Editor's Note: A Good Lesson From Bad Wiring

As maintenance personnel, you know that just because a piece of equipment isn’t inoperable, or spewing acrid smoke, doesn’t mean it’s in fully working order. But I’d wager a guess that many of you contend with a challenging lack of information when it comes to logging maintenance activities.

Mnet 170587 Anna Wells

This article originally appeared in the September print issue of IMPO Magazine. To view the digital version, click here. 

My husband and I have spent the past four and a half years living in a tiny bungalow, centrally located within walking distance to many parks, shops, and restaurants in our Midwestern city.

When we welcomed our first child in February, I naively assumed we could stay implanted in our compact little abode until she started to get a little bigger. Unfortunately, I learned quickly that even the tiniest of babies comes with STUFF of epic proportions, and it was time to expand our footprint.

We accepted an offer shortly after listing our house, which was the good news, and quickly started jumping through the many hoops required when you sell a property. When the buyers’ home inspection yielded a few issues, we agreed to address a couple of ungrounded outlets and a leaky pipe in the basement — small potatoes when you consider all the things that could be hiding in an 80-year-old house.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that simple. The electrician, upon reviewing the outlets in question, began unraveling a grisly scene of outdated, daisy-chained wiring that almost required the partial destruction of a wall. Ultimately, the fix was implemented without too much damage, but it took quite a bit longer – and the bill was significantly higher – than I’d expected when first sourcing the work. This came just weeks after a routine furnace inspection revealed a crack that required the entire unit be replaced.

After all of this, I ruminated over having to shell out so much money for a house I wouldn’t be inhabiting for longer than a few more weeks. But the reality was, we were living on borrowed time with some of this critical equipment. And since it was out of sight, it was out of mind.

I don’t need to preach to the choir here. As maintenance personnel, you know that just because a piece of equipment isn’t inoperable, or spewing acrid smoke, doesn’t mean it’s in fully working order. But I’d wager a guess that many of you contend with a challenging lack of information when it comes to logging maintenance activities. In our situation, we had a general idea of how old some of our equipment was, and how long ago it had been checked, but we didn’t really have a more concrete history than that.

When a house changes hands many times over the course of its lifetime, sometimes bad electrical work, for example, hides itself behind those many transactions.

It’s a simple lesson about consistency that we can all stand to reinforce. For your businesses, take a look at your workforce and try to make sure there aren’t any gaps. For instance, did ‘Jim’ retire this year? Did he keep his maintenance log in his back pocket? Did he take it with him? If he left it, did anyone look at it? Was it legible? It may seem awkward to bring it up over cake and coffee on his last day, but if you don’t you might find yourself with some very scary problems, buried over time and shifting responsibilities.

The week after our home inspection, we paid to have the new house we were buying inspected, and were glad to find only minor problems as well. But most importantly, we have the full inspection report, which we’ll plan to keep at-the-ready in order to stay on top of each nook and cranny. Ten bucks says the baby will be crawling by the time this article prints, and we’ve got enough on our plates without having to deal with surprises behind the walls.

Have you encountered a similar situation? Email me at Anna.Wells@ advantagemedia.com

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