Whew. Home improvement hell sucks. (AKA "The Great Water Heater Battle of 2012")

Friday, November 2, 2012
Grab some popcorn, this one will take a while.

With Hubby not feeling good the past few days, I've taken up the slack in the daily routines. I also finally got around to reorganizing the bedroom. No, it's not perfect, and far from "done," but at least my eye doesn't twitch in a bad way every time I go in there. The problem is, the bedroom will, in a few months, be totally ripped apart so I can do the floors and put up paneling and paint, etc. to redo it, including bringing furniture from the other house. The furniture (except for the new drawers and cubby I just put in) is all my grandparents' furniture. And yes, dating back to before I was born. (The house is 62 years old.)

The old water heater.
Unfortunately, having to replace the original water heater (yes, you read that right, the ORIGINAL water heater) took all and then some of my budget that I was going to use in the bedroom. Because I had to have the electrician come out and totally replace the original service panel and old fuse (yes, FUSE) boxes and run new Romex for the new water heater. (The old one shorted out fuses and no way in hell was I trying to diagnose that. Screw it, I replaced it, eliminated the old wiring, problem solved.)

Okay, so let me start with the water heater fiasco.

It died on the morning of Friday, Oct. 19th.
(We spared the funeral, because we figured our family had gotten our money's worth out of it after 62 years.)

Yes, it was, again, the ORIGINAL water heater. Yes, it's that thing in the corner. Yes, Grandaddy built this house and put it in himself.

I tried the obvious, replacing the blown, screw-in type Edison fuses, which it promptly blew again.

Uh-huh. Fuck. That. Shit.

And no way was I trying to replace the damn thing on a Friday. I know how that goes. You're at a point at 10 PM on Friday night with NOTHING open and your water shut right the hell off until Monday sometime because you need a part and can't get it.

So I start the search for an electrician. (Note: If you're in Tampa, Dean's Electric is DA BOMB!) Following a recommendation from my cousin, Dean himself came out Tuesday, and yes, did tell me that I could get by with my idea of adding an extra breaker to my FRAKKING old breaker box on the outside and running a new circuit. I wouldn't burn my house down. (The house is a wooden frame house on concrete blocks, so underneath is accessible, thank the Goddess.)

I debated doing that, and told him I appreciated the advice and would definitely be having him come back out after my quarterly royalty check came in on the 30th.

"No problem. We could do it Friday and I'll just have you sign a contract and you can pay me by Nov. 15th."

FUCK. ME. SIDEWAYS.

Hell yes I said YES! (I should also note, his company did work for my cousin, who lives directly behind us, the summer before after a lightning strike fried some stuff. So I guess he trusted us. LOL Did I mention I LOVE Dean's Electric???)

So, my plan was to get a new water heater, hopefully one that would fit inside the kitchen, otherwise I'd need to put it outside and that meant building a pad and shelter, etc.

Meaning MORE money that really wasn't in my budget if I wanted to keep TECO happy. (Of course, not paying TECO would make a water heater moot...)

Meanwhile, I'm driving to the gym every day to take a hot shower at this point. I tried a cold shower the first night, and needless to say I spent the evening in bed trying to make the pain go away. Fibromyalgia and cold showers DO NOT MIX. It was like a million nails being driven into my flesh at once.

So after he left, I hied myself down to Lowes and picked up a Whirlpool 38 gallon "lowboy" electric heater that would, luckily, fit in the space. (But it means at some point I need to build a box for it because we lost shelf space that we used with the old water heater since it was in its own metal cabinet.)

Wednesday morning, let the demo begin. Sir was coming by that night after work to help. Hubby and I start the demo process. During my second trip to Lowes that morning (the first was for shit I'd forgotten the day before, like the pan and hook-up kit for it, and to scout my options for plumbing), I get a call from Dean himself.

Getting there...
"We had a cancellation. We can come tomorrow if you want."

Um, YES PLEASE!!

But then at that point I'm in full-on panic mode, because now it's mission-critical that we get the damn water heater OUT, the new one IN, and plumbed and ready for the electrician to hook up for me the next day.


The old bitch fought a truly valiant battle...


Success!
But sadly for it, I wanted hot water more than it wanted to stay in its home of 62 years. It took Hubby and me BOTH leaning on the borrowed dolly to get the damn thing tipped back so we could get it out of the kitchen. That was a whole 'nother battle.

