Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tedious Home Owner Stuff

It's been a rough week or so on the home ownership front. A little more than a week ago, I accidentally flushed a washcloth down the hall toilet. Don't ask, but it was in the bucket of mop water. The plunger didn't get it out, nor did the snake. The loo was well and truly plugged. It was either pull the toilet or call a plumber.

So, I got this bright idea; since we've been meaning to replace the old water hog with a more environmentally friendly model, why not go to Lowe's and pick up a new toilet? One was duly researched and purchased.

But when we pulled the toilet up and scraped away the remains of the old wax ring (one of the most disgusting home repair jobs in existence), we discovered that the iron flange was cracked on the right side. So it's not possible to bolt the toilet down on both sides without doing a repair. We made an appointment for a plumber to come by to repair the flange and install the toilet.

This furnace is 37 years old.
 Then the furnace broke. Not a great thing this time of year. So we researched repair companies, and called one with the requisite rave reviews and ratings. He was able to get it working again, but unsurprisingly, he discovered that the heat exchanger is starting to develop a crack. Turns out our unit dates back to 1978, so it's at almost twice its life expectancy. It's not dangerous yet, but it's only a matter of time. So we're now researching and taking bids on a new heating and air conditioning system. We also need to replace the ducts and put more insulation in the attic.

This isn't going to be cheap.

And to make things more exciting, the plumber came when we were talking to the furnace repairman, and he said he's not allowed to repair the damaged toilet flange. All he can do is replace the whole flange for 700 bucks (this involves crawling under the house and cutting the cast iron pipe and welding a new one in place), or we can do our own easy repair with a flange plate from Lowe's or Home Depot on our own.

The bolts would be in the wrong place here.
 We opted for the latter, but we soon discovered that the flange repair plate from Home Depot didn't line up with the holes in the cast iron flange (which were at exactly 12 and 6) in a way that allowed the slots on the side to be in the correct position for tightening the bolts. There's no way to screw the flange repair plate in the correct position.

So I went to Lowe's this time and found a different plate with different hole positions, but it still didn't work. I did manage to take advantage of a post-Thanksgiving sale to purchase a new washing machine to replace the one that was in the process of dying (no longer draining water properly), so the drive wasn't a total loss.

When I got home, I went online to Amazon and found a flange plate that had the holes in the right place. I purchased it (the hall bathroom has been sans toilet for over a week now), and two days later, the thing arrived and it was the wrong one--identical to the plate I'd already purchased from Lowe's that didn't work. It was not the one pictured (instead looked like this product, which is a different shape and has holes in a different position). So I returned it and asked them to send me the product pictured, and they sent me the same one again! At this point, I gave up and asked for my money back. Clearly they had the wrong picture displayed for the product they were selling.

These two products are not equivalent.
I finally found a different product on Amazon that looked like what I wanted. This time, they sent me what I ordered, and hallalujah, it was the correct one and the holes lined up.

Except now we can't screw the plate cover to the flange, because the holes in the cast iron aren't threaded, and the wood underneath is old and in cruddy condition with what must be old water damage, probably dating back to when previous owners replaced the house's original toilet with ye olde 70s-era water waster (something else that will need repairing/replacing in the future and may push up the date for our projected bathroom remodels). So the whole plate wobbles. Not a good thing unless we want a rocking toilet.

So we're doing what we'd hoped to avoid all along. Drilling holes in cast iron, a very slow process. And it involves another trip to Home Depot tomorrow to purchase some self-tapping metal screws tomorrow.

All in all, it's been an expensive and harrowing week. It doesn't help that this all started right before Thanksgiving, and it's the busiest time in the semester for us, and it's my birthday week (all I want for my birthday is a working hall bathroom and a new and much more energy efficient furnace/air conditioning unit).

It looks like we're having the kind of fun people who own older homes do sometimes. This house was built in 1958, and it's very solid in most ways, but we've had to do repairs over the years--a new roof a few years back, and a replacement sewer main three years ago. Now we have the dying furnace and some issues with ancient plumbing.

And my car is on its last legs too in that it will soon need repairs that are so expensive that we're better off getting a new one, so the search for a replacement is in the works. That nice, secure feeling people get when they actually have savings for a rainy day is rapidly dissipating. This relentless parade of expenses is cleaning out the bank accounts.

Still, we're lucky. For many, dying appliances and plumbing mishaps are expenses they can't handle at all.

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