Archive for January, 2014

And then our house rebelled…

In what can only be described as a one-two punch of home-ownership havoc, our washer officially died right on the heels of the big plumbing debacle that we detailed for you guys yesterday. Yup, remember when we mentioned that we hoped it would be a simple and inexpensive fix here? Well, the appliance gods must have been softly giggling as we typed that.

The repair guy took one look at the corroded interior of our old machine (rusted bolts, a broken belt, etc) and said “I could attempt to band-aid this for $200, but I don’t think it would run for very long – honestly, I wouldn’t put another dollar into this machine.” And that was coming from the man who would be taking said money… so… not a good sign. But we definitely appreciated his honesty.

And that’s how we suddenly found ourselves digging back into our “emergency fund” just days after writing a plumbing check to go laundry appliance shopping. We briefly considered trying to get something secondhand (from the ReStore, Craigslist, etc) but we decided that to spend once on something for the long haul would be more settling than getting another “in the meantime” fix and hoping it held out. So after checking out a few online appliance outlets, as well as some mainstream big box stores to see what was on the market, we hit the streets to check things out in person.

We had actually been looking forward to the eventual laundry appliance hunt, because we knew someday we’d get to upgrade these guys (the repairman guessed our washer was over twenty years old, so that’s a pretty good run!) but it was certainly nothing we expected to be embarking on so close to our little plumbing snafu.

When we moved in, we’d daydream about getting what I affectionately call “mac daddy appliances” someday (both in the kitchen and the laundry area) all of which would be pretty and sparkly and have all of the features we’d ever wanted (like projecting laser shows on the ceiling and making us waffles). Okay, maybe those last two are a stretch, but this sudden rush to get a working washer while our laundry piled up wasn’t the scenario we originally pictured ourselves shopping under (“what do you mean I can’t wait for a Presidents Day sale???”).

Luckily John’s parents welcomed us into their laundry room to do a couple of loads to tide us over while we researched and price-compared (and you better believe I asked John to do those loads so that if something broke he would be the one answering for it). Thankfully, we were able to catch up to our quickly-growing piles, and nothing broke on our watch.

We have sort of a new appliance mantra in this house, which is essentially that this time around we don’t want to just chase a deal. We want to do more research, be open to spending a bit more than before, and really think about the features we’ll enjoy and use, because we plan to be here for decades.

We got one of the best deals of our life on our last washer/dryer purchase because we selected the most heavily discounted models on the showroom floor (they were the same brand as our first set, which we liked, so it seemed like a no-brainer). But while we don’t regret the savings (nearly 50% off!), or the quality of them (they worked great for us), we did sacrifice some features in those heavily-discounted models that we ended up missing over time – like a digital display that showed the amount of time left in the cycle, for example. A little thing, yes, but something in retrospect that we would’ve paid extra for – especially since we had it in our first home’s washer & dryer, so we knew what we were missing.

After a ton of discussion and research, we narrowed our search criteria to the following:

Our search first lead us to this model (here’s the washer & the dryer) because it’s a Whirlpool and actually very similar to what we used at John’s parents house (they’ve had theirs around a year and have really enjoyed them so far). They each earned a 4.5 star review on Home Depot’s website too, so that was reassuring.

We narrowed our shopping zone down to Home Depot and Lowe’s, since we’ve had success there in our previous appliance hunts (prices from other vendors like Best Buy, HH Gregg, and sites like Whirlpool Outlet didn’t get as low as theirs for the same models) and both of our previous laundry sets were from Lowe’s.

The sale prices shown above and below are from both stores who each had them marked down 10% below MSRP and were running a 10%-off-all appliances promotion, which could be stacked. They also both were offering free delivery and haul away, and would honor 5% off if we used our store credit card (the Lowe’s card does it automatically, and if you ask Home Depot to do it at the register they should be able to manually apply that in the interest of “price matching” their competition).

Initially we were torn between the Whirlpool above and this extremely similar model from Maytag (here’s the washer & the dryer).

