Monday, 23 April 2012

The many facets of faucets

Dear Joe,

I was doing the dishes this morning , like a good husband, and the faucet started to leak on me. It is a considerable leak which I don’t think was there yesterday. It’s one of the one handle jobs and I don’t know how old it is, it was here when we bought the house.  Just wondering what the best thing to do would be, fix or replace?  Really appreciate your help.



Dear Phil,

Thank you for the great question.   Changing a faucet is one of those jobs that every homeowner should know how to do, or at least be confident enough to attempt on their own.  Getting the old one off is definitely the worst part of the job. 

If the faucet is more than five or six years old and sees a lot of use, chances are it will be cheaper to replace the unit with a similar new one.  Things tend to be corroded and seized up after that period of time so it doesn’t really behoove you to pay a plumber two hours labour plus parts to repair what was probably a $100 faucet in the first place.  A quality faucet made of cast brass will have a service life of 30-40 years,  with parts that are readily serviceable when need be.  The el-cheapo is disposable,  just like everything else in our society,  and though parts are available, the amount of effort  required to change them doesn’t warrant your energy.   A simple replacement of the unit, and recycling of the old one is probably the most rewarding decision.

If you are fortunate enough to have a classic piece that has been in service for several decades and wish to keep It in service, it is almost certainly as simple as replacing a little rubber washer at the base of the valve.  Replacing this 25 cent piece will keep you going for another ten years.  Do both sides at the same time, as it’s usually the hot that goes first, and it will keep both sides operating freely.  A little petroleum jelly as you reassemble will make putting it back together much easier as well as staving off the inevitable oxidation for a while longer.

When you decide to replace a fixture like this, do some research, invest in high quality units with robust parts and preferably made of common materials.  For instance, if its stainless steel make sure all the components are stainless, if its brass, make it all brass.  It’s the dielectric reaction between dissimilar metals in the presence of water that make the cheaper faucets oxidize, and wear out their seals prematurely as well as making them impossible to repair when it comes time.  And if the faucet you’re looking at purchasing has any parts make of aluminum, cast or otherwise, put it down and choose another, better quality piece.

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