Revenge Of The Appliances: A Tale Of DIY Mishaps And Triumphs
And then there are the times when DIY goes awry. Lest you think we’re some sort of home improvement mavens following our recent self-taught plumbing escapade, let me disabuse you of that notion post haste by telling you the tale of our oven. And our refrigerator. And our closet door…
An Oven Obituary
Right on the heels of our frozen and burst pipe, the Frugalwoods oven decided it was a dandy time to cease operation. Mr. Frugalwoods turned it on one fine evening in anticipation of preparing a scrumptious and highly complicated dinner (ok, actually it was a frozen pizza) and… nothing happened. We reasoned that the oven was jealous of all the attention the pipes had received and hence felt the need to act out.
is was not old. Not old at all. And so, with the foolish optimism of youth, we had the folly–and hubris–to assume it would serve us for years to come. Years I tell you. But sadly, the whims of fate had other plans for our dear food-cooker.
Although the oven failed to turn on, the stovetop continued to work, which gave us hope for its repair. Indeed, it appeared the ignitor for the oven was simply not igniting. Easy enough to fix (note to self: never utter these words before embarking on a home repair project).
And so, my trusty self-taught handyman husband hopped on YouTube and researched how to replace an oven ignitor. Turns out, it’s relatively straightforward. Mr. FW ordered this new ignitor from Amazon and gamely disassembled the oven. However, our model of oven was not quite as straightforward as the YouTube tutorials purported. And by “not quite” I mean not at all.
When DIY Does Not Pan Out
As he was removing the ignitor with the oven turned off, Mr. FW realized that it was still fully energized and sparked when it grounded itself to the bottom of the oven. Since that is not supposed to happen, Mr. FW decided this was the limit for his DIY adventure.
Why? Because he sincerely did not want to blow up our house. Messing around with an appliance that’s sparking and contains explosive gas doesn’t seem wise. And for this circumspect decision, I thank him. One of the things I love most about Mr. FW is his caution. Safety is a priority with this man, which I deeply appreciate.
Frugal weirdo DIY protip: call in the experts when death and/or dismemberment seems like a distinct possibility.
Shop Around For Repair Quotes!
Capitulating to the potential danger of gas line DIY, I called no less than 15 different appliance repair folks to get quotes. I’ve learned that if you can’t insource a project, always, always, always get as many quotes as you possibly can and buy the part yourself if feasible. The prices and availability of repair people varies greatly and it behooves a frugal weirdo to shop around.
At long last, I located the best quote and scheduled a visit from some friendly oven repair people. Unfortunately, they were similarly confounded by our oven and, in their own turn, nearly blew our house up. They were shocked to see that the ignitor was sparking and hurriedly yelled for us to shut the power off to the house. In their words: “I’ve never seen an oven spark like that! It’s not supposed to do that!” Very comforting, I assure you. Following this exciting turn of events, they replaced the old ignitor with our new bought-from-the-internet ignitor. And… the oven still wouldn’t ignite. We were bummed to pay for a repair that didn’t work, but alas, such is life.
Mr. FW chatted with the repair guys for awhile and they surmised that perhaps the controller board was the issue. They kindly told Mr. FW what would be required in order to replace the controller board and agreed that it was something he could try himself.
Frugal weirdo DIY protip: anytime you have an expert in your house, ask them as many questions as they’re willing to answer. Never hurts to learn from the pros!
Undaunted (well, partially daunted at this point) we purchased this new control board and Mr. FW once again disassembled the oven (put that down as something you hope you won’t have to do more than once). He ably replaced the panel and… the oven still didn’t work. Sadly, we’d now exhausted all of our options for things that can be repaired and/or replaced on an oven.
Glumly, and with heavy hearts, we set off for Home Depot in search of a replacement oven. It pained us to not fix our existing oven, both for the cost savings and also the resulting waste. I hate that we had to essentially throw out an oven that’s only 10 years old! Boo, I say.
But alas, we must have a working oven. Although I’m a proponent of buying most things used, appliances typically do not fall into this category. As we discovered in our chest freezer price comparison research, used appliances are often not cheap enough to merit buying them and risking a shortened lifespan and/or subpar performance/energy efficiency.
