ACK! Our Water Heater Went Bust!

Remember that post not so long ago on how homes can be ticking time bombs? Well, ours just went off and it came totally out of nowhere.  Which always seems to happen w/home ownership, doesn’t it?  One minute all is well, and the next you’re freakin’ out cuz $hit has hit the fan and you have no idea what the damage is gonna be by the end of it – I hate it.

And the funny thing is, the heater had been jacked up for quite a while but I didn’t even realize it! The Mrs. went looking for things in our basement last week, and the next thing I know she’s crazy upset about our water heater leaking.  And I’m like, “What? No it’s not. That’s just Bob (our decrepit cat) peeing outside his litter box again – it’s fine.”  “Ummmm, no. Look at that yellow line of water trickling down, and then covering the entire bottom of the cylinder!  You think Bob has SUPER pee??” Haha… okay, well I made that last part up, but it would have been funny if she added that there ;)

Unfortunately though, she was right. As wives usually are.  Our heater had been leaking for MONTHS, and this whole time I just chalked it up to poor Bob who took the brunt of my verbal abuse every single time I went to clean up that damn puddle.  Though I could have SWORN it smelled like pee!! I guess it was just all those chemicals slowly creeping out of that thing though…. arghhh…

Anyways, we researched online to see what the possible issues were and of course freaked ourselves out even more. “It can explode, watch out!” “Don’t try and fix it yourself cuz you’ll get electrocuted!!” and so on and so on, the stories went.  Now, I’m a smart man with a lot of things, but the one area I fail at miserably is being a handy man.  I don’t have the natural  instincts that come along with it, and I certainly don’t have the patience.

So rather than poking all around trying to find some loose bolt or easy fix that would only temporarily fix the problem (the first thought I literally had was “Just put tape on it!”), we decided to call up a pro and pay the fee to get to the heart of the problem ASAP.  To which I credit my lovely wife for doing all by herself while I was blogging away in the other room telling her it was all gonna be fine ;)  I like to stay positive even if I’m about to be bent over and stuck with a crazy hefty bill at the end of it.  What can you really do, right?  Things break!

So, the plumber comes over (btw – you call a plumber for this kinda stuff, I didn’t know that), and takes one look at it and goes, “Oh yeah, you need to replace that bad boy fast. There’s no telling when it’s gonna pop.”

Crap. Now, I know he could have been blowing smoke up my a$$ and I’d never even know it, but everything he said made a lot of sense and the heater WAS 11 years old – 5 over what the warranty even covered.  And not only that, but the guy said whoever installed it back then did a piss poor job of it and all that duct tape and exposed wire should NEVER have been used on it to patch things up (see – makes sense, right??).  He said the previous owners probably went to Home Depot and either did it themselves, or hired a crap subcontractor to come out and install it himself.  Either way, he said it would be taking a risky bet if you continue to just let it be… even though we’d been getting away with it for months without us even realizing (scary!).

He pretty much came up with three options for us:

  1. Replace the entire thing, equipment and all, through their company for $1,200.
  2. Replace the entire thing equipment and all,  through them again – but with a larger model that does the exact same thing for $1,000.
  3. Or go out and buy/install it ourselves for probably $500-$600 when all was said and done.

Naturally I nixed #3 right away as there was no way that was happening. And even if I DID try it and take my time, etc, etc, it would AT BEST come off the way it was before with all kinds of duct tape and weird wires hanging all over – so not a safe bet. The #1 option was tempting just cuz it would be an exact replica of the one we already had pretty much, plus some new “bladder” that was needed to help relieve pressure in the future (which ours didn’t have, and could have been the main culprit in our leaking problem), but then saving $200 was also a nice deal with option #2 – which also came with said bladder. The only difference between them was the physical shape of the unit – either short and fat, or tall and thin.  And what do I care about that, as long as it fit in its designated area?

