Household detective could find the leaks and cut the losses


October 31, 1992|By ROB KASPER

One idea from the presidential campaign that has caught my fancy is hiring a private detective to spy on family members.

It has got me thinking about hiring a house detective to investigate my household. There are several domestic matters I want checked in to.

Right off the bat, the house detective could check for leaks, both heat and water. I suspect our house has more leaks than the staff of a lame-duck Congressman.

Doors, of course, are notorious leakers. The storm door on the back of my house is behaving in a suspicious manner. It flaps. Every time someone slams it, a corner of the glass pane insert of the door flaps back and forth letting in cold air.

I tried to plug this leak with a wedge of wood. But it is still yammering. If I hired a house detective, and if I turned on the furnace, the detective could stake out the back door and note any heat escaping.

I would want the detective to make a "sweep" of all the doors. He would examine all the vinyl sweeps at the bottom of the exterior doors, making sure they aren't loose; checking to make sure they have not fallen down on their job of keeping cold air from sneaking in.

If any door sweeps were slumping, he could put the screws to them.

He could also prowl around the basement, a well-known source for air infiltration. If he spotted a space between the top of the basement wall and the joists of the first floor, he could plug it up with insulation.

When no one was around, the house detective could give the place "the tissue test." He could take a piece of tissue paper and hold it near the source of a suspected air leak, such as a closed window. The tissue test is dramatic. Just like the old political ploy of asking your opponent if he or she was a "card-carrying member of the Communist party." If there is any wavering, by the tissue or the candidate, you pounce on it.

I'm not sure whether I would order him to install foam gaskets behind electrical switch and outlet plates. It seems extreme. How much heat could escape through an outlet? But after several hours of plugging up suspected heat leaks, or several months of running for president, extremism comes easily to some.

I've got one water leak I would want the house detective to work on. I can hear it, but I can't find it. At about 2 in the morning I am awakened by the sound of water trickling. I get up and search the house, but I can't find the leak. Trickle-down theory has always been a mystery to me.

Next, the house detective could look into the case of the disappearing drill bits. Not long ago there was an assortment of bits for my electric drill in my tool box. Using them, I could make a hole anywhere from as narrow as a pin to as wide as an oil-well. Now I can find only two bits, one skinny and one fat. Where did the others go? I have a suspect; he is short and 7 years old. And he has his own collection of tools, which seem to be growing faster than the national debt.

I also suspect that the disappearing drill-bit caper could be linked to the nail depletion problem. I once had boxes of nails that were as flush as the Social Security trust fund. Now they are as empty as the Maryland treasury.

If background checks were made, I'm sure the house detective would discover nails that once were in the boxes have migrated to the "forts," "sleds" and the remains of other spontaneous scrap lumber building projects that various family members have undertaken without my proper paternal approval. Waste and fraud in nails must be stopped.

The house detective could also work on electrical mysteries -- such as who is killing all the flashlight batteries. As fast as I buy them, they turn up dead. And while we are at it, he could search for the missing transistor radios; one brand new one disappeared in the basement a mere 20 minutes after it arrived in the house.

Another active beat could be the search for abandoned clothing. Missing coats are regulars on our household's most-wanted list. The coats go to school with the kids, are last seen "somewhere on the playground" and then disappear for days. Maybe they rendezvous with the legions of lost sweaters that are also missing in action. The detective could find out.

The more I think about it, the more I think hiring a house detective would be good for family values. Not only could the detective turn up missing tools, plug leaks and reunite cloth with long-lost owners, he could also teach family members the importance of keeping track of their belongings.

After he finished doing that, he could find my glasses.

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