The door squeaks. The bedroom high-hats are too bright. There are holes in the wall. These phrases crossed my lips so many times that I sounded like a broken record.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
The door squeaks. The bedroom high-hats are too bright. There are holes in the wall. These phrases crossed my lips so many times that I sounded like a broken record. For those too young to identify with the unrelenting, scratchy sound of a needle skipping vinyl grooves, suffice it to say my nagging was as irritating as cars honking at a busy intersection or a drippy faucet.
Consequently, I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix things around the house myself. Speaking of a leaky faucet, I had one that I refused to let get the better of me. It’s the kind of pesky problem that I always feel is too small a job for a professional, too low a priority for my husband, and too big an undertaking for me … until now.
Surely this common plumbing problem would have its fair share of cyberspace references. I went straight to Google and discovered a myriad of sites similar to introductory 101 courses or those “How To Books for Dummies,” dedicated to helping novices like me. To name a few, www.wikihow.com, www.howstuffworks.com, and www.familyhandyman.com provide step-by-step instructions. They also offer a list of any replacement parts needed, as well as the tools required for the job. For more visual learners, there are plenty of YouTube videos of handy folks showing off all sorts of repairs.
For someone who didn’t even know there was a shutoff valve underneath the sink, I now know a little something about compression faucets, washers, and gaskets. Once I took my faucet apart, I saw the washer was worn and brought it over to the hardware store for a replacement. I installed the new one as soon as I returned home, lest I lose my resolve. Voilà, no leak. (Disclaimer: most faucets are not as cooperative.)
Empowered, I decided to go down my punch list one by one. That I had lived with those blinding, bright bulbs in our bedroom for so long suddenly seemed utterly ridiculous. I got up on a ladder, unscrewed the halogen bulbs and headed to my new favorite destination, the hardware store, where I bought the perfect soft-light incandescent bulbs.
Incidentally, I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say I miss having a hardware store in town. We had a terrific one, Feinsod, on Purchase Street until Ruby’s Oyster Bar and Bistro took over the space a decade ago (a complaint I’m not vocal about since Ruby’s is co-owned by my husband).
Nevertheless, I can’t say enough about hardware stores, the mom-and-pop kind, not the megastore variety. Let’s face it: unless you know exactly what you’re doing, Home Depot is terrifying. The more compact, family-operated shops, on the other hand, like Brewer Hardware in Mamaroneck or Feinsod in Port Chester, are considerably more manageable. In addition to having more tools and parts than I’ll ever need in my lifetime, they also have the most knowledgeable, accommodating sales force in retail today.
Across the board, these handy types are unequivocally the antithesis of pushy and intimidating. When I consulted with them (usually more than one gets into the act) about the faulty push-button igniter on my grill, they advised me to call the company because it was most likely still under warranty. They were right!
Besides, these shops always have a little something I’ll pick up before heading to the register, mini LED flashlights in all colors, bright gardening gloves, or hammers and screwdrivers with floral handles.
To cross off another item on my punch list, I picked up a small container of spackling paste. I learned it’s different than joint compound, which is used to cover the tape that covers the seams between sheetrock. I just needed to cover up small holes. The old me would have waited for my husband to get around to doing it or, I’m ashamed to say, would have concealed them with a picture. The new me bought a plastic putty knife along with spackling that goes on pink and dries white when it’s time to sand and paint. How is that for handy!
Squeaky door? No longer creaky after a little application of WD-40. TV armoire doors swinging closed while we’re watching our favorite shows? No more. I simply tightened the screws. Pictures need hanging? Nothing me and my torpedo level and framing hardware can’t handle. I may still not be the most adroit homeowner, but now I have a Phillips-head screwdriver, Allen wrench set, glue gun, and a lot more confidence.