You’ve decided it’s time to replace your windows (or you are building a house and need to order new windows.) Deciding which windows to purchase can be an overwhelming process. I’m here to help.

Do You Need New Windows? Things to Consider Before You Buy

Do I Need New Windows?

Recently, I found myself on the path to purchase new windows for the Saving Etta Project and found the options to be numerous and confusing. There are many things to consider when purchasing new windows. Today, I want to discuss them all with you. Before we begin, I have to warn you, I’m a bit of a window snob. To me, nothing is more beautiful than original true divided light window. (Of course, beautiful window trim and pediments help too.)

Do I Need New Windows/

But, in today’s quest to be more energy efficient and save money on the electric bill, I completely understand the need for new windows. Many of my neighbors have replaced their windows with retrofit vinyl windows for energy efficiency and for ease of use. I used to think I could spot an inexpensive replacement window a mile away (okay, maybe not that far, but definitely from across the street.) But, my eyes have been opened to the options for replacement windows that look beautiful and stylish.

Personally, I have installed Ply Gem windows in my own home, and have been very happy with how they look and operate. Therefore, when Ply Gem reached out to me about being a sponsor for the Saving Etta project, I was familiar with their windows and knew they produce quality windows with attention to detail.

The icing on the cake with Ply Gem is their larger philanthropic campaign, the Home for Good project started in 2016 to help raise awareness of the critical need for affordable houseing. In addition to building new homes across the country, the project also helps homeowners stay in their existing homes by providing much needed repairs and renovations to houses in disrepair. Locally, Ply Gem worked with the Habitat for Humanity’s Neighborhood Revitalization program to identify local homeowners who were in need of exterior renovations and repairs. Not only does Ply Gem manufacture top quality windows and many other exterior products, but they give back to communities in need. (You can read more about the Home for Good Project I volunteered with here.) Which is why I agreed to bring Ply Gem on as a Saving Etta sponsor.

Regardless of the brand you choose for your new windows, it’s helpful to know some of the terminology and what to consider when it’s time to buy.

Replacement (retrofit windows) vs. New Construction Windows (full frame windows)

For simplicity, replacement windows are typically installed inside existing window frames. The trim, siding, and window frame are not disturbed during installation (making it a quicker and cheaper way to replace an existing window.) On the flip side, new construction windows are installed directly into a rough opening and secured to the exterior of the house walls. New construction windows have a nail fin frame for securing the window to the outside of the window opening. After installation, the window trim and siding is installed over the nail fin.

If you have old windows, you can purchase either retrofit replacement windows or new construction windows. (However, the amount of work needed to install new construction may cost you more money in labor because the house trim, interior window casing, and frame has to be removed first.)

Do I Need New Windows - Construction Windows vs. Replacement Window

As you can see from the photos above, if you purchase quality windows, you may not be able to tell the difference between new construction or replacement windows. (I’ll show you how to choose better looking replacement windows in a few.)

Cheap vs. Quality Windows:

You’ve heard the saying, “you get what you pay for”, right? If you purchase cheap windows, you may have to replace them in the near future. Quality starts by choosing a window manufacturer that has been making windows for decades. For example, Ply Gem has been making windows for over 70 years!

What I dislike about cheap replacement windows:

  1. Wider window stiles (the vertical frames of the window sashes.) – A wider stile means you may have less glass area translating to less natural light in your house.
  2. Flat grilles inbetween the glass. – Okay, I know they are easy to clean, but they lose the beautiful dimension of true divided light grilles.
  3. Cheap construction. – Some cheap windows have sloppy construction (for example: thick caulked seams on the corners.) Poor quality construction can result in a leak of the gas between the panes as they age. A leak shows up when you experience a permanently fogged window. Other signs of a cheap window, are ones that fail to operate after a few years of use.

Is there an alternative to cheap replacement windows?

YES! You can purchase more attractive and better constructed replacement windows. You also have additional options:

  1. Keep your old windows and install storm windows to improve energy efficiency.
  2. Purchase quality replacement windows like Ply Gem’s 2000 Double Hung, Premium, and Pro Replacement Windows with a wider variety of grilles to choose from.
  3. Purchase a quality new construction window, and consider installing it yourself to offset the cost of higher quality windows and the additional labor.

If you like this last option, consider a new construction window with simulated divided light windows like Ply Gem’s Mira windows (shown below in the SDL styles.)

