Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Joys of Homeownership

We’ve owned our house for four years now, and though it was built in 2006, we’ve found lots of things that need to be fixed. Some of them were noted in our home inspection; some we’ve discovered on our own. But the most annoying problems we’ve had to deal with are the previous owners’ half-assed DIY jobs.

The most glaring ones are the ceiling fans upstairs. Our upstairs gets really hot in the summer, so the previous owners decided to add some ceiling fans to help make it a little more comfortable up there. Fortunately, they knew that you can’t just hang a ceiling fan from a box that’s only rated for a light fixture. Unfortunately, our attic is full of ductwork and has about ten inches of blown-in cellulose insulation, so getting up there to replace the boxes with ones rated for ceiling fans is kind of a pain.

So the previous homeowners came up with a solution: screw some boards into the ceiling joists from below and hang the ceiling fans from those instead. I’ll give them ten points for creativity, ten points for making sure to screw the board into structure to support the weight of the fan, and minus a thousand points for creating horrible eyesores like this in three rooms upstairs.

I love how they tried to cut the board into a circle, but they left the sides flat and then didn’t finish the cut sides. It’s also not even a very good circle.

I was recently trying to do some other work in the attic and figured out how to get around up there without crashing through the ceiling, so I figured I’d take the time to install proper ceiling fan braces and then remove the ugly boards. It’s not really that hard, but it takes long enough that I’ve only been able to do one each Saturday before the attic gets too hot to work in.

When I took down the first fan, I also noticed that not only did they not connect the ground wire, but they actually clipped it off. I guess that both connecting the ground wire and removing it entirely were just too much work. Luckily I had an extra from an old light fixture that I was able to use instead.

Unfortunately, the board on the fan pictured above stuck pretty badly to the paint, so it took down some paint and even pulled down some chunks of drywall that will need to be patched. Still, installing it the right way felt like an accomplishment.

The next Saturday I tackled another fan, and the board came down a lot more easily—there were only a few very small spots where it stuck to the paint. Weirdly, though, the previous owners had put a little glue on the ceiling in addition to screwing the board in, but the glue didn’t even stick to the board. I’m really not sure what purpose that was supposed to serve, since the board was already screwed in pretty securely. Gluing it to the ceiling certainly wasn’t going to add any structural support. Whatever the reason, now I’ve got to scrape glue off the ceiling and then probably patch and repaint it too.

Bonus: That fan used to make a ticking noise when it was on, and it turns out it was just the board sticking to the ceiling as it wobbled slightly. Now that the board’s gone, there’s no more ticking noise.

I’ve still got one fan left to fix, and hopefully I can get that done this Saturday, though it’s supposed to be hotter this weekend than the last two. Maybe if I get up early enough I can get it done before the attic turns into an oven.

After I finished the second fan last Saturday, I decided to tackle another problem that’s been bugging me: our garage door. For four years it’s been causing us grief, because a good percentage of the time the door just doesn’t want to go down. I’ve fiddled with the door close force and lubed the rail and tracks, but nothing seems to help. It just continues to randomly refuse to close.

A year or two ago, I replaced the garage door trolley, and the trolley kit came with a new inner slide too, but I didn’t replace that part at the time because I would have had to take the rail down. But I figured replacing the slider was probably the next thing to try, so last Saturday I took down the rail and put the new slider on.

I got the rail back up and tried to close the door, and it immediately refused to go down. At this point I was at my wits’ end, so I started googling what to do with a garage door that won’t close. And that’s when I learned that when the door doesn’t go down, the lights flash a certain number of times to tell you why the door didn’t go down. The lights always flash ten times, which means that there’s a problem with the sensors. (I felt pretty stupid for not googling this before.)

And then I also noticed a little LED by the remote program button on the opener that flashed once every five or six seconds, which apparently means that there’s a break in the sensor wire somewhere. I started tracing the wires and found some tape wrapped around the wire about six inches above one of the sensors. I pulled the tape off and saw the laziest wire splice ever: for some reason they had cut the wires from the sensor (again with cutting random wires!) so they simply stripped the ends, twisted them together, and wrapped a bit of tape loosely around them.



I guess the wires were making contact enough of the time to allow the door to go down most of the time, but they must have been just loose enough to interrupt the signal from the sensor sometimes.

I spliced the wires with a couple of actual butt connectors, crimped them, and taped them up. Then I hit the button to close the garage door, and voilà! It went down on the first try, and it has gone down on the first try every time since then. So for four years our garage door has randomly decided not to go down just because the previous owners couldn’t be bothered to properly splice a couple of wires, a job which took about thirty seconds and ten cents’ worth of connectors. I just can’t get over how stupid that is.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t very handy growing up and really had no interest in learning how to be, which I think frustrated my dad a lot. He was always doing projects around the house or fixing the car, and I just couldn’t care less about learning how to do those things. It wasn’t until I was an adult and lived in a lot of crappy apartments that I started learning how to be handy, replacing a leaky faucet here or a broken door hinge there (usually with my landlord’s approval, though sometimes it was just easier to spend a few bucks out of pocket and do it myself than ask for permission and reimbursement).

And now I’m spending my Saturdays crawling around in the attic fixing lazy jobs done by a Baby Boomer who had a lot more tools in his garage than I do but apparently wasn’t very good with them.

But I still wouldn’t go back to renting.

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