Hot Tub Time-Suck Machine

Why having a friend with a pool is preferable to having one oneself

A few years ago my father in law ran across someone giving away a hot tub, and although he didn’t want it himself, he told my wife, who decided to take it. She had been dreaming about one since we moved into this house. When we first viewed it some five years ago, there had been a hot tub on the lower wood deck, but the owners had taken it with them as part of the sale.

She accepted it without talking to me about it. I have never desired one, and realized that even a free hot tub would come with several costs. The first was getting the electrical hooked up to it. There were some problems with it, so we had to hire an expert to deal with some electrical issue, and also paid a friend with an electrical license to come and hook it up. Then there’s been the chemicals that it requires to keep the water balanced.

My wife was incredulous that I didn’t want a hot tub, and tried to argue that if I didn’t want it that I shouldn’t use it. Of course I would use it, but I have not enjoyed it proportionally to cost. Perhaps if she had let me drain it during the winter I wouldn’t be so resentful after listening to the heater trip on four times an hour during the winter nights.

Earlier this spring I noticed that the water level was low, and attributed it to evaporation. We had run into some problems with the cover leaking and capturing condensation and I assumed that it was leaking out through this. Deep down I knew something else was going on. We had to refill it several times over the past few months, but I kept putting things off. I had noticed that there was constant moisture around the bottom of the tub and the deck, and I knew that something had to be done.

That time is now.

Yesterday evening the family decided to have a hot tub party, and while we were in it the tub lost power. I checked the breaker and found a ground fault, quickly realizing that my plans for tomorrow had been superseded by this event. I knew that I either had to repair the electrical issue, or drain the tub. So this morning, instead of doing the bushes as I had planned to, I shut off the electrical to the breaker box on the back of the house, pulled the fifty amp breaker out and made a trip out to a couple hardware stores to find a replacement breaker. I figured this easier to troubleshoot than the tub itself.

Unfortunately, neither of the big hardware stores carry breakers that big, only selling the entire box for a hundred dollars. But after speaking to my father, an electrical engineer, and the staff at one of the stores, I came to the conclusion that the tub itself was the problem. So I went home, put the breaker back in, and then began the chore of removing the side panel from the tub. Instead of pulling off the panel by the pump, I pulled off a different one, closer to where the water had been pooling out of the tub. Several of the screws were rusted and gave me some trouble, but I managed to finally get them off and was able to peer inside.

It was a mess. The intake had a drip…drip…drip… coming from it, and the entire underside of the tub was soaking wet. I showed my wife, not to gloat, at all, and then pulled the garden hose out and began draining the tub.

I’ve been waiting for the sun to retreat before I deal with it more. The deck under the tub is rotten in places, so my deck rebuilding project has gotten considerably more complicated. Moving the damn thing will probably take four hands. The deck won’t be that big of a deal unless the cross beams need replacing. I should be able to manage that. But we’re looking at sealing the leak, dealing with whatever electrical issue there is, and replacing the cover if we’re to salvage it. I’m not sure what we’re going to do.

The rest of the day has been a mixed bag of adulting. I had to remove the television from the den, stashing it behind a couch in the front office after I came home from my earlier errand to find the kids driving Missus insane. I managed to prepare another batch of my Mr. Beer home brew kit, this one an IPA from Brew Demon. And Missus has found some joy with her new carpet cleaner, having successfully banished some long-standing spots from our carpet. And as soon as I hit post on this, I’m taking everyone out to a local nature park for a walk and a picnic. When we get home I’ll need to put the cover back on the spa and put the hoses away.

I’m not sure what we’ll do the rest of the day, hopefully I can talk Elder or Missus into playing a board game with me, but I have a feeling they’ll finagle me into putting the TV back where it belongs. I’d rather not. if I was being honest, it does not spark joy in this household, at least not the way the hot tub has.

This old deck

Embarking on a home repair undertaking

Monday again. I’m starting to feel like I should have recurrent themes around these blog posts instead of whatever happens to be in my head at the time. Then again, the whole point of writing here is to take whatever’s floating around in my head and flesh it out a bit more, to figure out what’s important and what my priorities are.

Last night I finished drafting another Substack newsletter. I’m saying “another” instead of “this week’s”, since it’s actually “last week’s”. Plus it seems that writing these every week is unrealistic, given my other responsibilies. Perhaps it was the holiday break that threw everything off. We’ll see.

I also started taking on a large home improvement project, repairing my back deck. It’s really a huge undertaking, and I’ve never attempted something like this before. The deck itself is over ten years old, treated lumber with a dark red stain over it. We’ve only had it touched up once in the five years we’ve been at this house, and it’s in dire need of repair. Rain has started to seep into the boards, and several of them are actually starting to rot. The railing covers are falling apart, and earlier this week the side rail on the stairs popped off. Several of the balusters are loose as well. It needs some TLC.

Missus wanted to hire someone to come out and do the repairs, but I’m averse to taking on any large projects right now. So what did I do? I built a Kanban board of course!