Plygem Mira grill options

This is a close up view of the Mira Window grille with the 7/8″ Simulated Divided Light grilles.

Do I Need New Windows?

Things to consider when adding a new window:

With all these things to consider, you may find the decision making overwhelming.

Trust me, I know the feeling! The day I realized I couldn’t save Etta’s old windows, my head was swimming with options.

Before you ask why I couldn’t keep them, there were many factors pointing to replacing the original windows:

  1. They were in rough shape and some of the panes had been replaced with plexiglass.
  2. They had lead paint and there were many layers of paint to strip before I could repaint.
  3. They did not have window weights. (They were never built with any. Which meant if you opened the window you had to put a stick underneath to hold it open.)
  4. The last factor was related to the noise level. Etta is on a busy street with a bus route. Traffic noise during rush hour and an occasional rumbling bus going by are everyday occurrences.

As a quality builder, I knew it was best to replace those old windows with new energy efficient, and sound dampening windows. Once I decided between new construction and replacement windows, there were a few other things to consider.

Things you need to consider when ordering new windows:

  1. Are there any building codes to address?
    1. Does the window meet egress standards for a bedroom?
    2. Is the window in a location that requires tempered glass?
    3. How far is the window from the ground? (Does it need to have a safety stop?)
    4. Do you need a permit to replace your windows?
  2. How will the window open?
    1. Double hung
    2. Single hung
    3. Non-opening
    4. Casement opening
  3. Do you need a privacy window?
    1. Frosted
    2. Textured
    3. Integrated blinds
  4. Do you want screens for your window?
  5. Will the style match the rest of your windows or style of the house?

Now that you’ve learned some of the basic terms and considerations, you are ready to seek out a place to order windows. Besides window installation companies, you can get help ordering windows from a general contractor, home improvement store, a building supply warehouse, or from the manufacturer. Be sure to discuss your specific window needs and desires. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And be wary of any company that takes your money without showing you a sample of the style window you are ordering.

Coming up next week: How to Install a New Window.

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored post for Ply Gem. It was written as part of their sponsorship of the Saving Etta project. I was not told what to write. All words and opinions are my own. I am very particular about the brands I work with, and only partner with companies that provide quality materials and/or services. 

If you liked this post, you’ll definitely appreciate this article on How to Choose a New Roof:

Saving Etta - One Woman's Journey to Save a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

Saving Etta: Chapter 19 – Peeling Back the Layers

This is the true story about a house built in 1900 that is in serious disrepair. It’s also the story about my journey toward becoming a general contractor and my attempt to save a home from being bulldozed. I hope you’ll follow along as I embark on a journey into the unknown perils and rewards of flipping a home in downtown Raleigh, NC.

If you are just joining the story, you may want to read all the Saving Etta chapters for more of the back story.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram as I share live updates about this project I’m calling Saving Etta.

A special thank you to all the brands that are helping to save Etta!

With the water heater taken care of, we crawled under the crawlspace together and looked around. The ground sloped up toward the back of the house, at which point it was only accessible by belly crawling at the halfway point. Beyond that, even a belly crawl seemed impossible.

“I think your best bet would be to run all new plumbing,” Anthony said. “I don’t see a shut off, so during demo I’ll turn off the water at the street.”

He swung his flashlight to the right and suddenly shrieked.

There, standing on all four legs, was the skeleton of a possum staring at us. It stood upright with one foot in the air as if we had startled him.

“That guy looks like he died standing up,” Anthony said.

I nodded and wondered how long the possum had been under there. By the look of his clean picked bones, it had been a while.

We both laughed a little nervously and backed out of the crawlspace.

Anthony put his flashlight into his truck as I asked him how much I owed him for pulling the water heater out of the house. He shook his head, dismissing my question, and mumbled, “I’ll just add it to your final bill.”

I smiled, knowing I might need to remind him to include it on the invoice at that later date. Anthony drove off in his truck and I walked back inside, anxious to start peeling away at the layers of wall in one of the front rooms.

In the kitchen, I looked at the spot where Anthony had removed the water heater. Several of the floorboards were rotted through to the crawlspace. My gaze wandered to a new PVC waterline that had been been installed. Whoever did the work left a hole the size of someone’s fist around a water line that was only the diameter of a quarter. No wonder rats and other rodents are getting into the house, I thought, shaking my head over the sloppiest plumbing job I’d ever seen.

