When it Rains, It Pours…

(Or in this case, it “leaks”!!)

I’ve been suffering through some “rainy weather” over the past few weeks.  Mechanical failures abound.   Our Microwave oven has a broken door (but is thankfully still usable), our 27” television has died and gone to T.V. heaven, my car is hanging on by threads (leaking radiator among other significant issues), and then – to top it all off – the Mother of Five called me at work the other day asking me if I knew why there was no hot water in the house…

First thought… Did I pay the gas bill?  Hmmm..  No letters or phone calls threatening to shut off our gas… So, yup, the gas bill is up to date.

Water bill?  Yup.  I actually have a “credit” on my water bill (meaning, the city owes me water instead of me owing the city money…)  So, nope – it was not the water bill.  (Actually the fact that my family all had to shower in ice cold water was another good indicator that the water bill was paid – our city would not even provide me COLD water if it wasn’t). 

So, it was time to “troubleshoot”. 

Guys, you know what I’m talking about, right?  You are not at home, and the wife calls you about “such and such” that is not working as it should, or not working at all – and you have to try and figure out the problem and how to explain how to have your wife fix it OVER THE TELEPHONE

It’ll drive any man crazy – but I’m digressing.

leaking water heaterI had the Mother of Five first go to the laundry room and smell for natural gas.  No natural gas smell.  This was the best possible news I could have heard (other than her saying “April Fools Day” – but since it’s mid-August there was not even a slight chance of that)!

Next, I ask her if it’s wet under the water heater.  Yes?  It is?  How bad is it I ask.  It’s wet, but thankfully the bottom of the tank did not burst out on us.  The water heater sits within inches of the floor drain and the stream of water went straight down the drain. 

I apologized about not being able to do anything about it and went back to work.  At 4am I headed home and discovered a scene that was almost exactly as the Mother of Five explained it.  Wet under the water heater.  I spent the next hour and a half trying to get the heater lit again (even though it’s leaking) so we could at least have some hot water in the morning. 

That never happened.

The water heater failed on Wednesday night.  (#5 of 5 got the last hot bath in the house.  When she was done #4 of 5 went to get in the shower and had no more hot water).  I did not get home until almost 5am.

Thursday was another long day – and I worked until 4am again.

Friday was a partial day – but it allowed me to shop for water heaters before going to work, and allowed me to get to bed early enough to get a good night of sleep.

Saturday morning was the day.  My dad offered to help me, so I cleaned out the van and headed out to pick up the replacement.   I met him at the store (I ended up at Lowe’s) and bought an almost exact replica of the old heater. 

I bought a Whirlpool 40 gallon short gas water heater with the 6 year warranty.  Since I was going to have to “modify” some of the existing plumbing – I had to plan for that as well. I also bought all connections, hook up’s and fittings I thought I would need.

I was ready to get the ball rolling.  I quickly headed home, but had to make one quick stop at #1 of 5’s place.  While there, I left the van’s ignition in “accessory” with all the dome lights on, the radio playing and both blowers running.  When I went to leave, the battery voltage dropped below the required amount and the van would not start.  Thankfully #1 of 5’s roommate was there to help me out with a jumpstart. 

I was about two hours behind schedule, but I was on my way.

Once I got home, we started in the removal of the old water heater.  

Old water heater  Old water heater with vent removed  Leak out the bottom   Boil-over?  Old water heater with severed supply lines



In these photos you can see more of the heater’s failure.  Leaking out the bottom, and what I can only imagine is “boil over” – frothy “hard water deposits” were pushed out around several of the top connections of the heater.




Father of "The Father of Five"  


Here is my dad – helping out.  Actually, it was quite nice having them there to help me.  I tend to “rush” through projects trying to get to the end as quickly as possible.  He on the other hand double, triple, and sometimes quadruple checks things before jumping in.  He brings a bit of calm and patience to a project that I do not always have. 









Here it is.  The empty hole.  Old water heater removed, and it’s time to roll the new one into it’s new home.






Step one - New water heater in place  Step two - supply lines attached  Step three - venting ductwork attached  

Left to right. 

New copper lines sweated into place. 

Supply pipes attached (and although you can’t see it, water pressure applied.  NO LEAKS!! 

Exhaust ductwork attached.


Job is 100% complete in this photo















Gas line attached, pilot lit, and burner on!


There were still a couple of tweaks I needed to finish up with.  I wanted to install a gas flow limiter, an small extension to the gas line (it was a little too tight for my comfort), and an extension to one of the supply lines.  The photo on the right is after everything is said and done!  The only thing I have left to do is have my “Final inspection” by the building inspector. 

I’ll schedule that in a couple of days.

 Me and my dad.




Thanks again for your help Dad!  I really did appreciate it more than you probably realize!


  1. Ha! Ha!

    I just had the same thing happen to my about a month ago. Same vintage Rheem water heater... You'd think they would last more than 8 years.

    But, I had to go with the power vented model, which substantially increased the price. My total at Lowes was about $850, after using a 10% coupon.

    My new water heater is a 50 gallon with 60,000 BTU's. It recovers very fast, which is nice for another father of five!

  2. Good eyes! Yes, the old one was a Rheem. We got almost 12 years (it would have been 12 years in November) out of it - so I guess I can not complain.

    I have neighbor's who's homes were built at almost the same time and they are on their THIRD water heater already!

    And - when it gave out - it did so without damaging anything else in the basement (walls, or carpeting) - so I am grateful for that too.

    By in large - given the potential hassle and headache this thing could have caused - I made out pretty well!

    Did you do your own instillation? I have not worked with any of the PowerVent stuff yet - but I know my time will come!

  3. Hooray for you and your dad! Your family is lucky to have you handy men!
    congratulations on another job well done!

  4. Yep, self install. Wasn't too bad of job. Hardest part was carrying the old water up the stairs.

    I've talked to a few people who have the same vintage of Rheems that are leaking, wonder if has something to do with our water supply in Jordan?

  5. Recently I've had to replace the oven, the microwave, and the timing belt on our van. Not to mention numerous repairs to appliances around the house. I hate it when all this stuff hits at once.

  6. My Dad used to help me with similar projects, and he tended to bring some calm and extra thought to the project, as well. Unfortunately, his health does not allow him to help me like he once did. He still does quite a bit of phone consulting, though!

    I installed my horizontally power vented one 4 or 5 years ago. Hardest part was routing the exhaust line through my height-challenged basement (about 6'-2" to the underside of the joists), and getting it out the side wall.

    Do you check your anode rod periodically? You may already know this, but the anode rod screws into the top of the heater and is intended to be a sacrificial offering to the corrosion gods. When it is eaten away, tank corrosion is accelerated, causing the tank to fail, as yours did. Checking and keeping an intact anode rod is supposedly the key to prolonging heater life (he says, knowing he has never checked an anode rod in his life!) It is on my list of to-do's... but my rod head is partially under the blower assembly... need to remove the exhaust and blower assembly just to check/change the rod. Poor design, A.O. Smith!

  7. David,


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