Trello board

The aha moment came when I went under the deck to inspect the joices, and found that not only were they in good shape, but the underside of the deck boards looked like they were in fine shape as well. Why not flip them over? This would save us about $450 in materials alone. The hard part is getting the old screws out, so I went ahead and bought a reciprocating saw in preparation. I then went through a how-to guide on Lowe’s site, adding cards for each step and each tool or material that I would need. So now I’m just waiting for Lowe’s to put my items together for pickup, and for my saw to come via Amazon, then we can get started clearing the deck and proceeding with the project. By the time I’m done, I hope to have a newly finished deck and all the repairs made. Pulling this off will be a big accomplishment for me, as I’ve never attempted a house project of this magnitude before.

My father’s quite the handyman. He’s got quite the collection of tools and has done many projects in the family homes over the years. I helped him build a privacy fence around our large property when I was a teen, and he also built a deck in the back around our above ground pool. These projects could take several weeks to finish, and I’ve never had the desire to undertake anything like putting on a new roof. I tried replacing the front door at our last house and that required a lot of improvisation to complete.

I’m not sure where my aversion to house projects comes from. Perhaps from my tendency to live in the digital world, where the reminders of unfinished projects are less visible. Taking on a home repair project is so much of a disruption, and requires dedication to complete the job. Life is interrupted, and the job takes priority over anything else. It has to be done before life can go back to normal. Running into obstacles provides challenges that have to be dealt with immediately, and you have to plow on through until the job is complete.

For me, it seems that even the smallest home project involves multiple trips back to the hardware store for tools or things that I didn’t know I needed, and my garage is littered with tools that I needed one time. It’s a practice, I suppose. Changing the oil on my car or doing the brakes is pretty routine at this point. Now I’m stuck undertaking a huge deck repair project cause we haven’t maintained it properly.

Growing up, my family would watch This Old House and other shows on PBS’s late morning lineup. This was before HGTV and all the House Flipper reality television shows. I’m not sure why I’ve shied away from these projects over there years. Among my first jobs in high school were roofing and framing, although just as a helper. I think part of it was that besides the manager and contractor, the rank and file guys weren’t the best role models. Nearly all of them were alcoholics and potheads, living paycheck to paycheck and without any future prospects. Most of them were just one on-the-job injury away from being destitute. Plus, it was dirty, miserable work outside for the most part. I much preferred sitting in shelter, hacking away at a computer screen, and that’s the path my career has taken.

This deck project is a character test of sorts. I know once I pull the first screw out of one of those boards I’m embarking down a project that I’m going to need to see to completion. Missus will never let me rest while her sanctuary is disturbed.

Casa kanban-a

two blue and red Sharpie pens

Getting ready to decorate the walls

Forgive the horrible pun, my head is already swimming with things I have to do, and this morning I’m already trying to remember where the Post-Its are so I can convert my dining room wall into a operations board. I even had an idea to put the letters of the alphabet in lanes to track which ones my four-year old knows. That might not be a bad idea, actually. There’s a chair guard running across the middle of the wall, I could put Elder’s above the guard and Younger’s below, household stuff on the other wall. If anything, it would allow the kids to visualize not just their work but all of ours as well. Maybe it would help them realize just how much work there is to be done around here. We’ll give it a try.

I went to bed a quarter after ten last night, slept well for the most part as Missus and Younger were in the other room. I woke up just after four this morning from a dream where I had sold my car to an ex-girlfriend that I haven’t seen in near twenty years. I’m not even going to try and analyze that one… Four is just too early for me at this point, so I went back to sleep and got up an hour later.

A lot of things came up in my head during meditation. I’ve got a lot on my plate today, including an important client meeting for Zombie. I had a call yesterday with the head of what is now Zombie’s current cornerstone client, and it went pretty well, but I’m not ready to rename them quite yet. We had some conversations about doing some WordPress SEO work yesterday, so that was interesting. Keeping work and side work separate is becoming a bit more difficult.

Besides work work, I’ve got weekly work meeting with my current WordPress development client tonight, and a hard date to get the new deployment up by the end of the month. It’s doable, but I have to get them to understand that launching isn’t the end of the process, it’s the beginning. I’ve been struggling to find some good resources for “web design” that aren’t just about the how-to technical process, but about the higher level stuff where I’m lacking. Most books and courses that I’ve been coming across are tech tutorials, but I’m looking for something different at this point. I suppose it falls more along UI/UX design than anything else at this point. Hopefully we’ll be able to start converting some of the traffic that the current design is getting after relaunch.

I’m way overdue with my Substack, so I need to spend another hour on that. I’ve got a couple ideas to add to my review of The Phoenix Project so that it’s more newsletter-y. Yes, one of them is about kanbans, and I might add a response to an email that I got from the last issue that went out. And I’ve got to figure out a pipeline for them so that I’m not always behind. Since I can’t add capacity, I’m going to have to reduce the frequency (bi-monthly?) or the amount of content. I had the thought or releasing one issue publicly on LinkedIn, and making the second for email subscribers only? We’ll play around with it.

Anyways, Elder is up early, so that means I’m done here for today. Off to find the Post-Its.