No, I couldn't drain it. While it DID have an overflow valve and drain on it that led outside, it did NOT have a lower drain valve on it that I could have hooked a hose to and emptied it.

Guess they didn't think of those kinds of things 62 years ago.

I scrounged up some Killz I had left over from the bathroom permanently temporary revamp last year and cleaned the area up. (Yes, the fact that the wall wasn't even painted when Grandaddy put it in shows that it was original.)

No, it's not a perfect paint job. Shut up. I wanted hot water, damn it.

Got the new one put into place.

Realized I had another problem... a HUGE problem...

The main valve that shuts the water off to the house (the one closest to the house, not the one by my well) was LEAKING. As in like a fricking FOUNTAIN.

A 60+ year-old valve. Half BURIED in the fricking ground.

Shut. Up. (I heard you laughing.)

Panicked, I made ANOTHER trip to Lowes with a stop by a local plumbing supply house on the way (it's 4:30 at this point, I should add). I'm in a panic and thinking if worst came to worst, I could get everything done, then shut the water off at the well when we went to bed so it wasn't leaking all night. (No, it wasn't damaging the house, just making the ground wet where we had to do the piping underneath.)

The guy at the plumbing supply place handed me a $6 package of packing string and said it would likely solve my problem.

*Insert jaw drop... HERE ____*

Dubiously, I continued on to Lowes for the rest of the stuff I needed, got home, had a tearful, panicked text exchange with Sir over the leaking valve.

I should note that while I'm damn good with internal home plumbing, I'm not so much with the supply lines and stuff.

Ready for rough-in.
I get everything roughed in and ready for Him when He gets there (I should remind everyone of my extreme claustrophobia and even unhooking the old piping from under the house to get the old water heater out nearly triggered a panic attack. Fortunately, it was close to the edge of the house and not completely under it.)

He decides He wants to tackle the valve first.

Then He notices yes, it is just the nut on the top of the valve that was loose. He tightens it, the leak slows to a bare trickle.

*INSERT TEARFUL, JOYOUS SIGH OF RELIEF...HERE ___*

Then He has me shut the water off, takes off the nut, puts the packing string stuff in like the guy told me, and voila...no more fricking leak.

(Remind me to buy a dozen donuts and take to the plumbing supply house for that guy. He rocks.)

So other than a swarm of mosquitoes nearly eating us alive, Sir got the plumbing connections made, and miracle of miracles, we were done by 10 PM with no leaks and my water on...

Except...

(Yeah, you knew that was coming, didn't you?)

When we flushed out the lines to fill the new water heater, it clogged up my faucet (which I replaced last year) from old crap in the lines from the old one. (Yes, I had the aerator off, it clogged a backflow valve built into the faucet line, it was one of those nozzle kinds you can pull out from the main body.)

*head/desk*

Yes, I know I should have used the tub tap to do it, but the kitchen sink was RIGHT THE FRACK there.

So Sir helps me pull out the faucet (did I mention I'd just put it in LAST YEAR?) and we test the supply lines. They're fine.

Frak.

Okay, so now my kitchen floor is COVERED with all the stuff that was under the sink, my kitchen is a disaster, and I'm fucking tired, haven't had a shower...

And the gym is closed.

FML.

Bottom one controlled water heater.
And, oh yeah, I had to clean out a TON of stuff from the corner of my office and get it moved so the electrician could get into the corner to replace the fuse box and move the stuff outside.

So I heated up a pot of water and took it into the tub with me and sponged off.

Next morning, at oh-crap-it's-still-dark-out-and-I-haven't-had-coffee-yet thirty, I drag my ass out of bed, get in the car, and go to Lowes.

By now, they're starting to know me by name.

I get a new faucet (bonus is that I found an extra breaker from the old box from last year that we'd bought when my dad installed two new circuits for Christmas lights for Hubby that I never returned, and I thought I had, so I returned it). FIFTY DOLLARS CREDIT!!! (WOOT!)

The day was looking up even without coffee. So the new faucet only cost me about $40 total (including new connection lines for it).

Managed to get it installed and working before the electrician showed up.

Did I also mention I was in so much pain I could barely move at this point?

