For the last several weeks — probably close to two months, to be honest — I noticed something was hinky with the glass panel on the front of our oven. It wasn’t sitting quite right, and I said, “Is it just me or is something weird about the oven door?”
Then one evening I noticed that the glass panel was slipping at one side, definitely something was wrong with it, and I thought, “crap.”
My husband denied seeing anything wrong until one day when there was, seriously, like a 30-degree-angle gap at the top right corner of the glass panel, when he finally said, “yeah, I guess something’s wrong. Piece of shit oven, huh? Why don’t you start shopping for a new one.” I said, “No, it’s actually a fairly good oven, but clearly this part of it was not installed in a good way.” Unlike my husband, I was aware that replacing this oven with a comparable appliance would cost more than a thousand dollars. I am extremely, extremely reluctant, to just say “piece of shit oven!” and order a new machine.
So I began to use duct tape to keep the glass panel in place, or at least keep it from slipping out entirely and shattering on the floor. This was not ideal, because every time I used the oven, the heat from the oven’s interior would basically melt the adhesive on the duct tape, and I’d have to start over. I officially began to keep a roll of white duct tape over the ruler I keep in one of my utensil jars to the side of the stovetop. You could find me sitting on the floor a couple times a day, putting fresh duct tape on the oven door.
I did endless Googling. I watched YouTube videos. I read complaints to GE Customer Service posted to Facebook. I gleaned that this slipping-glass-panel thing was a problem for others with ranges from this manufacturer (GE). Pretty shitty of you, GE, to make ovens this way, but I’ll try to let that go. Basically, instead of having the glass panel be screwed in place, with maybe some little easily replaced rubber washers to allow for the glass to expand and contract as the appliance gets used, GE cheaped out unbelievably, and put a long adhesive strip at the bottom of the glass panel and just shoved onto the front of the oven door. There’s this little bitty L-shaped ridge at the bottom of the door that ostensibly catches the panel, but because there’s no upward-tilted lip at the end of the L-shape, the fact is, once the adhesive dies, there’s really not much holding the panel in place. The adhesive, as long as it holds, bonds the glass to the actual interior metal oven door, and the ridge keeps the panel squared, and I suppose in theory this is fine, except, as any idiot knows, such adhesives don’t last forever, and without a lip to hold the glass panel, it’s obvious the thing’s gonna slip, eventually. If I can think this through, someone at GE is capable of it too.
In the case of our particular oven, I think the adhesive lasted seven or eight years. We didn’t buy this oven; it came with our apartment. But we’ve been living here for seven years and I think the oven was new when we moved in — at least, it sure looked unused — so, let’s call it seven years. Could be eight. It really doesn’t matter.
My point is, for quite some time, the adhesive was fine — but here’s the thing: when the shit gives out, what happens (according to everything I read online) is that the glass just fucking drops to the floor and shatters and people, like, get hurt. Not cool, GE.
But, the good news, according to many Online Commenters, is that it’s possible to re-install the glass panel. If you get special heat resistant double-sided tape, or heat-resistant silicone, you can re-install the glass panel, and, no, it’s not by any means a permanent fix, but on the other hand, this isn’t a machine intended to have a permanent fix. I mean, by design, it’s obvious. Many commenters wrote about their experiences calling GE technicians, and these were not heartwarming stories. Apparently if you call a GE technician, what they do is they come out to your house, for unspecified large sums of money, and apply some of this heat-resistant silicone, and then… there you are.
“FUCK THIS SHIT,” I said to myself, “I am not paying $450 to have some guy come out and smear silicone on this glass. I can smear my own damned silicone.”
So I started trying to figure out what to buy. I swear to God, I was spending probably 40 minutes a day Googling and reading reviews and trying to figure out what the hell to buy. I didn’t want to spend a dime on something that wasn’t the absolute right stuff. What I learned is that I couldn’t obtain the double-sided tape some people mentioned, because it’s only available in the UK (maybe this wasn’t the case at the time these things were posted, though). I fumed over this and in the meantime I basically stopped using the oven. I mean, I used it while I had three little girls here doing cooking camp, with lots and lots of duct tape liberally applied — but once the camp was over, I stopped baking.