Going forward, I made a mental note to be sure all future holes would be wide enough for only wires or pipes to run through and the space around them would be sealed tight. No more welcome doors for rodents.

Grabbing my hammer and a flat bar, I walked into the south parlor. The mantel was unusually shallow and there was a sheet of drywall where the firebox should have been — Tell tale signs that the drywall had been added around the mantel and the firebox walled up at the same time. I had been itching to get behind the mantel and see what was there.

Using my hand tools, I chiseled at the edges of the drywall. Once the drywall patch was outlined, I pulled the wall board pieces out in three large chunks. Beneath them was a pastoral scene printed on wallpaper. Little yellow and pink houses with green trees dotted the wallpaper. I was tempted to leave it, but continued peeling away the wallpaper. As the brittle paper flaked off in my fingers, it revealed a layer of plaster. Using the pry bar and hammer, I chunked away at small sections until an eight inch hole of lathe was revealed. Behind the lathe was a dark void. I quickly pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and turned on the flashlight. The light shown between the horizontal strips of lathe, casting a zebra striped shadow on the back side of the other wall. I was perplexed. No firebox, but I could clearly see tongue and groove wood cladding on the walls in the adjacent room. I was surprised to find no firebox. Had it been removed long ago? Why was there a mantel in here? Despite the lack of a firebox, I was excited to find more wood behind the drywall.

A few more pieces came off  with my makeshift chisel to reveal a round port in the upper corner of the firebox area. Ah ha, this made sense. The port was the access point to the chimney for an old wood burning stove or heater. There never was a firebox. I wanted to dig into the wall more, but unfortunately the excavating would have to wait for another day. The afternoon sun was getting low and my daily 3:30 pm alarm buzzed. It was time to pack up my tools and head home to meet my kids from the school bus.

Friday morning, I decided to take a break from working in the house until my phone rang.  Jeff from the asbestos abatement company was on the line and he wanted to meet me at the house.

As I pulled up, Jeff and his crew were already unloading the truck carrying giant HEPA air filters. I remembered the same two units from years ago when we had to have asbestos abated from our home. Jeff’s crew was pulling plastic tarps and tape from the truck and stacking the HEPA filters at the front door.

I turned the key in the door and looked around at the blank drywall walls and dirty flooring, not realizing the next time I stepped in this hallway it would be dramatically different.

Knowing I couldn’t be of assistance, I gave Jeff an extra key and drove back home. It was exciting to be moving forward with the asbestos abatement knowing once it was cleared, the mold remediation could proceed.

The rest of the day was spent getting caught up on blog work while I tried to imagine how Etta would look in a few months after new drywall and paint. I also wondered when Meg O’Neil, the architect, would be finished with the blueprints. It had been two weeks and I was anxious to see what she recommended for the house.

Monday morning the phone rang before I sat down to breakfast.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Hi, Brittany,” Jeff said. “We seem to have uncovered an additional two layers of flooring in the kitchen. Did you test through all the layers of flooring in there?”

“I got two layers of flooring down to what I thought was the plywood subfloor. But, I didn’t find four layers,” I answered.

“Well, we found two more layers beneath those and we either need to test them or just go ahead and assume they are asbestos and remove them,” Jeff explained. “Frankly, by the look of them, I’d be surprised if they didn’t have asbestos in them.”

“Okay, go ahead and remove those layers too,” I said feeling a bit stressed by all the money I was spending on mold and asbestos removal.

By Wednesday I was itching to get back to work at Etta, but had to wait for the independent air testing to come back. At 11 o’clock that morning the phone rang. It was Jeff letting me know they’d heard back from the lab and the property was deemed asbestos free. He said his crew was taking down all the plastic sheeting and would be finished in an hour. I asked Jeff if he had discovered anything interesting, hoping he might have found some treasure or hidden coins I could use to pay the hefty abatement bill. 

He laughed and said, “Nope.”

At 1 pm, I pulled into the driveway. The abatement crew was gone and there wasn’t a single sign outside that they had been there.

I had no idea what I’d see when I opened the front door. As the door creaked open and my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark interior, my jaw dropped.

“Oh my gosh!” I said out loud. “Wow, just wow!”

The drywall was gone and I was overwhelmed by the sight. If you had blindfolded me and taken the blindfold off at this moment, I would not have believed I was standing in Etta’s front hallway.

