Saturday, January 26, 2008

The epic saga of the leaky faucet and the pregnant woman who attempted to fix it

First off, random aside, thanks to everybody who commented on the drop-side vs. no drop-side for cribs. I have been debating with myself extensively about it, as I can't seem to find any cribs in person with drop-sides that I can try out that aren't convertible cribs and big and of a style that neither Dusey nor I like. But it does seem like a drop-side that worked well would be useful, if I could find one in a non-convertible crib that was also affordable. At this point in time though (or whenever I get around to getting one which may very well be six months from now) I will probably just end up getting an Ikea crib, without drop-sides. They are plain and cute and not too big and affordable and seem relatively sturdy. Maybe I'll find something better with a drop-side before then, though.

Now, on to the main story.

I have developed a hate-hate relationship with our downstairs bathroom sink and faucet. It used to be that I simply didn't like it. It dripped constantly, quickly, wasting massive amounts of water. The sink is one of those part-of-the-counter shell-shaped sorts, and the counter at one point had several swear words scratched into it. The bottom of the sink is scratched and stained a nasty brown color that will not go away no matter how many times I use chlorox on it.

Today, I decided to try to at least fix the dripping problem. It was only dripping from the tip of the faucet, and that's supposed to be the easiest kind of leak to fix. Since it's a ball faucet (single handle, tilting up turns it on, tilting right makes it cold, tilting left makes it hot), all that likely needed replacing was a small spring and rubber seat combo. Cheap. Easy. Totally do-able for a pregnant lady on a day when her husband is at work the entire day, yes?

Now, I know absolutely nothing about plumbing. I have never before attempted to fix anything relating to plumbing at all, other than unscrewing the little filter thing on the end of a faucet to clear it out so that the water would spray downwards again rather than straight out sideways. I've also reached my hand down several garbage disposals to clean them of things that have gotten stuck in them, which I don't mind too much, gross as it is. And I know how to plunge a toilet. And that's the extent of my plumbing experience prior to today. I don't think Dusey knows any more about plumbing than I do, or I would've had him try to fix it another day.

So, I had one of our male friends come over this morning prior to his karate tournament that he was going to, so he could show me how to turn off the water, and explain how to take apart the faucet, and what I needed to get at the hardware store. I had him take a look at one of our toilets also since it was making an almost-constant dripping noise. He showed me how to turn off the water there, too, and took out the flapper inside and explained how it was the source of all problems we have ever had with that toilet, since the flapper was basically falling apart. When he reached inside to take it off the pipe thing, a large piece of it broke off in his hand. Yeah. Oldest toilet flapper he said he'd ever seen. So, I asked some more questions just to make sure I was totally prepared, he gave me a roll of teflon tape just in case (and because he apparently has a lot of it and I had none), I thanked him, and he left.

My first order of business was removing the toilet flapper from another toilet that has been having issues. Its flapper was also old, though not to the point of disintegrating when touched, yet. A flapper, in case you're wondering yet, is a young woman from the 1920's who went against conventional standards of dress and conduct for refined young women. It's also that little piece of plastic or rubber or whatever it is that's circular and stops up the bottom of the toilet tank. When it gets lifted up, the toilet flushes. When it reaches the bottom again, the tank refills. The cheapo kind costs about $3 and comes with its own chain and they're almost all one-size fits all and really really easy to replace. And they're generally the source of the majority of toilet flushing problems, in my limited experience. And if you get a cheapo one, and you live in Arizona, it may not last very long, because the water here is crazy hard (harder than Utah water!) and corrodes everything that it isn't busy building deposits on (though sometimes it both builds deposits and corrodes simultaneously).

With the two flappers removed and safely wrapped in several layers of paper towels, and with the faucet handle removed and clutched precariously on top of the paper towel flapper bundle (so I could show the guys at the hardware store and have them show me which parts exactly I needed to buy), I headed on my way.

I decided that as long as I was going out and about, I might as well stop by the Post Office first, because I've needed to go there for over a month and have been continually putting it off because I've been horribly lazy. But today, I remembered that driving our truck by myself really isn't scary, and discovered that the seatbelt no longer makes my belly horribly uncomfortable, and decided to get the Post Office trip over with. I of course turned down the wrong street, didn't realize it for a bit, flipped a U-turn and drove back up the street, finally realized I was on the street that's a mile north of the right one, worked my way south, and made it to the Post Office twenty minutes after leaving home for what should've been an eight minute drive. I stood in line for the self-service package mailing machine, got my packages all stamped and dumped in the parcel bin, and got back in the truck. Nicole, I am proud to say that your Christmas present is finally on its way. And your birthday present, only 3 months late!

Taking great care to not get all mixed up and on the wrong streets again, I drove carefully to Home Depot. Not, of course, the one that I've been to before. No, I decided to try going to another one, because it might possibly be a minute or two closer to my house, and nobody has ever offered to help me at the one I normally go to, and I knew I was going to be needing help finding what I needed.

I made it, successfully, and without incident.