So of course we went with option #2 :)  $1,000 down the drain, but at least we have a spanking new unit now which should be great for when we sell/rent out in the future!  There’s now way I’m gonna be here for another 11 years, that’s for sure, haha…  And a damn good thing we had an Emergency Fund set up too!  Which is EXACTLY what this thing is there for, even though we hadn’t touched it in years.  So we just put it back on the list of goals to fill back up, and we keep on trucking from there…

And that’s the story of our lives over the past week. It hasn’t been fun, but at least it’s over with now! And at the end of the day you can only control so much out there :) So we put it behind us and we look to brighter skies ahead.  Hope y’all have been fairing better than we have lately! Feel free to leave any of your troubles below and we can all bitch and moan together ;)

PS: We also looked into tankless water heaters in our search – and asked the plumber guy about it too – but that would have been a good $4,000-$6,000 package in the end, no thanks.  We’ll have to wait until we build our home from scratch one day ;)  #87 on the “J. Money wish list!”

PPS: If you’re a newbie home owner like me, make sure to DRAIN your water heater once a year too to keep it healthy!  We had no idea you had to do that, and it probably added to our eventual leakage.  All you do is plug a hose to the spigot and let it drain out for a bit.  Nothing too hardcore, but just to release buildups.  A good thing to know! :)

(Photo by nffcnnr)

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  1. Michelle April 30, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    Ours is most likely going to go out soon. I think it’s around 18 or 19 years old. Not looking forward to that!

  2. Stephanie April 30, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Ours is something like 15 years old. Currently trying to decide whether to replace it soon or wait until it goes on its own (and hope it isn’t with a bang!).

    But my main source of financial woe is the quote we just got on having a chain link fence installed in our back yard. It’s about 40% more than we had hoped to pay (although to be fair, we had no idea what it would actually cost). We can afford to do it, but we’d have to put off a few other projects in the meantime. Here’s hoping quotes #2 and #3 are significantly lower, though! ;-)

  3. callmewhatyouwantevencheap April 30, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    It sucks to have to dish out that kind of money at once. Look at the bright side, at least you have an emergency fund.

  4. Michael April 30, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    If you want to be able to extend the life of your water heater, you should Google ‘water heater sacrificial anode’. It’s a very important maintenance step that reduces tank corrosion & probably 90+% of people haven’t even heard of them before.

  5. WR April 30, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    I have replaced several of these myself.

    If I am reading this correctly, you have already contracted to have this done. If you have not already pulled the trigger then consider DIY.

    Get a Sharkbite installation kit. DIY plumbing will never be the same.

    Honestly, the hardest part of this job is getting the old one out. can never quite get all the water drained and they can be heavy. just get a good hand truck and a friend to help.

    My fav was the one where the previous homeowner installed a new heat pump exchange in front of the existing water heater. I had to cut a hole in the wall to get the old one out. good times !

    If you have already paid to have it done it is not the end of the world. you are only paying a few hundred bucks for the labor part.


  6. Rachel211 April 30, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Even though we had that issue where it wasn’t REALLY the water heater that was leaking, we used the opportunity to switch from a 50 gallon to an 80 gallon and considered it an investment in the house.

    Something sort of similar happened when our air conditioner went out – we had to replace the entire thing. However, in the near future we are hoping to convert our garage into a family room and we used that opportunity to upgrade to a larger unit that would cover that additional square footage. Also the new unit saved us $50 A MONTH off our electric bill! Our old one was a piece of energy sucking junk and we didn’t even know it. It cost us just shy of $4k to replace inside and outside – but after 2 years we have saved $1200 in our electric bill.

    So now, after being in the house for just 5 years, the roof was replaced before we moved in, the house was completely flipped and remodeled before we moved in, new AC now, and a new water heater now. So (knock on wood) most everything that regularly needs to be replaced is now less than 5 years old! :)

  7. Kandace April 30, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    We got extra lucky with our house. In the last almost 4 years, we’ve replaced (in order of when the fun went down!) the dishwasher, water heater, HVAC, range, fridge, and gutted a bathroom due to a leak. $$$ Luckily we didn’t blow our entire house fund on the down payment. Next up– exterior painting and a new fence. It never stops. Windows and doors need to be replaced soon too. Praying for hail damage when we need a new roof!

