The Maytag Repairman Is Not As Lonely As He Used To Be

When my washing machine broke down, I called a repairman. I always check Angie’s list and look for someone with an “A” rating when I need something done around the house. It has worked out very well for me and I’ve been happy with everyone I’ve hired to do things like chimney sweeping, gutter clean-out, grass cutting, and appliance repair. Having had my refrigerator repaired recently, and not recalling who last fixed my washer, I called the refrigerator repairman and signed him up. I called on Friday and he was available Tuesday…or maybe Saturday if he could fit me in at the end of the day.

As I sat in the chair at my hairdressers on Saturday, the fateful call came. He was on his way! Who knew I could be so excited to get my washer repaired. I need some new hobbies…He arrived promptly and soon had my washer running through its paces. He cleaned debris out of the pump which might have been mulch…I didn’t get too close because it was pretty stinky. I still can’t believe they design washers to send the water directly through the pump, debris and all. I am really anal about emptying pockets but, rarely, someone else does a load or two of laundry and I can’t vouch for their meticulousness.

Ultimately, I needed a new pressure hose to fix what appears to be the main problem and the source of a minor amount of leaking water. The repairman ordered the part and said he’d call around mid-week when the part came in. At first I thought, no problem, all my work clothes are clean and most of the kids clothes are clean too. We’ll survive. Now I’m not so sure.

When exactly is “mid week” and when would he be able to fix my washer? My daughter leaves for camp at the end of the week and needs clean clothes. I only have three pairs of work pants that fit (kind of, they are actually sort of baggie…yeah!). I could go to a laundromat…if I knew where one was and wanted to spend my evening there. I’ve decided to play it by ear…by which I mean do nothing.

I can re-wear a pair of pants and wear jeans on Friday…maybe on Wednesday too as my department is going to a baseball game downtown. If push comes to shove, my daughter can go off to camp with a load of dirty clothes. It’s a day camp and she’s staying with my sister who has a functional washer and dryer (fingers crossed, knock on wood).

We’ll just have to reuse our towels, maybe wear our PJ’s an extra day, it’s been done before! I am just not looking forward to the mound of laundry that I’ll have in front of me this weekend. I do laundry every single day, especially with all the kids home this summer. I am grateful that my younger daughter’s softball and basketball games are over for the summer because one thing I wouldn’t do is make her wear an unwashed jersey…especially for basketball as she had five games every weekend.

On the other hand…I’m down to one day of running clothes left…now THAT is a crisis! Off to find the Woolite…

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the flaw in every plan!

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Modern Conveniences…Except When They Fail

When we renovated our house, going on a decade ago, I was excited to plan a second-floor laundry room. It’s small and poorly laid out, but I love the convenience of having it where most of the household laundry ends up rather than down in the basement. I bought a new front-load washer and matching dryer set and, despite the noise and vibration involved, have been pretty happy with them. That is, until the washer broke a couple of years ago.

The plumber removed the front panel of the washer and took apart the pump. Inside the pump were several coins that had gotten through the gasket around the door. I remember thinking this was a terrible design flaw that anything could get into the workings of the pump, much less something as large as a coin. So, when my washer failed again this week, I called a repairman.

In the meanwhile, I had a load of damp clothes, so I hauled them to the basement and my 23 year-old top-load washer. I started up the washer, but soon saw that the laundry tub was not draining properly. I had to keep a strict eye on things…not my idea of a fun evening. I’d have to turn off the washer when the water level got too high and return later when it had fallen a bit and start up the washer again. Eventually I gave up for the night and went to bed.

In the morning, I did another stint or two…again at lunch. After work, I was determined to get this poor load of clothes and towels into the dryer. I just couldn’t believe how much water was coming out of the machine. No matter how much drained away, I could get even more out of the washer. I started to wonder if the water weren’t siphoning back into the machine rather than going down the drain.

This reminded me of an engineering problem from college…if you have a pipe of x diameter with water flowing through it at y velocity filling an empty tub and a drain pipe of z diameter with an elbow twelve inches away…how long before the tub overflows? I seriously never thought I’d need to solve this equation in my real life!

I decided to change the equation, which I thought might have changed from an open system to a closed system. I got a big bucket and started bailing. The floor drain was slow, but not as slow as the tub drain. I would bail out two gallons and turn the machine on to refill the tub, then stop the machine and start over again. About 20 gallons later, I thought I’d made enough progress. The clothes were still pretty wet, so I wrung them out by hand and threw them in the dryer.

By the time I got to the bottom of the washer, I found four inches of remaining water. I turned on the dryer, but it was not cooperative. I took out half of the wet clothes and then the dryer was willing to give it a try. I don’t know how long it will take to dry a load of soaking-wet clothes split into two batches, but at least I’m done bailing water!

I’ll have to have a plumber look at the drains, but I don’t think I’ll use this washer again…it’s shocking to me, after using the front-loader for so many years, how much water an old-fashioned washer requires.

Find the Joy in the Journey…you never know what lessons you’ll learn along the way!

