This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Another Appliance Repair Story

Posted By Paul

A couple of weeks ago while I was working on the roof (see my earlier post: My Biggest Do It Yourself Project) our washing machine stopped working. We called a repairman who essentially said that the cost to repair it would be more than the cost to get a new one.

I was busy working on the roof so I didn't have time to deal with the washing machine so we weren't sure what to do.

Luckily the in-laws had a spare washing machine. Not only was it in great shape but they were able to bring it over the next day and we were able to wash clothes again.

Then just last week the "new" washing machine started to have problems. Specifically it suddenly stopped draining the water. My first thought was: "Sigh... we should have just bought a new one." So my wife and I were planning on going shopping that weekend, but then I decided that I would at least pop open the washing machine and make sure it wasn't something simple like a coin in the drain pipe or something.

When I opened up the washing machine I discovered this:

That is a sock that was stuck in the input to the drain pump.

It was REALLY wound up in there, even with vice grips and pulling I couldn't get the sock out. Ultimately I had to put a screwdriver in the other side and little by little force the propeller to unwind the sock.

Once I got the sock out I COULD have just put the pump back in but I decided to replace it (the pump, not the sock) since I had gone to the trouble of removing it plus the fact that the spot where the shaft drives it looked a little stripped (no doubt from when it was running with the sock in there).

I found the part on AppliancePartsPros.com
but I decided to see if I could find it at my local appliance repair store so that I didn't have to wait to get it shipped out.

I got the part at my local small appliance repair store (I highly recommend that everyone find their local small appliance repair place, it's often a great source of parts and even advice). It cost me a little more to get it from the local store, but I was able to walk out with it and install it that night.

The installation of the new pump went well. However there were two snags (both due to my own incompetence):

1) After putting the pump in I was closing up the machine when I heard a "clink" and saw one of the springs in the back had come loose due to my moving around of the tub assembly. Try as I might to re-attach it, I discovered that the only way to reach it was to essentially remove the tub assembly from the casing. It wasn't hard to do, but it was annoying to think (as I was dis-assembling my washing machine) that were it not for that spring coming loose I would have been done long ago.

2) After reattaching the spring and closing up the machine I started a cycle with the tub empty. After some water came in I advanced the dial to the point where the pump should engage. As I had hoped water came out of the drain tube. So the next day I told my wife it was ready for duty. I didn't realize that while disassembling the machine for item 1 I had accidentally disconnected the sensor that tells the machine when to shut the water OFF. So our first load resulted in a wet mess on the floor. Luckily when I opened up the washer cabinet again I saw a tube that went from a sensor on the washtub to...nowhere and realized my mistake and reconnected it.

So overall I'm really happy that we didn't just buy a new machine or call a repairman. Usually a repairman call is at least $100 plus parts and I spent half that on my replacement part. Granted I spent several hours fiddling with the machine but now I feel that I know how a washing machine works and the actual troubleshooting and fixing of the problem was kind of fun.

The only remaining mystery is how the sock got in there in the first place, but some googling suggests that it isn't unheard of for a sock to slip between the metal inner tub and outer tub and work its way down to the drain pump. Interestingly enough the sock didn't look like one of ours so we think it belonged the previous owners. At least the next time the drain stops working I'll know exactly where to look.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Biggest Do It Yourself Project

Posted By Paul

Frequent readers of this blog know that I aspire to being handy around the house with various levels of success.

Last week I took on what was without a doubt the largest project that I've ever attempted. The project was to put a new roof on my house.

Luckily I wasn't alone as my father-in-law is super handy and has done several roofs on both his house and others, so I was mostly serving as his assistant.

Here are some things that I learned from the experience:

1) If possible get the new shingles and supplies delivered to the roof. The packets of shingles don't look like much, but they are HEAVY. On the advice of my FIL, we had most of the shingles delivered directly to the roof and I am SOOOO glad we did. At one point I brought a couple packets of shingles down from the roof for cutting and later had to bring one back up again. Just wrestling that single packet of shingles up the ladder and onto the roof was a huge hassle, I couldn't image doing it over and over again.

2) Roofing spades are cool, but not essential. We had a roofing spade to clean off the old shingles. It worked fine, but so did a simple flat bladed spade that we also had. If you can borrow or already have a roofing spade that's great, but I wouldn't bother buying one. I included a picture of a roofing spade below that looks a lot like what we used.

3) Small crowbars and hammers are really useful. During the work you are almost constantly finding nails in the roof that you either need to remove or pound flat so it's nice to always have a hammer or crowbar within easy reach.

I had a mini-crowbar like the one below which was nice since we could use it easily with one hand.

4) A nail gun REALLY helps. Luckily my FIL had access to a nail gun and compressor. It is a big time saver, especially if you're not the best hammer swinger in the world (my FIL is great with a hammer, but I mess up 1 in about every 5 nails).

5) Plan for safety! One thing I would have done differently if I had it all to do over again would be to get up on the roof early and make plans for any support scaffolding or safety gear we needed. My house isn't huge but certain parts of the roof are somewhat steep and high enough that a safety line was really good to have. Luckily we were able to borrow a safety harness from Matt (who uses it for rock climbing) and lukcily I had some extra lumber around that we were able to turn into scaffolding. If you are roofing a single story house where the roof isn't too steep safety gear and scaffolding might not be a priority, but I suggest making those decisions early so that you can get any supplies or equipment before you start.

6) Roofing blades - these are just these little blades that have a hook edge. My FIL suggested we get some and I am very glad that I did. They cut shingles so much better than a normal box cutting blade. The hook end lets you cut the shingle without worrying too much about cutting through whatever is underneath, which is handy when you are trying to cut shingles on the roof. Get plenty since they do get dull after cutting through shingles for a while (we went through 6 blades in just a few days). I included a link below to get an idea of what I am talking about:

The roofing project took over a week. It was just my FIL and I, and luckily the weather cooperated but it was still a solid week of being on the roof from morning until dark (with breaks for lunch and dinner). The work was pretty hard and on the hot days it got pretty miserable.

The good news is that when the roof is done you get a real sense of satisfaction and you save a lot of money by doing it yourself.

Overall, if you enjoy doing projects yourself and you have access to the proper tools and someone who knows what they are doing then roofing can be a really rewarding way to save some money.