My gaze travelled up the wall and continued past a grid of 2 x 4’s that had originally supported the sheet rock. Two feet beyond that was a lathe and plaster ceiling. Several holes pocked the surface of the original 1900 ceiling. Although the ceiling and walls were in rough shape, it was amazing how grand Etta felt. I was seeing her ten foot ceilings for the first time. At some time, the ceilings had been lowered to eight feet — most likely to conserve energy.  The front hallway ceiling was so tall that, I thought to myself, “I can install a gorgeous chandelier in here.” My home in the suburbs of Raleigh was built with unsubstantial eight foot ceilings. Any light fixtures not over a table or countertop in my home had to be semi-flush or on a short chain. As a self-professed light fixture junky, this limited my lighting choices. But Etta was going to let my lighting dreams soar to new heights!

Looking up and down the hallway I saw vintage wallpaper lining both walls. The same pastoral houses-and-trees wallpaper from inside the mantel also made up the quaint pattern on the walls of the parlor. The small sample of wallpaper I had exposed in the fireplace was on every wall all the way to the ceiling!

Stepping into the south parlor, I spun around the room, imagining the 2×4 grid of the lowered ceilings gone and a beautiful light fixture in the center of the room. Although there was no longer a firebox, the mantel would complete the grand look of this formal space.

Back in the foyer, I spied some pencil marks on the wall: “BC + JB”. Some long ago lovers? Did they get married? Where were they now? A few spots in the foyer were exposed to reveal a rose patterned wallpaper and another layer beneath it revealed mauve flourishes on a pink background.

Turning left, I stepped into the north parlor and marveled at the open space and airy feeling from the exposed ten foot ceilings. The closet behind the door had been removed and in the void was more vintage wallpaper. I looked up toward the ceiling and saw something that suddenly explained why the walls had been covered up.

…to be continued

If you are just joining the story, you may want to read all the Saving Etta chapters.

Are you enjoying the Saving Etta chapters? I’d love to hear from you! What are you enjoying the most?

Downstairs Bathroom Plans at Saving Etta

Thank you so much for your feedback and comments on the master bathroom mood board for Saving Etta. While preparing for the plumbing, I had to start picking out all the fixtures. If you’ve been following me on Facebook and Instagram, you know that I ran into a little issue with the tub in the downstairs bathroom. The space was wider than the tub. I asked for your opinion and a lot of you wanted to keep the tub centered on the window.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Ultimately, we framed out two walls on either side of the tub. At the foot of the tub, I will be installing a shampoo niche like this one. I bought it off Amazon because the price was much better than local stores.

One thing I forgot to mention on the master bathroom mood board is the addition of one of these beauties in the shower:

Gold Octopus Designer Drains shower drain

I stumbled across Designer Drains while on Instagram one day. Their beautiful drains are a wonderful way to upgrade the standard shower drain. In the master bathroom, the floor tiles will be black, which will make the brass show up nicely.

Back to the downstairs bathroom. In this bathroom, I’m using an exhaust fan by Broan that looks (and performs) just like a recessed light. It will be installed over the tub to provide adequate ventilation during hot steamy showers (my favorite.)

BROAN Bath fan/light

For the bathtubs, I turned to Wilkinson (our local plumbing supply house), to talk to them about bathtubs. Emily told me I couldn’t beat a Bootz tub for price and quality. At under $200 each, these tubs don’t break my budget. Plus, they have a finish that makes it feel like a cast iron tub, when in actuality they are super lightweight.
Steel Bathtub With Right Hand Drain, White, 30"x60"x14 1/4"
The idea for this bathroom is simple. White subway tile walls, maybe black hexagon flooring and some small hex tiles to accent the back of the shampoo niche. One of the photos I was drawn to on Pinterest is Aniko’s bathroom makeover from A Place of My Taste. You really need to see what she started with! As much as I’d like to use color in a bathroom, I think I should keep the tile and fixtures neutral to appeal to more buyers.

Place of My Taste Bathroom

What do you think? Do you like the fixtures I’ve chosen for the downstairs bathroom? Is it too much black and white? Do I need to add some color?

These are links to the material sources:  

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links.
There is no additional cost to you. You can 
read more about affiliate links here.)

Black Hex Tile

White Subway Tile

Small Black & White Hex Tile

Bronze Wide Spread Bathroom Sink Faucet

Wall Mounted Light Fixtures

Bathroom Vanity with Marble Top

Bath Exhaust Fan/Light


Disclosure: Broan, Designer Drains, and Jeffrey Court are sponsors of the Saving Etta project. They will be providing complimentary products for the project.