Adhesive Doesn’t Stick to Wet Plaster

Earlier in the year, I bought several Angie’s List Big Deals that matched up with some small home improvements I needed to make. One, cleaning my chimney, turned into a much bigger project, but most were neatly handled in a couple of hours. One in particular, however, left me with a hole in my wall that I fully intended to handle on my own within a week or two. Many months later, I am finally tackling it.

It started out with installing light fixtures in my bathroom when we renovated prior to having the cabinets and sinks installed. I ended up with sconces over my sink that didn’t align with the sink. I used a Big Deal coupon to hire an electrician for a few hours. He fixed several other small problems, like replacing a broken ceiling fan and re-wiring an under-cabinet fixture.

The sconce posed a possible problem…the sconce needed to be aligned with a stud and that might not be where I needed it to be. I told him to go ahead and get started, fingers-crossed. Fortunately, he was able to move it from the right side of a stud to the left side of the same stud and the alignment was perfect. That just left me with a round hole in my wall. He left behind the circle of drywall that he had cut out of the wall for the new placement, telling me I could use it to repair the hole left behind.

The next time my husband went to the hardware store, I asked him to buy me a wall patch, one without a metal plate in it. He came home with the patch, but it had a steel plate in it. Months later, we repeated the same scenario. Months after that, I bought my own patch, careful to find one without a metal plate. I discovered that you can buy patches with the fill-circle already attached…but since I had my drywall circle, I passed them over. I also bought a small container of patching compound. When I got home, I could not find the tools I needed for the job. Months after that, I asked my husband where they might be and he told me…the same, hidden spot where he hides, I mean stores, the flashlights.

This past weekend, I finally ventured to the basement and found the tools. I got the drywall circle and tried to stick a bunch of drywall compound around it like so much frosting…it didn’t stick. Next I tried glopping the compound around the inside of the hole…this worked better. I carefully stuck the circle into the hole, trying to keep it flat to the wall and filling in any open spaces. Once it was in place, I got out the patch…it not only had a steel plate, it was expanded metal. I decided that although that made it moderately thicker even than a plate, at least it had holes in it that the compound could ooze through.I pressed the whole thing onto the mess I’d made of filling the hole. I pushed the expanded metal into the wall until compound started oozing out and the whole thing was relatively flat to the wall. The exposed mesh edges weren’t sticking very well to the wall, but I figured I’d fix that when I went over the whole thing with more compound. A few hours later I returned to find that the patch had fallen off. Adhesive, unfortunately, does not stick to wet plaster.

Knowing I had two back-up patches, I gave up on the first. Instead I spread more compound over the hole in the wall and went off to work hoping it would dry enough by evening to continue the project. In the evening, I saw that the compound had dried and sunk a bit in the center, so I added a bit more. At that point, I realized I didn’t actually need the patch and I could probably do a better job without it.

So, after all this time, I have finally patched up the hole…just in time to keep out the winter drafts. If I’d only known how easily I could do it, I would have done it a long time ago.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t make things more complicated than they need to be!

Watching Paint Dry–Part III: Patching Things Up

Sometimes I put things off because I come up against what seems to me to be an insurmountable obstacle, or just something I don’t feel capable to handle. That often turns out to be an illusion and just another way to procrastinate. This was the case with my big painting project last year. The obstacle was two places on my stairs where the drywall was broken; I didn’t know how to fix it. One was relatively small, and I figured I could use some drywall tape, maybe a few strips overlapping, to cover the hole and spackle over it. The other hole was much larger and I couldn’t see how I could stabilize it.

On occasion, I would sigh to my husband that I didn’t know how to fix the problem and he would reply back that oh, it would be easy to do. Then I would wait, hoping that he’d fix this easy problem so that I didn’t have to. In the meanwhile, my project was on hold. In reality, I don’t want my husband working on little projects around the house. He travels extensively for work and when he’s home, I want him to have time to spend with me and our children. Even so, I let this project slide on the hope that he’d fix things for me.

The project started out pretty big: paint the walls and ceiling in my stairwell and down the upstairs hallway. It got bigger when I cleaned off the stairs to the attic and added a window as well as additional walls and ceiling. I still have some additional work to do before I can prime and paint the walls, including painting the additional ceiling in the attic stairs, but I finally tackled the broken drywall.

While trolling the aisles of Home Depot a few weeks ago, I picked up a drywall patching kit for the place in my mudroom where the doorknob pad had recently been shattered by a big gust of wind slamming the door open. I’m proud of the work I did on the mudroom and wanted to make sure I maintained that small space even as I planned bigger projects. But while I was getting that kit, I saw additional patches of various sizes and bought 2 larger patches. I also bought a real doorstop…what we had really needed all along.

The patches sat around (i.e. became clutter) for a couple of weeks, but one morning I decided it was time to patch the mudroom wall. It turned out that the patch in the kit was too small, so I opened one of the larger patches and discovered that they have a steel plate in addition to the drywall mesh. Great! There’s no way a doorknob will get through that! So, I stuck the patch on the wall, spackled it, and later sanded it smooth. Once I’d finished the first patch, I took another look at my stairs.