After hunting for some reason or review that would sway us towards one or the other (they both were very highly rated, had similar capacities, similar Energy Star ratings, and identical price tags), this third option appeared to us at Home Depot (here’s the washer & the dryer). It was just a slight step-down from the ones above (the washer capacity is .3 cubic feet less – oh the sacrifice!) and the front is designed differently (no gray trim, and no window into the dryer). But the price tag promised to save us over $130 between the pair and their online review boasted a nearly 5 star rating – which was better than the other two we had been weighing!

Home Depot carried it in stock (the display price of $724 was before the 10% off promotion was applied) but Lowe’s didn’t. They offered to special order it for us, but they’d only be able to apply one of the 10% discounts. We showed them the printout that Home Depot had given us that showed $651 as the final price (before the additional 5% credit card discount was applied at checkout) and they said they’d price match it. But ultimately we gave our sale to Home Depot, since they were the ones to show us this option first, as well as having it in stock (truth be told, we liked that salesperson better there too, so we wanted him to get the credit).

In case all of those words make your brain hurt and you like images and arrows, here’s a cost breakdown (mostly because John takes great pleasure in making them).

We’re glad that we weren’t forced to pay full price due to being under the gun and needing to replace them rightthissecond instead of waiting for a special holiday sale, but it also felt good to take the time and make a detailed list of what we really wanted this time (and check out a bunch of reviews) instead of jumping on the “this one’s the cheapest” bandwagon. Honestly, even if these were less discounted, the features and reviews probably would have tipped the scales in their favor.

They’re set for delivery a little later today (WAHOOOOOO!) so we should have an update for you next week once they’re here and we’ve taken them for a spin.

We also have some plans for the floor under them in the laundry nook (there are actually small scraps of old carpet hiding under the ones we have now). So just cross your fingers that we don’t peel back those carpet scraps under the old washer and dryer to find a giant hole/huge leak/live animal/other debacle lurking. Don’t they say these things happen in threes? Le yipes.

Psst- None of the links in this post are affiliate links. Also, your hair looks pretty and I like your smile.

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As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by kschrav by JJModern
by Becky by WifeInProgress

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Leak Lessons: Volume 2

Lemme tell you, our master bathroom’s wallpaper wasn’t its only problem-to-be-remedied recently. So brace yourself while we weave a little plumbing tale that spanned over the last few weeks (in fact it just wrapped up a few days ago). You know how we solemnly swear to share the good, the bad, and the ugly? Well, this one can be filed under “the bad” and “the ugly” with a side of “the gross.” So for everyone’s sake, we’ll leave out the graphic pictures.

During the process of buying this house we noticed a very small, dried out water stain on the ceiling in the living room, right below where the master bathroom was. We and the inspector concluded it was likely from a toilet overflow from long ago, since the stain was only about 3″ wide and long dried up. So we weren’t too alarmed and just figured it was solved decades ago, so a little primer and ceiling paint were all that it needed. We never even photographed it, but here’s a hint as to where it was.

Then this fall, the toilet started to act up. Namely in that it would occasionally clog (this is your first hint to put down your breakfast) and when we attempted to plunge it, well, it would back-up into the shower. If that first hint didn’t work, something tells me you’re putting your breakfast down right about now.

Yeah, it was gross. And since a certain half of this relationship was already queasy from growing a tiny human, I was the only one on duty (a little pun to lighten the mood). Usually a bit more plunging and maybe a bit of snaking would fix the issue. I say “usually” because this happened more than once. And before you start judging our gastrointestinal prowess, I should note that this sort of back-up sometimes happened when the toilet wasn’t even involved  – maybe after a shower or after I shaved in the sink. We googled for answers and contemplated calling in a pro, but the “incidents” were few and far enough between that we figured we could hold out ’til we remodeled the room.

But last month came the back-up that plunging could not conquer.

***PHOTO OMITTED TO PROTECT YOUR DELICATE RETINAS***

And in all of my furious plunging, I managed to create a new water stain in the ceiling below. I’d later learn that all the pressure of such vigorous plunging had compromised the wax ring and water started leaking again. That was our cue to call in a pro. He removed the toilet, ran an 150 foot snake and dislodged what he concluded was “years worth of paper build-up” way down in our pipes somewhere. Phew! Problem solved.

