Moments in Home Repair #1

There are few greater feelings than buying a home. And I’ve felt those great feeling five times. But with great contentment and great pride and great personal privacy come great responsibilities. I’m reminded of that every time something goes wrong, and inevitably, it’s my fault.

Walter came over to paint the dining room table and chairs. For those of you who know me, you know who Walter is. Friend extraordinaire. Substitute husband. Stand-in brother. Builder of TV cabinets and bookcases. Explainer of how to use an electric drill.

Anyway, painting done, Walter went into the downstairs bathroom. Now, my house is such that I live most of my life on the top two floors and rarely go down to the den, guest rooms, bathroom – and that room, the one where the furnace and water heater are. I should have spent more time in that room.  So when Walter went down to that bathroom, it was the first time anyone had been in that bathroom in more than three weeks. I do occasionally go down to clean and flush the toilet, something about the pipes being lonely, but I had been out of the country. So there was no way for me to prepare him for what he found: an inch of water on the floor.

I figured a burst pipe or the toilet. Walter immediately went to the water heater, which was still leaking as we stood looking at it.


Walter does many things. But he doesn’t do water heaters. I called my plumber, Karl, who came over the next morning and gave me the news within minutes.

New water heater.

But here’s the point of the story – and the small moment that makes a difference. Karl said, “It looks like a maintenance issue.”



“Uh, Karl? Was there something I was supposed to be doing to it?” And even as I asked, I recalled Karl telling me a while back, maybe a year, maybe more, that I needed to turn something and empty something. I didn’t write it down.

He promised to give me a maintenance lesson on the new water heater. And it’s something I only have to do four times a year – turn a screw and empty the built up sediment into a little bucket. If you do this regularly, the heater lasts a long time. If you don’t do it, ever, then you get years’ worth of sediment built up in a heater that might spring an irreparable leak.

I’ve written a note to tape to the wall with the dates to do sediment release.

I want to get them on Walter’s calendar.