Sunday, September 12, 2010

100% Certainty

The puzzle began a little over two months ago. A group of friends were gathered around the table on a hot afternoon in early July, and a drop of water landed on the table. Searching the ceiling, we guessed that it was coming from a seam between the wooden slats there. It had been raining that day, so we thought it could be a roof leak. There was no plumbing in the attic above that room, just an air conditioning duct and a couple of vents. And the drip hadn't come from either of the vents. Still, as time went on, I became fairly confident that this drip had some connection to the air conditioner.

I don't really know anything about finding roof leaks or air conditioning problems. So, armed with our two best guesses, I called a roofer to come take a look, and I called our home warranty company to request an A/C specialist to check that out the other option. The first roofer was positive that it wasn't a roof issue, and the air conditioning specialist said he couldn't see any reason for the drip to be caused by the A/C. It was a just a mysterious drip, but it persisted and became more of an issue over the next couple of weeks. It happened infrequently, always on hot days when we had the air conditioner running, and with our two best guesses shattered, we had started seeking less likely causes.

The best less likely cause we heard about was poor ventilation. Supposedly, on hot and humid days, if the attic didn't have enough ventilation, a "cloud" could form up there that would account for our drip. Since attic ventilation was a roofing issue, I called a different roofer to come and take a look. He looked around and said that we seemed to have plenty of ventilation. In fact, the only thing he saw that could cause any problems in that part of the attic was the air conditioning system. So, I called the air conditioning expert back to have another look.

Imagine my disappointment when he couldn't find any reason for the drip. I had been fairly certain that the drip was an A/C issue, but then I heard some stories from other people about water leaking from one place and then running along a beam or something to a completely different spot before succumbing to gravity. So I went on a bit of exploration. I couldn't really see anything leaking or any water running along any beams. What I did see surprised me, though.

We have a lot of insulation in the area of the attic above that leak. I mean, a mother lode of insulation. So much, in fact, that I couldn't really get to the spot where the drip was happening without removing bales of insulation. I thought, I wonder how that A/C specialist was able to check this out without moving all this insulation out of the way. And then it dawned on me. He hadn't. Rather than remove all of the insulation, I called our home warranty company back and asked them to send the A/C man back, explaining that he could not possibly have done the job I paid him to do when he had visited my home previously.

He returned and briefly explained to me why he didn't need to move the insulation to know that it wasn't an issue with the air conditioning system. I pressed him, and he said, "I can 100% guarantee you that this isn't being caused by anything with your air conditioner." I was impressed by that. He certainly hadn't said that before. And he was the expert in that area.

So when he left, I looked up at that wooden ceiling and realized that the only way to really figure out the issue would be to tear down the planks (which were starting to show some signs of water damage by this point). I hoped that our home owners insurance would cover fixing the problem and any damage that had resulted. They sent out a few people of their own to diagnose the issue.

Their plumbers confirmed that there was nothing up there to leak in the way of water pipes. That was reassuring. I hadn't missed anything as obvious as a pipe spouting an arc of water across the attic. The air conditioning expert the insurance company sent out actually found the problem within about a minute. It was a problem with the A/C duct. Really.

Now, since the issue is the result of normal wear and tear, the insurance company won't cover it, and any damage caused by the water also isn't covered. But the home warranty company covers matters of normal wear and tear. So now, two months later, I have an answer to the mysterious drip, and I know how the matter can be solved. I am prepared to be tenacious with the home warranty company, the repair company with whom they contract, the Better Business Bureau, and anyone else that can have an impact on taking care of the problem completely.

The thing that bothers me most about the whole ordeal is that I knew what the problem was from the very beginning. I had no real knowledge or experience of my own to rely on, so I trusted someone who specialized in the area of concern. His 100% certainty turned out to be faulty, so I'm grateful that I got a second opinion. If I had trusted myself a little more in the beginning, perhaps I would have been a little more insistent with Mr. 100%.

It just seems like it shouldn't have been so difficult to get an answer. It seems like it shouldn't have gone on for as long as it did. It would be easy to slip into a victim mentality with all of this. What I want instead is to stand up for myself and get the services I've paid for, performed at a satisfying level of quality. It is actually about being able to care for and value myself while still seeing another person's humanity. Sometimes it can be a challenge.

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