41: The Best Tool in the Toolbox

41: The Best Tool in the Toolbox

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

The Best Tool in the Toolbox

Don’t you stay at home of evenings? Don’t you love a cushioned seat in a corner, by the fireside, with your slippers on your feet?

~Oliver Wendell Holmes

With winter approaching, and the possibility of temperatures plunging into the low sixties down here on the Texas Gulf Coast, I found myself longing for a cozy fire in the fireplace. Not wanting to deal with hauling in logs and sweeping up ashes, I stopped by a fireplace center near my home to check out the gas log sets. It was my birthday week, and I couldn’t think of a better gift for myself than being able to curl up with a good book next to a crackling blaze.

I was pleasantly surprised by the choices there, and the salesperson assured me that the logs could be installed in less than thirty minutes. I picked out my favorite box of faux wood, and we agreed on a date for the delivery. But things took a turn for the worse when the installer arrived. He informed me that the gas pipe sticking into my firebox was too long, so the fire burner for my fake log set would be off-center.

“No problem,” he promised. “Just call a plumber to cut the old pipe to the right length, rethread the end and we’re back in business.” He even recommended an excellent plumbing company.

A couple of days later, when the plumber arrived, he doled out more bad news. The pipe was located too close to the floor of the firebox. He wouldn’t be able to cut it off or rethread the end unless he removed it from the wall. He estimated that it was about two feet long, and if removed, he might not be able to get it back in place without making a hole in the sheetrock to reconnect it to the gas line.

“I can give you the name of a good handyman,” the plumber said. “He can either patch the hole we need to make in the wall or cover it up with a fake door just in case he can’t match the wall texture and paint.”

A cold shiver ran down my spine. I’d only been in my house for less than a year, and had gone through a nerve-racking, twelve-day whirlwind remodeling ordeal before I moved in. The dust hadn’t yet settled in my brain, and he was suggesting that I stir it up again. “Thanks, but no thanks,” I replied.

To say I was despondent is putting it mildly — my birthday home-improvement wish had just gone up in smoke. But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Instead of giving up, I moseyed on over to the Internet to check out some other options. While bouncing around in cyberspace, I discovered something called a “convert to gel gas log set.” These are fake logs that you simply place on the grate in your fireplace (vented or not), then set a can of gel fuel underneath (which is artfully hidden by decorative lava rock), light with a match and enjoy a cozy, crackling fire. It’s not quite the real thing, but this option eliminated most of the cost, plus the installer, the plumber, the handyman, and a heck of a lot of stress.

Within a week, my log set arrived on my front porch, and the shipping was free. Things were looking up. By the time the first cold snap arrived and the temperature plummeted to fifty-eight degrees, I put a match to the can under the logs and curled up in front of a cozy fire. For this home improvement project, it seems that the Internet was the best tool in the toolbox — no mess, no fuss. My only dilemma now is which favorite book to read while sipping hot chocolate in front of the fireplace in my toasty warm living room. Ah, home sweet home!

~Gloria Hander Lyons

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