In the midst of all the insanity occurring in Chicago today, some of us still have to seek moments that bring about some semblance of normalcy. For me, my constant battle to maintain my garage is one of those moments.

I have a garage that was probably built in the 1950s. It originally had the swing-out barn doors, but I replaced them about 30 years ago with an overhead door. I have been avoiding having to get a new garage built by constantly doing things to keep this garage going. About five years ago, as I spotted the rotting roof, I took on the task to sister-board the roof beams, replace the roof’s rotting wood with plywood and install shingles. Yes, I did the work myself, ignoring the laughter of several guys who passed by and snickered. When my garage withstood all the snow that landed on it this past winter, it was a further affirmation of the great job I did. By the way, the garage also does not leak!

One of the weird things about my garage is that the concrete floor did not meet up to the wood 2 x 4s that were the foundation for the garage walls. After the city visited and told me that rats were living in my garage, I quickly went about adding cement in between the studs to keep the rats from building nests and tunnels. They were not welcome in my garage and I was prepared to do all I could to keep them out. I also put steel mesh in the concrete as an extra deterrent. If the rats began to nibble away at the concrete, they were soon going to be met with an impenetrable barrier that they could not get through. 

However, the rats really seem to like my garage. Once I evicted them from the interior, they started digging holes on the exterior. My response was to obtain more of the steel mesh and place it next to the garage so that they could not dig holes. Mr. Rat, I am sure, was pissed. So he showed me. He found a way to dig a hole in the front from the alley side. But I was not to be deterred. I got more of the steel mesh, and I filled up the hole with it. I even lined along the wood fence with the mesh where Mr. Rat had been nibbling. More than anything, I hope Mr. Rat was in the hole when I sealed it off. It’s an everyday battle to see who is winning between him and me, and I have every intention of being that winner!

Along with dealing with the rat problem, my garage overhead door has jumped the track several times. I am so grateful that my late handyman often used me as his helper. I have been able to fix the problem every time. I replaced the majority of rollers with those that have longer stems. I bought mine from a garage door company, but I suggest people go to Menard’s to find them. I overpaid because Menard’s was out of stock and I just couldn’t afford to wait.

This past Sunday, my son managed to have the top roller come out of the track. Between the weight of the door and falling backwards, it took a moment and a lot of thought processes, but we were able to get the roller back in the track and everything working. I got some heavy duty axle grease from the auto parts store to place in those tracks to give it lubrication. I highly recommend that if you haven’t done it, it’s something you should do to your garage as part of the maintenance procedures.

Every time after doing repairs, I ask that my garage gives me five more years. I know the day is going to come when I will have to replace it. But until that day comes, I’m doing my best to keep what I have functioning.

Arlene Jones writes a weekly column for our sister publication, the Austin Weekly News.

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