Almost in hot water

For awhile, we’ve had problems with the water heater. A couple of mornings, there would be no hot water for showers, but, by the time we got home in the evening, things were back to normal. Once or twice, the circuit breaker for the water heater was tripped for no apparent reason. Also, there was this little, drip by drip, leak at the water heater’s base. With each little crisis, we thought the end was at hand…until the water heated up again. Finally, in an oddly belated manner, the water heater expired yesterday.

A couple of years after we bought 118 Henry Street, the original water heater had to be replaced. DeShawn and I did without hot water for a week before we could get a new one. The plumber that we contracted was a fairly typical Chester type. We used him for a trio of projects until we had spent about $1500.  At that point, I figured we had completely depleted our budget for plumbing labor for as long as we owned the house. We bought some books/tools and have been doing all the plumbing work since.

So, today, we did a water heater replacement.

This one is only 7 years old

Could be it failed so soon because it was a really cheap unit or because it was manhandled into the crawlspace or both. Easy to see what was going on after removing the thermostat cover. No doubt it had been leaking for some time. At the bottom of the thermostat, you can see a charred and somewhat burnt part of the plastic cover, in front of the upper heating coil. Not sure if the leak caused an electrical short or if we had a leak AND a short, but, for certain, the water was keeping the heat down (nervous laughter).

The new one is, at least, a name brand and we took the time to do a couple of minor upgrades.

In situ with a little crawlspace vignette

The best of the improvements was the Sharkbite braided connector hoses (more on these in a later post). Mark the calendars and we will see how long this one lasts!

Although the crawlspace at the front of the house is pretty tall, the water heater is 30”+ without hoses, the access door into the space is not so ample. We had to remove the door and the wood frame to get the water heater into the crawlspace.

Gapping hole meet new door

The old door was pretty beat up and rotted, so, of course, we took the time to fabricate a new one. For $9 in hardware, some pressure treated lumber we had laying around, and an hour or so, we got another 10-15 years. The weather was too cool for painting, that will have to wait for warmer days.

The arbitrary line(s)

We spent days in the crawlspace to get the utilities configured for the sewing room. Maybe 3x as long as the corresponding series of professionals would have used to get the dryer vent, electrical outlets, water lines and waste water drains in place. However, like childbirth, open heart surgery, or changing a baby’s dirty diaper, it’s done, and we can get along to the next phase.

Applying a good lesson from the mudroom makeover, we “blocked” the floor joists to strengthen and stabilize the area under the washer/dryer before closing up the hole in the addition floor.

Rigid and stiff (get your mind out of the crawlspace)

After the remainder of the sewing room is completed, we will get the plumbing “wet” when we take up the kitchen floor.

The crawlspace under the kitchen is only about 10” tall and filled with steam pipes, old water pipes, animal remains (including a dead squirrel), and construction debris from the various remodels. There was no room to run the final water/drain connections thru the mess. So…sometime about January, we will tearing up the entirety of the kitchen floor to clean it all out. Might as well fix all the kitchen floor problems while it’s open, sigh.

In the most basic definition of “room”, we now have a sewing “room” (also a “shop”). The partition wall is completely framed.

The view from the shop

The laundry corner for future reference

Restoring an old house is a perverse kind of fun, sort of like mountain climbing. Maintaining an old house is more like being on a strict diet, there are parts that are just not that enjoyable despite how good it’s supposed to be. Our water heater died today after a series of intermittent failures. Instead of spending the next budget installment on drywall or flooring for the sewing room, we will buying and installing a new water heater, sigh number 2.

Avoiding the vice of the aged

Long time readers (or comprehensive new readers) of 118 Henry Street know that we are very much about Re-use, Repair, Recycle where old materials and fixtures are concerned. Even within the technical confines of energy efficiency and safety, we find more than enough room for preserving the old house past. The whole of our “restoration paradigm” is succinctly contained in the 3 R’s. On less philosophic terms, much of 118 Henry Street is original and worth preserving.

Exempli gratia, the doors and door hardware. Our old house was always home to working families, so the fixtures, while period, were not “high end” even for the day. Most of the door and window hardware is not solid brass, instead, they are steel with a thin plating of brass. As we are a working family, like all those residents before us and most likely those after us, we will not replace all the hardware with solid brass.

With a little elbow grease and phosphoric acid, we can get another 90 years out of the old, appropriate door fixtures without destroying their history. These examples will be used for the sewing room.

Door plates, after and before

The magic in progress

Besides, why buy an old house to gut and rebuild as modern?

Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”   Albert Camus