Category — Home repairs

My new name: the water whisperer

Hellooo Rantopolis readers!  I’ve been a little preoccupied with all kinds of H2O drama in the past couple of weeks which has sucked up much of my free time.

You see, it appears that I’ve turned into the Water Whisperer.  In fact, communities experiencing a drought may wish to hire me since I now have the ability to make water appear.  My singular talent appears to be making water magically appear through plaster.

Somebody needs to alert Monster.com to add a new job type to its search function.

The first sign was bubbling paint in the hallway between the condo in which I live and the one next door which I rent out.  When I noticed it my heart sank.  I knew that on the other side of that bubbling, flaking paint was the shower wall.

This was not going to be good.

My condo staff investigated the problem and said that they would have to put holes in the wall in the front and side of the bathtub to get to the pipes causing the problem. .  Of course, these were both walls that were tiled.  They were going to remove the tile, break through the plaster, make the repairs and then re-tile.

I sat back and thought about this.  What were the chances that they could remove and replace old porcelain tiles without breaking them?

I’m thinking zero.

So, this is how a little bubbling paint, turned into a decision to do a complete bathroom gut and renovation. Since I’m trying to sell the condo, I figured this probably would be the smart choice in the long run.

By the way, have you priced marble and shower systems, lately?  It’s a shame that organ-selling is illegal.

Having done several renovations in the past, I schedule the job with the contractor to coincide with my tenant’s vacation and start specing the new fixtures, tile and so.  Both time consuming and expensive, but I had committed to the project, so full steam ahead.

Then on Thursday morning as I was starting my day in the master bathroom, I dropped a Q-Tip on the floor.  As I bent down to pick it up, my head happened to turn slightly to the left.

That’s when I saw this hiding behind the toilet:

I might as well just shove a spigot into the plaster and turn this space into a water fountain.

You have got to be freakin’ kidding me?!!  Another water leak, in another bathroom, in a second apartment…just days apart?!!!

Have I been doing incantations in my sleep?!!  Do I have some sort of magnetic field around me which is causing copper piping to weep?!

Luckily for me, the problem was attacked immediately.  The toilet was removed, the wall was taken down, the problem was fixed.  (This time it was actually the toilet seal that was leaking and the water had wicked up the plaster.)

The wall was replastered, then painted.  Finally the toilet was replaced.

As for me, I am trying not to look at any walls for the foreseeable future.  Just in case my piercing eyes decide to escalate things by creating a water park in my living room.

January 22, 2012   Comments Off on My new name: the water whisperer

The hell chronicles: part 1–the toilet

My sincere apologies Rantopolis readers for not having posted earlier in the week.   Blame it on Satan.

Yes, apparently, I was somehow transported into hell earlier this week.  That is the only reason I can come up with for the crap (literally, as you are about to find out) that has rained on me in the recent past.

About a week ago, I received a phone call from the management office that oversees my Florida Keys condo.  (Hi Jason. C’mon…you didn’t think I wasn’t going to write about this, right?!)  The call began with, “I’m sorry but I don’t have good news for you.”

Oh, great.  What is it?  A bed bug infestation?  A late season hurricane detached my unit from the rest of the building and it is now floating to Cuba?   A bunch of bikers spray painted “helter skelter” all over the walls?  What??!!

“Well, it seems the renters that were in there earlier today, flushed the toilet in the master bathroom and then checked out.  Unfortunately the toilet overflowed and dumped gallons of water into the master bedroom.  It’s reached almost to the external wall.”

And people wonder why I swear so much.

What did the fucking renters put down my damn toilet?!  A watermelon?!!

And don’t tell me they flushed the toilet and then suddenly they ran out not knowing that it was overflowing.  Last time I checked my condo wasn’t a changing station for the Ironman Triathlon.

Maybe they flushed a baby alligator?

I just cannot wrap my brain around how careless people are with other people’s property.  I now literally want to find them and pour the entire contents of Lake Michigan into their living space.

Lucky for them I do not know their name or address because I’d already be on their front porch with a hose.

When all is said and done, the bill for this shit-tastic experience will end up being close to $1,000.  Water removal, fan drying, industrial steam cleaning, etc.  (This doesn’t include loss of income.)

