Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stress, stress, and more stress...

If you are my friend on facebook you already know this story.  I'm sorry it's so long...I was feeling a little wordy today.  I really need to learn to be more concise.  ;)

On Wednesday I went to hop in the shower and discovered that the hot water heater was not working.  We tried shutting it off and turning it back on, but it never would warm.  A daycare parent, with a house by the same builder, told me their water heater (the standard one installed during that time-frame) had broken a couple years ago.  They woke up one morning and heard a hissing sound, and went to find it had cracked down the side and water was spraying out.  Hmmm.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I did nothing but assume our water heater needed to be replaced.  We left the water on, left the heater on, and just waited.

On Thursday morning, Mitch went to take a cold shower, and discovered that it was actually warm.  Strange, but fortunate I thought.  I got a shower.  :)  On Friday just before lunch Micah came upstairs to let me know that the floor in the room where the boys sleep was squishy wet.  Soaked.  I went downstairs to inspect.  That room is on a side of the house where there are no pipes.  The only places water could come into the room would be from the laundry room, which shares a wall, or from a leak in the basement foundation.  Inspection of the laundry room showed no obvious signs of water--none on the floor, none visible on the walls.  But the boys' room was soaked nonetheless.

I had to get to the bottom of it, literally.  So Micah and I began cleaning as much as we could while still doing lunch, taking care of kids, etc.  I had a small hope that maybe some naughty boys had dumped buckets of water on the carpet.  Sadly, that was not meant to be.  We began moving things out of that room, which is basically 9x10 and held a full size bed, and a bunk bed that used to be a twin-over-full, but is converted to be twin over two toddler beds.  It's wall-to-wall beds in there.

I took a flashlight and went into the laundry room again to find water hiding in some dark corner.  I did.  It was the water heater.  Water was trickling out and instead of heading toward the drain in the laundry room it was heading toward the boys' bedroom.  We figure our basement floor must be slanted.  :(  All we could do was empty the bedroom.  Then we had to wait for help.  I knew Mitch was only going to be home for about 45 min between school and leaving for the YFU orientation.  So I called my father in law, Paul.  He had equipment we needed anyway.  He and Mitch moved the dryer out of the laundry room so they could actually get at the water heater and determined that it was indeed the source of the problem.  Thinking about the wet blankets in my washing machine and rain in the forecast, I mourned the loss of use of my dryer.  Paul helped us get the carpet ripped up, throw out the pad, and get fans running under the carpet to dry it.  He also emptied the water heater.  All this time, Micah was his constant helper while I dealt with the rest of the kids.

We were thinking we were out of the woods.  Sort of.  Stop the water before it spreads.  One 9x10 room is not so bad, right?  Saturday's weather was mild enough to get my wet blankets dried on the line outside.  On Saturday night (I haven't had a shower since Thursday, remember), I loaded up all the kids and took them to Kyle & Holly's for baths/showers.  On Sunday I tried not to think about it.  I couldn't help but worry about the next shower or how in the world I was going to get my laundry done.

Monday morning Devona picked up Micah, Eden, and Caleb to administer their Iowa Basics Standards Tests since she is testing her children this week and they are the same sections/times/instructions.  She took with her some laundry to wash and dry at her house.  Later in the day Kelly stopped by and picked up 3 more loads--one that I washed here so it could go straight to her dryer, and two more to wash.

When I went downstairs to get the laundry, that's when I found more flooding.  See, we had shut off water to the water heater, but anytime we used cold water at the faucets, the vacuum would pull water backwards through the hot water pipes and was refilling the water heater.  We had a hose run from the water heater drain to the laundry room floor drain.  This hose was running as often as we were using cold water (which was often enough, especially when I ran the washing machine).  The hose got kicked out of place and onto the hallway floor, drenching more carpet.  While Kelly watched my kids, I ripped up that carpet and threw away the pad, then got it propped up so it could begin to dry. 

