By John Morrow

If you don’t already own a home, you have probably thought about purchasing one at some point. After all, isn’t that part of the dream – married with 2.5 children (one of each) and a home in the suburbs with a dog who loves you even though you are the way you are?

It all sounds wonderful, and it certainly can be. But in your quest to live out that dream, don’t forget about the upkeep and maintenance involved in owning a home.

Our first home was listed as, “ready for your personal touch.” Of course, what that means is just about everything needs to be fixed, finished or in some way taken from its present state and turned into one more livable. I decided to learn to tackle many of those jobs myself. I decided to become a home handyman. I’m still trying to decide if that was a smart move or not.

The first thing I learned is that home ownership is primarily about controlling the flow of water. It starts on your roof with shingles, guaranteed for 25 years, that may last up to 10 if you’re lucky. Shingles shed water to the gutters which carry the water to the down spout. Keep in mind that your basement started as a hole in the ground. Unless the water is sufficiently diverted away from the basement, you’ll be able to find it pooling down there. After a good rain you could see your little dog swimming laps around the couch floating in the center of the room like a Naugahyde island.

And then there’s all the plumbing inside your house. Cold water, hot water, and drains run through pipes that snake through every crack and cranny of the home. Pipes leak and drains clog. Sometimes you’ll wonder if it wouldn’t be easier just to bring your water from a well in a bucket like on Little House on the Prairie. Your best bet is probably to have a good plumber on speed dial.

When you are young and agile it feels great to be able to climb the ladder and inspect your roof. Up there you can survey your own property and see into the neighbors’ yards too if you want to be a little nosy. When you get a bit older the roof may not be such a great idea. One day last summer found me on the roof after completing a simple task.

I looked at the ladder and realized that the top step was farther down than I had realized. “Hmmm, maybe I can make that,” I thought. As my toe dangled near the top step of the ladder, I started to rethink this whole home maintenance and do-it-yourself concept. A moment later, in a blur that involved me twisting then leaping and landing on the ground, I did a quick check to see if I had any broken bones. Happily, I found none and decided that might be my last excursion onto my roof.

Painting is a job that needs to be done from time to time both inside and out. You can hire an expert painter to get the job done quickly and professionally. Or you can go down to the hardware store and buy your paint and another $1,000 worth of brushes and accessories and do the job yourself. Somewhere around the third time you spill paint that leaks off the drop cloth onto the hardwood floor, you start thinking maybe this wasn’t the best of ideas. Maybe you suggest to your wife that since a large part of the floor is blue now anyway maybe you could just, you know, finish it up. This plan is not likely going to fly. But in the end, you’ll find that by doing the paint job yourself you have the satisfaction of completing the work and it only cost you a few hundred dollars more than it would have if you hired someone to do it.

Every home handyman must have a complete set of tools. There is nothing like coming home with a brand-new power tool and then trying to find a YouTube video to learn what it’s for and how you might use it sometime in the future. You’ll probably find you don’t need it today, but you can store it with your other tools for possible future use.

Always store your new tools carefully. One time I needed to unclog a toilet. The helpful man at the hardware store sold me a plumber’s snake, a long spring with a crank handle that would go down the pipe where no man would ever want to go and clear any clog. After successfully completing the task, I looked for a place to store my new tool where I would be able to find it if I ever needed it again. I selected a shelf in the corner of the basement. As I reached to put my new tool on the shelf, I found the other plumbers snake that I had purchased years before and forgotten.

I don’t think you save any money by doing the job yourself, but you do get the satisfaction of a job done, not necessarily well done, but done. And you do end up with a big collection of tools, sometimes two or three identical ones that you may never use again, but they provide solid evidence for your family that you were once a home handyman.

John lived in Port Stanley in the ‘60s and moved back 10 years ago after retiring from a career in education. You can find him most mornings sharing coffee and wisdom with friends at a local coffee shop. John enjoys writing about the humour he sees in everyday life.  


Read other columns by John Morrow, or listen to John’s podcast Laughing At Life.