Changing the Faucets – a short story

For months the faucets on our sinks in the master bathroom have leaked. These weren’t destructive or life threatening leaks just an unpleasant ooze of water at the base of the faucets. The water caused unpleasant calcium deposits and marred the sink’s cleanliness. Otherwise things were tolerable which explains why we left the problem for so long. I suppose that we could have found the hidden set nuts under the facet’s decorative caps and removed the housings and replaced the washers to inexpensively solve the problem. That simple solution defied our logic and our ability and so we agreed that replacement was the right course of action. Besides, we argued, by now the faucets were damaged from too much calcium and too many Lime Away treatments.

“Absolutely,” we said, “they must be replaced.”

So when last Saturday rolled around we decided that the moment for replacement had arrived. I was sure that all faucets are not equal and that before we sallied to Home Depot we needed to know where the holes in the sink were. Dan, my husband, agreed and so he emptied the collection of unwanted bathroom items, including a quantity of toilet paper, from under his sink into a disorganized pile of miscellanea on the bathroom floor. He then lay on the floor and curled his body into a gymnastic contortion to get under the sink so that he could remove the faucet. It took a couple of trips to the garage to find the right tools and a bucket but soon step one of our journey was accomplished and we were on the road to Home Depot.

Due to a multitude of home repair projects Dan’s car self propels to Home Depot, but we are not so accomplished and so we wandered down the Faucet Repair aisle before realizing our mistake and made it to the Faucet aisle. Here, we were overwhelmed by the choices before us and strolled up and down for some time while we admired the array. Just as we were homing in on a choice my mobile phone gave its; pressing whirr. I answered and attempted to have a sane conversation with my sister while navigating between faucets. Eventually the faucets won and a man on a mobile ladder fished down two of the most expansive faucets on display from a top shelf.

“But don’t they need electrical connections for the touch activation,” I asked.

”No,” he assured us, “they are mechanical.”

“Good, sold.” Dan responded.

We walked out with the two under our arms. Step two accomplished.

When we got home Dan methodically opened one of the boxes and neatly arrayed the contents on my vanity counter. While he did so I cleansed his sink for calcium deposits and the residue from the old faucets. The first item out of the box was the battery pack. So much for no electrical, but by now the box was partially unpacked. Return, we hazarded, would take longer than installation of the electrical portion of our package, besides we were now sold on the concept of touch on / off faucets. We pressed on.

“Oops. Darn!”

One of the new nuts went down the drain in my sink. Dan immediately emptied the collection of unwanted bathroom items, from under my sink to join the disorganized pile of unwanted miscellanea already on the floor. He then lay on the floor and again curled his body into a gymnastic contortion to get under my sink so that he could remove the P trap. Full of muck it spewed dirt and water and the lost nut into the base of the cabinet He scooped up the nut, reattached the P trap and we were back in business.

We decided that I should read the instructions and then communicate them to Dan who would be the brawn and undertake the additional contortions required to get under the sink. The images were pretty good and after I worked out how to navigate through the several languages associated with them I thought that things were going well. However there was plenty of discussion as we went along:

“This piece doesn’t fit. Those brain-dead idiots, they manufactured it too big! It is going to have to go back!”

“How about trying it the other way around as in the picture?”

“Hmm, seems to work!”

“It has to be this way otherwise it won’t fit.”

“That isn’t what it says. Try it first the way the instructions are written.”

“Hmm, seems to work!”

“The instructions are wrong, this will NEVER work”

“Let’s try anyway!”

“Hmm, seems to work!”

Then we came to the water connection to the electrical. We thought that this was an electrical connection and didn’t find out that it carried water until it leaked after our installation was completed. But I am getting ahead of myself. The instructions seemed clear enough with emphasis on a clip which was to hold the line in place. The problem was that the line DIDN’T fit. Eventually, in frustration, Dan went to the internet and was about to play an instruction video when I realized that there were TWO of these connections to the control box and we were fussing with the wrong one.

Back on track again we progressed slowly though the rest of the installation. We avoided an additional trip to Home Depot when we unearthed silicone sealant in an unopened tube in the garage. We installed it, in accordance with the instructions, under the drain escutcheon.

