Sam’s Kitchen Nightmares
The Blog is Back! Happy 2018! And may I say… Good Riddance 2017! Today we’re going to look at my last DIY Repair of 2017 and what a nightmare it was. Sit back, relax, grab your popcorn, and prepare to laugh at my misfortune.
The Kitchen Drip
This little adventure starts with the most innocent and harmless of problems: the kitchen faucet leaked. It could range from a slow, occasional drip to an outright constant drizzle of wasted hot water. It’s an old faucet and heating oil isn’t free, so we immediately went for the obvious fix: tighten the knob and therefore pull the valve fully shut below. This worked for about an hour before the drip returned.
The next rationale step was an InstantOff attachment for the end of the faucet. Unfortunately, lady luck is not known to be rational. I’d left the faucet be to source my little drip-fixing attachment. Not long afterwards, the family dragged me back to the kitchen. Mom had accidentally gutted the entire hot water side of the kitchen faucet. The control knob and more or less the entirety of the valve’s guts had come loose and out the top.
The old fixture had been eaten by time and entropy, there was no longer any chance of repairing it. We shut off the water under the sink to discover Nightmare’s 2 and 3 waiting for us.
The Kitchen Pond
Problem one was apparently pretty quickly. The hot water shut off valve was ready for retirement. We turned it off and as it turned, water began to shoot out from around the knob. In all fairness, it is a 50+ year old valve, so retirement is understandable. We poked at it a bit and discovered it could not be turned back on without leaking, no matter how careful we were. The ‘sweet spot’ was gone. It couldn’t be tightened up. The leak left a small pond around the sink we had to clean up.
We’ve come this far, it was time to do some exploring, except the previous owner of the house had added a shelf under the sink. This shelf was cut perfectly to make it hard to reach or work on anything under the sink. It wasn’t your typical “cramped plumbing spaces”, but rather “you must put your arm here, then move that way, turn, and put your elbow there” just to get in the space and look up at the faucet connections. This shelf also, quite helpfully, blocked any good access to the hot water valve. To replace the valve, we’d have to take out the shelf. The shelf’s screws put up a brief fight, and then the entire shelf stayed put. It had swollen from leaking water and decent humidity to be a perfect fit for the space.
The Hulk’s Faucet
Things did not get any easier going forward. We let the shelf rest for now, just so we could get the old faucet out. The faucet was relatively new, perhaps 10-15 years old. The hose fittings were round except for a quarter-inch at the bottom you could wrench on (what a stupid idea). In the cramped space and too cheap to get a plumber’s wrench, we wrestled for entirely too long to get the hoses off.
It took even longer to pull the faucet off the sink. As new as it was, there were two plastic discs which provided pressure to hold it against the sink. Disc one came out without a problem. Disc two however did not. We began the seven stages of grief. Bargaining with the disc. Bargaining with the piping of the faucet, which we tried to cut (except the faucet’s internal pipes were oval shaped). And finally excepting that while we couldn’t get away with a saws-all so close to the sink, we could snap the plastic disc off with proper use of leverage and a 300 pound gorilla.
We’re half way there. The old faucet is out. It’s been probably ten hours between going to the hardware store and wrestling this absurdly stubborn fixture. A five decade old mother could break it, but my young, ox-like strength couldn’t easily pry it apart.
Things Get Worse
The struggles are almost over. I take out some anger on the stubborn shelf and wrestle it free from its perch. We’ve decided it’s not going back in, because it’ll jeopardize any future repairs. There’s a good hour where we got turned around putting the new faucet in. It turns out these must be assembled in a precise order. It’s my first faucet replacement, so I didn’t know. That’s mounted in place. We’ve gotten a plumber’s wrench and with some effort, I’ve got the hang of it. We get new hoses with flat-sided fittings, that’re easy to work with.
For a minute, I thought this might be easy. Never, ever do that.
We shut off the house’s water supply to replace that bad valve. Our plan was to use a Shark Bite fitting. I’m not fond of them (my opinion alone and not representative of the rest of Procure), but it’s what Dad got for their supposed quick and easy application. I sliced off the old valve, attacked the copper until it was like a mirror, slipped on the sharkbite valve, and witnessed the second coming of Kitchen Lake. The Sharkbite wouldn’t seal. Worse than that, I couldn’t pry that little monster off, with or without the little plastic tool.
Now we do things my way. I slice off more of the pipe, break out the propane torch, and solder a new threaded fitting on. The Sharkbite added a good two hours between slicing it off and another trip to the store. I had a new, threaded fitting solders on in fifteen minutes. I had a valve fitted in five. Everything hooked up. The nightmare was over.
Post Mortem on the Sharkbite Fitting
I couldn’t do this much work and not examine the fitting that’d prolonged these struggles. It turns out, the hot water pipe was slightly disformed. It wasn’t much by any stretch, but I think it may have been enough to prevent the inner gasket of the fitting from sealing. Secondarily, it may well be that the Plumbing Gods hate of old Rome hate me.
Always Be Prepared
The key take away here is that I wasn’t ready for such a lengthy and complicated job. I had thought, “yea, my arm can reach up there, who needs that stupid plumber’s wrench?” Which proved to be my undoing. That wrench got the fittings lose when I had barely budged them with your typical adjustable wrench. My second mistake was not stocking up on the regular, copper fittings as a Plan B (afterall, they cost a couple cents each). Third mistake was not reading the directions on the faucet (who ever does?).
Laugh and learn from my mistakes!