  8. This Aggie Saves April 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Good thing you got it taken care of before it started flooding the place!

  9. Kurt @ Money Counselor April 30, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I had the same experience a couple of months ago. One of the ‘joys’ of homeownership I guess–you know something’s going to hit you; you just don’t know when and for how much! I checked out the tankless too, and like you decided the upfront cost was just too much. Lots of re-plumbing I guess. Still, it seems like a more sensible way to go than keeping those 40 gallons of water hot all day, every day.

  10. Nick April 30, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Man that stinks! I had a water heater burst 3 days (maybe 2, but I don’t remember) after buying a 3 family brownstone back in 2003. Then the pipes burst two weeks later. I thought it was never going to end (it slowed down a bit…). I don’t like to think about those first three months very much….

  11. DebtsnTaxes April 30, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    We are probably going to have to replace our water heater too. I’ve already had to replace a leaky pipe that was coming out of it, which was simple. Not looking forward to that expense but I should be prepared for it when it does happen. I was thinking about going with the tankless on-demand water heater but now when I saw how much you were quoted, I’ll go with the cheaper option.

  12. J. Money April 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    @Michelle – Oh jeez, well at least you’ve got that much out of it so far!! That’s good! :)
    @Stephanie – Doesn’t that suck when that happens? We had the same shock when looking to replace our front door. Home ownership sucks out money!
    @callmewhatyouwantevencheap – Yeah, it could have been a lot worse.
    @Michael – Really? Haven’t heard of it myself either – though we already just sucked it up and replaced the whole thing… I’ll google to see what it’s about though, thanks :)
    @WR – Oh jeez, haha…. you had to cut out part of a wall??? You are a handy one! You’re right that we just had someone come in and do it all for us – and at more $$$ of course – but at this stage of my life I’d much rather have a professional do it than me. If I wasn’t working my a$$ off w/ all this online stuff, it would be a different story :) Maybe I can do that stuff when I “retire?”
    @Rachel211 – Awesome!!!! And good for you on thinking about the future and investing the money where needed – I didn’t even think about upgrading the heater, haha… would love to see pictures once you get that garage turned! Sounds like an excellent idea :)
    @Kandace – Haha, I catch myself wishing for disasters too some days ;) Just have it all wiped away and start fresh. I know I’d miss a lot of stuff, but at the same time it would be so freeing too!
    @This Aggie Saves – I know, THAT would have been even worse :(
    @Kurt @ Money Counselor – For sure. And the funny thing I was just telling my wife is that nothing crazy had happened in the last year or two! I jinxed us! :)
    @Nick – Awwwww, that does suck bro. Esp so early on like that :( I hope things stay better for you!
    @DebtsnTaxes – Yeah, the guy said if you were building one from scratch then it makes a lot more sense, especially financially, but it’s hard to swallow when you do a swap out like that. Lots of work is involved.

  13. Jules April 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    One of our hot water heaters sprung a leak about 2 weeks before Christmas in 2010. Fun times! Fortunately we have the most trustworthy plumbing service on the planet (AAA Auger rocks!), so we were in good hands — good, expensive hands. I think we shelled out about $1K for that, and right before Christmas made it all the more painful. The same week we also had a water leak in our yard. We put the plumber on speed dial.

    Just a few more reasons for having a well-established emergency fund.

  14. Angella April 30, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    That sucks! One of the many good reasons of having an emergency fund! Our house drama would be carpenter bees. I heard a crunching noise in the window and after a little investigating, found holes. A completely hollowed out window trim. We thought all the bees were just bumble bees (big gardens over here), but nooo, they’re carpenter bees, and they eat your house. I had no idea. I counted no less than 15 holes so far. We’ll have our hands full fixing those, but thank goodness it didn’t turn out to be termites!

