The costs of being a homeowner, and other Friday ruminations

I spent the day making house doesn't look like this one.

I spent the day making sure that my house doesn’t look like this one.

I have had a busy day.  The dishwasher sprang a leak that was, thankfully, easy to repair:  the repairman put in a new seal and the leak was over.  He was here for about 20 minutes and put in one 6-foot-long seal.  Thankfully, we have appliance insurance, because he said that, without the insurance, the repair would have cost $250.00 for parts and service.  Yikes!

The dishwasher wasn’t the only thing leaking.  The upstairs bathtub was leaking into the garage.  We had one plumber out yesterday who diagnosed a tub waste overflow and said it would cost $700 to fix.  We politely sent him away.  I called around and another guy said that he thought it would take an hour to fix, at a cost of $250 per hour for labor, plus $100 for the part — but it might be more, and could come up close to $700.  Better, but not good enough.

I called around one more time, and got a guy who said that he’d do it for a flat fee of $350 based on my say-so.

I asked, surprised, “So you’re going to base the price just on what I said?”

He answered with another question, stated in a friendly voice.  “Are you lying to me?”

“Gosh, no,” I said.  “But I’m just telling you what the other guy said.  I didn’t actually see it myself.”

He thought about that for a minute and then said, “Why don’t I just come by tomorrow [Friday] and check it out?”

That sounded like a plan.  He came by, he checked it out, and he announced that it was a simple fix that he could do right away — for $135.  When he was done, he told me, “I’m going to give you a bill, but don’t pay it now.  Keep an eye on things until Monday.  If it’s still good, put a check in the mail.  If it’s not, I’ll come out again, but I won’t charge any more than $350 if we have to replace the tub waste overflow part.”

So far, despite shower use, there’s been no further leaking.

For those of you who live in Marin County, if you’d like this honest paragon’s name, send me an email and I’ll give you the information.  You can probably find him on Yelp:  He’s the guy with 102 five-star recommendations, all saying the same thing:  incredibly reliable, honest, and good at what he does.  I can’t argue with that.  In fact, I’ll be the 103rd five-star recommendation if all continues to go well.

The plumber had scarcely left when the landscape guys showed up.  Our pool, which was the delight of the neighborhood children, is now a dysfunctional swamp.  Built 45 years ago, despite our best efforts to keep it going, it finally gave up the ghost this summer.  As is always the case, once we decided we needed to redo the pool, we realized we also needed to redo the cement surround . . . and, hey, if we’re doing that, maybe we’d better smarten up the whole place.  We hired a landscape designer who came up with a lovely idea that was more expensive than we wanted.  We’ve worked with him, though, and seem to have come up with a plan in our price range.  The only sticking point now is whether the Marin drought will make the whole process impossible.

Droughts make me very, very unhappy. I was in high school when the big drought hit at the end of the 1970s.  Despite living most of my life in semi-arid climates, I love water and I especially love rain.  Not having rain makes me feel emotionally dried-up inside.  I also hate water rationing.  I don’t know what we’d have to do this time around, but I’m sure I won’t like it.  Back in the 1970s, we bathed in two inches of water, and then saved the water in buckets so as to flush the toilets.  My mom captured the rinse load from the washing machine to use to water her garden, but all the plants died anyway.  Everything looked dead and barren — and the toilets smelled bad.  I bet many of you remember “When it’s yellow let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down”?  I really hated that.

I know that drought here is a cyclical thing.  It’s happened before and it will happen again, and it will probably be followed by winters with such heavy rains that everything floods.  The floods make for miserable driving, and periodically destroy vast swathes of homes, but I still prefer a wet winter to a drought.

This is just another reminder, as if we need one, that Nature likes to let us know that we are as nothing before her.  We can try to minimize her impact, but we cannot control her.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t read anything or written anything today.

Thinking about that last statement, it’s not quite accurate.  Oyster Books, which advertises unlimited books (the Netflix of books) is offering a one month free trial.  I thought that sounded interesting, so I signed up, remembered to calendar the date by which I have to cancel if I don’t want to continue with the service, and started reading.  Thanks to this temporary membership, between visits from repairmen, landscape designers, and plumbers, I am reading 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, a delightful social history of New York’s Lower East Side as seen through the food different immigrant groups ate. I love this kind of book (one of my favorites is No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting), and 97 Orchard is well written.

And that’s all.  I’ve a small mountain of bills to pay, so that too will keep me away from my beloved blog.  So it goes.  At least I finished my legal brief, which got filed today.  I think it’s a winner, but one never knows what those judges are going to do….