Maintenance Tips with the Happyhandyman – Water, part 1

One of the more challenging aspects of being a homeowner is knowing when it is time to call in a professional to take care of a maintenance issue or renovation project. Professional tradesman are expensive, so often people will do as much as they can on their own before resorting to calling an expert. That’s ok! There is a great sense of satisfaction in completing a project on your own, as well as an opportunity for great economic savings to be had. But it is important to know your limits. If you find that you are approaching your personal skill or knowledge limit, do not hesitate – call a professional before you’re knee deep in an emergency situation!

I hope for this blog entry to be the first in a recurring series of tips to help homeowners avoid getting sunk in over their head in a repair or project. I am a licensed Master Plumber with the City of Lancaster, and I’ve been working in the construction and remodel industry for over fourteen years. I’ve seen my fair share of disasters and made many mistakes, so I’d like to start passing on some of what I’ve learned. I love my little neighborhood in SoWe, but the age of the housing stock here is a constant challenge. Old houses can be beautiful and warm and inviting, but they require a careful and thoughtful touch when it come to maintenance. This post will actually be part 1 of two or three entries on managing the various elements of water in your home. I am a plumber after all, so it feels natural to begin with what I know best.

There’s been a lot of discussion (and frustration!) in Lancaster lately about the water meter replacements that have been ongoing for the past year or so. While I understand and empathize with many of the aggravations that people are enduring, I feel that there are at least a few things that folks can do to prepare for their eventual appointment to have their meter replaced. These tips should also be generally useful to any homeowner though; they aren’t only relevant for the current replacement task.

First, and most importantly, know where your water meter is located! For some of you this may seem silly, but you might be shocked at how many times I’ve gone into a home to find that the homeowner doesn’t actually have a good sense as to where their meter is. This is an important piece of information that everyone who lives in a home needs to know. If ever you were to have an emergency situation in which a water supply line breaks or bursts, you absolutely need to know where to go to make the water stop! The water meter is most commonly located in the basement, coming through the street facing (or front) wall. Here is a photo of my own meter, if you’re unclear on what they look like:

On a water meter, there is always a shut off valve on the street side of the meter. This is usually a turning handle, like the one in this picture, or sometimes a newer “ball valve” which is a lever that only requires a quarter turn to shut off. Often there is another shut off valve on the other side of the meter (mine is not pictured, it’s a little further down along the water line). These are the valves that the service technician will need to use in order to replace your meter, and their usability is your responsibility!

This detail has been frustrating to many people. When a technician arrives at your house to find that the shutoff valve or valves are inoperable, they cannot do their job. These valves are a functional part of a homeowners property, and it is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure that they stay in good working order. This is actually just good sense practice that many homeowners never think about. If you have not checked to make sure your shutoff valves are functioning properly, you should do so ASAP. In the event of an emergency, they are your only recourse to stop water from flooding your house! I would recommend checking them at least once a year, because age and lack of use can and will cause deterioration.

If you find that there is a problem with your shutoff valves, I recommend you call a licensed plumber. This is not a DIY project that can be taken on lightly. It is a critical and often sensitive maintenance issue, and if a mistake is made it can have catastrophic consequences.

I hope this information is helpful. For my next entry, I’ll be discussing everyone’s favorite plumbing fixture, toilets! There are many simple and inexpensive ways to deal with a troublesome toilet, and I hope you’ll read along and discover some easy ways to save on maintenance costs and avoid high water bills. Thanks for reading.

SoWe Block Liaison Program

Have you heard about the SoWe Block Liaison Program? This program is a simple, low-key method in which active community members can become a resource for their blocks. Recently, SoWe assigned its first two Block Liaisons, Rosalind Dickinson and Jill Roach.

Rosalind, a 10-year resident of the 600 block of Poplar St., chose to become a block liaison because of her love of the uniqueness of her neighborhood and the closeness of the community. She is eager to do the work of bringing people together and connecting people to resources and information to build an even better SoWe. Rosalind also was recently honored as the recipient of Lancaster’s Neighbor of the Month award for January 2019!

Jill has many of the same motivations as Rosalind; she loves the cooperative spirit of many of her neighbors and really wants to find new and creative ways to bring people together. She loves the diversity of the SoWe neighborhood. Jill has been living in the neighborhood on the 700 block of Saint Joseph St. for 7 years.

Hopefully the fact that the first two Block Liaisons share common motivations is a good clue as to what we’re hoping to find from other potential block liaisons – we’re looking for individuals who love the neighborhood and want to be good neighbors. If you’re interested in serving in this meaningful way and becoming a Block Liaison, contact Jake Thorsen at

Mayor Sorace Presents at SoWe Lead’s January Meeting

SoWe January Board Meeting 1

At Monday night’s SoWe Lead board meeting we had the honor and pleasure of being addressed by our mayor, Danene Sorace. It has been encouraging to see that after a year in office, Mayor Sorace is sticking to her promise and making neighborhoods a priority. We weren’t the first neighborhood group she addressed in the last couple weeks, and we weren’t to be the last.

Mayor Sorace spent about 45 minutes outlining her Strategic Plan for Lancaster in 2019. Truth be told, she barely scratched the surface of the many issues she plans to begin or continue to prioritize. In short, the plan has four points of focus: strong neighborhoods, safe streets, secure incomes, and sound government. There is a broad scope of work being looked at and planned, from finding ways to make pedestrians safe while walking to intentionally focusing on diversity in hiring – these are just two of the many initiatives Mayor Sorace briefly described to us. You can read and listen to more about the Strategic Plan at

Once the mayor finished speaking the board held a somewhat abbreviated meeting. Gene Duncan and Martha Montes were reelected as Chair and Secretary of the board, and Willonda McCloud was elected to the vice chair position, replacing Emerson Sampaio who recently decided not to pursue another term. Several discussions were had on items of noteworthy concern and highlight. A big point of interest was the recent decision by the South Central Transit Authority to scrap their proposed Plan of bus route changes. The board felt it important to continue to follow any new developments from the SCTA and to continue to advocate on behalf of the Southwest Lancaster communities.

Finally, I’d be lax if I failed to mention one other discussion item from the meeting – an event being planned by myself and the members of the SoWe Communications Committee. On April 3 at 6:00 pm we plan to host a community forum on the topic of housing and displacement. This forum arose from an increasing awareness of a concern amongst neighborhood residents about the effects of gentrification here in the SoWe community. It is a priority of the Board to remain connected with the residents whom we are all here to serve, and so the hope is for this forum to provide another point of contact and communication with the community. There will be a panel of 5-6 individuals with professional and/or personal experience with the effects of displacement whose goal will be to provoke meaningful discussion about those issues. I’m eager to share more about this as details begin to take shape.

You can watch and listen to the full meeting in two parts, both posted on the SoWe Facebook page –