I hate plumbing. I hate it with such a passion that whenever I have to actually duel with the plumbing beast only one comes out alive, and then just barely. The concept of plumbing is so simple that it seems like it should be a pretty easy task to take care of minor household issues that arise, yet, in practice, it never is.
The only times that I really wish I lived in a new, mass produced house are when I have plumbing issues in my old, one-of-a-kind pad. New homes are made of little boards, Styrofoam and drywall. My house is made of adobe, bricks and mortar. Thankfully the issue at hand didn’t require having to drill through all 18 inches of the wall again, that was damn near impossible with ordinary tools, but it still was not an easy job. I had to change a faucet in the kitchen.
The kitchen faucet has been in serious need of replacement for about (let’s see… Carry the one…) two and a half years. My father-in-law actually gave me a faucet about two years ago (nice one too. Quite heavy, all copper inside) that has been just sitting in the junk room. I decided I really better go ahead and put the new faucet on, for real this time, the other day when I went to fill the dogs’ water dish and more water was spraying out of the sides of the faucet than was getting into the bowl. On the up side, it only took half an hour to find the faucet (my previous attempts at locating it had not yielded any results. Most likely since I was only doing a half-assed job of looking for it since I hate plumbing so much).
The problem with the plumbing in my house is that it is old, really old. With the exception of the main water line (which I had to replace last year at Christmas) it is all galvanized. Really old galvanized. It looks perfectly fine on the outside, yet it is so rusted on the inside that if I touch it it is likely to break. And usually does. So I was a wee bit apprehensive about working on it today, but I was at the point where I either had to replace it or find a way to fill a glass with water shooting straight into the air.
I shut off the main water supply to the house via the valve that I added when I replaced the main line (as the shut off at the street doesn’t work and the city has ignored my repeated requests to replace it). Those little valves under the sink might look like they are intended to turn off the water supply but, in practice, the are more likely to break off in your hand than actually have any effect on water flow. I didn’t want to have to get into replacing those (heh, more on that later). I ever so gently removed the hoses from the valves under the sink (which I did first only because this was where major disaster could happen and if disaster was going to happen I didn’t want it to be when I was damn near done), no breakage, I was home free…
I would have been home free, had I replaced the faucet two and a half years ago…
The minerals in water are an odd bunch. They have the ability to corrode the stainless steel and metal parts of the faucet, while adding a huge build-up of greenish gunk to the copper parts. Two and a half years of adding greenish gunk to the copper threads that hold the faucet in place are not easily overcome.
I happened to have a basin wrench at my disposal. That is a wonderful little tool that is just absolutely fucking useless in my experience. I bought the thing (well one exactly like it) shortly after I moved into the house when I had to replace the faucet in the bathroom. The nuts on the bathroom faucet were so fused to the pipes that I bent the t-bar on the basin wrench and was still not able to make them move. I eventually had to use a hacksaw on the bathroom faucet, but I did have the basin wrench for future projects. Projects like replacing the kitchen faucet where it would prove to be equally useless.
The nuts that hold the faucet to the sink are made of plastic, they even have little ridges on them so that you can tighten them with only your fingers (I suppose the manufacturer theorizes that you can loosen them in the same manner, they are sorely mistaken). Since the nuts are made of plastic they neither corrode or get chemical build up on them. They were the only part of the whole damn sink that were in perfect shape. Thing is, there is no way to turn the little plastic nuts. They were meant to be tightened by fingers, not metal tools. When I tried to loosen the little things with the aforementioned basin wrench I was able to get about a full turn out of each nut before there was nothing left for the tool to grip. Bring on the hacksaw!
There is only about a two inch space behind your average faucet before you encounter a wall. That is a real problem when trying to saw, what with the sawing action requiring some actual forward and back movement. Even with the saw turned as sideways as I could get it I was only able to make strokes of three inches or so. It took over a half an hour to cut through the first of the two water supplies (above the sink, mind you). The cold water side was the one that remained. Since I am right handed, and the cold water supply is on the right, it was requiring a weird sort of underhand saw stroke which was hurting my arm and going nowhere. The diameter of the hole that the supply goes into is about an inch, the diameter of the nut is about an inch and a half… Hmmm. I wonder if I could just rip the whole thing out of the top without destroying the sink.
I did rip the whole thing right out of the top of the sink, nut and all. The picture to the left shows what was left of the faucet, as well as that stupid nut. Keep in mind that the nasty little nut (that being the ugly black thing) came out of a hole that was much smaller than it. I was so pissed off by the time I got the thing out that I literally just threw it in the direction of the door to the outside. The damage to the sink was minimal, there was a bit of bending involved in getting the hole back to level but that was about it. It was only when I dug this old piece of shit out of the trash (to snap a photo) that I started to wonder how in the fuck I managed to get that big ass piece of plastic through such a small hole.
Unfortunately the new faucet is now in place, with no leaks, thank you, and I’ll be damned if I am gonna take it out just to snap a photo of the size of the hole it came out of. That nut has a flange on it. It is specifically designed so that you can’t rip it out from the top. It took only anger, rage, anger, superhuman strength, anger, crying, anger, and a bit of finesse to rip that sucker out. That or I managed to catch an edge of the plastic from the top of the sink and the steel cut through the plastic as I basically unscrewed it. That wouldn’t be much of a tale to tell though. Plus, I have photographic proof of my superhuman accomplishment!
The big downside to this all is that my jerry-rigged connection to the water purifier got fucked up in the process (cross threaded a brass connector into a PVC junction). I am going to have to actually replace one of the valves under the sink after all, or live without an ice maker. I doubt the wife will let me live without an ice maker (not that she will encourage me to fix it or anything, more that she will probably kill me if I don’t). When I try to replace that valve tomorrow, and it breaks (oh yeah, it is gonna break. This is my life), I will have to replace another significant portion of the plumbing for the rest of the house (since everything else will break in turn).
Did I mention that I hate plumbing?