Discouraged doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.  But in the midst of it, I also felt encouraged.  I was surrounded by friends with offers to help.  My laundry was getting done.  I knew when and where my next shower was going to be (Monday night at Kelly's), and the oldest 3 would be taking showers at Devona's.  Plus Devona was going to drop Kathi off at another friend's house (Todd & Karri) for a shower when she got home.  Karri stopped by Monday afternoon and surprised me with a turtle fudge sundae from Culver's.  In the midst of my stress and chaos, I was being built up.

Later Monday evening we closed all the hot water valves at the faucets, and also disconnected the hose and shut off the drain to the hot water heater.  If it does refill with water, it will leak, but probably only into the room where it leaked before and the carpet is still up.

Today Devona is doing 2 more loads of laundry for me.  That will get me at least until the weekend, then I can go to a laundry mat if needed.  We will continue to rotate around for showers as needed.  (With the water shut off, the faucets in the tub will not bring any water at all, not even cold water.  Otherwise we would fill the tubs, then add boiling water to warm them.  Or some of the brave people in my home would be willing to suffer 50 degree F showers.)  We heat water on the stove to wash dishes, and I try to keep it warm throughout the day for hand-washing too.

Our search for a new water heater is not going well.  We called a couple places, but they quoted us over $2400 for the heater and installation.  We have a friend who can install it for us if we buy one, but none of the stores we have called have anything larger than a 50-gallon tank in stock.  With a family our size, 79 gallons doesn't keep up sometimes.  I don't even want to think about what that means if we downsize.  We are considering tankless, but that will require changing the pipes, as well as the venting.  As in, the venting that runs through the finished ceiling of the basement.  Could we run it through the back wall of the garage?  Possibly, but not tomorrow.  And not cheaply. You know, this is one of those things where I was thinking a new water heater costs around $300-500.  Wowzers, I'm having a little bit of sticker shock here.

The boys have no bedroom to sleep in, so they are sleeping every night in our living room on a mattress and/or the couches.  I have a new baby who gets up at night, so I'm tired and short on sleep.  There are many end-of-the-school-year activities going on.  I'm still doing daycare.  Mitch is using his precious few minutes of planning time during school to try to call people for quotes or advice.  Stress, stress, and more stress!  This is not all that's stressing me out, though.  The water heater is enough on its own, but there are a few other things too.  It all adds up, and it feels like it came all at once.  How will I ever manage to get everything done?  Even if I just narrow it down to the important things...

Remember how much cleaning we did in the basement a week ago?  I'm really glad we did it, because this mess could have been much harder to deal with.  But looking at how it looks now, it feels like we didn't accomplish a thing.

 Looking longingly at my dryer...which is a TV stand now...even the treadmill stands unused, holding an empty laundry basket...

 Carpet I flooded and ripped up yesterday...

 Just enough walking space to get to their clothes...

Carpet up and drying (big fans underneath), blocked off mostly for kids' safety.


  1. I can not even imagine what your family is going through!! I only have two kids and can barely keep up with the laundry and baths!! My heart and prayers go out to you! May your situation be resolved soon and hopefully with a price tag that is semi reasonable!

  2. Any way you could use two smaller water heaters? One that is hooked up mainly for laundry and dishwasher, the other for bathrooms? Not being a plumber, I have no idea how much work and or replumbing that would entail.

  3. I don't have a clue where we'd put a second water heater...there's no room. With our basement finished, the plumbing would be worse than doing the venting for a tankless, I think. We considered switching to electric, too, but we can't run the wiring to our electrical box (and now we know why people put drop ceilings in their basements). I found a 75 gallon tank at Home Depot in Coon Rapids (about 50 miles from us, but soooo many days closer!), so Mitch is going to look into that tonight. :)

  4. In times like this, you really get to see just how much God has blessed you with: many friends and relatives who are willing to allow you to do your laundry and take showers at their houses, a husband who works hard to provide a good sound home for you, and children who are helpful and tolerant.