Wednesday, October 3

Happy Harriet Homeowner Rides Again

The thing with owning a home is that there always seems to be some little thing that needs doing/fixing/updating/tweaking ... you get the point. Just lately there are two items at the top of my list. When we run the dishwasher, water flows out of what I now know is the air trap. FYI, that's the metal thing on the corner of the sink. Water is not supposed to come out of there, but I think it will be easy enough to fix. From the Internet searches I've done (don't you just love the Web?) it looks like the hose just needs cleaning out. I think I have a snake (of the plumbing variety) thingie which they apparently call an auger. See I thought an auger was something you used to drill holes. Anyway, I think there's an auger snake (snake auger?) among the stuff under the stairs and I should be able to insert the snake through the top of the trap after removing the metal covering. If that doesn't work it might involve disconnecting the hose. I'm crossing my fingers but I might be able to handle this myself. In the meantime, we just line the edge of the sink with sponges to collect whatever overflow misses the sink.

The other item is a dripping bathroom faucet. I knew enough, thanks to listening to my Dad, to be fairly sure it was a worn washer or something of that nature. But I don't know much about the inner workings of a faucet so I checked my favorite homeowner's helper website, DIY, to find out what I didn't know. And one of the things I didn't know is that there are many different types of faucets but they fall into two basic categories: those with washers and those without washers. The kind with washers are also known as compression faucets. That's what I have.

The innards of compression faucets come in different shapes and sizes but have two things in common: the aforementioned washers and the "stem" on which they are fitted. Ideally you just replace the washers when they get worn; and being just little circles or discs of rubber, they wear out easily. But that is also a fairly easy fix compared to some of the other faucet designs so I guess it's a trade off.

The first thing every plumbing instruction tells you is to turn the water off. That seems pretty obvious, but you know there are all kinds of people out there and I'm sure many people don't think of it. After clearing a lot of junk out of the way I turned off the cold water, no problem. The hot water, however, was a problem. I could not get that knob to turn no matter what. Part of the problem might be that it is an awkward reach. The cold water knob was straight in, but the hot water is behind a pipe and it's a tricky angle to work from. After ripping up my hand trying I decided to save that one for later and just tackle the cold water. With luck, that was where the problem would be.

So with the cold water turned off under the sink I disassemble the decorative knob and use my wrench to remove the packing nut and take a look. According to the instructions I should be able, with a little twisting, to pull out the plasic stem that sits down inside. I tried. Bob knows I tried. I could get it to turn a bit, but no amount of twisting and tugging would get it out. There wasn't that much of the stem to hold onto anyway; two fingers was all I could use and I couldn't get a tight grip that way. So I found a pair of needle nose pliers and used those. I was able to get a better grip but it still took a lot of twisting and tugging to pull the stem out. Lo and behold it was damaged, more than just a worn washer. There was a crack in the stem and one of the two parts just fell out and wouldn't stay back in securely. This might or might not have been the source of the drip; but even if it wasn't, that stem clearly needed replacing.

I took the damaged pieces with me to the hardware store so I could compare and make sure I was getting the same thing. That's the other thing that all the instructions tell you: take the washer or other part to the store with you. You might think you'll know which one it is but, trust me, you'll get confused when confronted with the sheer variety of parts available.

I didn't used to like hardware stores much. They are huge buildings with rows and rows of towering shelves that intimidate me. I am getting better about it, though. I went right to the plumbing section and found that portion of the aisle devoted to little bitty replacement parts. Wow, what a selection. Fortunately I had brought the damaged stem with me and could compare. Also, fortunately, they had one. And just one. See, I had thought that as long as I was doing this I would replace both. But I got the one they did have and trotted (well, okay, actually I drove) back home. The new stem slid into the appropriate place with satisfying ease. Unfortunately there is still a slight drip.

I did check on the hot water tap after shutting off the water at the main water shut off valve. Thank you, GP and Louis, for assuring me that this would work. The hot tap came apart with much more ease than the cold, and I'm not sure whether or not that is a good thing. This stem was not damaged that I could tell. The washers looked okay, but since it was just a little drip, it might involve just a little wear. In any event I'm not giving up until I get the stem replaced in the hot water as well as the cold. And if that doesn't work I'll call for a plumber. I know my limitations; I may someday be up to the task of replacing the whole faucet contraption but not just yet. Also, by that time we might have decided to replace the sinks anyway because the bathroom sinks all have nasty cracks in them and will need replacing at some point.

This is much longer than I had intended, but before going I did want to let you know that I did tackle snaking (auging?) out the air trap in the kitchen. It didn't entirely fix the problem but I do think it's much better now than it was. My plan is to keep cleaning in out periodically and hopefully it will continue to improve. For now, while we still place the sponges around the edge of the sink, there doesn't seem to be as much water for them to absorb. So that's good, right?

1 comment:

Theresa said...

Yay, way to go MCB! Very empowering (sp?) isn't it, to take care of small things like that.