Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Not to Fix a Leaky Faucet

November 18, 2008

Ever since I moved to the new place I've been bothered by a dripping faucet in the sink. Such things are common and easy to fix, so I've had it on my mind to do it for weeks. There was a problem with my dishwasher, so the condo owner and her boyfriend came to work on it, both armed with information they had gotten from the Internet.

I should have been somewhat leary, because what they learned didn't really help and she ended up having to buy a new dishwasher for the place. But the idea of learning simple tasks from the Internet intrigued me and I Googled "fix leaky faucet." There were a number of places to go and I found this one which featured an attractive, upbeat lad named Ian who walked me throught the process step by step, ending with the phrase, "Now you're golden."

Over the weeks I began studying his little video. It was so easy. I even had those tools. I tried some of the steps, and found that the old wrench and pliers I had were rusty, not the size I needed, and useless. I bought new ones. I bought a box of all-purpose washers. They weren't the right size for anything. I bought a box of assorted o-rings. They were all sizes, but no two alike, so I bought a second box in case I would need to fix both faucets. I walked myself through the process several times, and nothing seemed to be quite right. I hoped I wouldn't have to replace the "Cold" faucet because I couldn't screw that one off.

Today was the day. I had bought some pipe joint compound which seemed to be the final step in assuring I'd be golden.

I brought a couple of towels into the sink area where I would be working, as Ian had instructed me to. I set out all my tools, taping off those that Ian said to so as not to damage the threads of the screws. He didn't mention taping might make the tools less efficient--in fact, he hadn't mentioned that anything could go wrong.

First off, I turned off the water valves tight. Then I removed the one faucet I had learned in my practice sessions that I could. Disaster. Thinking I was turning the water valves off I was actually turning them on full force! The kitchen was pretty well flooded by the time I got down under the cabinet to turn both valves in the other direction. Luckily I had lots of towels in a bag to give to Goodwill, so I mopped as I went.

When you get the faucet off, its bare bones don't look like those of Ian's faucet. The new washers and o-rings didn't seem to go anywhere, and pieces of the little faucet skeleton were everywhere, none fitting where I had thought it would. I fiddled and fussed and could not get the joint compound tube open. I tried a nail. I called a friend in Alabama who said just to break into the tube and throw the thing away when I was finished. I did that. This joint compound also didn't look like Ian's, which came in a tube too, and looked like spackle or white grout. Had I gotten the wrong kind of joint compound? Mine was runny and grey-green. At last I managed to smear some on the faucet joint, but I didn't make a nice firm seal as Ian had promised.

But I got it all back in place and turned on the water. It spewed from the faucet without my turning it on, and would only turn off by using the valve under the sink. I'm sure I did everything right. It would have been easier to have called the landlady, which I must do now anyway. She and her fiancé will simply watch Ian and come over and fix the faucet or maybe she'll send a plumber which is what I really need.

Look, nobody is good at everything, I tell myself. If Ian has a blog, I'll bet somebody else writes it.


Benedict S. said...

Hilarious! Benchley wouldn't have changed a word. (You might advise the landlords to call a plumber . . . not Joe.)

Jerry Andersen said...

Your first mistake was following directions. I never do because I find they inhibit my seeking a creative solution to a problem. Of course, after I've made a botch of it, I beg anyone who will listen for help. Maybe I can find directions on operating a salt shaker on the internet? Hmmmm

Mary Lois said...

News bulletin:
Landlady and fiance arrived yesterday afternoon with toolkit. After much work and discussion it was decided a plumber would be needed.

They threw around a couple of Italian names, called three companies, and a man will be here at noon today. He'll have to shut off the water in all the building, and only God knows what he'll find in my pipes, but I expect to be dripless by this afternoon.

And as for that salt shaker, I downloaded the manual for my cell phone when I couldn't find mine, and couldn't make head nor tail out of it there either.

Benedict S. said...

No wonder y'all couldn't find the directions for operating a salt shaker. The directions are printed on the bottom of the shaker. (The bottom is the end that doesn't have holes in it.) Sometimes you have to shake the thing to make the directions come out clearly. They're printed in mobilious type. Also, it helps if there's actually salt in the shaker. Directions for loading the shaker are a shade more difficult. Consult Ian.

Mary Lois said...

News bulletin update:

Plumber stopped in at appointed time, took one look at the faucet and announced he'd need to replace the fixture. He'd have to deal with the landlady about what to buy, and get back to me later.

The rest of the day I waited around. He called at about 5 P.M. and said he was at another job and would be here tomorrow at 9:30. In the meantime I'm holding off using any water from the kitchen. Amazing how we get hooked on these newfangled inventions--like, say, running water--isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a vision...ML all wet and scampering around sopping up a flood.Confidence breeds success?
Huh? A second go at it might have cured the leak. If you chance to try such again, #1 turn off the water supply (rightie tightie/left loosey). #2 Remove the culprit #3. Take the failed unit to a hardware store so that you can get the correct parts or replacement.
I'd have fixed it for you.

Mary Lois said...

A little late and a dollar short, Anon. I just knew somebody bright would read this and say he would have fixed it for me if only he'd known about it (and didn't live some 2,000 miles away!)

P.S. READERS, I'm a little disappointed that NONE of you clicked on the link to Ian. If you click on the blue letters, you'll be taken to the brief video that convinced me it would be easy to fix that faucet. Apparently not one of my readers did that, and a lot of them wonder what the hell made me think I could attempt to fix a faucet.

(Reading that, I see it sounds a little harsh. I'm just kidding, I love you all madly, but I think you'll fall in love with Ian if you watch the video. You'll be golden.)

Anonymous said...

In a moment of weakness I watched the LAN(?)...duh..u-tube? He did a nice clean job. What could mess that up, ML?
1. He did not show the replacement of the washer which likely as not has the screw head all mummocked from corosion or lime build-up.
2. "Rightie .tightie".He did..why didn't ML? hmmm...oh boy , I wish I could have seen the action when the water started to spew.
3. Maybe your faucet was a different kind..with a rotating
port valve, a bit more difficult and with smaller pieces down in the fixture recess. BTW beware of metal burs when poking around in metal orafices. They'l cut you easily. He did not warn of that.
4. Maybe AML wanted to meet the plumber?..ha!
I'll do the LAN every time now.
jacques mullet (I forgot my password)

Anonymous said...

You have to remember that most of the pipes are made out of cast iron and do not trust the turn off valves, most of them are wore out. I remember the first plumbing job I did for our apartment in Hoboken, Yep, flooded the place out! You have to experience it to learn it. Throw away the books!