At last we came to the final instruction and removed the filter in the faucet, and turned on the water shut-off valves. It had taken five hours, without a break for lunch, but we were elated. I turned on the new faucet, water flowed and for a split second we stood admiring our work before we realized that we had not connected the P trap and that our new water was discharging in a river through the cabinet onto the floor to join the disorganized pile of unwanted miscellanea already there.

Re-installing the P trap presented a problem because the existing trap is wider than the new drain discharge and an adapter was required. We thought that the discovery of the silicone sealant had saved us from a second trip to Home Depot but now knew that one was necessary. Looking back I wonder how we could possibly have imagined that we could accomplish this home repair project with only ONE trip to Home Depot. While Dan made his valiant trip I moped up water, organized the pile of stuff on the floor. Most of it, including the sodden toilet paper, ended up in the trash.

Then I washed out the P trap. In it I found a disgusting mess of black slime held together with a glue-like deposit which was reluctant to move. While I cleaned out the crud I contemplated the anomalies of water. How could this simple liquid be so contrary? Every time that we address it’s conveyance we are either addressing illusive leaks or trying to make clogged drains flow. Sometimes I hope that leaks will fix themselves with some of the same material which blocks up drains but it never works this way. Leaks get worse and clogged drains always progress towards complete stoppage. The two paths never cross; it is as though both problems address the physics of different liquids.

When Dan returned he expressed frustration with his Home Depot purchases and was so sure that the little washers which the assistant recommended were wrong that he had also purchased a reducer coupling against the possibility of another trip. We installed the washer, and screwed up the P trap. We tested the system and marveled at the flowing water which stopped at the touch of a finger. It was now too late for the second faucet so we cleaned up delaying that excitement for the next day.

After all we knew that installation number two would be: “A piece of cake!”

We decided to do it before lunch on Sunday. We were right about the speed of installation, for now that we knew where things went it did go quicker and in about an hour Dan screwed up the P trap for the second time in two days and we ran water. The tools were returned to the garage and the remaining miscellanea to the cabinets. I swept and washed he floor.

Then I looked underneath to check things out. To my dismay BOTH sinks had puddles of water below them. The puddle under my one hour job was significantly larger than the one under Dan’s sink. Dismayed we wiped and tested and retested. This was when we discovered that two of the three connections to each of the control boxes carried water. Dan coiled his aching body into contortions and took them apart and re-assembled them. He reassembled each THREE times, but who is counting? In case you are counting that’s six times in addition to the first assembly. By Monday the leaks in these locations had stopped. BUT the sink P-trap assembly under my sink still leaked. We decided that another trip to Home Depot was needed. After all how could we have possibly even dreamt that we could accomplish a home repair project with only two trips even if we had dodged one bullet with the discovery of the silicone in the garage secret places?

This time we needed to go to the Faucet Repair aisle and, fortunately, still remembered its location from Saturday. The Home Depot assistant listened patiently to our story. He told us that if the P-trap was seated correctly with adequate overlap at the change in pipe size junction that it ought to be water tight. We enthusiastically told him that we thought that it was seated properly and had adequate overlap but LEAKED. Dan showed him a photograph on his mobile phone.

The assistant was at a loss and we could see that he clearly wanted us to leave so that he could help other customers who were lined up behind us. I asked whether plumber’s Teflon tape might help. He seized at this suggestion and told us that it might, in fact it probably WAS the solution to our problem. Derr, we have that hidden somewhere in the garage but decided to purchase some more to justify our trip. We wandered the aisles a while longer hoping to see a product which would inspire an elegant idea for a solution. None hit and so we checked out and went home. At home we struggled with the Teflon tape which is thin and reluctant to adhere to any grooves. Dan re-installed the P-trap. Something still leaked but further investigation with towel and flash light revealed that the P-trap was OK but water oozed from the connection of the arm for the drain plunger and the drain.

As we look back on the last few days we find comfort by reminding ourselves on our accomplishments. After all we have installed new faucets; we have solved leaks into the touch on/off electrical controls at two connections to both boxes, AND we have solved leaks at the P-traps at two sinks. But it is now Thursday and we still have a bucket under my “one hour assembly” sink in the hope that it fixes itself. I suppose that I’ll call a plumber on Saturday.