But You Can Still DIY A Little Bit
Ever the frugal weirdos, we removed the new ignitor and new controller board from our defective oven and returned them from whence they came. No reason for those (and the money we spent on them) to go out with the trash! Additionally, Mr. FW installed our new oven himself, which saved us the $130 Home Depot would’ve charged us to install it. Even insourcing a portion of a repair will typically save you some dough. And before they carted our deceased oven away, we scavenged the grates from the stove as well as the oven racks just in case we find a use for them in the future.
And Then The Refrigerator Too
Evidently my theory of appliance jealousy has merit because no sooner did we resolve the oven situation than our refrigerator jumped into the fray. Our dear fridge (which is similarly youthful) began to experience tsunami-like gushing of water from the freezer. That may be a slight exaggeration, but anytime water gets into the fridge, it feels like a mammoth amount aiming to soak your foodstuffs!
I strategically placed several bowls under the offending drip spots to stave off a mass flood of our food and was ready to call it a day (seriously). But Mr. FW wisely noted this was merely a temporary fix. So once again, he logged onto–you guessed it–YouTube and discovered several videos describing how to ameliorate our unwanted water situation.
This resulted in removing everything from our freezer and stashing it in a cooler (which, by the way, we found for free by the side of the road) and–of course–taking apart the interior of the freezer.
So, the gist of this issue is that the back of a freezer has a radiator with refrigerant running through it. The fins on this radiator get periodically blocked up with ice, and thus there’s a defrost function to resolve it. This excess water is then supposed to drain down a tube, but our drain tube was frozen over, which meant that water was prevented from going down the drain tube and evaporating. Thus, the water from the defrost cycle was instead cooling at the back of freezer and dripping down through the vents that allow cold air to migrate from freezer to fridge.
The solution was to disassemble the interior of the freezer to expose the drain pan, then run a hairdryer on the block of ice to loosen it up, and then use a screwdriver to pull out the chunks of ice. Next, Mr. FW poured boiling water into the drain pan to melt the ice in the tube. After a few minutes of this, the tube began to drain properly.
We’re two weeks out from this repair and thus far, nary a drop of water has graced our fridge. Unfortunately, we don’t know what caused this to happen in the first place, so we may have fixed a symptom and not the actual cause… only time will tell. Although we can of course afford a new fridge, I’d really rather not make another trek to the Home Depot appliance section again. It’s too soon.
Closet Door Calamity
To add to our never-ending excitement, the mirrored closet door in our master bedroom (yes the very ones I so lovingly refinished!) experienced a grievous injury. I’m not talking a minor flesh wound, I mean the freaking spindle on one of the track wheels broke. How this happened is a mystery since we don’t exactly go around slamming the closet doors.
We’ve decided to blame Frugal Hound who does have a penchant for standing at the mirror with her snout pressed up against it (I know this because there are greyhound snout marks and drips all over the mirrors… ).
This, mercifully, turned out to be a very cheap and easy fix indeed. We took the door off, removed the broken cartridge (which contains an adjustable wheel that rolls along the bottom track) and installed a new one purchased from–you guessed it–Amazon.
Noting that this type of wheel cartridge is a very cheap fix for a very challenging problem, Mr. FW sagely ordered several in the event that another wheel decides to break at a future date. Vastly less expensive than buying an entire new door (plus it would hurt to see my refinishing efforts hauled to the dump!).
We find it rather hilarious that our happy little home decided to have oh so many things break in concert (P.S. there’s more broken stuff that I’ll get to in a future post… but this one is already too long. Plus we’re trying to, you know, actually fix all this stuff before we write about it).
Much like our experience with our frozen and burst pipes, having plenty of money in the bank to cover unexpected happenings is a key element of prudent fiscal management. It’s also one of the fabulous benefits of living the frugal life. Having a robust emergency fund is wise and it’s also a peace-of-mind provider. I actually think “emergency fund” is something of a misnomer, it’s more of an “of course these things are going to happen” fund. But emergency fund is easier to write.
Frugal weirdos everywhere know the beauty of not worrying about minor (or major) home calamities. These are all just things and they simply take money to fix. It’s no more complicated than that. In the thick of dealing with having no water and no oven, we were angry, frustrated, and uttered a few fowl words (including goose, duck, turkey… ). But with the wisdom of hindsight, I see the pettiness of getting upset over things. They don’t truly matter in the grand scheme of life and they certainly aren’t important in their own right. And so, I can happily report that we’re still standing and aren’t (entirely) daunted by the revolt of our worldly possessions.