Master Bathroom Design Plans

It’s hard to believe I need to start thinking about all the materials and fixtures I’m using inside the master bathroom of my flip house. We are just finishing up framing this week and I have my plumber and HVAC contractors lined up to start roughing in the ducts and plumbing lines next. But, I need to have the tub and shower fixtures chosen so the plumber can install the water and waste pipes for the bathrooms and the kitchen. I’m learning on the fly about contingent tasks and it feels a little crazy right now. This week I learned I have to have the plumbing roughed in before the roof is installed. Details, they matter!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen a fair amount of progress on the house. If you’ve been following the Saving Etta chapters, I admit I’m behind the times. I received a comment from a reader who was angry that the chapters weren’t in real time. My explanation for this is that I just can’t do it all. Managing a project this size has left me with very little time to keep the blog updated. When I release a Saving Etta chapter, I want it to be well written for your enjoyment. With that being said, I hope you’ll forgive me if it takes a while for the Saving Etta chapters to get caught up (truth be told they may never be current.)

With that explanation out of the way, I want to share my mood boards. Today, let’s delve into my vision for the master bathroom. I hope you like the design direction I’m taking and will weigh in on a couple of questionable ideas I have.

In full disclosure, I’m working with Jeffrey Court Tiles. They are one of the fantastic sponsors for the Saving Etta project. If you’ve been to Home Depot lately, and wandered through the tile section, you probably swooned over some of the Jeffrey Court tiles. I bet you didn’t know that there are many more tiles varieties on their website!

Let’s start with the floor tiles. I recently discovered these beautiful Montpelier marble mosaic tiles. The pattern is intricately designed with tiny squares. Gorgeous, right?!

For the floor of the shower, I want to use these dark marble hex tiles. Not only will they add some contrast, but they also add some depth to the space. Plus, hopefully they will look clean even when dirty ;-).

The walls of the shower will be classic white subway tiles. I’m trying to maintain a historic and timeless feel in all three bathrooms. The shampoo niche will have more of the Montpelier mosaic tiles from the bathroom floor.

Being that this is the master bathroom, I want to add something extra special for the homeowners. Therefore, I’ve decided to install a super quiet exhaust fan from NuTone with a Bluetooth Wireless Speaker inside! You read that right, a fan with a hidden speaker inside. NuTone is also one of the Saving Etta sponsors. But, I would have used a NuTone fan regardless. They make quality exhaust fans that last for decades! We still have the original NuTone bath fans in our 40 year old house.

Finally, I’d like to add some hanging pendants in the master bathroom, but I’ll need to hang them high enough so they don’t get knocked around. Luckily, the master bathroom has 9 foot ceilings. What do you think about this idea? Are pendants in a bathroom weird? Will they be an annoyance or a upscale feature?

These are the pendants I bought from

Hanging Triangle Shaped Glass Shade Pendent Fixture, Transparent

Finally, I haven’t been thrilled with the vanities available and want to make my own vanity. But, time will tell if I have the time to make it happen. There is so much to be done on the house and I’m hoping to have it finished by fall. It really would be amazing to be able to clone myself. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep chugging along.

Please let me know what you think about this design plan in the comments. Do you have pendants in your bathroom? Are they cool or a pain?

Image Sources:

Farmhouse Bathroom designed by Anne Sneed Architectural Interiors, featured on OneKinDesign

Tile Shower designed by Allison Willson, photography by Stacey Brandford

Montpelier Mosaic Tiles by Jeffrey Court Tiles

Black Marble Hexagon Tiles by Jeffrey Court Tiles

White Subway Tiles by Jeffrey Court Tiles

Hanging Cone Pendant Lights from

Very Quiet Bath Exhaust Fan from Nutone

Sensonic Bath Fan Speaker Accessory from Nutone

I can’t wait to share the rest of the mood boards with you. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: NuTone and Jeffrey Court are both sponsors of the Saving Etta project. They will be providing complimentary products for the project.

Saving Etta - One Woman's Journey to Save a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

Saving Etta: Chapter 18 – Good Neighbors

This is the true story about a house built in 1900 that is in serious disrepair. It’s also the story about my journey toward becoming a general contractor and my attempt to save a home from being bulldozed. I hope you’ll follow along as I embark on a journey into the unknown perils and rewards of flipping a home in downtown Raleigh, NC.

