20 October 2007

This Old Motherfucking House: Episode III

Episode III: The Smoking Outlet

In Episode I, Colder Than A Witch's Tit, we watched Cowbell tackle home heating issues in the crawlspace.

Episode II, Snakes in a Drain, found the Cowbell family in a race against nature while battling blocked pipes.

Tonight, watch Cowbell scramble for the breaker box in today's shocking conclusion, The Smoking Outlet.

You know that old saying about bad things coming in threes? Yeah. But first, an update on that furnace bullshit from episode one.

So I spent an entire day on the furnace problem. The special order filters arrived. I measured, cut, wrapped, clamped, and dragged the whole maddening mess down to that coldass bitch called a furnace. The hammock didn't want to slide back in exactly right. Turns out I had the clamps on backward. The door didn't want to screw back on. I used a lot of duct tape on the door. There was cursing involved, and yes, some kicking. Not hard -- couldn't really draw back for a big wind up, given the limited space.

Also, I got that hole in the duct work repaired, which was a real bitch. It took hours and involved using a metal thing shaped like a Popsicle stick to reach the areas my fingers couldn't. You try getting duct tape into a space that small without it sticking in the wrong place, while achieving an airtight seal, and see how cheery your ass stays. I tried to pry off part of the wall to give me more room to work, only to find my insulation is not the modern-day, pink fiberglass style with a cartoon character on the back. My insulation is old school. As in sawdust. Prying off the wall would mean losing my insulation. Thus the Popsicle-stick method.

But it was done. I was sore, my hands were torn up, and I was pissy as hell, but it was done. And I didn't have to pay the furnace guy. Score! We were more than ready for some heat.

Ten minutes later, the power went out.

Seattle does not weather wind storms well. The power did not come back on until the next day. Our house, of course, had not even built up any residual heat to hold onto. All that work, for naught.

Remembering last year's big wind storm, I dragged Teen Demon back under the house with me to wrap the water heater in the special water-heater blanket, so we could at least hold onto the hot water for a while. That was another hour and a half, more cursing, more duct tape. No kicking. You try custom cutting fiberglass shit hunched over in a dark crawl space with a neurotic dog pacing and howling overhead, and see how foul-mouthed you get.

Anyway. That's how the heating thing went down. The drains are steady and holding.

Which brings us to Episode III in this little DIY saga. So last week, I smell this plasticky, icky smell in my room. It's 4am, Teen Demon is waking my disoriented ass up to take her to the airport for a college visit. (They flew her out, trying to recruit her ass. Score, Teen Demon.) I noticed the smell, but forgot about it. A couple of days after, I go up to bed, same smell, but stronger. Like burning plastic. I narrow it down to my electrical outlet. Being no fool, I immediately unplug the lamp and go for my flashlight. (After the furnace and water heater fun, I'm surprised it has any juice left, but it does.) In the narrow beam of the flashlight, I see smoke coming out of my outlet.

Great. Fucking great.

So all that money I saved not calling the plumber and the furnace guy will now be added to even more money to call an electrician, the most powerful of all the Home Improvement Cadre.

Using my powers of observation and deduction, I realize that both episodes happened when the dryer was running. The dryer is in the garage, directly below my outlet. It's supposed to be a dedicated 220v outlet. (pleaseplease tell me some past homeowner didn't try splice into that line to create the outlet in my room...) The burning smell and the smoke were rising up through the wall and coming through my outlet. Now, I can replace a regular outlet -- I put in a GFCI outlet in the kitchen last year -- but that's regular 110v. electricity. Ain't no way in hell I'm messing with the 220v. electricity on that dryer. I got shocked by 220 once in Germany. Don't want to relive that.


So we've been hanging out at the laundromat. In all our spare time. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of ... This Old Motherfucking House. Actually, don't even let me tell that lie. The conclusion won't be until I sell this bitch. So stay tuned for further updates and comic relief. Yeah. Fun times.


  1. Bummer. I hate paying people to fix things that I wish to god weren't broken because I was planning to use that money for something else. And I hate the laundromat.

  2. If your dryer has a dedicated 220v line, then it should have a dedicated circuit breaker switch. If that's the case, flip the breaker and begin replacement of the broken socket.

    If that's not the case when the electrician shows up in his/her Escalade to do your electrical work with his gold-plated tools, you should have him/her give you a dedicated circuit switch for the dryer.

    I'm crossing my fingers hoping that one of the asshat previous owners didn't splice into the 220v line to create your 110v bedroom socket. That would be baaaaaaaaad.

    You so need a weekend at a day spa. Or an afternoon at a paintball shooting gallery. You could have all the contractors plus the orange apron wearing asshats from HomoDepot run around the course and you could shoot at them! It may not get your home repairs done, but damn it would feel good wouldn't it? :)

  3. E: me too. both.

    RG: Turns out they didn't splice, thankgawd. Our head of Facilities at my workplace very kindly offered to come out yesterday and take a look. It (knock on wood) may be just that the outlet burned out. I'm hoping. He's going to replace it for me today, after the Seahawks game, and test it. If it's more than that, I'll have to call an electrician, but I'll just have him run new lines thru some conduit right there in the garage, which shouldn't be too bad.

