Replacing a Water Heater is Easy, But Not in My House

When we got home from camping a few weeks ago, we took the Monday after off. Neither the husband nor I were feeling really great and we were still having digestive issues, the sort where you want to be home for. So we thought we’d relax a bit and recover. Alas, when we went to take a shower, the water was icy cold. Uh-oh…

Water heater replacement before photo.
Our old water heater.

Whenever something breaks in the house, the first thing I do is Google the problem. I swear Google, YouTube, and the internet were created for people who own old houses because you use them a lot. According to Google, and a subsequent YouTube video, our heating element had gone south. The repair looked easy enough and after a short trip to Home Depot, the husband had our hot water back. Hooray!! Three cheers!!! Except, he noticed what looked like a small seepage of water coming out of the front. Uh-oh…

We went back to work, but apparently, leaking water heaters are ticking time bombs. You just don’t want to leave them seeping away and hope for the best. An ignored leaking water heater tends to inconvenience your life by exploding and other such misbehavior, so best to tackle that pronto. We came to this realization on Wednesday afternoon, prompted by our co-worker’s concerns, so we rushed home to replace the water heater.

This is where it gets interesting. As you can see from the picture above, our water heater is located behind our kitchen sink because, as you might have guessed, our house wasn’t exactly designed with indoor plumbing in mind. In order to replace the water heater, it needs to go over the kitchen sink and counter. Yeah, it’s that awesome. We spent some time on Wednesday just psyching ourselves up to tackle the job. Then we drove to our local Home Depot and Lowes, compared the options, and picked out a new water heater. Our first bit of good luck was that the water heater fit into our car and we could drive it home ourselves.

Water heaters do not have handles. The metal sides of water heaters are slippery. Water heaters are very heavy. At this time, the husband had some choice words I can’t repeat here to say about why someone, knowing these facts, would put a water heater behind the sink. Nevertheless, because the bottom was all rusted out and the husband is very manly, we were able to get a hold of it and push it over the sink and out of the area. Yay!!!

Thursday morning, we found ourselves with a new water heater in the living room and the old water heater in the middle of our kitchen and no hot water. I thought that if we used rachet straps with robe handles attached, we could make handles for the water heater and get the new one over the sink and the old one out of the house. Keep in mind, both heaters had to go up and down small spiral stairs, another idea that pre-dates large indoor plumbing items like water heaters and bathtubs. I really thought we were going to have more trouble but with the handles, we were able to transport both water heaters fairly well. Once the old water heater was out, someone came by within an hour to take the old one away for free saving us $250 fee for junk removal. Yay!!!

Water heater replacement after photo.
Our new water heater!

The cheering was short-lived however. While the husband was cleaning out the area and plugging up enormous holes he found in the cinder block walls (likely mice access), the drywall walls sort of collapsed and we discovered all manners of rot and decay behind the drywall (more cursing and foul language). No one likes to see collapsing anything in their house and we were really freaked out. However, once we calmed down and a neighbor took a look and told us how we can fix the walls, we decided it’s best to know what you’ve got rather than not. At least the area is not technically part of the house, being outside of any load bearing area. We’re leaving it for now until we can save up for the supplies to properly waterproof and finish. We might just leave it since it’s easier to get around back there now.

I wish we had a dollar for every time someone told us that replacing a water heater is an easy task. We could have gotten a nice lunch out of it. For the record, the actual installation of the water heater took about 15 minutes. However, the moving of water heaters around was a little more tricky and we didn’t plan on the impromptu demolition. I’m surprised we were able to handle it on our own and it’s nice to add another accomplishment to our house maintenance resume.

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