Did I mention they had to remove the baseboards because the water had seeped behind them and started creeping up the drywall?

In 21 years of owning this condo, I’ve never had a single issue with a toilet overflowing.  (And I gutted the entire place four years ago, so everything is brand new.)  And, the toilet seems to be fine after the fact.  So, there is only one thing that remains.

That is for me to wish this particular renter an eternity of bad luck.  Let’s start with the ebola virus and work our way up.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Hell Chronicles.  (Yes, unfortunately, there is more.)

November 10, 2011   5 Comments

So confused: duct vs. duck tape

After a long hard day at work the last thing I want to ponder is the etymology of a piece of industrial tape.  But, the way my life generally works is what I want to do and what ends up happening are two different things.

You may remember this gorgeous photo (of course that was sarcastic) I shot two weeks ago of my vacuum cleaner hose?  Some people shoot sunsets, babies and pets.  Me?  I shoot ripped plastic hoses attached to the ass-end of a vacuum cleaner.  Clearly, I lead an exciting life.

So, here I was about an hour ago trying to get some tape to wrap around the boo boo.  (Which really needs to do the trick because I am really not interested in dipping into the spa budget for a new machine that sucks up hair balls.)

That’s when the confusion started. I walked into the hardware store thinking I wanted duct tape.  But all I could find was duck tape.

Was I buying the right thing?  In my mind there is a big difference between a bird with webbed feet and pipes.  So I asked the cashier.  (Why I do this to myself is beyond me.  I could probably get a more intelligent answer by asking the sledgehammer in aisle six.)

If it looks like a duck....

Me:  Excuse me.  I’m a little confused.  I always thought it was called “duct” tape, but this says “duck” tape.

Her:  Well, there are two kinds.  There is “duck” tape and “duct” tape.

(Why don’t I just Google?  On second thought, why don’t I simply read the package?)

Me:  Oh, the package says that this the “duck brand of duct tape.”

Her:  Yes, there is duct tape and there is also duck tape.

(This is my signal to just pay for the damn thing and run out of the store before whatever she has in her brain infects me.)

Me:  Thanks. I’ll take it.

So, here I sit with my Duck duct tape.  (Say that three times really fast.)  Hopefully, when I get around to wrapping it around the hose…say like minutes before my housekeeper arrives Thursday morning, it will do the trick.

Otherwise, from this point forward, I will be living in filth.

November 1, 2011   1 Comment

Cavemen had it right

When cavemen wanted dinner, they stabbed something of a different species and threw it over a fire.  When I want to broil a piece of animal flesh, I press buttons on a key pad.

When the caveman wanted to clean his “oven” he just grabbed some fresh sticks and moved it to a new spot.  When I clean my oven, I press a different set of buttons which creates an intense heat inside the chamber so all of the crud is pulverized.

Except for one teensy detail.  I found out the hard way that the oven’s ceiling where the broiling element is located isn’t part of the whole self-cleaning fandango.

Here’s how it went down.

During the past year, every time I broiled something, smoke would come out of the broiler.  So, I kept running the self-cleaning feature.  But the smoke kept coming out.

Genius here finally decides to use a mirror and a flashlight to check out the top of the compartment.  Oh, so that’s why the oven has been smoking.  Ten years of grease crud.

So here is how I spent an hour of my Sunday.

Never thought I would put a makeup mirror and a coffee road cup in the oven.

I stuck a flashlight in a coffee road cup for stability and put a makeup mirror on the floor of the oven so that I could see the top of the oven without contorting myself into a pretzel.

I am happy to report…problem solved!

Makeup mirror has been returned to the bathroom, the flashlight is back in the tool chest and the coffee cup is in the dishwasher.

Oh, and the squid I broiled tonight for dinner.  Delicious and smoke free!

October 9, 2011   6 Comments

City living: ‘cool’ delivery via helicopter

Jaded.  So jaded.  Yeah, that’s me holding my hand up.

I’ve been living on Chicago’s lakefront for almost 20 years now.  The views are spectacular and the location is ideal for anything you would want to do in the city.  I am blessed.