It turned out that the small patch, which was just mesh tape in a 4×4 inch square, was the right width for the small drywall hole and about twice as tall as necessary. I cut this piece in half and soon had the small hole patched up. Next I turned to the larger hole. The last large patch was not quite wide enough. A bigger patch wouldn’t do because this one also had a steel plate in it that would barely fit the rise of the stair. Then I realized that if I used the remaining half of the smaller patch in one area I could use the larger patch for the rest…soon I had fixed the hole! It’s not perfect, but certainly better than I expected.

When I think back, I have to wonder why I let this part of the job stop me in my tracks. Now that I’ve overcome it, very easily as my husband had suggested, I am confronted with the rest of the project and it still seems so huge that I’ve contemplated hiring a painter to finish it off…and then I realize that I’ve already done all the hard work. Although it’ll be time consuming, painting flat walls is the easy part!

Find the Joy in the Journey. When I stopped procrastinating about my perceived obstacles and just got on with the job, I found a little slice of it.

Related Posts:

My First De-Cluttering Project—The Mud Room

Watching Paint Dry—Part I: The Trim

Watching Paint Dry—Part II: The Ceiling

5’s-ing The Attic Stairs

Getting Back on Track with Both Health and Hearth

I feel as if these last three and a half weeks have been a time of getting out of step with my life, but in retrospect, it’s really just with my health goals…which says a lot about how important one’s health is! Since I finished the 5k on Thanksgiving, I haven’t been on my treadmill or run outside again until this morning. I came down with a sinus infection just a few days later and it has lingered until just a couple of days ago, basically draining any physical energy I might otherwise have had.

But, last night I slept 10 hours and only woke up once with only about an hour of fitfully trying to get back to sleep. That’s the best sleep I’ve had in years, frankly. And oh how good it feels! Then to get back onto the treadmill and not to have lost a whole lot of ground there, felt great!

Another set-back has been my decision to get my chimney brought up to code so that we could use the fireplace and so that I wasn’t heating my entire town through the open flue. Well, to back up a minute, my house is approaching her 120th birthday and nothing, absolutely nothing, ever goes as planned when you mess with this fine old lady. Even so, nothing could have prepared me for the eight-day saga that ensued when we started down this “one day” project.

When we moved into our house, 19 years ago, one of the big projects my husband took on was stripping and re-finishing the mantel. It had at least ten layers of paint on it and as they came off, some beautiful carved detail emerged. With dental picks, he carefully dug paint out of the details until it was completely clean. He spent many hours sanding the stripped wood, and ultimately refinished it back to its glorious, original state. The tile surround and hearth are dilapidated, worn and chipped. It will be another project altogether to pick something new and hire someone to install it. In the meanwhile, I decided to have the chimney brought up to code.

When I recently hired someone to sweep the chimney, it was in the vain hope that it would be deemed safe and that we could use the fireplace during the upcoming holidays. I was very disappointed, although not too surprised, to learn that the chimney had multiple things wrong with it, including things that should have been fixed by our builder in our renovation 6 years ago. I finally decided to have the chimney company back to make the repairs, a one-day job, I was assured.

That first day, a Saturday, I figured I’d set the tree up and maybe do some baking while the chimney was repaired and hold off until Sunday to do my Christmas shopping. Well, first they found big globs of old mortar in the bottom half of the chimney, so power tools were employed and soon my living room was filling up with dust. So much for putting up the tree or baking in the adjacent kitchen.  By late that afternoon, they had found new globs of mortar in the top of the chimney…work that had recently been done, but apparently not well. They couldn’t reach down far enough, so went off to get more tools. When they returned, they still couldn’t reach the spot, so they said they’d return on Sunday at 11.

That second day, I got busy with my younger daughter cleaning out her clothes closet and drawers. At about 1 o’clock, I went to find my cell phone and saw that the chimney man had called and wasn’t coming…I’m afraid I got a bit despondent what with still fighting off the sinus infection, having a home full of mortar dust, and not being able to put up my tree.

The chimney work continued on Wednesday, when they determined that my chimney was too narrow from the roof to the fireplace to slip the 8 inch liner into place. A decision was put in front of me to either skip the liner (and not have my chimney up to code), or to break into an adjacent flue to make space and add a second liner for the water heater. They offered to do the labor for free for the second liner, so I went with that option.

Friday came with a lot more dust…this time they put up some plastic sheets to at least contain it a bit, and they finished up the dust-producing portion of the job. On Saturday they easily dropped in the second liner, hooked up the water heater vent, put in the damper, put up squirrel cages and capped the flues. Finally, after 8 days, the work was done! I got up as much dust as I could, dust mask in place…but I think it will be a while before I can work it out of all the nooks and crannies, not to mention the walls, ceilings, and light fixtures. Of course, I lit a fire that first night…and found that despite the new flue liner, the chimney smokes a bit.

Now that what started out as a small job and mushroomed into a mess is over, it’s time for me to reclaim my house and my health. Today, my son is putting together the Christmas tree and soon Christmas will seem a little more real as my family gets to spend more time together in the coming weeks than we’ve been afforded over this busy year.

Find the Joy in the Journey!