Finally got my coffee, Hubby helped me get the stuff back under the sink, and we sat and waited.

Electrician (Frankie, one of Dean's guys and a really nice guy) got the process started, got the box swapped out, and got a new Romex line and circuit run for the water heater. He disconnected and removed as much of the old wiring as he could for the old one (but since it was a dedicated circuit, it's not like we'll mistake it for anything else).

Done and out the door by about 2 PM.

By 3, I said screw it, it's hot enough, and had the first warmish shower in my own bathroom in nearly a week.

Ahhhhhhhhh....

I texted Sir. DADDY DADDY DADDY guess what I just did!

He said He didn't know, but guessed it probably involved a hot shower. LOL

I made myself go skeet shooting (I knew if I stopped moving I wouldn't want to start again as badly as I hurt all over and I figured dammit, I DESERVED the fun time LOL.)

Before (2 days ago)
The next morning, I had to tweak the thermostats up on both elements from the stock 120 to around 140, which is perfect and makes the hot water last a lot longer.

So that was my great water heater adventure. The good part is, now we have a shiny new Square D breaker box with extra room if I want to add extra circuits for Hubby's Christmas extravaganza.

And, oh yeah, over the past couple of days I organized the bedroom as best I could. LOL (I think I mentioned that earlier, didn't I?)












Before (midway)

I wish I'd taken pictures of this corner before I put the cubby in. (That wasn't there. The small end table was there, which I moved. The cubby and two floral totes on top are new from Lowes.








After (today, hi Gidget!)
I got all the free-ranging clothes put away and organized (lots of creative refolding involved there, let me tell you what).

















Not the best after pic of this corner, it does look a LOT better in person than in the pic. LOL What you can't see is the little dressing table that's behind there, in that corner, is now actually visible, whereas before it was buried in clothes, quilts, etc.

After (today)
Those tubs are things like my *ahem* play party clothes and corsets and stuff in one, and in the other lots of stuff like cold weather clothes that are bulky, hats, scarves, gloves, etc.

But at least I did get the front of the closet cleared out and accessible.

(No, I won't show you what's in the closet. Shut up. LOL)

And I did get the one tub that was in front of the closet emptied and put away. (Yay!) So the effect is the room LOOKS a lot neater than it was, and it feels marginally roomier.

The house only has ONE closet--I swear to the Goddess ONE closet for the ENTIRE house--which is shared by both bedrooms. (I used it as a "secret passage" between rooms when I was a kid.) So I'm doing the best I can with what we've got. It's smaller than the other house (3/2, down to 2/1) even though the total square footage is close to the same due to the living room add-on Grandaddy built in the early '80s.

And yes, I'm still weeding through my grandparents' things. There are a lot of things I won't part with, like some of the furniture. It's been here since I was a kid or before, and I am sentimentally attached to it.

Our plan is to add on to the entire east side of the house, about 15-20' and down the length of the house, and add 1.5 baths (including a master suite bath), expand the bedroom I'm using as my office into a master suite, add a utility room, and expand the kitchen and living rooms. That's in the future, though.

Right now, with the electric updated, my eye has now focused on getting the propane furnace (about 8 years old or so) removed and getting central heat and A/C installed so we can get rid of the two window-shaker A/C units, too.

So much to do, but I love this old house. I'm trying to dust off my FlyLady.net skills and help Hubby make a dent in things so we're ready for company for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And, oh yeah, I need to build a box for the water heater.

*head/desk*

What kind of home improvement projects are you up to? Or chime in with your own home improvement hell stories.

(And, oh yeah, had a new book come out this Monday. LOL)

10 reader comments:

  1. I have to say that all sounds a LOT nightmarish! I had to replace the insides of a toilet and I thought I was going crazy! I can't believe you had a water heater for 62 years! My mom just replaced hers after 6 years. Of course, I think they just don't make them like they used to. I have to say, doing it yourself is the BEST teacher.

    I also have to say THANK YOU for not calling it a "hot water heater". (Why would you need to heat hot water?) For some reason, that has always been a pet peeve of mine. It seems that we will be hearing all kinds of remodeling stories over the next year or so. Good luck with all of that!