However, with two decades of city living comes the nonchalant, “I’ve pretty much seen everything” attitude.  Take, for example, this morning.

As I was returning back home after a run to the river and back, I noticed that police vehicles had blocked off a street close to my building.  It was early Sunday morning.  A smile crept across my lips. This could only mean one thing.

As I approached the police officer standing there, I simply said…helicopter…air conditioning unit?

He smiled back in that knowing city way and said, “yes, mam.”

We stopped short of the secret handshake.  (Yeah, we have one. We need it just in case we get invaded by New Yorkers or Los Angelinos.  It’s how Chicagoans will be able to identify each other.)

Having seen this little aeronautic Cirque du Soleil many times before and judging by the general readiness of the trucks on the ground, I figured we were about 30 minutes away from seeing the whirling blades.  Just enough time to wolf breakfast and head to the roof with a video cam.

I’m all about sharing with my Rantopolis readers.

For those who have wondered how those massive air conditioners get onto the roof of a tall building.  I can tell you it’s not via elevator, industrial crane or stork.  I’ll let these videos speak for themselves.

The first one shows the removal of the old unit, the second one shows the installation of the new one.  The precision of this pilot as he lowers the chopper onto a Chicago side street is nothing short of amazing.  This is how we roll in the city.

I need to find out if this guy delivers groceries and dry cleaning.

July 10, 2011   Comments Off on City living: ‘cool’ delivery via helicopter

Repair people are super wealthy

That must be it.  All this time, I thought most people that worked with their hands were not as well off as corporate types, but boy was I wrong.  Way wrong.  (I clearly grew up in the wrong blue collar family.)

You see, as a public relations professional, I spend 24/7 trying to make sure that I over service my clients.  I don’t try to deliver good service.  I try to deliver exceptional service.  I realize I have to earn my relationship one project and day at a time.  Especially true in the recession/post-recession era.

Now if I had a ton of “bank,” I could seriously envision becoming a slacker.  Another word for that is retired.

And that’s how I’ve come to the conclusion that the two painters I’m considering hiring must be seriously rich.  They probably live in McMansions in the suburbs.  They may be rockin’ a truck during the week, but on the weekends they take out the Lamborghini and Ferrari out of the triple garage.

Here’s how I know I’m right.

It took painter #1 close to a week to return my call.  Then after coming to look at the job on Friday, he promised that I would have a quote on Monday.  As of today…nothing.  And, I saw him in my building earlier today chit chatting with the manager.  Dressed nicely, I might add.

Painter #1's other car. I guess it didn't come in eggshell.

I’m sure he hasn’t had a chance to pull that quote together for me because he has spent most of the past three days meeting with his financial advisers trying to figure out his position on oil futures. I’m sure he doesn’t have to work.  It’s probably just a hobby.  Yeah, that’s it.

Then we’ve got Painter #2.  He showed a lot of promise in the beginning.  He also came over on Friday and told me I’d have a quote by the next day.  He over delivered by sending me one by 10 p.m. the same day.

Impressive.  I immediately deduced that he was not as rich as painter #1.  He might only be driving a (gasp!) Lexus on the weekend. Makes sense, right?

On Monday, I responded to Painter #2 by email, saying that I accepted his bid and could he call me on Tuesday so we can schedule the job.  I received an email late Tuesday saying that he would call me on Wednesday during a break.

Anyone want to guess?  Yeah.  No call from Painter #2 yet.

On Friday he wasn’t acting rich.  By Tuesday, he was. Perhaps he won the lottery over the weekend.  Perhaps painters are recession proof.  Perhaps I’m the only asshat who actually returns clients calls and emails promptly.

Or perhaps, it would be easier to just live with cracks in the plaster than try to get a return call from a contractor.

If I didn’t have a serious allergy to manual labor and chipped nails, I swear I would take this job on myself.

May 18, 2011   Comments Off on Repair people are super wealthy

Watching paint dry. Seriously.

I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to hire a painter to paint my kitchen, living room, dining room, home theater area and hallways. The last time the apartment was painted was 2000, so it was time.

With one quote already delivered on Friday and another due tomorrow, I needed to quickly move into the paint color selection phase.   Little did I know this was going to take longer than planning a wedding and be equally as stressful.

