Small things make the difference to a home

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Kevin Blessing

Kevin Blessing

Maybe it’s because I’m married now, maybe I’m just getting older or else I’ve seen one home improvement show to many. But whatever it is, I am seeing more to do about the house than ever.

It might be a little bit of scuffed skirting board, a bit of peeling paint, it might be a worn handle on a window coming a bit loose, but they are all starting to scream at me like I’ve never noticed before.

It’s odd, as I am sure all these things were there before. I know they didn’t just end up in their slightly dilapadated state overnight and I am pretty sure my better half has said something at some stage about the lots of tiny little jobs that need doing, but for some reason I’ve never noticed them like I do at the minute.

I was mentioning this to a long term friend of mine in Shane McGettigan Park last week after the Melvin Gaels St Mary’s game – he is a little older and he’d like to think a little bit wiser than me. He laughed at me and assured me this was a perfectly natural phenomenon for a married man to feel at this time of year.

He went on to suggest that it was some male nesting malarkey or something. But whatever it is, I have to agree I have never been as keen to fiddle and screw and paint and clean and generally fix up the house ahead of the onset of winter. I am checking the bulbs, making sure the boiler is efficient, getting the stove cleaned and sealing any little leaks or drafts. Don’t get me wrong, ‘handyman’ is not an appendage ever naturally associated with me, but I do take pride in the little I can achieve myself.

And in that, I am lucky. Very lucky. At least I can hop up on a ladder and change a bulb. I can put my hand in my pocket and buy a new lagging jacket for the boiler if needs be.

At last week’s Leitrim County Council meeting, it was reported that our authority is facing a bill of over one hundred and twenty thousand euro because of the government’s decision to exempt tenants in local housing. As a result, this will mean that maintenance to social housing in our county will no doubt be affected.

Sadly as we head into another winter, there are a lot of people across this county that are going to have a colder and more uncomfortable winter than needs be, just for the lack of a little bit of help and support from our government.

As we speak, in the year of our Lord 2013, after the biggest building boom in the history of the state, after this country had unparalleled wealth, there are still many elderly people living in draughty, damp houses, that are badly in need of a little bit of work. And that’s the saddest bit of it all, the amount of work that it would take to make a big difference is so small. Replacing a cracked window might not be the biggest job in the world, but the difference it will make in January is massive.

Rolling out insulation in the attic would be done in a couple of hours but make a difference for a lifetime. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that most of these older people are used to looking after their own house. They have spent a life time fixing up the place and are proud of their home and even if they do discover there is something bothering them that is beyond their current skills or budget they would rather just ‘put up with it’ than accept help with something they have always done.

Personally, I’d love to see some sort of scheme devised whereby the many great tradesmen across Leitrim, who find themselves out of work, get some small assistance from the government to give an afternoon or so of their time to go and give a little help to an elderly friend or neighbour.

For the price of the odd bag of cement, the occasional bit of tiling, or a quick nail here and a bit of carpet or insulation there. It’s the sort of small simple idea that could make a huge difference for all concerned. From keeping the older members of our community secure to giving those in need of a day’s work here and there a sense of purpose.

We are shortly facing the prospect whereby every home in the country is going to be visited to fit a water meter, so we can pay for the right to drink the water that comes out of the ground under our feet (more about that another day).

It seems a terrible shame that the same sort of emphasis can’t be put on ensuring that the homes of our elderly people are warm and efficient this winter. For any one reading this who may consider themselves as living in a house that is maybe not as efficient as ones built in recent years, I would suggest getting a Building Energy Assessor (BER) out to survey your house.

It only takes a few hours and will give you the rating for your home and let you know how efficient, or inefficient, your home is and where exactly you are losing heat and subsequently money. It doesn’t cost much and is well worth doing, if nothing else it will point out exactly what you need to do to tighten up the house ahead of winter.

So remember, if like me you are feeling like there are lots of things to do around your quiet new house, spare a thought for those maybe just down the road from you that are maybe living in the cold and the dark simply because they can neither reach or afford the bulb to light the hall, the oil or solid fuel for the heating.