Thursday, April 08, 2010


I'll start at the beginning.

About two weeks ago, I noticed a drip in the bathroom. Crawling under the sink so I could look at the back of the bath-tub, I noticed the stop valve for the hot water faucet was leaking. It was no big deal, it was a slow drip, maybe about a pint of water per day… and a quick inspection showed there was nothing wrong with the valve itself, it had just worked itself a little loose and water was leaking where the valve was connected to the pipe.

So, the fix was relatively simple. All I needed to do was remove the valve, clean the screw threads, put on a fresh layer of nylon tape and tighten it up. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the main water shut off was for the house, so I had to wait a few days until I could get my stepson over here who knew where it was.

Then, the day after I discovered the leak, I was emptying the bucket and when I put it back under the drip, I felt another drip of water hit the back of my hand…coming from somewhere else.

You know that feeling when your insides just freeze? Yeah, I got that. The feeling that a minor inconvenience is about to turn into major trouble.

I ended up lying on my side in a very cramped space, shining a flashlight in the pitch darkness, looking for the source of the new leak. With a totally 'oh…shit.' I realized that there was water dripping right from the bottom of the hot water heater itself. That looked like a problem I probably could fix with five minutes and about seven cents worth of nylon tape.

A bit of research on the internet confirmed my worst fears. If your actual water heater is leaking, from the tank itself and not from one of the fittings….there's no way to fix it. It's just broken. Then, One thing gave me a glimmer of hope: One site said if the TP valve is blocked open, it can make it appear the tank is leaking when it isn't. The fix for that was simple and easy, something even someone like me should be capable of: You get a bucket and open the TP valve to clear any debris that may be holding it open.

I did this and a few second later I had a bucket filled with rust-colored water. I took this was both a good and bad sign. The water was so rusty that it was highly likely that something was holding the TP valve open slightly…unfortunately, the water being so rusted could also mean that the tank had started to rust through and was beyond repair.

I flushed the valve a few times before closing it and leaving the heater alone for twenty minutes to see if the leak stopped. Unfortunately, when I walked back into the bathroom I was greeted to the sound of running water…that is, water running directly onto the floor. I grabbed the flashlight, looked at the underside of the tank…and the bucket I had the pipe attached to the TP valve was just pouring. I've no idea if it was jammed open slightly before…but it was certainly jammed open now.

For those keeping score, previous to my attempt to fix the tank, I had a very manageable leak that we could deal with easily by emptying a bucket every day while still having hot water while we waited until we could afford a new heater.

After my attempt to fix the tank, we had a choice of no hot water at all, or we could flood the house. As you can probably guess we went for the former rather than the latter.

Long story short, for the next two weeks we had no hot water.

You know, it's amazing the things that you barely notice and take for granted…that can just about ruin your life when they're taken away.

As regular readers know, I've been exercising a lot recently. The weather has been getting hotter and hotter…and trust me, there's nothing quite as unpleasant as coming in from a run absolutely soaked with sweat…then having to boil the kettle to get some hot water so you can have a stand-up wash in front of the sink.

The thing is, recently, I've been priding myself on just how 'handy' I've become. Before I moved to the US, the way I fixed things around the house was by saying "Dad? The (whatever) needs fixing." However, in the past couple of years, I've done roofing, worked on the car a little bit and quite a bit of plumbing. To most people in their late twenties, it might not seem like a big deal to crawl under the house to repair a burst water pipe, or replace the valve heads on a leaky faucet…but to me, it was kind of a big deal.

Well, it seems fate was listening to me bragging on myself and decided it was going to teach me a lesson. Sure, I can cap a pipe fairly easily, I can repair a leaky compression faucet…but installing a water heater is something that's totally beyond my skill set…and hiring a professional was out of the question. We could just about afford the $250 for a new heater…what we couldn't afford was another $200-$300 to have someone install it for us.

Luckily, my stepson is extremely handy and knew what to do.

I'd love to say he helped me install the new heater today, but it was much more a case of I watched while he did it (although in my defense, I did wrap the nylon tape around a few of the fittings).

Anyway, it took most of the day, mostly due to the fact you never get all the fittings you need during the first trip to the hardware store…but we finally got the damn thing installed…and after a bit of a scare where I realized our old water heater was a 120v model and the new one was 240v, so we didn't know if the set-up could supply enough power…we got the thing installed, filled the tank, hooked up the power and left it to heat up the water.

An hour later I turned on a faucet, and after it deliberately made me wait for what felt like five years until I was starting to panic and wonder if Lowes would let us return a perfectly fine, fully-functional water heater just because I'd bought the wrong one, I felt hot water, glorious, amazing, miraculous hot water hit my hand.

As I said earlier, it's amazing the things you take for granted until they're gone. I've got up twice in the past hour just to turn the faucet on and giggle like a schoolgirl when hot water comes out. I feel like a caveman who's just discovered fire for the first time.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I now plan to go stand under the shower for at least a week.

1 comment:

aimese said...

very amusing. your blog is fun to read.