Tuesday, November 19, 2013


My Sunday Best.

Our current home is a fixer upper with loads of potential in a great neighborhood. But for the past 20 years, it was inhabited by a heavy smoker, who loved cats, hated cleaning, and nailed all the windows shut. To say the least, cleaning is a big job. 

Last week we had the ducts professionally cleaned so that we could turn the heat on. The work was done by a well-known company, with a good reputation, and the service was reasonably priced. As most companies do, they offer a complimentary check of our heating system with the cleaning. This is my favorite part. 

They go into the attic to check our ducts. When they emerge, they inform us that our ducting is leaking in these 5 places, plus these 10 other places, and another 7 places. It all seems very serious. They can fix all the leaks for just $1,400. And they inform us that if we don’t fix the leaks, the warranty of the cleaning is only 30 days instead of one year. 

Here’s how I think they come up with the price: count the things (x) price (+) the likelihood that the owners won’t go into the dark dirty place to look (+) the perceived lack of owner’s knowledge regarding problem = cha ching! 

Unfortunate for them, they misread us. We’ve spent more time in our attic than I care to admit and my husband was in HVAC for a while, so this is work we knew would could do ourselves. We bought a bucket of mastic and a roll of duct tape for $20. 

I went into the attic expecting leaks galore. What did I find? The servicemen hadn’t even moved the insulation to look at half of the 22 things that they claimed were leaking. The other half were exposed and only a couple had visible pinholes where heat could leak out. I sealed the visible holes and slapped on an extra layer of sealant on the 22 spots they had suggested, just in case. 

I'm not going to lie, it wasn’t pleasant work. Two hours later, I was covered in sweat, insulation, dust, spider webs, and probably some rodent feces – but nothing I couldn’t wash off. I didn’t even need the duct tape, so it only cost us $15. 

I'll admit that I didn’t do a professional job, but this wasn’t a job that needed a pro, and I can guarantee that what I did is better than it was. Oh, and my husband the ex-pro didn’t do it because he was busy mudding the bathroom walls and I hate mudding. So, he told me what to do and where. Easy peasy. 

$15 versus $1,400. DIY wins hands down. 

And when neither of us knows what we're supposed to do? Google and YouTube. 

-Leah Schonlank

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