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621 Fun with Plumbing 2012-04-13

plumbing tool and faucet

Over the last couple of years the outside faucet on our house has been leaking. It was not a bad leak and it only dripped when the water was on - so, we really did not worry about the leak.

Then over the winter the shutoff valve for the outside faucet also started leaking. We could not have water unless we fixed the leaks. We are not plumbers. We can however generally figure out how to do most things.

We started with the outside faucet. When the leak first started I had gone to our favorite Hillsboro Hardware store to buy a faucet which matched the leaky one. I soon found out that there were a lot of choices for faucets - threaded and non-threaded, different pipe sizes, threaded male or female, etc. The only problem was, I did not bring the original faucet into the store. So, I just bought a faucet that looked like the one on the pipe. We never got around to installing the new fixture.

Then a few weeks ago, we decided it was time to replace the faucet. The repair seemed straightforward, but just to make sure that I understood the procedures I went to youtube. After watching a couple of videos I concluded that all I had to do was unscrew the faucet and replace it. Nothing to it.

With an adjustable wrench on one nut and a pair of large channel lock pliers on the other I tried to twist the faucet loose. It didn't budge. Was I turning it the right way? Yes. I even checked the threads and yes was the answer - I was trying to unscrew it. I needed help.

Amy came over to aide. She held the pipe from turning while I tried to turn the faucet using both hands. It didn't move an inch. Then, I put my feet on the wall of the house and put my back into it as I pulled on the wrench, but the faucet remained solid. Next, we tried heating the nut - it still did not budge. Finally, I swapped from the adjustable wrench to a big pipe wrench for more leverage - it still did not move. Amy finally said, let's just call a plumber.

We called a handyman and he said he would call back the next day. He never did call.

A couple more weeks passed. During that time I went out from time to time and would try again to unfreeze the faucet. Nothing should be that hard to unscrew, but it remained fast.

Finally on Saturday I decided to just rebuild the faucet, instead of replacing it. All was going well, until I broke the faucet handle trying to remove it. Oh, it was time for another trip to the friendly hardware store.

Returning home I found the handle I had just bought did not fit the faucet! Frustrated beyond believe, I tried to remove the faucet again. This time I put the pipe wrench on the faucet and just grabbed the pipe below with the channel lock pliers. With hardly any effort, the faucet moved. Jubilant, I yelled for Amy to come see. Sure enough the faucet came right off.

With the 1920's faucet in my hand, it still took a few seconds to figure out what we had been doing wrong. We had thought the threaded pipe was joined to a female threaded faucet, but the threaded pipe actually was a part of the faucet. It screwed into a female threaded nut on the pipe below.

We had been trying to unscrew the faucet by putting both wrenches on the same fixture! Both nuts were part of the fixture. One wrench was holding the faucet, and the other was trying to turn it! Naturally it would not budge. I guess, if we had been able to apply herculean strength to the wrenches, at best we would have bent the faucet.

I rode my bike back to the hardware store and confessed. They laughed and swapped the handle for a new faucet. In just a short while we were finished with the outside faucet and with a renewed confidence repaired the shutoff valve.

The job was so simple we were happy that the handyman did not answer our call.

We do laugh a bit every time we call by the new fixture.

Happy plumbing trails


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