Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Home Ownership Horror Stories

So the house we bought last year is 65 years old.  The previous owners were very old.  I don't think they took many pains to update the house in their twilight years. 

When we moved in, the carpet was easily 30 years old.  My dad is an electrician and he guessed the original wiring and outlets remained from when it was built in 1950.  I don't doubt it. 

The appliances are also ancient.  The previous owners wrote the installation dates on the back of each of them.  The Kelvinator clothes dryer was put in back in the Spring of 1972.  And it still works!  The washing machine is a spring chicken from 1989.  The undated Kelvinator fridge is also a monument to what I am sure is peak electrical efficiency (I say undated--but considering I have never ever heard of a Kelvinator fridge, and the name itself sounds like a fictional company name from a 1950s sitcom, I'm guessing mid-1980s at the latest).

So the topic for this post is plumbing problems and how much they suck and how much they cost to repair and dammit if it didn't happen at 10:00pm, I might have been able to fix it myself and save $200 if Lowe's was just open 24 hours like it should be. 

Last night, around 10pm I took Hondo out for a walk.  While I am fruitlessly trying to get him to go, I hear a vibrating noise followed by a splash of water.  I turn over to the sump pump outlet and see a gush of water.  Balls!  I quickly let Hondo loose and headed for the basement.  Not really figuring what could cause the sump to kick on, I open the basement door and find two solid streams of water heading for the drain in the middle of the floor.  F!

I come down the steps and it's painfully obvious that there is a broken pipe.  Now I have done enough simple drain pipe fixes in this damned house to somewhat understand plumbing.  But this is my first joyful experience with pressure pipes coming in from the main water source. 

As I watch water spray with high velocity over the walls, wires and furnace, I quickly realize I need to get the water to the house shut off immediately, like it cannot wait for a plumber immediately.  What I also quickly realize is that I have absolutely no idea how to do that. 

I walk over to the main water inlet to the house and gaze at the variety of knobs.  Like some bozo from a movie who is standing in front console of buttons, needing desperately to push the correct button to save the day, I blindly select one knob and start turning.  To my amazement, it was the correct knob.  The water stops and I can call a plumber. 

The thing about plumbers...they know what they are doing and it's a valuable service.  But dammit, it's almost too easy to fix plumbing problems yourself.  Since we bought this dinosaur of a house, I have done enough repairs to drain lines coming down from the sink or from the waste line on the washing machine.  Those are non-pressure lines and simple to handle. 

What I wasn't comfortable with was the pressure lines.  In this museum to the 1950s house, they are also old style, obsolete copper pipe lines.  I had no tools for copper and Lowe's is conveniently closed. 

Side Note:  Why wouldn't Lowe's or Home Depot be open overnight?  That's when all the bad stuff happens and seems to be the wise thing to do?

So I call the plumber and he comes out and fixes the problem and collects his $200.  And that's with a service contract.  Bing bang boom!  He wasn't there for more than 20 minutes and he rakes in the cash.

Naturally, afterwards I did the research and found that once I got the water off, it was an easy fix.  I just needed an open hardware store and time.  Damn straight I'm going to pick up some parts along the way and fix it myself next time.  Benjamin Franklin was a great Founding Father, but he never had anything to do with Punctual Plumbing or even Moderately Priced Plumbing Repair, for sure.   

Once the plumbing problem was fixed, we were off to bed.  All was fine and dandy once more...until I woke up this morning and the hot water wasn't working.  Yes, Electrical Problems suck just as much as plumbing problems.

Next time:  Why you should only buy a house in the spring or summer, because you can't test the air conditioner to see if it works in the winter.

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