If you are just joining the story, you may want to read all the Saving Etta chapters for more of the back story.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram as I share live updates about this project I’m calling Saving Etta.

A special thank you to all the brands that are helping to save Etta!

Driving down the road, I turned the corner and spotted a CVS minute clinic sign. I strode straight to the clinic and entered my name into the computer, then waited my turn. A smiling nurse finally called my name and I headed into her office. She took my information and then asked why I needed a tetanus shot. Here it was, the same question, and probably the same reason why she couldn’t give me one. As I explained to her the deep cut on my finger, she frowned and asked to take a look.

“Okay, let me just get some more information and I’ll draw up your vaccine,” she said.

I exhaled and was glad I could stop worrying about getting tetanus in the middle of my first flip adventure.

By the next day, the cut on my finger had already sealed itself. I cleaned it again and put a big bandage on it. Then I headed back downtown to put in some more sweat equity on Etta.

To save money, I decided to tackle as much of the internal demolition as I could. Today I wanted to get the water heater taken out. I knew water had been leaking into the exterior vent for the heater for some time, so I suspected I’d find more mold in the closet around the heater. From my truck bed, I pulled out eye goggles, a respirator, and gloves. I wasn’t taking any chances after reading about the health issues caused by black mold.

I grabbed a sledgehammer, locked up my truck, and walked into the house. The air inside the house was as humid as it was outside. Because of the presence of mold in the other room, I had shut off the air conditioning to prevent spores from spreading through the house.

I  began to punch holes into the small closet housing the water heater. While I swung the sledge, I prayed aloud, “Please no mold, please no mold.” At least if I discovered more, it would be better to find out now before the mold remediation started.

Within minutes my goggles fogged. Luckily, I knew an old trick from my lap swimming days. Squeeze a drop of dish soap on the inside of the lens and smear it around. The soap acts as a barrier to prevent goggles from fogging.

With clearer vision, I continued to punch holes into the wall. The small fist-sized holes started to connect and the wall began to open up, giving me a better view of the water heater.

Reaching my gloved hand inside the closet, I yanked large chunks of drywall out. With each new piece removed, I inspected the back side for mold spores. So far they were clear.

Before long, I had removed all the drywall from the water heater closet and was down to the studs. Remarkably, I hadn’t discovered any mold. But, I knew there may still be some under the heater.

I ran outside to the truck to grab some more tools. Ripping the respirator and the goggles off my face, I sucked in lungfuls of fresh air. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking briskly toward me. I felt for my pepper spray, but relaxed my hand as I saw Kevin’s big smile.

“Need any water today?” he asked.

I laughed and pointed to my thermos in the truck. “Nope, I’m good.”

Kevin and I chatted briefly about the weather, how demolition was going, and his family that lives in Virginia. By now, he was used to my disheveled appearance. Today I had a deep circle around my mouth and nose (where the respirator had been), and a deep groove in my forehead (where the goggles were pulled tight). My hair was plastered to my head from the humidity and sweat. I definitely wouldn’t win any glamour awards.

After Kevin left, I grabbed my tools and headed back inside the house. Reluctantly I replaced the goggles and respirator. Taking a brief break had given me some more energy to disconnect the water heater. The plumbing connections were rusted tight, so I sprayed some WD-40 onto all the joints and waited a few minutes.

Outside I heard the distinct sound of a large truck backing up: Meep, meep, meep, meep, meep. Peeking out the back door, I watched the dumpster delivery man hook up to the front of the dumpster. He lifted it to a forty-five degree angle and dragged the dumpster forward 10 feet, then set it down with a large metal clang. Walking outside, I thanked him for moving the dumpster so I could open the back. He nodded and left as quickly as he had arrived.

Walking back into the kitchen, I grabbed a pair of pliers and tried to loosen the gas connection from the heater. It wouldn’t budge, so I tapped it with a hammer a few times. Still it resisted my efforts. Then I remembered a trick my plumber, Anthony, had showed me.

“If you have a stuck connection, try tightening it first,” I remembered Anthony explaining.

Although it seems counter-productive, sometimes it’s enough to break the seal and then you can loosen a tight connections.

