Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ask Allegra

Hello there. This is my debut blog. I'm excited. Here is where I talk about a lot of things that cross my mind but mostly homeowner escapades. I know a few things about fixing stuff around the house. Learned them the hard way. You know, the ceiling's falling and no time to yell "help." Just do something. I also enjoy talking about relationships, like should you date the repairman. Yes, after the work is done. Or should you tell a contractor the job he did is not the one you asked for or just don't make trouble and accept it cause after all it's all finished. Can you say "That's not what we agreed on. Do over. Please." It's your money. I provide strength training for the weak in knees.

If you have an opinion on the subject or any others raised here, please, please jump right in. I'd love to hear from you. But behave! No obscenities. No rude talking. Be the expression you want to see in the world. Love one another. You get the picture.

Now then, I am not a contractor. And no, just because I know stuff I won’t come to your house to do your repair work. I'll do my best to talk you through it. I am a writer. Divorce and a broke down house turned me into a home repair expert. Things broke. Had to be fixed. I was short on cash so had to rely on me. So I was obligated to encourage and teach others how to fix stuff they never dealt with before. It worked and turned me into The Renovating Woman.

For a living I create original how-to content to help homeowners, particularly women, take care of the space they call home. That content appears in Renovating Woman, a magazine I publish quarterly and is available by subscription. Sign up on my website at You can read it for free on line only till the end of this year. Just click the digital magazine.

Last year I was the “BGE lady” - that's the utility company, Baltimore Gas and Electric. They hired me to show folk how to save energy and money just before the gloves came off the new higher rates. Sometimes you can catch me on the DIY cable network on a show called Home Made Easy or on local stations demonstrating how to fix a toilet, plug a hole or relate to your furnace.

I should also tell you I’m a recovering home repair ignoramus. For about 25 years, what I didn’t know about troubleshooting sick plumbing and electricity in the family home, my husband took care of without my involvement and that was fine with me. As far as I was concerned he was thee Man, the basement quarterback and he didn’t need me to run interference. So, I didn’t.

But there comes a time when we all have to do a few things for ourselves. Like when the fix-it guy doesn’t live there anymore. You’re divorced and living alone in a place with a thousand surprises – a week. That is the caution for single women who by one point during last year accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s homebuyers. And by 2010 some 31 million single women will own homes, according to Fannie Mae.

That said, it is important for all to know that repairs are in a home’s DNA. And you’re getting away with nothing by buying a new construction. A house is like your child, whether they are newborns or old heads behaving as if they are newborns. They crave attention. If you don’t periodically check up on the state of the main systems, that lovely house and the things that go wrong in and around it will squeeze your wallet like a C-clamp and never loosen up.

Emergency fix-me’s are what put the real in real estate. You minimize the damage when you get real about the state of the estate before an emergency takes over the panic side of your brain. Learn how your house functions from top to bottom, inside and outside. That’s what I did after my first post divorce house emergency paralyzed me with fear. I wanted a superhero to suddenly appear and rescue me. There was no in-house superman to call and no money to pay the outside guys. I had to depend on my own hands for help. The instinct to survive tripped my brain in gear and to my utter surprise logic guided my hands to a successful fix. Confidence was the byproduct once I replaced fear and ignorance with knowledge and determination.

Since that baptismal I’ve handled most of the basic repairs and maintenance chores in the places I’ve called home and learned what tasks I could do myself and which ones demanded I call for professional help. Not every job and renovation project is a DIY. At the extreme a mistake can endanger your home and your entire neighborhood. Know in advance when it’s a job for the superheroes. And because both homeowners and contractors complain to me about each other I think I figured out how we all can get along. I tell you about that in the next post.


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