My husband asked my why I didn’t try calling Page’s Hardware, out in Guilford. Because Page’s sells appliances, in addition to being a very fine hardware store, he reasoned, they would probably have a clue. “This is very true,” I said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.” So I called them. I spent about thirty minutes on the phone with a few people at Page’s, including one guy who used to work as an appliance repairman. None of them could help. The former repairman said, “You know what, you got me thinking about this now… I suspect the issue is that what you need is, like, a proprietary adhesive you can only get from GE, but let me call you back — let me look around and see what I can come up with that might work.” He phoned me back an hour later and said, “I tell you: we have adhesives that will bond the glass to the metal, but none of them are heat resistant to 500°, which you really need, what with all those pizzas you make–” (I’d explained to him that I use the oven frequently and really blast it, too, so the heat resistant aspect of things mattered) “– and none of them say “food safe.” I mean, I could sell ’em to you, but I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it since I know what you’re gonna be using this on.” “I hear you,” I said. “I think you gotta call an appliance repair company, or GE,” the man said regretfully. He gave me the names of a couple of local companies and wished me luck.
I called Goody’s, another excellent hardware store in the area. They were less chatty than the folks at Page’s, and couldn’t help me at all.
I called three different local appliance repair companies, none of whom were willing to come work on the oven, all of whom said they didn’t have the glue GE requires for affixing glass panels to metal doors. What’s this glue made of, plutonium?
Finally I broke down and phoned GE, which was a shitstorm. GE’s customer service people would not, for love or money, tell me what kind of adhesive was needed to fix the oven door — I don’t think the people I spoke to even knew — and when I finally thought, “fuck it, I will have a technician come out,” I learned that they charge $100 to have a guy come in the door, and then charge additional for parts and labor, with no stated rates. “I get that you don’t know in advance what parts cost,” I said reasonably, “though in this case we’re almost certainly talking about a $7 tube of glue, but you really can’t tell me what the rate is for labor?” “No, ma’am, I cannot,” said the lady at the 800 Number. “I have an opening on Friday from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.”
“Are you serious?” I said. “I’m a housewife and I have a very flexible schedule, but no, even I can’t work with that.”
“How about next Monday, I have 8 in the morning until five in the afternoon.” “Uh, no,” I said. “Is there really no way to make a smaller window of time to make this appointment?” “No, ma’am, there is not.”
“Then never mind,” I said. “Thank you for your time.” And I hung up.
It was as I sat on the couch, fuming, my daughter at my side looking at me with worry, that I had a small epiphany. The heat resistant silicone I’d seen references to, over and over again, was, I suddenly realized, always sold at Ace Hardware affiliated websites. Or, I mean, Amazon, but I was trying to avoid Amazon. “I wonder if there’s an Ace Hardware store around here,” I said to my daughter. I did more Googling. It turned out that there was — in Cheshire. A wonderful hardware store, R.W. Hine, is an Ace affiliate. (Page’s and Goody’s, it turns out, are True Value hardware stores. I have since learned that these details mostly don’t matter, except sometimes, as when you’re looking for heat resistant silicone, they matter hugely.)
So I called Hine’s. I explained my challenge. Oven door, glass panel, heat resistant silicone.
“Yup, we got that stuff,” said the guy on the phone. “You gotta let it cure for a few hours before you use the oven.”
Saturday morning, we went on an adventure, driving out to Cheshire, which is a town I know better than I should. My family lived there for a few years, in the mid-1970s up through the mid-1980s. Cheshire is a mindblowingly dull place but I am able to dredge up fond memories of specific places, like the movie theater… which got torn down about two decades ago. Driving through Cheshire now is a surprisingly empty experience. Some things are completely unchanged from what they were in 1986, and other things are radically different. “You lived out here?” my daughter asked doubtfully. “I didn’t like it much,” I said grimly.
“But the hardware store is great,” I said cheerfully, as we pulled into the parking lot. “You’ll see.”
And lo: R.W. Hine really is a great hardware store. Even my daughter immediately grasped that it was worth the trip.
A kid came right up to me and asked if I needed help. I said, “I phoned yesterday, I’m looking for this, um, this heat-resistant silicone, it comes in a tube….” The kid walked me over to a shelf in the back of the store and there was a shelf of heat-resistant silicone tubes, some big, some little, some heat-resistant to two thousand fucking degrees. “I think that’s a little more than I need to worry about,” I said. The kid said, “You know, let’s take this stuff over to Jeff over here, I wanna be sure this is really what you need.” So we go to Jeff, who’s standing behind a counter, and we explain the situation. GE oven, glass panel, things are fucked, but the glass is 100% intact, need to bond glass to metal, safe to 500 degrees.
