Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Old House, New Things

The thing about owning a home is you are always fixing something.  That goes double if you live in an old home.

Don't get me wrong, I love our old house.  I love the woodwork, the built-in bench and window seat, the pocket doors and newel posts.  I love the big windows and egg-and-dart molding.  It is a charming home, and I didn't have to do a thing to make it that way.

The things that I don't love about living in an old house?  Oh, you know.  There are a few.

Bats.  Poorly insulated sections in the walls.  Finding rusty nails and other pieces of metal every time I turn over a piece of earth in the yard.  No garage, as there was little need for one when you were building a house in town in 1900.  Limited storage space.  Previous owners who took every shortcut in the book with little things like the wiring, plumbing, etc.  Did I mention bats?

We are lucky in many ways, in that at least a couple of those previous owners made big improvements to the house.  The old plaster walls and ceilings have been covered with nice, textured sheet rock.  (I know there are some old house purists who are reading that and gasping, but really, the only time I need to see plaster walls are when I'm touring something that's been made into a museum.)  There is one small triangle of plaster remaining in the stairwell, in between bits of woodwork, and man, am I glad that stuff is gone.  What a nightmare.

The bathrooms had been redone by the time we moved in.  It had a new roof, and a laundry room and half bath had been added.  Someone had added in-house access to the basement; I'm thankful not to have to exit the house to enter the basement.

They had also done away with the back half of the double staircase.  I'm thankful for the big kitchen this created, even if I grieve a bit over the fact that we could have had a double staircase.  I'm so glad no one ever painted all this woodwork with whatever the color de rigueur was at each family's time of ownership.  I like that we have small bedrooms upstairs and a big living space downstairs as it forces the kids out of their rooms and into family time.  I sometimes despise having small bedrooms and a big living space as it forces the kids out of their rooms and into family time.

I like to think that we have been conscientious owners of this house.  We added gutters where before there had been none (so.much.water. in our basement before the gutters).  We've replaced the air conditioner and kitchen cabinets, and added tons of insulation, not to mention storm doors, tiling the kitchen backsplash, and so many other things.

For every thing we've added or replaced, though, we have five more yet to do.  Built-in bookcases in the living room.  Finish the built-in dressers Derek's grandpa constructed and installed for us before he passed away.  Possible future garage.

You know how it is.

All that to say:  we got a new Thing.  An exciting Thing.  A Thing for our house.



...NEW HOT WATER HEATER!  (Go back and read that in the voice of Rod Roddy on The Price is Right if you didn't the first time.  Please and thank you.)

A new hot water heater sounds like the least exciting thing on the planet, unless you've ever lived with an old hot water heater.  Think short showers.  Very short showers.  Forget about soaking your sore muscles in the occasional bath, unless you are able to soak in just a few inches of water.  And remember:  inform everyone in the family that I Am Going to Take a Shower, DO NOT Run the Dishwasher, Washing Machine, or Even Wash Your Hands in Warm Water Until I Exit the Bathroom, On Pain of Death.

We're not sure when the old hot water heater- the one on the right in the photo up there- was installed, but Derek did find a date on it:  1988.  The average lifespan of a hot water heater is 12-14 years.  Just in case you lose track of time the way I do, it is not the year 2000.  It is, in fact, the year 2017.  That old water heater has been begging to be put out of its misery for quite some time now.  Last Saturday, Derek and his band of merry helpers obliged the poor old thing.

At 7:30 AM, Derek and I trooped down the stairs.  We disconnected the (corroded, rusted, stiff, STUBBORN) pipes at the top of the old heater.  Derek did... other things, I don't know what.  I struggled to be more of a help than a hindrance, something that's always a crapshoot for me in these types of situations.  I said, "Good job, Husband!" a lot- I really wanted a new hot water heater.

Atticus helped, too.
At one point Derek's dad arrived, and I gratefully scampered back up the stairs, out of the way and into the warmth.  All of Derek's helpers were in and out of the basement throughout the day, but Derek himself was down there for the better part of 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM, in a space where he has trouble standing up straight thanks to being an unusually tall man and old, low, spider-webby ceilings.  

Sunday morning I took a shower, and didn't have to do my old routine of turn the handle to about 70%, shower for a minute, turn it to 80% as it's already started to lose its warmth, turn the handle to 90%, shower for a minute, turn the handle to 100% and try to pump my arms and move around as much as possible because my hair has been washed but I haven't shaved and I'm already getting goosebumps.

No, instead I turned the handle to 60%, and there it stayed. I don't take particularly long showers (due to years of training, no doubt- thanks, aging hot water heater!), but it was astonishing to realize that you could set the handle at a certain spot and have the hot water last for all seven minutes of your shower.  What extravagance!  What luxury!

Three cheers for Derek!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome and I am so happy for you! I am so impressed that you installed it yourselves. I am giving you the Boy Scout Water Heater Installation Merit Badge.

    I really want to use a lot of exclamation points on this. I don't know what I would do if I had to pay such ATTENTION to showering. I would not be able to solve the world's problems during my shower (please note that all solutions disappear as soon as the water is turned off).

    Now I am going to read about bats.


Studies show that that people who leave comments are kind, intelligent, generous, creative, and have really nice hair.