On Friday my wife looked at the ceiling and said, “Is that a drop of water?” And my heart sunk. After a lifetime of not participating in any stress at all, it seems to have accumulated in house worry. For the first year in the house I was in nearly constant fear of major catastrophe. Pipes exploding, termites, roof collapsing, foundation cracking, you name it.

So a dripping ceiling set me off. And it didn’t smell like water either, more like oil. This was it, I thought, the old galvanized pipes have finally met their end. The attic is full of water, the ceiling is going to collapse at any minute. Or I had waited a month too long to get the roof checked out and the rain last week was now in my house. If I was a cartoon my eyes would have been dollar signs.

I was on the verge of a panic attack, and I don’t mean in the illustrative sense of trying to make my point. My breath was short, my stomach bouncing, my heart racing.
Fortunately, making a decision snapped me out of it. I didn’t know who to call because I didn’t know what was wrong. The drip was roughly under the cooler so I went up on the roof to check things out. Everything looked fine, which left one more place to check. The crawl space.

Or house is a fairly standard mid-50′s red brick pitched roof house. There is a 3 or 4 foot high crawl space above our celing where the pipes and ductwork run. I knew it existed but had never had the courage to investigate it. Surely a nursery of racoons lived up there. Maybe a colony of giant flesh eating ants. And inside would be a waterlogged mess of rotting beams, riddled with termite holes and charred from an electrical short waiting to take the house down. Not to mention my big ass wouldn’t fit in the crawl space entrance.

But keeping moving kept my panic attack from returning, so I grabbed the ladder and a screwdrive and headed for the entrance. Off the grill game, yet a pigeon did not fly out and attack me. No scurrying inside, no rotting wood. Just a small dark space full of pipes, ducts, and insulation. “Hey that’s not too bad at all” I thought. And now that I was closer to the entrance, maybe my biig ass would even fit in there.

So I went in the house to gear up. A flashlight and a sweatshirt later I was ready to take the plunge. Unfortunately my knee pads sat lonely in the closet, silently mocking me for not using their unique talents. A twist of my shoulders and hips were necessary to get inside, but I did get in and wormed my way to the center of the crawl space.

A slowly dripping elbow joint was waiting for me. It supplies the cooler and was damaged when temperatures hit freezing last week. A bit more pressure on the turnoff valve in the house stopped the drip entirely. The ceiling is slightly damaged although the problem is waiting to happen once we need the cooler again.

Some plumber will gladly earn my money to fix this problem. My rafter scrambling techique is subpar. And it was miserably warm in there. But for other things I may return. An electrician was going to install a new ceiling fan for us, but now that I see how little it would take to pop a whole in the ceiling and run the electrical I might give it a shot.

Now that I have conquered the crawl space I feel an urge really put my empowerment to use. A skylight maybe? Or get rid of a little crawl space altogether for some nice vaulted ceilings? My ideas always outpace my execution, but you just never know.