Single Woman Home Repair & Inanimate Objects Leaping to Their Deaths

Dear Friends,

Everything is planted! It seemed like winter was going to hold on forever this year, and now not only is it warm and beautiful again, but everything is planted and growing! All of this warm weather has the seeds popping and the plants bursting to life. I got the last of my flower pots planted over the weekend and had some down time to sit back and enjoy my little back yard oasis.

In the meantime, homeownership has been the gift that just keeps on giving. After temporarily unclogging the gutters in early March, the rains came heavy. My downspout, exhausted and grossly out of shape, collapsed to pieces on my lawn. I reattached it on two separate occasions, only to find it again sprawled across the grass following the next rain. This particular home repair not working, I gave up and decided to temporarily turn some lemons into lemonade. I have an empty Rubbermaid trash barrel in the shed left by the previous owners that I don’t use. So I placed it underneath the hole where the downspout should be and let it fill with rainwater to use on my garden during the upcoming summer months.

Last weekend I put the downspout back in place one last time and tied it back to the wall using the screws where the gutter strap used to be. I also bought a flexible elbow to replace the existing elbow, so it can be easily disconnected when my makeshift rain barrel starts to empty and needs to be refilled. Home repair phase one, complete! I also bought a new gutter connector and some sealant to patch the crack in the gutter, and some gutter nails to straighten up the place in the gutter that is drooping thanks to the clog sending an endless cascade of water over the side for so long. So this weekend…permanent gutter repair, cleaning out the gutters all the way around the house, and re-securing the gutter screens.

If the downspout trying to leap to its death last month wasn’t enough, the light fixture in the basement family room sought to outdo it. Monday evening, tired after stops at five different stores and coming home empty-handed in my quest to find a butterfly bush, all I wanted was to lay in bed and watch some Hulu. I sent my youngest child off to the bathroom for his shower, then made a beeline for the basement to retrieve my Roku player from the family room television.

I stepped off the bottom step and into the family room, turned toward the TV, and noticed the bookcases were oddly shadowed. I glanced up at the light, and I swear I had to stare at it for at least 10 seconds before the scene fully registered in my Grey’s-Anatomy-focused brain. There was a hole in the ceiling where the light should be, and the light fixture itself was hanging by a thread–a couple of copper wire threads, actually–from its side at the right edge of the hole. What. The. Heck!

I’ve been working really hard these last couple of months to sleep better, boost my energy and my mood, and nip the cursing in the bud. I’ve been doing a phenomenal job, too! But let’s be honest…this situation made for a very solid and deserving exception! I apologize to my neighbors for what they probably heard wafting up the basement stairs and out my open windows.

My immediate thought was, “which one of my children did this and how in the world did they accomplish it?” I yelled up the stairs for Hunter to come down since Logan was in the shower. He looked around, then looked at me and said “what?”. He was oblivious to the strange light in the room, so I pointed up. His eyes followed my finger up to the ceiling and his face displayed a blank look of confusion equal to my own. I knew instantly that he’d had nothing to do with it. But I needed him to help me fix it, since with the basement lights off it’s pitch black down there, so I sent him upstairs to grab a flashlight while I taught myself how to become an instant electrician. Home repair, phase two…

By the time he came back one of the wire nuts had fallen off from me jiggling the light around and the black wires had separated. Flashbacks to the last time I attempted to change out a light fixture, and learned the hard way that the house wasn’t wired correctly and turning off the light switch did not kill the current of electricity flowing through the wires, immediately flashed in front of me. I didn’t have a wire tester, and my dad lives 30 miles away. Like it or not, I was on my own and had to trust this house was wired correctly and that having the light switch turned off meant I was safe to touch the wires.

After a few minutes of intense hesitation I summoned up some courage, and finally did the touch-it-like-it’s-hot quick tap and felt nothing. So I slowly reached up and gently placed my finger on the wire again. Nothing happened. I breathed a sigh of relief and twisted the wires back together, then twisted the wire nut back in place. Then the trouble began…

I had Hunter fish the fallen screw off the floor and hand it to me. I put it through the mounting bracket, then went to screw it into the electrical box up inside the ceiling. Hunter and I realized at the same moment that this was the source of the problem. With the dropped ceiling, the mounting bracket needed to hang pretty far below the electrical box in order for the light fixture to be able to bolt into it. And the screws the original installer had used were much too short. In fact, they couldn’t have been more than one or two turns into the box. Likely encouraged by Hunter’s gaming-induced, floor-stomping temper fits in the living room above, the screw had easily come loose and slipped free of the electrical box.

Hunter said, “I think you need longer screws.” Yup, kid, I sure do. Ready to leave it for another day, I unwired the light, unscrewed the bracket completely from the electrical box, and took the whole thing down. Then I remembered the cabinet knobs I bought for the kitchen redo last year had come with two different length screws…some of which where abnormally long. I ran upstairs to dig those screws out of the hall closet, then went back to the scene of disaster with crossed fingers and hope that karma was on my side for once, and tested the screws in the holes of the electrical box. Drumroll please…..THEY FIT!

Hallelujah! I re-wired the light, screwed the mounting bracket back to the electrical box with screws that were long enough for the job, and after some cursing and forced patience and Logan’s help holding a screwdriver to keep the mounting bracket from moving since it hung so far below the box, got the base of the light bolted back onto the mounting bracket and secured back to the ceiling. I replaced the globe onto the light fixture and instructed Logan to flip the switch with fingers and toes and arms and legs all crossed that it was done correctly and I didn’t have to take it all apart again. And there was light!

In the course of one week I learned how to repair gutters (thanks, YouTube) and became a self-taught, very amateur electrician. Home repair is an unfortunate and necessary part of homeownership, and living 30 miles away from my dad, who I used to call in the event of disaster, I’ve had to learn quickly how to be a DIY-ing handywoman. I kind of feel like some sort of domestic superhero. If I’m being honest, though…I’d much rather just stick to the painting and decorating!

If you’re a homeowner too…solidarity, sister (or brother)! I wish you all the best in your home repair adventures!


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