A leaky faucet puts damper on start of week

June 16, 2007|By ROB KASPER

Any weekend that is free of plumbing problems is a good one.

Last Sunday night, I went to bed with the cheery thought that I had made it through another weekend without having to pick up the pliers. That, it turned out, was mistaken joy.

Late Sunday night, while I was sleeping, the kitchen faucet, the best faucet in the house, started spewing water from its base.

My wife noticed the problem, wrapped a tea towel around the base of the faucet to soak up the water, and told me about the trouble Monday morning at breakfast.

As a general rule, Monday mornings are an uphill time for me. The entire workweek and its many tasks loom on the horizon, like a steep mountain range.

As I began this week's climb, the added burden of dealing with a leaky faucet, before I even had a cup of coffee, seemed overpowering.

Anyone who has ventured into the world of plumbing fixtures knows that faucets can be surprisingly complex and expensive.

You have your two-handle faucets, your pullout sprays, your pot fillers, your bar sinks, your water-filtration faucets, your single-handle faucets and your wall-mount faucets.

This was a Kohler bar sink faucet, a single holer, meaning that the cold- and hot-water feeds entered the faucet through one opening in the countertop. It had cost about $300 and was about 2 years old.

As I watched the water dribble off its body, I envisioned the worst-cast scenario: that for some reason we would have to get a new faucet, that all the single-hole faucets would be out of stock, and that we would end up cutting another hole in the slab of glorious and pricey granite that ringed the kitchen sink. Dark thoughts come easily on Monday morning when you haven't had much caffeine.

I hunted down my pliers.

The faucet has a swan neck, a long curve of metal tubing that arches from the base of the faucet. The leak was coming from the junction of the swan neck and the base. A packing nut fit over the junction. So doing what comes naturally, I grabbed the pliers and tightened the nut.

For about two minutes, the leak stopped. Then it got much worse. "Monday, Monday," I muttered, repeating the lyrics the Mamas and Papas used to sing. "Can't trust that day."

I sipped more coffee and considered my options. I could call my plumber, and end up making a $100 or so contribution to his fund for a new fishing boat. Calling the plumber would also require waiting a day or two for him to get to me - a long time to be without a functioning kitchen sink.

The more coffee I downed, the more courage I mustered. I decided to take the faucet apart. First, of course, I shut off the supply valves under the sink that feed hot and cold water to the unit.

Once the packing nut was loose, the swan-neck tube slipped easily out of the body of the faucet. At the end of the tub was a dark-black "O" ring

It did not look damaged or worn, but it was the only visible part that could be replaced.

So I carried the faucet tube and its O ring over to my neighborhood hardware store and showed it to Mickey Fried, one of the home-repair savants who staff the establishment. He studied it, opened several drawers filled with new rings and found a right-fitting replacement. Armed with that 45-cent O ring, and a little plumbing grease, I returned to the sink.

The tube, or swan neck, slipped back into the faucet base. I gently tightened the packing nut, then held my breath as I turned on the water supply.

Nothing leaked. I lifted the cold-water lever. Again, nothing leaked. I moved the tube from side to side, and still no water spurted from the base of the faucet.

I was flush with excitement, with a sense of accomplishment and with the thought that I now had $100, OK $99.55, that I did not spend on a plumber.

Suddenly, the week ahead looked promising. Father's Day, after all, was at the end of it. Already I was thinking of several ways ($99.55 worth) to reward myself.

rob.kasper@baltsun.com

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