Tiny tasks can take the most time

#563 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2008, Hills Newspapers

We’ve been working on a new listing and enjoying it immensely. We spent some time identifying small repairs and improvements before hiring professionals for most of the work but for the last couple of weeks Anet and I have been doing little, good things for the house.

Simply seeing what is needed takes a lot of looking. Sometimes we don’t see a particular problem for weeks, then suddenly there it is glaring. Anet fixed a Dutch door to a porch the other day. She was thrilled with herself.

The top and the bottom had to be swung together, not each alone, and she wanted to fix that. She looked at it for awhile, moved it back and forth and watched how it latched, then realized that the “receiver” portion on the door jamb had to be moved. Probably the house had settled so that the latch no longer fit into the strike plate. Anet was able to unscrew and move the strike plate slightly. Then she sprayed the moving parts with Teflon spray – not oil, our locksmith once told us, because oil is sticky and can gum things up. She twisted the handle to distribute the Teflon and everything worked, then she came to find me in another part of the house to tell me excitedly of her success. It is pretty neat.

We wanted to cover two small round holes in bathroom ceramic tile. Probably a hook had hung on the wall near the wash basin, but was now gone. We measured the holes and went in search of a new hook with similar screw holes. We looked in many hardware and building supply stores and did find a hook we thought would work. But the holes in the tile were too large.

Anet bought a piece of wooden dowel not quite as large as the holes, cut 2 short pieces and glued the pieces into the holes. The next day they were firm and strong and she could drill starter holes for screws. She got the hook up. Looks great.

I decided to wash that same bathroom, didn’t think it would take super long. I took a tub of hot water with some dish soap in it, broom and dust pan, rags, 0000 steel wool, toilet brush and cleaner and my all-time favorite glass cleaner, Invisible Glass, and started in. It took hours to get it clean. As many bathrooms as I have washed in my life, I was surprised by how long it took.

I started by cleaning the tiles around the shower, cleaned and polished each one, then moved onto the chrome faucets and handles and cleaned and polished them. Tub and toilet, inside and out, then basin and p-trap under it, and tiled wall and window ledge. Shower rod, mirror, light fixture, wooden medicine chest. Finally, the floor. I always wash floors on my hands and knees because it’s really the only way to get them clean. I swept first, refilled my tub with hot water and washed the vinyl floor, gently chipping up paint spatters with a putty knife as I went.

In the half bath in this house is the original toilet with its wooden water tank hung high on the wall. It works very well and is pretty besides. The wooden knob that is pulled to flush the toilet was missing. We brought home and sorted though all of the hardware we could find in the basement, found a number of pieces we could use in the house, including what appears to be the original toilet pull handle.

It’s made of wood and has a metal ring around the top to attach to a chain for operation. I cleaned the knob with fine steel wool and a flexible-foam sanding block until it shone, then coated it with wipe-on polyurethane. By great luck, we found in our own stash of old house parts an eye hook that worked perfectly to connect the handle to a chain, and everything works just right.

It’s the tiny things that seem to take the most time. A screw was missing from the old brass doorbell cover near the front door. It was the tiniest possible screw and it had to be a certain length to connect to the wood behind it. We’ve spent time looking at screws in hardware stores. We know the difference between wood screws and machine screws, flat-heads and round-heads, and we know that screws are numbered. What we did not know before is that #2 screws exist and that one-half inch round-head was what was needed for the doorbell cover. But we do now. All done.

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