- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

It generally pays to hire a professional. I was reminded of this as I was adding RAM to my computer. How difficult could it be, right? Well, I'm writing this on a borrowed computer as mine sits in my vehicle awaiting transport to the computer repair shop.

Unless household repair has been a "successful" hobby of yours for years, you probably don't really know how to install a door, any floor work would be warped and that leak in the roof could easily become "leaks" in the roof.

I'm reminded of a few frightful tales of homeowners who have attacked home maintenance on their own without researching the how-to's of the job first.

Like the gentleman whose back yard to his new house had been ravished with mulberry bushes. They were all over the back yard; seedlings about 4 foot to 5 foot high. He started first by pulling them out by hand, but the branches soon were too large and roots too deep to continue. So he brought in the big guns a chain wrapped around the bumper of his truck.

This all worked quite well, until he went after a rather large bush right next to the corner of his 115-year-old house. He pulled on the bush, and it came out all right, along with the bricks and mortar from that corner of the house. It seems the roots had grown their way into the crevices of the mortar.

Then there was the story of the high-level executive who bought a $600,000 home after he took on a new position in another city. He and his family loved it, but they wanted to put in a circular stairway. It looked like a simple enough process to just chainsaw a circle from the basement to the master bedroom. The circular stairway fit nicely. But the executive-turned-contractor didn't realize the cross beams that keep the house sturdy were what he was cutting through.

When the appraiser came out, the house resembled the Tower of Pisa, leaning by about 3 degrees.

Finally, there was a friend of mine who lucked out when he was trying to repair a leaky basement. He figured that he needed a gravel-lined ditch at the base of the wall with a proper drainage line installed. Years of settling had caused the wall to buckle, so he wanted to be careful where he dug. He worked on the ditch himself digging down about 4 feet, where he was going to place the gravel and drainage hose.

As he got to the floor of the basement, he started hearing a very loud popping sound, as if his son were hitting the wall from within the house.

He hollered through the wall for him to stop, but the pounding continued. He went inside the house to track down the perpetrator and found that the popping sound was the wall correcting itself. By the time he got back out front, the wall was no longer buckled, but standing straight as the day it was built. Luckily, that's the way it went.

I hope you can see the humor in these stories. More important, I hope they illustrate the necessity of hiring someone who knows what they're doing before trying it yourself. If you're a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, great. But be sure to get some guidance for success before tackling it yourself.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Send comments or questions by e-mail ([email protected]).

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