  1. Rhonda B said...:

    We just got new windows, which funnily enough we ordered at Lowes and had Lowes do the install. My better half likes the new windows in the living room so well that he said lets not put the blinds back up - why don't we put up curtains. He so rarely expresses any preference about decorating the house that I just went with it. I went and bought curtain rods and sheers in anticipation of making drapes next week to go with them, but now that I have them in the house I am having buyer's remorse because I don't like the color of either the rods or the sheers. I foresee a trip to store to exchange them in the near future.

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Wow lots of hugs for you. When we bought our house the people we bought it from said we did the roof and dryer vents about a month ago. My hubby did not check them so first weekend in house 4 of july I'm on bed rest,we get a sever storm with straight line winds which turn into a torando, so we get to the shelter and when we get home after the all clear our wood stove, pantry,.and daughters rooms are flooded with soggy carpet and no power. (makes one crabby pregnant lady) Next day power back on I start washing and drying the towels the dryer starts on fire. All is fixed now :) we now know better than to not check things out
    Sandra

  1. Vanessa said...:

    Brings back memories. Here in OZ we have these little critters called white ants or termites. They eat wood (I'm told you dont have them in the USA) We had a VERY old 100+ yr old house with a wood frame. Hubby was ALWAYS fixing something! We had remodelled a front bedroom prior to adopting an older child.. his room. after a short while we noticed holes in the new wall, thought he was digging them but something made me check closer and found evidence of these darn white ants. Treated them with a poison now not allowed to use causes birth defects... much later we found evidence of new activity. Had someone check the house ad they had eaten the wood all on one side of the house including the roof trusses. Quite dangerous to live in. The quote to fix it all was more than the house was worth so we demolished the house and rebuilt on the block... putting in a triple layer of protection in the foundation to try to prevent our new house being eaten by the white ants... the side benefit is that nothing needs to be done to fix or repair anything... for a few years we hope. :-)

  1. CaroleDee said...:

    Wow, so what I just gathered from your nightmare was that my dream of purchasing and refurbishing an old home will only happen if
    1. I win the lottery, and
    2. my husband figures out how to do household repairs (never gonna happen)

    *Dream dashed* LOL

    But I'm glad you got everything worked out. It's wonderful that you get to live in a home with so much family history ;)

  1. RoseRaven said...:

    Let's see. In the 4 years that I have lived here with Jeff, I have painted the kitchen, the bathroom and stripped the old paint off the kitchen cabinets. What idiot painted real wood cabinets, I'll never know but I want to b*tch slap them. I then refinished them and the look alot better. It took me a couple of weeks to finish the cabinets but I love they way they look. We are building an addition to the house across the back. It will give us an exercise room, a room for his musical equipment (the man owns way too many guitars and amps) and a new office for me. Can't wait until it's completely done.

  1. Carin said...:

    Tymber just the fact that you managed to do all of that should entitle you to some kind of Fybro fighter medal!
    I am glad you have hot water again! Gentle hugs! Carin

  1. I know what you feel. Yeah, home improvement is a lot of work and a lot of money spent but it is required if you want to live a safe and desirable life. It's something that every home owner should consider.

  1. Katafer said...:

    Glad you finally got your hot shower - everything always seems more manageable when one is clean and comfortable.

    As the proud owner of a 1926 bungalow in the Tampa Bay area, I can 100% relate to where you are coming from! If it is not one thing, it is another. Came back to my house on Sunday, only to find that the rack in my closet had collapsed (okay, maybe putting my hanging clothes AND over 50 pairs of shoes/boots was a tad too heavy). I forsee a trip to Ikea in my immediate future - I need more closet and storage space! But, I do truly love my house, so I will bite the bullet and replace as needed (roof & A/C next, I'm afraid).

    Have a great warm-showered week!

  1. LaOnna G. said...:

    I have to say congrats on the hard work. It is a lot of hard work keeping up on repairs when you're a home owner. Of course I don't think I will ever know what that feels like. I'm a single mother of two and ever since being out on my own I've either lived where the military put me or do what I'm doing now...renting. Even though I rent I have done my share of home improvements. I hate to be a bother to my landlord so if it breaks and I can possibly fix it I will. I only go to him when it becomes too much. My only wish in life is to eventually own a home so I could decorate it the way I want it instead of how the real owners have it. Good luck to all you home owners that succeed in your repair battles.