  15. Stephanie April 30, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    I totally feel you! My old reliable 2004 car died on Monday after work. Turns out I needed a new fuel pump so on Wednesday waved g’bye to $1300 after hubby took a half-day to look at it (which is an income loss of around $250) I think the dang thing knew I was looking to upgrade that day.
    The worst part of it is that on Saturday night we were going to go out to eat and the mfer wouldnt’ start again. Another $65 tow to go literally 1 mile away back to the shop. I’m sooo pissed this morning! When it rains it pours and TG for EFs!

  16. Ryan April 30, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Sorry to hear that. Now if only you had an unexpected windfall of just over the thousand you had to spend… :)

  17. Tammy April 30, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    We owned a home for years and our friend does this stuff for a living so we had him inspect it every couple of years, make repairs, etc. There were never any major issues. We sold our home and are renting for a year now to check out a better neighborhood. The burner went out five times over the winter and it was a mild one. The landlord made Mickey Mouse repairs and we’ve gotta get outta this place before next winter…

  18. Cordelia April 30, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    My husband and I swear up and down that we should have just bought a condo as our first home. We are not handy people, and the perils of owning a 1945 house where nearly everything is the original piping/electrical/etc. means we were just asking to learn about how many things can go wrong with a house.

    Last month, our dryer stopped working. It was a brand new dryer, which thankfully had a digital readout that let us know the vent was blocked. (If it had been our old ’80s Craigslist dryer, it would have kept running and we would have been none the wiser.) Turns out our vent hose had in inches of lint buildup and about a bucket of water in it, which was keeping the dryer from venting anything and most likely sending all sorts of stuff back into the air in our basement. We could have been a minute away from a fire.

    Luckily, though, it did solve the mystery of why our brand new dryer took like 2 hours to dry one load of laundry.

    Sometimes I’m not the quickest on the uptake. :P

  19. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 30, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    My water heater needs to be replaced soon. Definitely thinking about going waterless, just depends on when it goes bust and how much money I have saved up.

  20. 20's Finances April 30, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Like I said on twitter when it happened, home ownership has its perks. ;) I would probably be without hot water for a couple days and my landlord would have waited until it stopped working (and probably hired some crappy contractor to replace it). How’s that for bitchin’ and moaning? ;)

  21. Jen @ Master the Art of Saving April 30, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    I didn’t know water heaters were so expensive to replace, my parent have like 3 or 4 in their house. That’s going to get spendy one day. Stuff like this makes me feel a little bit (not too much) better about being a renter right now.

  22. JP April 30, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    have you looked into a home warranty? you can purchase one on your home at any point. Our’s is about $300/year. if anything breaks, you call the homewarranty company, they send someone out for $40 (it’s $35 for our rental place that we have a warranty on as well). they fix it or if they determine it can’t be fixed, they replace it (installation and all) – nothing extra on top of that $40 to send someone out. i’m still not exactly sure how these companies make any money, because one thing breaks a year and you’re pretty much ahead. might be someting to at least look into.

  23. Joe @ Retire By 40 April 30, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    I’m getting nervous about our hot water heater too. It’s old. I need to check on it more often.
    Today, I just fixed the microwave! The handle’s screw mount broke off and I was going to order a new handle ($67), but I took it apart first. I noticed there is another screw mount and I just drilled a new hole and it’s fixed! yay.

  24. April 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    That sucks, but consider yourself fortunate that you at least had some warning and didn’t wake up at 3 AM with 6 inches of water on your floor, as happened in our household once. Then was the panic of, “how do we cut the electricity to this thing before it blows up??!!” On the positive side, you had that $1,001. bonanza to cushion the shock. What can I say? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away . . . ;)

  25. Wayne @ Young Family Finance April 30, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    Another problem with tankless that most people don’t think about is regular maintainance. If you don’t have a water system, you’ll be paying the plumber to come out every year and clean the pipes out. It’s just one more expense for having infinite hot water.