On Saturday, I jumped into the car and went to one of the larger Ace Hardware stores in the city.  They carry a full line of Sherwin Williams paint, but more important they had free parking with validation.

I had done some research online and learned that Sherwin Williams Aura paint is pretty much the best stuff you can buy for interiors.  So, how hard could this be?  Did you hear that?  That’s the universe laughing at me once again.

I walked in with some paint sample cards I had picked out the week before.  I had identified some colors I liked.  And so it began.

Me: Hi. I need a few paint samples.  Do you have the little 2-ounce samples of these colors?

Salesperson: M’am.  Those aren’t the paint color cards for the Aura line.

Me: Great.  There’s an hour of my life I won’t get back again. (Sigh)  Can you point me to the Aura colors?

Salesperson: Sure.  They are over here in the Aura section.  We have small jars of several of the colors.  But if you see  an Aura color you want and we don’t have it, we can make it up for you.  But it won’t be in the Aura formulation.

Me: Sorry. I’m confused.  What does that mean?

Salesperson: It’ll be in a Sherwin Williams Regal paint. The color will be the same, it’s just that the quality won’t.  And you’ll have to buy a pint of it.  Now, if you want it in the Aura formulation, you’ll have to buy a quart.

Me: Wow.  How much is a quart?

Salesperson: Thirty-something dollars.

Me: Sheesh.  I didn’t realize I was buying fine wine. Well, then.  I better find some colors I like, that you already have in the 2 oz jars for $3.99 each.  Can I get the samples in matte?

Salesperson: No.  All of the samples are in eggshell.

Me: But, how do you know that?  I’ve just checked the label and it doesn’t say.  (Ugh! My painter recommended matte. not to be confused with satin, which is like a semi-gloss.  Google is my friend.)

Salesperson: Trust me.  It’s eggshell.

Me: (Perfect.  A salesperson I don’t know is asking me to trust her on painting decision that is going to cost me several thousand dollars.  Yeah.  Not going to happen.)  I also understand you have large squares already prepainted that I can stick up on the wall to see how the color will look.

Salesperson: Yes we do.  But not in Aura colors.  But if you are interested, we can sell you a fan deck.

Me: What’s a fan deck?

When you are done selecting colors you can take this to the opera.

Salesperson: It’s this.

Me: How much is that?  It’s $19.

Salesperson. Do you have paint brushes?

Me: No.  How much are those?

Salesperson. Well, depends what kind you want.  They run anywhere from a couple of bucks to more than $10 each.  Do you have paint trays to pour the paint into?

Me: No.  How much are the paint trays?

Salesperson: Well again…you can buy some cheap ones for about $5 each.  How about tape to mask the test area?

Me: No.  I understand 3M makes some “no bleed” tape.

Salesperson: Yes, but you can get a lot more tape if you buy our store brand.

Me: But I only want to create six squares.  I am not trying to mask the Taj Mahal.  (See, I told you this was a project.)

So 30 minutes later, I walk out of the store with a large shopping bag and a receipt for just under $100.  Virginia, this ain’t your childhood tempera paint set.  I’ve got fan decks, brushes, paint samples, trays and masking tape.

Three hours and two coats of paint later, it turns into this:

What color do you like? Nevermind. You don't get a vote.

Oh, and the salesperson was right.  I Googled madly and finally found that the Aura samples, are indeed eggshell.

My decision?  Cotswolds (a grey with some subtle warm tones) for the main wall color.  Bonne Nuit (medium purple) for two accent walls. (If it’s good enough for Prince, it’s good enough for me.)  A plain flat for the ceiling and a white semi-gloss for the trim, casements and columns.

There endeth the paint lesson.  (Anyone want some used paint brushes?)

May 15, 2011   2 Comments

Random thoughts for a Friday the 13th

Apparently the Navy Seals found a stash of porn, as in “lots of it,” in bin Laden’s cozy little concrete hideaway.  Now we know where Dos Equis’ ad agency got the inspiration for the bearded spokesperson’s mantra, “living dangerously because he can.”

So tell me.  Do pasties go on over or under the burka?

Osama, you big goof.  And we thought you were serious about all of those virgins in the afterlife.