Except it wasn’t. Fast forward another week and the shower starts to back-up again. In fact, it happens as I’m using the tub to fill up the steamer during may latest wallpaper removal spree. So not only was that process miserable on its own, I was doing it with a less than fresh-looking (and smelling) shower nearby. Not to mention that we’re both beyond frustrated that our first call to the plumber didn’t solve the problem. So yeah, clearly the picture below was taken before the back-up happened. Just look at me all footloose and fancy free.

Remember when I called this post-wallpapered look: “gas station bathroom.” I was really thinking it was more reminiscent of that scene in Trainspotting. Yeah, you know the one. And if you don’t, well, I highly suggest that you NOT google it right now. Okay, maybe our bathroom wasn’t that bad. But it was bad enough that I was embarrassed that this was the state the plumbers would see it in.

Then again, things didn’t get much prettier once they arrived. Now that I think about it, I guess they’ve pretty much seen it all.

The plumbing company sent a different guy this time and, after explaining the series of events, he had a pretty solid theory. But it meant cutting into our ceiling to confirm it. Welcome to our crash course in two-story home issues. Kinda made us miss the days where virtually everything was visible from a crawl space or attic.

His hunch was correct. All of the master bathroom plumbing was configured wrong. And it had been for 30+ years since they built this house. A key element – the slope of the main drain pipe – was incorrect. So rather than having gravity to help water leave the vicinity, it was actually sloped uphill – so water and sewage that should have been flushed down and out of the house would collect and pool and eventually back-up into the lowest opening in that bathroom (i.e. the shower). In the words of Clara: yuckaroo.

The only solution was to cut a bigger hole in the ceiling and have the experts replace all the plumbing. It even meant cutting out one of the load-bearing joists and reinforcing it with a new one so the new pipes could be configured at the right angle, so it was nothing that we dared to attempt ourselves.

Did we like having our house torn apart? No. But we were pretty relieved that the root of the problem was finally getting fixed. And I’ll admit that we were pretty entertained by the view through the floor.

It only took them a day to complete the task (they came back a few days after their initial diagnosis to get it done) along with a somewhat painful $650 check, but we were relieved that this hidden-behind-the-walls issue that had plagued this house for over three decades was finally solved. Which meant we could finally get back to our little bathroom update. And hey, while the toilet was removed, we were able to strip that small swatch of wallpaper that had been hiding behind the bowl, so that was kind of funny (very marginally at the time, but more so now).

But we were still left with that gaping hole in the living room ceiling well after the bathroom was trimmed out and painted.

We went back and forth about drywalling it ourselves – which basically involves mudding, taping, sanding, re-mudding, and re-sanding. Smooth ceilings are especially tricky (imperfections are a lot more visible up there) and we knew any remaining dents or seams would have bugged us forever, so we finally just pulled the trigger and called a highly recommended local drywall guy.

He fixed it flawlessly in a few hours for around $100, and was also very nice (he said Sherry looked like Topanga from Boy Meets World, which pretty much made our day). So now all we’ve got to do is prime and paint it.

Update: A few folks have asked if our home warranty would have covered this issue (that actually ran out before this fiasco) but it most likely would not, since this was an “existing condition” (the plumbing didn’t break after we moved in, it was configured this way for 30 years, so that’s not something typically covered by a home warranty).

These unplanned homeowner curveballs never feel good (especially when we’d rather be spending that money on fun updates that we can actually see and enjoy) but it’s nice to have things all put back together again. The irony is that we have another “oh the joys of home ownership” story unfolding (it’s still halfway-solved, so we’ll wait for the full resolution before crying on your shoulder). Please tell us we’re not the only ones. Regale us with some of your tales of woe in the plumbing/heating/other house systems arenas. We’re all in this together. Right?

Psst- The “Volume Two” part of this post’s title is thanks to this original leak lesson that we dealt with a few years ago at our last house. Best thing about that one is that it was something we could solve ourselves (read: zero benjamins).

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