Sunday, August 28, 2011

I really hate plumbing, but I don't have a leaky faucet anymore

For a while (I will not say how long, to not incriminate myself) our backyard hose faucet has been leaking.  Not dripping but leaking.  I've replaced the gaskets inside of it, but last night, I decided that I should replace the hose bib.

I did my research online. I found videos on how to replace them, articles on how to troubleshoot whats wrong with them. I even found the manufacturer's website of my very own  frost free hose bib. I took a trip to Home Depot to see what they looked like and what type of replacements they had.

This was supposed to be a simple, unscrew the hose bib and screw a new one on, exercise.  If it were that, do you think I'd be blogging about it?

Thus prepared, at about 4pm on Saturday afternoon, I shut the water off, affixed a wrench to my faucet and gave it a turn. It turned alright, but it wasn't unscrewing. Someplace, inside the wall one pipe was turning inside another.  Not exactly what I wanted.

I checked with one of my rather handy neighbors, Dave, and he indicated that he had not done any work on that particular faucet, but warned me about the CPVC piping our builder used and how its starting to get brittle.

At this point, I was starting to feel chicken and ready to call a plumber.  My wife convinced me that they would start by cutting a hole in the wall and that I should do that too (which was also Dave's recommendation).  I hemmed and hawed for a while, because I wasn't sure what I'd find on the other side of the wall board. Underneath the kitchen sink. Behind a mess of supply pipes for the sink and an electrical outlet.  My super handy wife remembered that we we had a set of architectural drawings of the house (why, I do not know) and she pulled them out and we pored over them, and then I started cutting.

With my luck, I cut a hole that was almost centered on a 2x4 in the wall.  While that will make it easy to replace that piece of wallboard, it made it really hard to get my arm through there, but I did it.  And I found the male fitting that the hose bib was connected to.  I held it steady while Heather "lefty looseied" it outside, until there was a snap.  And the faucet was off.  With a small, torsional sheared portion of CPVC pipe.  However, the female end of the faucet was too big to fit through the hole in the siding, so we were not really better off.

It came to me that the old faucet was garbage anyways, so I cut it in half.  Then I could see the problem.  The builder's plumber (insert all kinds of curse words here), used a plumbing cement to secure the threaded fixture.  No wonder it wouldn't budge.  And they weren't supposed to do that, either.

With some tool assistance from Dave and his neighbor I started to couple a fresh end to my broken pipe.  I'd done PVC work before, but outside irrigation, where you can be a little sloppy. The standards are higher when you're inside your house.  All was good and we affixed the new faucet to the threaded end.  This was a challenge in itself, relaying messages through a child, coupled with the fact that it was really hard to screw it on.  [To those experienced with plumbing, do you see the warning signs of cross-threading? I wasn't that experienced, then.]

We turned on the water, which resulted in me frantically telling Heather to turn it off, when I discovered the leak, spraying water inside the wall.  She responded that she didn't know how. I don't think I got my 6'2" frame out of the kitchen cabinet that quickly any other time...

We re-tightened things and still there was a leak.  We tried loosening it and there was a cracking sound.  No broken pipe this time, but a sloppy glue job (remember what I said about irrigation) failed and the male end broke free of my rebuilt pipe.  It was late and I was getting tired and we're not really any closer to having the water fixed.

Heather convinced me to call it a night, but I cut a larger hole in the wall and could see evidence that the faucet was cross-threaded. Which also explained why it wasn't perpendicular to the wall, either when we tightened it once before.

So, all night long, I'm visualizing how I'm going to fix it in the morning.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep well. Plumbing doesn't make for sweet dreams. I really needed the water back on, because I needed to wash clothes for my first day at my new job!

Home Depot opened at 7 am and with a little assistance from Heather (I did wake her up), we got the cross-threaded end off and I went to buy a new one.  I got a little wiser this time and bought enough connectors to do the whole job over again (if I hadn't done it enough already).

Bim, bam boom, it was all put together again.

And there was a tiny drop of water forming at the end of the threads.  But why? I used the teflon tape, like the guy at Home Depot said...  I called my Dad for some plumbing advice and when he didn't answer at home, I called him on his cell phone. Still no answer. I called home again and realized that they weren't there, its their anniversary weekend!  My first messages were about plumbing, not anniversary wishes, so I rectified that. I kept hoping the water would stop dripping and dry up and headed to my kids' swim team audit.

Five hours later, I stopped at Home Depot and Roger in the plumbing section asked if I used teflon tape and sealant.  As you already know, I did not and we had a great chat about it and I was on my home again (trip #4) with sealant.

Bim, bam, boom. Faucet off, re-taped, threads glopped up with sealant.  Faucet screwed 2-1/2 rotations on (1 more rotation, because we needed it closer to the wall) and there are no more drops forming.

I've got some ultra-sensitive water test paper (read: toilet paper) around the fitting and I've checked it a few times and so far we're good.

Because of Heather (and some good support from neighbors and Home Depot employees), we saved the cost of a plumbers visit, but I still hate plumbing!!!