OUR OLDE HOUSE
by: Gerald Kerner
Miss Sherry and I live in a circa 1863 house in Olde Towne, Clinton. Our house has had at least two major extensions and several interior rearrangements during the past 158 years. As we are taking our turn at caring for this part of Clinton’s history, we have learned to accept that there are no simple fixes to anything that needs attention or updating, and that whoever last fixed what we are fixing again did their best with what they had at the time; judge not, lest ye be judged.
June 24, 2021
A week ago my wife noticed that the refrigerator was off; obviously not good. I reset the circuit breaker a few times and the refrigerator would run for a few minutes or a few hours and then trip the breaker again. Since this is an old house I decided (hoped) it was a bad circuit breaker, so off to the hardware store to find a new breaker for a simple fix.
I found a similar but not identical circuit breaker and plugged it in. Worked fine for an hour and tripped. Reset it, and it was working fine after three days so all seemed well, and we went out to dinner. Of course when we returned the refrigerator was off. Reset the breaker and it would trip in 10 seconds. Put the old breaker back in, reset it, and it would trip in 10 seconds. My next guess was a short in the twenty year old refrigerator, probably fatal for a thousand dollar fix. It was late by this time, so we moved what we could from the refrigerator into our little fridge and little freezer overnight.
The next morning we called appliance repair who suggested we plug the refrigerator into a different circuit to see if maybe the plug was bad, and not the refrigerator. I mentioned that the refrigerator is plugged in behind the built-in dishwasher so I would need to disconnect the dishwasher and remove it from its cabinet to do that. The repair lady said if they came out they would have to charge us to remove the dishwasher so they could plug the refrigerator into another circuit to troubleshoot the problem, so I said I would pull the dishwasher out and test the refrigerator with an extension cord to a different plug.
This is when I realized that once again, this was not going to be a simple fix. This house is a lot like Columbo, as soon as you think you are finished with a problem there is always just one more thing.
I went under the house hoping that there was a separate water valve for the dishwasher which I found and turned off; best news so far. As I glanced at the wiring for the dishwasher under the house I noticed about 6 inches of insulation missing, apparently a rat snack. This turned out to be actually good news but for some reason I did not immediately recognize it that way. With power and water off to the dishwasher, I disconnected it and pulled it out of the cabinet so I could test the refrigerator.
As I tried to focus on the simple task of plugging the refrigerator into a different circuit I noticed that the outlet tubing from the dishwasher was cracked and about to break which would cause a flood, and the power cord to the refrigerator had a scrape in it exposing a tiny spot of hot wire. Focus is important so I ignored the growing list of easy fixes in front of me, plugged the refrigerator into another circuit and voila the refrigerator worked. Excellent news, with not having to buy a new refrigerator and all.
The refrigerator was running again so I had time to make the few fixes remaining. Back to the hardware store to get an appliance extension cord so I could plug the refrigerator in behind the refrigerator, some house wire to replace the chewed piece, and a new dishwasher outlet hose kit.
Back home I repaired the refrigerator power cord. I routed the wiring from the refrigerator outlet to a new junction box under the house which is connected to the wire from the circuit breaker. Circuit breaker reset and on, and we have power to the refrigerator. I replaced the dishwasher outlet hose, connected the dishwasher to the hot water, pushed it back into the cabinet, turned on the water valve and circuit breaker and we have a dishwasher; test rinse cycle and no leaks.
I am grateful that we did not need a new refrigerator. I am grateful that I repaired the refrigerator power cord before it shorted out. I am grateful for finding the failing dishwasher outlet hose before it caused a flood. And I am most grateful to God who sent the rat to chew off the insulation which led to my discovery of several issues (conveniently located next to each other) that were easy fixes before any or all of them became a giant oops. We love our olde house.