Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tonight We Are Going to Shower like it's 1901....

Because renovating a 1901 farmhouse isn't always as exciting as stenciling a wall or hanging new curtains...hah.

I got up last Tuesday morning to take my shower before going to my first day back to classes since Damon has arrived, to find that there was nothing but icy cold water pouring from the shower head. I was already daunted by the task of appeasing a newborn and a toddler simultaneously, while trying to shower. So, having to bathe 1901-style made my morning not-routine all the more adventurous.

We assumed that it was the water heater that had to be replaced, so we did some research on different heaters, went to a few hardware stores, and finally settled on having a basic 50-gallon installed. After placing the order, my dad called David and gave him the grand idea that he might be able to FIX IT HIMSELF. Now, my husband is not the most experienced when it comes to plumbing (or anything, home improvement, car, toilet, other-miscellaneous-manly-man-projects related). For some reason, books on Existentialism and Philosophy of Science omit sections on water heaters, transmissions, or anything practical. (I'm not even sure if philosophers eat, most of the time). However, I am always impressed by David's effort to learn something new. So, he canceled the order.

He pulled up a few articles on the internet, read up about diagnosing a hot water heater, and headed to our local hardware shop to buy some testing gadgets. David "diagnosed" that the heat element was not working properly, so he decided to replace it. Now, to do this, the water to the heater must be shut off.

Evidently, in 1901, no one was concerned about shutting off water to a water heater, and a valve was no where to be found. (I know, I know, there wasn't a water heater in this house in 1901).  David and my grandfather, who stopped by for the morning after a trip to the Master's in Augusta, worked on trying to shut the line and drain the tank all of Friday morning and afternoon. But the main valve by the street appeared to have not been turned since it was put in, however long ago it was that our well was filled in and we were put on city water. (You can still see where the hand pump used to be.)

After three days, we were still bathing by boiling water on the stove, the water line still had not been shut off, and it was time to call in some back-up. So Friday evening, my dad consulted with my other grandfather (who had repaired a few water heaters before) and drove down from Tennessee to help us out.

While David worked on Saturday, my dad and I finally got the water shut off, drained the tank, and replaced the heating element. We gave the heater time to re-fill and heat,  and then we turned on a faucet.

And there was no hot water.

This led us to believe that it was not the heating element, after all. We tested the old element, and it was actually working just fine. So I got to googling, and found that it could be a few other things: like a fuse, or the thermostat. After watching a few Youtube videos, we were able to rule out anything that was related to the hot water heater.

So now what?

I needed a break at this point, and I loaded Dmitri and Damon up in the car and started to drive to my friend's house. But, Dmitri fell asleep in the car, so I ended up doing a loop around Athens and coming home, Around this time, I got a text from my dad saying that he thinks he figured it out. My dad explained his theory that it was not the hot water heater after all, but a leaking hot water pipe in our crawl space.

There was going to be no DIY-job on this one. We were calling a plumber.

Instead of paying near-double on the weekend, we waited until Monday, and a great plumber, who knew exactly what he was doing, came out and had us fixed up in less than two hours. 

After a week without hot water, I cannot say how thankful I am to be able to get hot water, by simply turning a handle. Washing cloth diapers out in the creek was getting really old....


Kara said...

Wow, an entire weekend?! I would've gone crazy I think!! Funny post though...I can picture something like the little house on the prairie women doing the same thing! Glad to read that it's fixed now though!

Good luck with starting school up again too...I don't know how you balance everything!!

Mama Gone Green said...


Sarah said...

I can imagine how much you're appreciating the hot water now! I could handle going without it for just myself, but with kids it would be a lot more difficult!

Mary Nevin said...

you are a trooper and then some!!! so glad your hot water is working again :)

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Oh my goodness! You really have had an ordeal.We all tend to take things like that for granted until we have to go a few days without them but doing without hot water with a baby and a toddler I bet was really challenging. So glad that it is all fixed now. What a Blessing that your dad came to help you like that.

Katie Olthoff said...

Wow - a week without hot water! With a newborn? You are one patient woman!