  26. Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey May 1, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    Rejoice and be glad that you have the emergency fund where you can get funds in situations like these. We learned our lesson the hard way when our heater broke down during the winter.

  27. philip May 1, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I bought my house a little over 4 years ago… the water heater has a date on it of 1983!!!! Still seems to put out nice hot water and plenty to be able to take care of everything I need. It has tripped an internal switch a couple times and has rust spots all over it, probably should replace it, but it is in the garage where if it did leak it would get a couple things wet but just run out for the most part without doing much damage.

    So sorry for your poor cat getting all the blame for your water heater “peeing” on the floor.

  28. J. Money May 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    @Jules – Jeeeez sucks! Def. good you have someone you know and trust though – that makes it a TON better. I wish I had plumber friens :)
    @Angella – Woahhhh!! Freaky!! We have bee problems around our deck too – no fun. We just keep paying for pest people to come out and treat it cuz it’s too much for us to handle ourselves.
    @Stephanie – NOOoooo!!! I’m so sorry, friend! That blows hardcore, what a mess… I do believe in even Steven though, so it means you’ll be having an INCREDIBLE week soon!! You wait for it! :)
    @Ryan – Haha… are you talking about a certain windfall from a certain Ramit? ;)
    @Tammy – Yikes! People alwaayyyyyyys try to do cover up stuff and do things on the cheap – it sucks sometimes. I mean, we can all understand why and the money that it all entails, but jeez. Sometimes if you do it right in the first place it lasts a lot longer and IS cheaper in the end! I hope you guys find a nice home soon :) Sounds exciting!
    @Cordelia – Hahaha… we’re still rockin’ our Craiglist dryer too ;) 4 years and going strong so far! We bought it from a chick in this mansion who was upgrading after a year or two, haha… THOSE are the good finds ;)
    @Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Yeah, waterless is def. the way to be in a perfect world. I hope you get one in the future too!
    @20’s Finances – Haha… well, I’d gladly go w/out water for a few days than pay $1000 ;) But yeah, Def. hear ya. Lots more control w/ home ownership for sure. For better or for worse.
    @Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – Haha, good! I miss renting right now ;) And not all water heaters are that bad, but if you get someone to install it and not do it yourself, the money starts piling up. The tanks themselves are only a few hundred dollars or so (at least for 50 gallons), but just like other stuff it’s paying for that time for someone to install it :(
    @JP – Huh. I didn’t know you could get one for your house at any time?? That’s interesting. I know we had one when we first bought the house (and we TOTALLY would have kept paying for it if I was in the same position then financially as I am now), but I didn’t know you could add one on later… I’m gonnna look into! For future stuff at least – this one’s already too late.
    @Joe @ Retire By 40 – Haha good job! Mr Handyman over there :) I didn’t realize you had to drain water heaters once a year to maintain it either – so if you’re doing that yours will probably last longer. Our guy said that probably contributed at least a little bit to it eventually leaking.
    @richard @ – Haha yeah! I call it Even Steven :) Whenever you have bad days there’s always the looking forward to the good ones!
    @Wayne @ Young Family Finance – Yikes! Another thing that I def. don’t want to worry about, jeez… thanks for the heads up.
    @Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey – Oh no!!! Not fun, I’m sorry to hear that :(
    @philip – WOW yours is a beast of a heater! Haha… that’s awesome :) And yeah, I’ll make sure to give my cat an extra hug today from ya – he def. deserves it after all my antics!

  29. Long May 2, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    Man. So unlucky. I had a leak with our water heater (very similar circumstances) in our first year of owning the house. Luckily, we were still covered by the home warranty so we got everything replaced and up to code for the service fee.

    Didn’t know about the draining thing though. Thanks for the tip : )

    Man. So awesome that you have the emergency fund in place. This would have been a credit card or payday loan disaster for someone who was not prepared.

  30. J. Money May 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    I know! Scary!! Gotta keep that E Fund ready at all time – just never know :( glad yours was covered by the home warranty too – you saved yourself a pretty penny! :)