9 thoughts on “Changing the Faucets – a short story

  1. Hello Jane,

    I could not but help shaking my head as I read about your trials and tribulations with the leaky faucet. You did turn what must have been a frustrating event into an almost humorous narrative – I say ‘almost’ only so as not to give offence.

    I started my working life as a mechanic at age 16 and still have a fully kitted Snap-On toolbox – those tools really do last a lifetime and more.

    Lisa loves to tinker and has learned everything I know about home repairs – which is not much. Now, she relishes doing these repairs herself.

    Of course, beyond a certain stage – we call in the professionals.

    All in all, this was an interesting and amusing read.

    All good wishes,

    • The narrative was intended to amuse. Fortunately we saw the humor as we went through the trials making it an almost enjoyable episode. Of course I had to enrich the narrative a little to make it funnier.As an architect I am supposed to know about these things but there is always a quantum leap between theory and practice – a bit like writing! I am wondering whether your and Lisa’s expertise extend to cars – now there I am a complete neophyte only able to change a wheel, jump start and fill with gas!

      • Hello Jane,

        I’m an aircraft maintenance engineer trained on airframe and powerplants. Yes, I do know something about fixing car engines – which are actually more advanced than the propeller driven aircraft engines. I also worked on jets.

        In the early days I handled all things ‘car’. In the 1980s due to my constant biz travels, I taught Lisa everything I knew about car maintenance – which is quite a bit, if I might add. For the last 3 decades, Lisa has been handling all the ‘car’ work. Obviously, we put the cars into the authorised workshops – they have all the fanciful test and repair equipment. Many of these workshops are notorious when it comes to ‘repair by replacement’ – until they meet Lisa!

        She can hold her own when it comes to fuel injection, oil pressure, electrical circuitry, airconditioning, setting the tappets – the works!

        All good wishes,

  2. Was I supposed to be giggling throughout this? I do hope so, otherwise I was just rude as can be.

    It must be me, I know my limitations and fix and repair of anything other than light bulbs and an occasional changing of a electrical plate for beauty sake, well I pick up the phone. I have handymen, plumbers, electricians all on speed dial.

    • You got it right Val – in retrospect one can only laugh – and that was my intent. We managed to keep our sense of humor throughout – what else can one do? I like the speed dial idea!

  3. My congratulations and sympathies at the same time. I know all about those home repair experiences and frustrations to be endured. These days much of the furnishings and electrical stuff comes in boxes to be assembled too and diagram instructions can be misleading at the least. We had someone over to check out our new washing machine as it seemed to want to cough up something. The speed in which that repair man did his work made me feel quite insignificant! lol

    • I agree that many of the experts, professional repair persons make these necessary home repair jobs look so simple. Maybe that’s why we get lured into trying to so them ourselves.

  4. Oh how I empathize! And what great giggles and guffaws I’ve had here, at your expense! Did I only imagine a tsunami of colorful epithets? As the vernacular goes: Been there. Done that…..toilets, sinks, broken windows, painted walls, woodwork, ceilings ( we even painted the exterior of our little Cape Cod style house, with cars going by and honking to see two women doing this so I nearly fell off the ladder)….the whole DYI catastrophe! And I knew all the Home Depot aisles by heart. Now that I am forced physically to give all that up, I need to rely on the professionals. I’m liking that, but there’s a new problem: finding good, reliable affordable help. This past winter, I called a plumber to estimate installation of AD A toilets and shower, and when he went to the cellar he discovered the sewer had backed up….in one month I not only became familiar with the hazmat cleanup crew, but now, perforce, in my new abode, I have a plumber, a carpenter, a n electrician, and a handyman……all of which I myself used to be. Life’s a beach, and the tide is ceaseless. Thanks for a wonderful narrative treat, as always.

    • Your response to my narrative made ME laugh. Your experiences as a kindred spirit do-it-yourself person are not unexpected. I expect that Dan and I will soon cross over into the new territory of having to call in professional help. I think that I’ll enjoy that even though I’m hoping that we won’t have a fiasco like your unexpected sewage back-up on our hands. As an architect I’m all too familiar with ADA and sincerely hope that we don’t have to face those modifications although I suspect that that cloud is also looming on the horizon.
      Thank you for your visit.

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