I grabbed the pliers and turned them to the right. The nut moved a fraction of an inch. When I turned it to the left it began to loosen. Once again, Anthony’s tip had paid off. After another 20 minutes of struggling with the pipes, I freed the water heater from the gas and water hookups. It was time to drain this bad boy. From outside, I removed the hose from the spigot and brought it inside. Next I connected the hose to the base of the water heater and snaked the hose into the bathroom. I put the open end of the hose into the tub, then walked back to the water heater.

The valve opened easily and I was thankful for one thing not giving me a struggle. After a minute, I realized I wasn’t hearing the water draining. Walking back to the bathroom, I confirmed nothing was happening at the other end of the hose.

“Hmmm, wonder why it won’t drain,” I thought to myself.

I tried to rock the heater, but it didn’t budge. There was definitely water in it. Frustrated to be so close to getting the water heater out, I broke down and called Anthony, the plumber.

He answered on the second ring, “ALM Plumbing.”

“Anthony, it’s Brittany. I’m trying to remove the water heater from a flip house I’m working on and I can’t get it to drain.” I spoke into the phone.

He listened briefly and told me he was in the area and could stop by after he finished up with another repair call.

While I waited for Anthony, I took advantage of the newly located dumpster. I tried to open the tail gate, but it also wasn’t in the mood to move for me today. A few taps of the sledge hammer and the latch released allowing the tailgate to swing wide open. Putting my gloves back on, I slowly dragged each cabinet across the lawn and heaved them into the front end of the dumpster. Normally I would have donated the cabinets to our local Habitat ReStore, but the boxes were bulging from water damage and most had mouse feces in the back of the cabinets. I’m fairly confident they would not be welcomed donations.

As I picked up the last cabinet, I was surprised that it felt lighter than the others. When I looked down, I realized the bottom half had separated and was still sitting on the ground. Nope, these cabinets were definitely not fit for donation. I tossed the fragments of the cabinet into the dumpster. Looking toward the open crawlspace door, I decided to try to clear a path through the vines and under the house for Anthony.

As I struggled to pull an old lawn mower out from beneath the house, I heard a familiar baritone voice.

“Having fun under there?” Anthony said.

He crouched outside the crawlspace door, his body blocking most of the daylight. Anthony is a big guy with an imposing figure, but he’s incredibly kind and has helped me with many plumbing emergencies.  Consequently, he’s no longer surprised to find me on all fours. Still, I felt the need to explain I was trying to clear a path for him to look under the house. I wanted him to assess the condition of the plumbing pipes to determine if we could use any of them and help me locate the water shut off.

“Let’s take a look at the water heater first, then I’ll check out the crawlspace,” he said.

“What? Are you too chicken to come under here?” I joked with him, knowing full well that Anthony spent most of his day in crawlspaces. I have a lot of respect for him. Being a plumber is not a glamorous job.

Anthony shook his head and laughed at my teasing.

I crawled out from under the house and showed Anthony inside. I lead him to the water heater and then went back outside to pull more junk out from under the house.

After 20 minutes, Anthony came out of the house. I could see he was winded, red-faced, and dripping with sweat.

“Oh my gosh, what happened?” I asked.

“I couldn’t get it to drain either, so I dragged the damn thing out of the house,” he said.

Shocked by his feat, I said, “That water heater easily weighed 200 pounds.”

Anthony’s breathing started to slow down.

“Probably more. Water weighs 8 lbs. per gallon and that was a fifty gallon tank,” he stated.

“Anthony, that tank weighed four hundred pounds then!” I said. “What were you in high school, a line backer?”

He and I laughed, but I was so thankful he came by to help me. There was no way I could have removed the tank myself. We walked to the backyard where he showed me why it wouldn’t drain. The water dribbled out of the bottom, and a pile of white gooey curds pooled underneath.

“What is that, fish eggs?” I asked.

“Nope, it’s a bacteria. I see it all the time especially in water heaters that aren’t set hot enough,” he explained.

(Educate Yourself: If you want to learn how to prevent your own water heater from growing a dangerous bacteria, read this article.)

“Ewww! I’m completely grossed out now,” I told him.

With the water heater taken care of, we crawled under the crawlspace together and looked around. The ground sloped up toward the back of the house at which point it was only accessible by belly crawling at the half way point. Beyond that even a belly crawling seemed impossible.

“I think your best bet would be to run all new plumbing,” Anthony said. “I don’t see a shut off, so during demo I can turn off the water at the street.”

Anthony swung his flashlight to the right and suddenly shrieked.

…to be continued

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