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COVID-19 may be wearing down my house too | COMMENTARY

Families are seeing the need for more home repairs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Families are seeing the need for more home repairs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Well, it’s official: Even my house is tired of my family sheltering in place. How do I know? Because little by little, our appliances, some furniture and other parts of our home have been groaning under the strain of 24/7 usage by our family of four.

It started with one of the air handling units. Years ago, my husband and I installed a second system to cool and heat the second floor bedrooms barely touched by the builders special air conditioning unit included in all the homes of our 1990s-era neighborhood. Three weeks ago, it bit the dust. So we all slept on various couches in the living room and basement for a night until the repair crew arrived with a new unit the next day. While we were at it, we also replaced the 13-year-old water heater before it had a chance to flood the basement like its predecessor did in 2007.

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Then, in a sign of solidarity, a piece snapped off the top rack of the dishwasher now used daily, leaving our glassware listing to the right. Enter another repair person, who ordered a part but told us that now in the time of COVID-19 it could take two weeks to arrive. And why stop there? I ran two loads of laundry last Friday night. The first load dried beautifully; when I put in the second load, the dryer made a loud buzz sound but didn’t budge. Yet another repair person told us the motor was going and it wasn’t worth fixing, so we’ll need to find a new one. Meanwhile, we first had to run to a home improvement store to pick up new fluorescent bulbs for the ceiling fixture in the laundry room. Of course, they were flickering on their way out, too, and we determined it would be easier for the repair person if they could actually see the dryer.

But wait, there’s more. Until this past weekend, the front door of my mailbox frequently hung open thanks to a rusty screw no longer holding it in place. That was a relatively easy fix, as was gluing back on a kickplate that adhered under my kitchen sink cabinet just fine until flopping off a few weeks back. Less simple will be shopping for new couches for my living room. Originally, just one spring was breaking in the love seat my 16-year-old would flop onto every day after school. With him home all day for months, those added flops have contributed to the whole thing sagging. And like the virus that put us in this situation to begin with, the condition quickly spread to the adjacent couch.

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Not to be outdone, the seats of my dining room chairs — which already had some stains — are now fraying in places, so we can add reupholstering to the to-do list. And that’s not all: My hallways need painting, I need to patch a piece of drywall in the upstairs hall bathroom and re-caulk the bathtub. There’s some weatherstripping hanging off the sides of our garage door frames and a couple of spots on the tile floor in the kitchen that need re-grouting.

I don’t take for granted that my husband and I have been fortunate to keep working throughout the pandemic, so we can afford to fix or replace these things. But in this once in a century situation it’s been more challenging finding the time and mental energy to deal with them. Yet the need to do these repairs is made more obvious by the fact that they’re staring us in the face all day.

Would these items still have broken down in our preexisting, non-COVID lifestyle, with the teenagers out all day at school or summer programs, and attending some kind of social gatherings or after-school activities a few days a week? Probably, but the process may have occurred slower, or maybe not all at once, or we’d all be out of the house for several hours at a time and have more interesting things to look forward to, blissfully distracted from the tasks in need.

Karen Blum (karen_blum@verizon.net) is a freelance medical and science writer who lives in Owings Mills.

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