Inside the store, I wandered around for a long time completely lost as to where to go to find any of the parts I needed (there is one aisle of plumbing apparently that is not with the rest of the plumbing section, and it was that aisle that I needed to be in). I found a pipe wrench thing first. After lots of wandering, I found the mysteriously misplaced plumbing aisle. I moseyed down it slowly, found the sink parts, decided they were entirely too complicated to figure out by myself, and turned around and picked out two new toilet flappers instead on the opposite shelf. I turned back to the sink parts and stared at them some more. I took down some packages and looked at the backs and got increasingly more and more confused. Finally, an entire hour after entering the store, I noticed a small "push to call for help" button right next to where I was standing, so I pushed it. And somebody actually came, a mere minute or two later!

I explained to him about the leaking faucet, showed him one of the parts I thought I needed, asked if it would fit a bathroom faucet despite being labelled as being for the kitchen faucet (he claimed it would), and asked him what other parts I needed (parts for the #70 ball, or for the #212 ball). He handed me a kit with a bunch of parts, told me it would have everything I needed in it, and walked off after I thanked him. I looked at the price of the kit. I looked at the price of the one package of parts (the springs and seats) that I thought I actually needed. I decided I had better just get the single package rather than the whole kit, since it was $6 cheaper. And then I stood there looking befuddled again for awhile, because I really wasn't sure if that one other part that was labelled for the kitchen sink would work for my bathroom sink.

After not too many more minutes, another employee came striding down the aisle, and asked me (he actually asked me without me asking him!) if he could help me find something. So I explained all over again, and he explained precisely which parts I needed, told me to not get the whole kit, and informed me that while the kitchen sink part would probably work on the bathroom sink, I should try to get the part off the bathroom sink first, and if it got ruined in the process I could bring it in and we could compare it and see if the other would actually work as a replacement. And then he explained how to get it off, and handed me a different kit ($2 more than just the springs and rubber pieces, but $4 less than the other kit) that had a useful tool in it as well as all the necessary replacement parts, and talked with me a bit about the toilet flappers and explained how to use the pipe wrench, and sent me on my way. It was the most pleasant hardware store experience I have ever had.

Two hours after leaving home, I arrived back. I installed the flappers (cheap! easy! fixed all my toilet problems!) and ventured downstairs with the kit and my toolbox to tackle the faucet. The handle was already off. The part I hadn't gotten (labelled as being for the kitchen sink) is called the cap. It holds all the other pieces of the faucet assembly in together. It is supposed to unscrew and come off fairly easily. Mine, of course, did not. I put the pipe wrench around it the way the hardware man had told me to. I pulled. I turned it around and tried pushing. I turned it back around and arranged my legs against the under-sink cabinet to achieve maximum leverage and pulled on it as hard as I could. It moved, a tiny, tiny bit. I decided I was going to need to get the replacement kitchen cap after all, because with all my pulling, the existing one was getting seriously scratched. I pulled some more and moved it a tiny bit further. I pulled with all my might, and the entire faucet jerked forward and I heard something clang inside the cabinet.

Bad sign. Nothing should be clanging down inside the cabinet. I opened the doors back up and discovered that not only had one of the huge washers that goes around the water input pipe right under the faucet on the underside of the sink fallen off, but also that something from the hole under the center of the faucet had fallen out, in pieces. That sentence was really long and convoluted. Sorry.

I don't know what it was that fell apart. It looks like it may have been some sort of rubber or plastic thing of some sort. It has been eaten away to the point of unrecognizability to any, I've decided, but the very most experienced plumbers who know what it is that's supposed to go in that spot and can therefore determine what the thing used to be.

I tried to put the washer back on, and got it partway. I disconnected the drain stopper pole. I put WD-40 around the cap and tried to scrape out the little bit of deposits that I could get to between the cap and the faucet. I let the "penetrating oil" sit for a good ten minutes on the faucet cap. I tried putting the wrench back on it, and pulling on it some more while attempting to hold the faucet so it wouldn't move anymore and dislodge anything else. More pieces of whatever-it-was fell down inside the cabinet. The washer also fell off again. I tried to figure out how to take the entire faucet off so that I could get the cap off without breaking everything. I gave up after getting stuff in my eye and overstraining my back muscles and scratching myself on the underside of the sink on both my elbow and a knuckle, and realizing that I had no idea how to disconnect the water pipes from the faucet.

I gave up. Totally and completely. My faucet is partially disassembled. The water to it is turned off. The bathroom smells like WD-40. I left little pieces of things and various tools all over the counter and floor, and stood up, and walked out of the bathroom horribly frustrated that I could not fix something that ought to be easy to fix, that in attempting to fix it I managed to break something else. I was also frustrated because my two tiny scratches hurt and my fingernails were all black and gross. I washed my hands and felt a little better. Then I thought about the faucet again and got more frustrated. I made myself a box of instant chocolate pudding, one of the large 6-serving boxes, and ate over half of it.

I'm feeling much better now, with my stomach full of chocolate pudding. The faucet is still in pieces. My husband will be getting home in 20 minutes, and he will discover me, sitting in my computer chair, with less than half of a huge mixing bowl of chocolate pudding left in front of me, refusing to make dinner, the bathroom still in disarray.

At least the toilets work great now.

Thank goodness for flappers.

1 comment:

Th. said...


Hooray for plumbing!