Value of a Hot Shower

This is going to be one of those posts that likely has no image… or at the very least a completely non-sequitur image.  It always feels weird to say “own a house” when in truth the bank owns it and you are just paying it off very slowly.  However that is in fact the correct term, and the biggest problem with that equation is that you are on the hook when things go horribly wrong.  At this point our house has had most everything major replaced but there are still a few outliers that exist from when the house was built in 1979.  Yesterday morning things went horribly wrong and the end result was me taking a very very very cold shower.

For a few weeks we had noticed reduced water pressure in the shower on the hot side and the fact that it was no longer blending the hot and cold water.  This lead us to take very quick showers because the water reached scalding temperatures, but was something we more or less were living with.  The goal was to somehow make it to spring break and then deal with it then as my wife could be around the house to schedule someone to come check it out.  As of yesterday morning however we had no water pressure on the hot side and the only option was a very frosty shower experience, which I opted for…  my wife being the smarter of us figured out some other solution.

Now we do have a shower upstairs in what is more or less the “cat bathroom” and where we keep the litter boxes.  The only problem there is we have never actually used it and while I have this awesome Tardis themed shower curtain up there…  we never actually got a proper shower liner to turn it into a functional experience.  This has since been remedied in case we were stuck using that shower until we were able to sort out what was going on.  The truth is when I was confronted with the ice cold north of a full on cold shower on a 15 degree outside day…  I completely forgot about the upstairs option.

Our heating and air company also does plumbing work, so we opted to call them and see if they could work us in.  I did have a fairly busy day of meetings, and my wife decided she was going to get a sub and take the afternoon off so she could deal with that.  They originally had us scheduled for some time late afternoon around three or four.  I got a call at 10:20 in the morning saying they had an availability if I could meet them there…  so as a result I wound up rushing home and taking the afternoon off anyways.  The fact that we were both ultimately going to be off at the same time was a bit of a blessing but at first it seemed annoyingly redundant.  However with my wife needing to get a last minute sub, we didn’t want to cancel and ultimately screw someone out of a job.

When the plumber got here…  he took one look at our 1979 original shower faucet and quite honestly didn’t want to touch it.  In modern systems there is a water shutoff valve that goes to the shower and allows you to turn that off separately.  In our house so many things were done in a less than intelligent manner, and as a result the only way to shut the shower off is to shut the entire water off to the house.  Even this is its own hassle because we have no water main shutoff in the house and instead have to turn it off at the curb.  Basically his concern was that he would get into the shower and be unable to fix it….  and have the whole thing basically disintegrate in the process leaving us with no water at all to the house.

His assessment is that we had something jammed inside the shower valve, and that it more than likely came from the hot water heater which in itself says proudly on the unit that it was made in 1974.  His remedy was that we ultimately needed to replace the hot water heater to keep this from happening again, and replace the shower.  The problem with the second part of that equation is that it would involve either tearing out the existing fiberglass shower surround…  or ripping into the wall of our bedroom that backs up to the shower.  They would be able to handle cutting the hole, installing a shutoff system and a new shower…  but we would need to purchase our own shower fixtures and get someone to take care of putting in an access panel when they had finished.

This was less than a simple process because for the hot water heater… we had to schedule another person to come out and give us the estimate.  Thankfully they could come out yesterday and around 1:30 or so they popped in for literally less than ten minutes and via an iPad app emailed us an estimate.  Once you added everything up…  the shower work, the hot water heater, bringing things up to code and getting the end product inspected it tallied roughly $3000.  There was a lot of sticker shock in that equation as well given that a hot water heater at a big box store is in the $500-600 range.

This set us down an alternate path, because if we were looking to spend that sort of money…  we wondered what just replacing the shower and having a contractor take care of all of it would cost us.  My wife put out a message on Facebook and one of her friends that she trusts mentioned that her brother was a contractor.  We called him to see if we could get an estimate on what it would take to just replace the downstairs shower completely given that we have never really liked it.  It turned out that while he worked in other towns, he actually lived in our town and could swing by that afternoon.

Within a few minutes of him being there, he decided that we should just try and fix the problem before getting entangled in a bigger project.  He balked that the plumber was unwilling to work on this unit and figured it was far better built than he had given it credit for.  So he started dismantling the shower faucet all the while my wife and I were hoping things would end up being okay.  He got everything taken apart and sure enough… there was a little bit of what looked like paint or maybe thin plastic that was jamming up the valve.  With some tweezers he extracted it and then for good measure turned the water on to blow out any other debris.

This caused some minor flooding…  but only because the water shot out so hard that it bounced off the back wall of the shower and out through the crack in the door and onto the floor.  My wife and I hurried scrambled to get some towels to soak it up but in the grand scheme of things it was a minor hazard to deal with given that the problem was actually being fixed.  It took a bit longer to reassemble than to take apart because lining up the screw holes was a little awkward.  However within thirty minutes start to finish we had a working shower again.

The funny thing is… he didn’t want to take any money for the work he has just done.  We had to basically force him to take some because ultimately his few minutes of time that he thought nothing about…  saved us from having to deal with $3000 at that moment.  This morning I took the best shower I have taken in years, and it is funny how much better a day goes when the little things like that are working as intended.  I think the best part of yesterday is that we now have contact with a really excellent contractor and handyman type for when we need him in the future.

At some point we really would like to properly remodel the bathroom, and I am sure when we do we will give him another call.  However for the moment he was absolutely our savior in being willing to take on something that scared the hell out of both of us.  Sure we still need to replace a hot water tank and sure we probably should make it so that you can get into the shower from our bedroom via an access panel.  All of those things though can now be carefully planned instead of pure blind reactionary mode, which is a huge positive as far as I am concerned.

One thought on “Value of a Hot Shower

  1. Hah, I just had the hot water stop running in our shower. I took apart the shower handle and cleaned out the cartridge. It appeared to have accumulated hard water deposits over time. Re-installed it and it worked. Man that plumber really did not know what he was doing.

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