Next up on this Friday the 13th, was the announcement that Ashton Kutcher was being added to the Two and a Half Men cast.  Spell check asked me if I wanted to change his name to Botcher, Butcher, Fetcher or Sketcher.  Oooh.  That can’t be a good sign.

How frightening is this?!

Then there is my latest performance anxiety.  Sitting here with a ton of paint chip samples.  I need to pick wall colors, accent colors and trim colors.  Do we go with flat, matte, eggshell or semi-gloss?

One of the painters quoting the job also wanted to discuss volatile organic compounds, elastomers, no-odor formulations and skim coating.  I guess we aren’t choosing from a six-color tempera paint kit anymore.

Apparently I need a mood ring, a stylist, a chemist, an environmental specialist and a spectrophotometer to make the right decision.  Might as well throw in a clairvoyant.

One painter said he could do the job in three days.  The other wants 10.  WTF?!   I want painters, not roommates.  Can’t wait to see the quotes.

Finally, James Durbin was voted off American Idol last night  It’s official.  America is tone deaf.

Not to worry, James.  America has gotten it wrong, more often than not.  Remember, they picked Taylor Hicks over Daughtry.  Still laughing over that one.  Losing will probably end up being the best thing that ever happened to you.

But, now that you have a bit of spare time,  how are you with selecting paint colors?

May 13, 2011   1 Comment

Kitchen plunged into darkness

My kitchen ceiling light went out last night.  Not fun.

The end result is this:

I swear I paid my electric bill

See the tiny green spots.  Those are the time displays on my microwave and oven—not floating cat eyes.

I don’t know about you, but changing a ceiling light falls under the major project category.  There’s the removal of the glass cover phase, the search and seizure of the right bulb, the installation of said bulb and the replacement of the cover.  Phew.

It’s always fun trying to remember which one of the “clips” has the tension on it and is moveable to allow the glass to be released. I had a contractor tell me once that he always positions the moveable clip to the north so it’s easy to remember.  Or did he say south? Or maybe its something I wished the contractor did and it never happened.  See my dilemma?

Then, when you finally figure out how to remove the glass cover, you now have to play the replacement lamp game. I’m just a teensy bit embarrased to admit that it took three trips to a specialty lighting store a few months ago to get a burned out bathroom lamp replacement handled correctly.

It’s not exactly a confidence builder when the specialists from whom you bought the fixture  do a lot of head scratching.  In fact, in that instance they had to call the chief bulbologist up from the store basement so he could ponder the correct replacement.

“Oh.  I think that might be the EJX3 base.  Unless it’s that other one we used to get from China, but we no longer have.”

Thanks a bunch.  I’ll just keep driving back and forth from here to my condo until we get this right.  Because…you know…I have nothing better to do.

Back in the day, all we baby boomers had were the basic 20-, 40-, 60-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs.  And if you wanted to get fancy, you had a few three-ways.  Now you need  NASA training to be able to identify the right base, bulb, watts, type (halogen, incandescent, energy efficient..whatever).

For example…

I’ve got a special sunlight-mimic-ing long U-shaped bulb on my desk lamp.  I’ve got this bizarre double circle plug-in on the torchier behind me and then I’ve got pin-point spots aimed at the art hanging on my walls.  The last time I needed one of those replaced, Mr. Lamp Dude asked me if I wanted a 30% or a 10% spot.

At that point, what I wanted was a noose and a wobbly ladder.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, is that all the light she has in her kitchen?  Nope.  I do have several under cabinet lights on both sides of the galley kitchen.  The turn-on pad has been placed strategically so that I can tap on it in the dark to switch on the lights.  They are actually three-way, too.

But, I use them infrequently.  Normally only when I need ambiance lighting when I’m entertaining.


Because trying to find replacement bulbs for the under cabinet lighting is likely to require an astrophysics degree from MIT which would mean that I would no longer have enough time to search for the other bulbs.

So, until I can deal with this during the day tomorrow,  it looks like I’m going to be cooking my dinner tonight by the light of an open refrigerator.  If that burns out, too…I’m moving.

March 4, 2011   Comments Off on Kitchen plunged into darkness