Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just a drip off the old faucet

My dad (whom I've written about before) sent his daughters an email recently, telling us all about how he fixed a leaky faucet.  Wow, this story is so like our family!  I love how he ends the letter with a moral (or actually, two morals).  And I love this reminder that skills count, and so does the willingness to learn new skills and take on hard work, even nearly eight decades into life.

Here's his letter.

When we first moved into our new home, one of the faucets in the Master Bathroom showed a small drip.  I could not figure out a way to take this particular faucet handle apart, and so we called a plumber.  That plumber told me that the faucet had frozen shut and needed to be replaced, but also pointed out that the drip was from water stored in the faucet, and went away if one waited long enough.

Fast forward 8 months.  The cold water faucet handle on [my wife's] side stopped being functional.  One could turn the handle around and around but it had no effect on the water flow.  We valved off the cold water from below and called a different plumbing company.  This plumber took the handle apart ( I learned something) and showed me all the interior parts (among which were two gears and two screws).  The plumber told me the threads were stripped and the only solution was to replace all four faucet handles, since the handles were no longer made, and we would want them all to match.  This would cost approximately $1,500.  He charged $45 for his visit, which was very reasonable for one hour of plumber time.

We immediately looked into other faucets and other plumbers, and got the price down to approximately $700.  We order the new faucets and a new plumber.  Since the new plumber could  schedule only for two weeks hence, I decided to attempt a temporary fix with some glue.  I took the offending faucet apart and carefully examined the parts.  I could observe no stripped threads, but I did notice a loose set screw, which could be tightened with a number 3 metric hex wrench, which I had. I adjusted the height of the handle by 1 mm by grinding down the base with my grinding wheel and now the faucet works fine.  And it only cost $45.

We cancelled the new faucet order and the plumber.

Morals of this story.  First, do not always trust a supposed expert who wants to sell you something.  Second, it may be hard to pull the wool over the eyes of an experimental physicist.



  1. Love this! The combination of practical skills, plus experimental physics is awesome. :)

    1. Yeah, my dad was a great guy to learn from. And he has patience beyond comprehension, too. I'll never be as calm around other people as he is. -MM

  2. Love those morals! We have learned similar lessons over the years.

  3. My SO is in HVAC and he was really impressed when he went to fix something that someone - a self-proclaimed "non expert" - had rigged years ago. Turns out the non-expert had cobbled something using various parts that is now a single-item product. Basically, he created a prototype for a new connector that saves a lot of time and has fewer places to break. (The only reason it needed to be fixed by my SO was the age. It had worked great for years!)

    1. Plumbing can truly be a creative endeavor! I once fixed an intake valve on a toilet using duct tape . . . this particular intake valve was "no longer made" so fixing it properly would have meant replacing all the innards of the toilet tank. My goofy little duct-tape fix held up several years, until we finally replace the old toilet itself with a low-flow version. -MM