Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DIY Home Repair

Wow. July has been one expensive month! I am still sorting through receipts trying to figure it all out. I am glad I was over budget on income, because I am behind on savings!

In another post, I talked about the pros and cons of being a landlord. I had real life experience with that this weekend. The tenant emailed me last week to tell me that she was going to be out of town and would I check her refrigerator. It didn't seem to be keeping things cold anymore, despite the fact she had it on the coldest setting, and it was running constantly. She also mentioned that the toilet was running every hour or so. (Sometimes I wonder why she didn't bring this stuff up when my ex was her landlord. Did she have to save it for me??)

Frankly, I don’t know anything about refrigerator repair. So, I took a look on Google and found the Acme How To Web Site. It turned out to be really helpful! (I have bookmarked that site and will be going back often.) With the web site's help and going by the description of the problem the tenant had given me, I narrowed it down to three possible problems: Dirty condenser coils, a bad seal, or a bad switch. I printed off the instructions for each and headed up to her apartment.

I kind of assumed that the problem was the condenser coils - the refrigerator is older and I doubt the back of it has been cleaned in awhile. I quickly realized that they way it is built in, there was no way I could move it myself. I called Catie who said she’d come on over and give me a hand... but it turned out unnecessary. As I reached up to see if I could even move the refrigerator a little - I felt water. Looking at the side of the freezer I saw condensation, and instantly figured out the problem. The seal had gone bad. It was pulled and distorted out of shape letting freezing air out into the sweltering apartment. The web site had been right and the problem was not good! Using a flat headed screw driver I was able to push it back into place enough that it stopped the problem. Air still leaked a little, but finally the refrigerator stopped running. It was obvious though that I would have to replace the seal. Because it is an older unit and an odd brand, I had to special order the part - which will run me $80. Fortunately my quick fix should hold it until the new part comes in a few days, but I wish it had been dirty condenser coils - all that would have taken was some elbow grease.

Then it was on to the toilet.

Lifting the tank and watching the mechanism, the problem was once again pretty clear. Water was slowly leaking into the tank. Somehow the flapper valve had gone bad. I recently purchased a book on home repair, and felt willing to tackle the toilet issue.

Well... 7 hours later, 2 trips to Lowes, 1 trip to Home Depot, $30, several asprin and a “helpline” call and assist from my friend Randy later, and I now know more about the inner workings of toilets than I ever thought I would know. In many ways the experience was really good. I learned a lot. And actually, I was able to do 98% of the work myself. I would have been able to do the whole thing, had one step not been skipped in both my home improvement book and instruction manual.

It was a lot of work though. I replaced everything inside of the toilet, including putting in new screws and a new feed line from the water shut off. It probably wouldn’t be bad at all if I had to do it again, but it was a moderately challenging project considering I had never worked on a toilet before! On top of that some of the old parts were rather difficult to remove. Nonetheless the toilet is repaired and seems to be working well.

While, I know I saved a lot doing the work myself, still that $110 hurts a little - and that is just a small part of what I spent so far!

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