“This is what you want,” Jeff said confidently. “And it’s food safe, you could use it on a grill, say, if you had to fix a broken grill.”
“All right then!” I said, pleased as punch. “The best thing is, this stuff only costs seven dollars, so even if it’s a disaster, I’ve not invested that much money in it.” “No, you should be good,” Jeff said.
Over the weekend, I set to cleaning off the old adhesive. This wasn’t hard, but it was rather time-consuming. It’s a situation where “good enough” is actually not at all good enough. If any of the old adhesive is present on the glass or the metal, the new adhesive will not take properly. The glass and the metal need to be absolutely clean and 100% grease-free. My husband doubted my ability to do this, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to get shit clean. I scraped off what I could using a scraper-thingy that hardware people probably have a proper name for, and then the remains of the old adhesive, I rubbed off using a scrubby sponge dredged up from underneath the kitchen sink (where I keep an emergency supply for really ugly cleaning jobs) and an ample supply of rubbing alcohol. My husband helped with the metal ridge part of the project, scraping off most of the adhesive there. “It’s probably fine,” he said, though stripes of grey adhesive were still visible. “It is not fine,” I said. He wandered off; I sat down on the kitchen floor and got to work. Twenty minutes later, the metal ridge was absolutely white; you’d never have known that an hour before it had worn a big thick stripe of black glue. “Huh!” said my husband, impressed. “Baking soda?” “Rubbing alcohol,” I scoffed.
One problem neither of us was able to solve: though hypothetically one can slide the metal oven door off its hinges, to make it possible to work on the door with it lying down on a table, say, neither of us has been able to achieve this. The door remains firmly attached to the oven itself.
“This will make attaching the glass panel kind of a pain, in a way it wouldn’t be otherwise,” I mused. “We’re gonna have to clamp the pieces together, since we can’t just press them together by stacking books on it or something.” “You can use some of my c-clamps,” my husband said kindly. We discussed how to best achieve this, and felt strongly that while it’d be kind of a nuisance, it really wouldn’t be that bad.
The truth is, we don’t actually know how bad it will be, because my husband pointed out to me on Monday morning — as I was saying, brightly, that I planned to finish fixing the oven door during the day — that this kind of job would probably best be done with a second pair of hands assisting. “I think I could do it myself,” I said a little huffily. “I think you could do it yourself,” my husband agreed, “but I think it’d be easier and better if you waited for me to help.”
So our game plan is that this weekend, we will have some down time and we will get down to brass tacks (so to speak) and fix the oven door and leave the adhesive to cure and all will be well, at least until the adhesive fails again.
Last night, as I was prepping dinner (a cold dinner, no oven required, involving a loaf of French bread purchased at a grocery store, and a large salad, and a tub of Liptauer cheese I made on the fly at 5.30 p.m.), I was telling my husband how one of our former tenants had been asking me how to make pizza. “You told him you have to really blast the oven, right?” he said to me. I said, “We haven’t even got to that part yet, we’re just talking about how to make the dough,” I said.
There was a long pause and then my husband said, “You should warn him that frequent pizza making might kill the oven.”
I said, “What do you mean! Our oven works fine!” He looked at me skeptically, and then I saw what he meant. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, you think the fact that I run the oven to 500° once or twice a week is what killed the adhesive on the oven door?”
“I do,” he said. “At least, I find it very likely.”
There followed a discussion of evil people with MBAs making calculations about how strong an adhesive would have to be, in designing and building an oven. There was speculation that the MBA types said, “No one runs their oven to 500°, just use the cheap shit, it’ll be fine,” not taking at all into account the fact that some people do run their ovens that hot rather frequently.
I’m going to have to look into this. I know some engineering types who might have things to say on the subject, and advise as to whether or not my husband is subscribing to Oven Design Conspiracy Theories, or if there’s something to it. In the meantime, though, I’ve been ovenless for several weeks. I can’t bake bread, brownies, cookies, or a frittata. I can’t bake a cake, I can’t make garlic bread, I can’t roast a chicken. Our oven is so useless that last night I used it to stow a full salad bowl in, to keep the cats from jumping into it to get the bits of hardcooked egg I’d added to the salad. (Things are so dire, yes, I’m serving salads for dinner.) “Where’s the salad you made?” my husband called out, when he went to get himself a second helping. “In the oven!” I said, as if this was, like, a normal thing.
We really need to fix our oven door. When you come to see the oven as so useless that you are willing to store things you need to keep cold in it, then you’ve got a problem.