At the bottom of my basement stairs, I realized I was defeated. Or, at least, foiled in this particular instance.
The floor of our basement was covered with water two inches thick, and our water heater was hissing and spewing a fountain of water from its top.
I had an idea how to turn off the water. I had a plan to pump out the water. But I had no idea what was wrong with the water heater, or how to fix it.
If we wrote out a list of my fundamental character traits, one is that I have to understand how things work.
I don’t have to fix every problem myself. I can delegate and rely on help from other people. But, bottom line, I have to understand what the problem is, why it’s happening, and what’s being done so that it doesn’t happen again.
I’m discovering that this is going to be one of my major challenges as a homeowner. When something breaks or explodes or just mysteriously stops functioning, people expect you to step back, call a contractor, and repeat the serenity prayer under your breath.
Yeah, I just don’t roll like that.
If the primary three letters in my life are frequently OCD, the next trio are DIY. Do It Yourself. DIY is why I know how to do almost everything I know how to do.
When Blogger wouldn’t republish archive pages in 2000 I taught myself how to code PHP. When i wanted to record a studio album I minored in music. Last night I completed disassembled a backup drive with a blown power supply down to the last screw and installed it into another computer, rather than contemplate sending it away for repair.
All that said, I’m still a little intimidated by DIYing the house. It’s one thing to take apart a hundred dollar hard drive, and another to conduct demolition on a multi-hundred thousand dollar house.
So, when we bought the house it was a special challenge to find the right sorts of inspectors and contractors and insurers that could satisfy my need to understand.
We took our best shot. The Great Water Heater Explosion of 2010 tested both our vendor-selection and the limits of my understanding and my serenity.
Our Home Warranty company suddenly had clauses that were nowhere in our contract, and when I called to understand where they explain their coverage, their answer was basically “we don’t; no one has ever cared.”
They were dismissed.
Then we had a plumber quote twice as much as we thought it would be to replace the water heater, without really breaking down how he arrived at that number.
He never got a call back.
Basically, until I’m comfortable with in-home DIY, “understanding” has becoming my homeowner’s litmus test. If someone is afraid to make me understand – because they don’t want to be questioned, or they don’t want to empower me, or they want to charge me too much money – then they aren’t going to touch our house.
In the end we replaced the water heater for HALF of that initial quote in a single day.
Next challenge? The electrician whose lack of attention fried the aforementioned hard drive, to which his solution was to bill us another $1,200 for a dubiously defined solution he couldn’t help me to understand.
I understand that I can’t fix everything and I can’t know everything. But, at the very least, I can understand everything.
That’s all I ask.