A dead hot water heater led me to DIY hell. Here’s how it happened.

Last winter, our tenant’s hot water heater gave up the ghost. The thing had a twelve-year warranty, but it spilled its guts all over the basement seven years into its life. Oh joy! There is a silver lining! At least we have a rebate coming back from the warranty.

Bummer number one: The rebate came in the form of a store credit at Home Depot.

Some of our clients just love Home Depot and Lowes. They see these stores as a DIYer’s candy store. I used to see these places as one of the levels of Purgatory, where I repent my arrogance as a home repairer.

They are warehouses, and they have the acoustics of a warehouse. What is on display may not be available. What is available is not, necessarily on display. They stock multiple options for many products; but they are so similar that I spend fifteen minutes reviewing all the details. If the specs are not clear on the packaging, there are lots of employees around, but they are not the right people to answer the question.

I have been slowly working through my credit. I have grown to loathe the store more with every visit. Last Wednesday, I downgraded it to a ring of Hell. I went in to purchase three things. A light fixture and two parts for a screen door. Time in the store: 55 minutes. Items purchased: 1 of 3.

The light fixture: I found the fixture I thought I wanted. However, I had a question. The fixture was mounted high up and I could not see the bulbs. I could not open the fixture  or the box. I had no way of knowing if it took standard bulbs or some specialty bulb. (I wanted one that used regular bulbs, so I could replace them easily.) The package was ambiguously marked (bulbs were included, but it did not say what kind of bulbs).

I went looking for the staff person in electrical. I spoke to three employees, including one at customer service. I was told the electrical associate was somewhere between rows 2-7. Thirty minutes later, I found him in row 1. Question answered.

The screen door parts: I moved on to the door section. Customer service told me the parts I wanted were in row 37. Nope. 37 was full of whole interior doors. I spoke to two more associates. The second one sent me back to the customer service. Customer service sent me back to the newel post desk. No one was there. Now, I was fifty minutes into the trip and had a meeting to go to. I checked out with my light fixture.

After my 1 PM meeting, I went to Shattuck in Arlington and got the two parts for my screen door. Time in the store: about five minutes. Items purchased: 2 of 2.

I still have almost $300 in Home Depot credit to spend…

Thank you for listening. Rant over.

The takeaway:

  • Count on your hot water heater to let you down shortly after its warranty ends. If it breaks before that, you are entitled to a rebate.
  • Mark the date of installation on your new hot water heater. Remind your plumber of that date, if the water heater fails prematurely.
  • Ask your plumber to purchase your replacement hot water heater at a plumbing supply place and not at a big box Home Improvement chain.