    Hahaha on your comment. You're so good -- Paintball, hell yeah! Last time I played was with a bunch of military guys and firefighters, I was the only chick. Yeah, that might be something to think about ... line that Home Depot guy up in my sights... I was a sharpshooter in the military.

  4. You rock cowbell!
    Frankly,I don't know a whole lot of women that would tackle the jobs you have,and I don't blame ya for not wanting to mess with that 220...That shit bites!..literally.
    I'm thinkin' I'd try to find someone in the "Work wanted" section of the classifieds.What with the cost of using the laundromat,the expense should be justifiable.

  5. You have single-handedly convinced me to give up my dream of a 1900s house and just suck it up in my 1950s rancher. Holy Smoking Outlet, Batman - that's some crazy stuff.

  6. Sling: Thanks! Although it's more that whole necessity being the mother of invention, or rockingness. It's just too expensive to call folks out to fix stuff in this country. Im still going to replace my outlet, even though it wasn't the culprit. It's loose, and a couple of times it's sparked when I push the lamp plug back into it.

    And Go Seahawks indeed! Hell Yeah! I'm watching the game now -- here's to hoping it goes better than the last 3...

    KA: Yeah, loads of fun. And this house is 1955, no way would I go older, unless I had a lot better salary! (Oh, and Batman is my dog's name!)

  7. Oh that sucks!

    Congrats on fixing your first two problems. I'll bet with a little research you can fix the third.

  8. Oh my god you've had the time from hell with that place. Patch it up, pull it together and put it on the market.

    It all looks so fucking easy on the Home Improvement shows doesn't it? I am so glad we got rid of our place - an 1885 victorian was all charm and romance until you found the dry rot.

    And as to your solutions and work - I know a few men - no make that a whole pile o'men - who would throw their hands up, grab a beer then grab the yellow pages while explaining to doubting spouses that the job is just too technical!

  9. Oh dear. This is all becoming most unsettling. Am I safe for Turkey Dinner? Will you cook said turkey in the wall?
    heh heh. I keeeeed. Sorry. My flair for bad timing and such.

  10. I can really identify with this post. Not the part about actually accomplishing any of these house things but the part about cursing and kicking. I know what you mean right there. However, if you ever suffer from a tape recorder malfunction, I would not recommend that you carefully spread newspaper on the floor, lay said tape recorder on the newspaper, then obliterate it with a hammer. I would not recommend that because it didn't make me feel better. Much.

  11. Yeah, our nearly ten-year-old dryer took a dump last week. Wifey called the Sears tech. There was some sort of bad fan-blade action going on. He did some sort of temporary repair so the unit could operate until the parts are drop-shipped to our house.

    You'd think we had money for all these repairs!

    But we don't.

    Best of luck with that 220V socket. WIth any luck it'll turn out to be kind of minor and you can deep six the laudromat trips.

  12. In the cold, cold - bloody cold - light of morning here in Rome - so much for that warm and sunny all the time crap I was fed - I read what I had posted late last night. Actually I guess most of the guys I know would grab a sherry or a cosmo (if that's still being drunk) or if a beer one of those fancy-smacy imported ones.

  13. Whim: Thanks, and also thanks for your cheery optimism in fixing the electric crap. Yeah. Because you know I'm all about some cheery optimism. Whatever.

    Willym: Can't put it on the market yet - housing slump. I took a gamble, trying to get in on the "booming Seattle market", which fell the VERY NEXT MONTH. I'm in a narrow window - I have to sell when Male Offspring graduates, or when child support stops (dark humor: whichever comes first). Either that, or start turning tricks. So the value has to go up substantially before 2011, so I can make enough to pay my dad back for the downpayment. So I'm kind of stuck for now. You're probably right about the guys and the yellow pages. And the beer.

    Hat: The stove is holding steady. (quick, knock on wood) Regardless, there will be Italian Iced Teas, which makes everything just fiiiine.

    Monica: Yeah.

    Pat: Haha! I'm pretty sure that would've made me feel a whole hell of a lot better. As RG would say, "In with anger, out with love".

    Craig: That sucks! AGH! Hey, seriously though, get the part, look up the dryer on The Internets, and I bet you can put the part in yourself. Male Offspring and I just fixed our washer a couple of months ago. If we can do it, seriously, anyone can. Don't let the bastards rip you off with their labor fees.

    Willym: hahahaha! You made me LOL. And does your little Italian flat not have heated tiles?!?

  14. I'm thinking it's time for that ad girl..

    "Wanted- handyman. Attractive male willing to trade services for home cooked meals. Possibly more depending on attraction level."

    2 birds- one stone.. just sayin'

  15. being in "that" business all i can say is it sucks that people cant be honest ---

  16. So, say some army buddies came over, and they just happened to bring a rocket launcher, and it kind of went off by accident and no one realized that is was live ammo, I mean, how were you to know, and it kinda, sorta leveled the house, would the insurance pay for it?

    Just askin'.


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