Wanderings – The un-handyman learns

Eighteen years of home ownership has taught me a little about fixing, repairing, and then fixing the repair on a home and the contents therein.

The year we bought our home my parents gave me a book on home maintenance and repair published by The Home Depot. I like books, but this looked more like a manual rather than a fictional novel to read. Who reads manuals to do anything? Randomly push buttons until the item works properly is the way to do things. If you don’t have parts left over when you build something, you’ve built it wrong. This book was promptly placed on the bookcase and ignored.

I had forgotten about the book for a year until my first repair project arrived – replace the drain in the bathroom. Fumbling on my computer to find out how to fix something, the book was a last resort fix-it manual. Seventeen years later, that repair hasn’t leaked.

When my wife and I decided to renovate the basement ourselves for the first time, I ignored the book. The internet had improved with videos – and at that point I had watched a lot of HGTV. Me with a little bit of knowledge on a topic, is a dangerous thing. I framed the new walls for the basement – and then re-framed the new walls for the basement. Wiring was left to the professionals, but the drywall wasn’t. The finishing job looked good from three feet away; stay three feet away from the wall and you won’t notice the blemishes. Paint covers everything anyway.

Over the years we’ve renovated the basement three times, adding an office, train room, and a new craft room. Had I planned for what the basement use is now, 16 years ago, I would have done things differently. Nonetheless, the quality of various projects and repairs has improved as my un-handy workmanship went on. More and more the book – rather than the internet – was referenced.

I even tackled bigger projects in our home. A bathroom renovation was completed twice – note if you are DIY-ing, don’t skimp on certain products like fixtures or you will be paying for everything to be fixed again. The kitchen reno was the biggest project completed, with help from all four of our kids. Who knew angsty teenagers would be so good at demolition, and Lego-loving kids good at assembling IKEA? There was no planning or conditioning involved with that.

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Along the way, this book was referenced and work was done: plumbing, installing a dishwasher, laying floor, and more. Five years after completion, other than the normal family wear-and-tear, the kitchen looks almost new.

I won’t recount every project I have mostly finished in the house, because there have been a lot. However, I have noticed one thing in recent projects and repairs – I haven’t been looking at the book anymore.

Last week, my washer stopped working. Typical of an appliance with a five-year warranty that I bought six years ago, it quit. Push the button, and no water would come on. Kicking the bottom did not resolve the issue. After briefly muttering unmentionable words under my breath while quickly Googling how much a new washer was (!), I tried to troubleshoot the problem.

I pushed the button and listened. There was a click, and no water. I reset everything and tried again – no water. Checked the hoses and everything was good. Removed the hoses to see if the filter was clogged, still no. Through my Holmesian method of deduction, I concluded the broken part was the intake valve.

A quick search online found the part of Amazon for $40 and at the repair place in Ottawa for $140. One had a two week shipping time via the slowest boat ever known to sail, the other I could pick up the same day. I chose the $140 option.

When I returned from Ottawa, I gathered my tools and disassembled the top of the washer, replaced the intake valve, and got everything reassembled in under 30 minutes. Everything worked and there were no leftover screws or bolts to throw out. Success!

After listening to the cascade of water filling the washer, I began to wonder – what just happened? Normally appliance issues would cause me to immediately throw my hands up in frustration. This time, I calmly attacked the problem and successfully solved it without referencing the internet, or the dog-eared home repair book, or calling a friend.

Eighteen years of being an un-handyman prepared me for this one task – and I completed it handily! With this newfound confidence, I know I can fix anything around the house – except household wiring because you need a permit and a contractor for that; and siding because I don’t like heights. Okay, I can fix ALMOST everything.

This column was originally published in the August 30, 2023 print edition of the Morrisburg Leader.