an issue right now .

  16. I’m gonna vent….
    My beloved has decided he wants a home office. NOW. In the last month (mostly in the last two weeks) we have:
    Cleaned out our son’s old bedroom, leaving lots of packed boxes in the back room.
    Put Vir Roomba to vacuuming the carpet frequently. Then shampooing it, then back to vacuuming it.
    Painted the room. Painted trim.
    Moved the furniture from the front (guest) bedroom to the rear bedroom.
    Hung 8 × 10 Turkish carpet on the wall.
    Painted front bedroom/new guest room (yesterday).
    Bought new vertical blinds. He installed them today, plus moved a desk and a table in. I’m still painting the closet doors from the back bedroom and look forward (ack) to painting the office closet doors.
    More furniture to move, certificates/pictures to hang, etc. And eventually the back bathroom needs a lot of work.
    I don’t know whether to cry or scream.

      1. I’ve considered it. Had to bite my tongue severely when he bought new vertical blinds and cheerfully announced we could cut them at home. As it turned out, he was right, he did and they’re ok.

    1. Sounds like Sept ’89 – ’90 for us, ’96 for me, and again in ’01 and ’02. ’89 is when we went through and painted everything downstairs, replace floors in bathrooms, and replaced all the house’s cabinets (kitchen and bathrooms). We didn’t do this when we first moved in Nov ’88 – Jun ’89, because I was pregnant. Then we had to deal with FIL death fallout with MIL all summer. ’96 was when I was looking for work, so time to paint inside, again. ’01 is when we had the sunroom and upstairs properly detailed, the extensive work we paid to have done, we painted the new wall board, 3x’s. Then when looking for work in ’02/’03., rest of the house got painted, inside. Technically upstairs needs to be painted again, and the house outside needs to be painted, again (we have paint colors selected for the latter). I do not want to do either. I just don’t. It will happen, just not till next summer.

  17. Mind you, I’m grateful we can do this. I’m grateful we have the time, health and resources to do so much of our own work. But to him, this is mostly fun. Me, not so much.

  18. Update…
    Beloved and I moved his desk (full-sized office desk, sans drawers) from back of the house, around the corner of the atrium (the glass-walled room at the center of the house), to the door of the new office.
    Me: (Doubtfully eyeing the doorframe) Did you measure the desk?
    Him: Measure?
    He gets a tape measure and, sure enough, the desk is roughly one inch wider than the door.
    Him: Help me tilt it up and try to push it through.
    Desk won’t go through. He looks thoughtfully at it and says,
    Him: If I take the bottom assembly off, it’ll be able to go through.
    He gets a screwdriver.
    Him: Now, we’ll keep it tilted up while I take off the bottom. What could possibly happen?
    Me: Back thrown out, torn rotator cuff, hernia…
    Him: I KNEW you were going to say that!
    The desk is now in the office and I’ve stopped laughing. For now.

    1. So we bought new couches (sometime ago). Three of them. Two went upstairs. Thankfully the purchase not only included delivery but putting them where they belonged. Two big muscular young men … Getting those couches upstairs, around the corner, was “interesting”. OTOH they are very, very, solid. No way are they coming down in anything other than parts. Which is how the old broken ones came down. I swear the next couches are going to be the newish style that by design is in pieces, sides, back, seat, all different pieces that clip together (reconfigurable).

  19. I went through that with the first three houses. This one was going to be different: Hire it all out and get it done before moving in.

    Well, it’s 18 months – and a shockingly large number of dollars – later and the finish (not Finnish) carpenter starts work tomorrow. After that, tile, carpet, plumber, and HVAC. I hope to move in over Christmas.

  20. Yeah. Yeah. I totally understand this dilemma. My home was built in 1984. The door to the original oven fell off a couple of weeks ago. Wall ovens are $2k for a decent one. Plus installation and scheduling. That wasn’t in my budget. We also need to remediate some other problems, to the tune of $30K. I could make a list of the rest, but you’ve got the general idea. It’s a Monday (every day is a Monday), and, as usual, life is screwing me hard, with no lube.

Comments are closed.