Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
12:48 pm - Tapped Out...  
Two projects for the weekend: install the new dishwasher and replace the kitchen faucet. There's also one other mini-project, to glue the porcelain cap back onto one of the cabinet door pulls. I decided to start with the simpler of the two jobs, replacing the faucet. There was nothing wrong with the old faucet other than it being old, ugly, and not very easy to use with greasy fingers. Also, the sprayer rarely worked properly, usually only working when the water pressure was really low, which sort of defeats the concept. I wanted one of those shiny, new fangled jobs with the goose neck spout (like they have in chem labs). I bought a Peerless at Lowe's earlier in the week. Time to get to it.

The first step? Clean the dishes out of sink, and then clear the area around the sink, as well as the cleaning out the cabinet under the sink. Now that there was access to the water supply valves, I turned them off. This was just a matter of simply turning the valve for the cold water side, but the hot water valves (one for the faucet and one for the dishwasher) were stuck. Nothing a little application of torque with a big old wrench couldn't handle.

The problem
Next, remove the old faucet. What a simple sentence that is. What an annoying and difficult job it turned out to be. The new faucet even came with a little instruction sheet on how the do it properly. The main problem is that all the connecting hardware, both the connections to the water lines and the nuts holding the faucet in place, is way up underneath and behind the sink. Combine that with the fact that the cabinet is cramped, and the cabinet doors are not sized to fit someone my size very easily, and it's all very awkward. Even at full extension, I could just barely touch the nuts holding the old faucet in place*.

* This is the reason I was considering taking the whole sink out, since then all the awkward operations wouldn't be awkward at all. Just flip the sink upside down, fasten the hardware in place, put the sink back, connect the water lines at the valves, and Bob's your uncle. I'd done this when I replaced the leaky bathroom faucet right after I moved in. There were two big differences, though. First, the size of the vanity doors left me no choice. I couldn't get far enough into the cabinet even had I wanted to make the attempt. Second, the porcelain sink in the bathroom, though smaller, weighs a helluva lot more then the stainless sink in the kitchen. A little silicone seal is all that is needed to attach a porcelain sink firmly to the vanity. The kitchen sink turns out to be attached to the cabinet with a set of clips to hold it in place, and I had no idea how to remove them even if I'd wanted to, so it wasn't an option.

First, though, I had to disconnect the water lines. You can disconnect them easily at the valves, but they are attached to the same stems as the nuts securing the faucet, and you can't remove the securing nuts without first removing the connector nuts. That was just a matter of getting a big adjustable wrench up there and applying some elbow grease. It was awkward and took awhile, but the connectors came off the stems without too much trouble. Then I tried to loosen the big plastic nuts holding the faucet in place. These are designed to be tightened or loosened by hand. As noted above, I could just about reach them, and the pressure I was able to apply using my fingertips wasn't loosening them. So I got a pair of channel lock pliers and tried those, then I took a whack at it with the adjustable wrench. Still no joy. The nuts are made of nylon, which isn't supposed to stick, but twenty years worth of corrosion on the metal stem and accumulated grime seeping between the nut and the sink had them stuck but good. I needed... a tool, something that would fit over the projections on the nut and be long enough to reach the frelling thing. Off to the Depot.

The Tool
Home Depot had an all purpose faucet tool that would do just about anything a plumber needs to do while installing a faucet. It was $20 and did all sorts of things that I didn't need to do today, and would (with any luck) never need in the future. There had to be a better, cheaper way. There was. I figured that all I really needed was a longish cylinder with some slots at the end to fit over the flanges on the nut. So I grabbed a 2' length of 1¾" PVC pipe. It was $2.50. When I got home I cut a piece about 10" long, marked the locations of the slots using one of the nuts from the new faucet, and cut the slots with a hack saw. I cleaned the slots up with a Dremel tool, then drilled a hole though the tube down at the other end so that I could insert a screwdriver to apply some torque.It worked like a charm**. The cold water side came out easily. The hot water side required a 2' length of threaded rod for a lever, but soon that side was freed, too. Say goodbye to the old faucet. The next thing I did was take some metal polish and steel wool to clean up the rust and grime that accumulated beneath the faucet over the years. Then on to the installation. Should be a piece of cake from here on in, right?

** Although if I had to do it again, I'd make it longer, like maybe 15".

The first problem came when I went to install the sprayer hardware. The plastic nut to fasten the sprayer holder was missing from the box. Fortunately, the old nut was the same size, and not nearly as gunked up as the old faucet nuts, so I used that. Then it was time to connect the sprayer hose to the faucet. Another issue. The hardware did not match the instruction sheet, which said the connection was made using quick connect hardware. What I had was a threaded stem and a swage nut. No big deal, I wrapped the stem with some teflon tape and attached the hose with the nut. Now for the main event.

I dropped the faucet into the holes on the sink, then installed the nuts from below. I used the tool, but only used my finger to turn it, rather than using a screwdriver for leverage. Once things were semi-tight, I went back up top, positioned the faucet exactly where I wanted it***, and secured it with tape. Then it was back underneath to finish tightening, this time with a little leverage. Every thing looked good, so I connected the water lines using the big adjustable wrench, then turned the valves on.

PlumbingTo do the initial test, the instructions say to remove the aerator and spray diverter from the faucet. The aerator was easy. The diverter was a pain at first, because I misinterpreted what the diagram was showing me. What looked like a little ball to me was actually meant to represent the quarter to be used to unscrew the diverter. If you're gonna use pictograms, at least put Washington's head on it or something. Anyway, then you run water through the faucet for a minute. and then check for leakage.

I found plenty of leakage. First, the faucet dripped after I shut it off. Experimenting with the supply valves showed that it was the hot water side. I assumed some grit or something had gotten trapped in the faucet valve, so I shut off the water and dissembled the hot water valve.

It wasn't grit. It was a bad washer. The surface was chewed up like someone had taken a Dremel to it. WTF?!? I checked the cold water valve, and it was pristine. Now I was getting angry. I went downstairs and checked my box o'plumbing stuff, and came up with a used washer left over from when I last replaced the washers in the old faucet. It should suffice until I could send off a firm e-mail to the Peerless Faucet company demanding a new one.

I put everything back together, turned the water back on, and held my breath. The drip had stopped. However, there was still drippage underneath. One leak seemed to be coming from the hot water connector nut, so I tightened it some more, and the cold water nut as well. That seemed to work, but now I noticed some drips from the sprayer connection. The only way to tighten that nut some more was to uninstall the faucet.

No use for it, I crawled back underneath with the adjustable wrench and the tool. Once the faucet was back out, I noticed that water had also collected about the internal piping within the faucet. That couldn't be good. Then came the final straw. I tried tightening the sprayer nut a little more, and the (metal, I might add) nut snapped in half. I was steaming.

Packed it all back in the box and headed for Lowe's. The woman at the return desk asked what exactly was wrong with it, and I said "Where do I start?" We settled on defective valve. Then I headed back to the faucet aisle to get a new one.

I wanted to avoid a Peerless faucet at all costs. Unfortunately, as I stood there looking at the selection, the only one that I liked that was close to my price range was the same Peerless faucet I'd just returned. So I decided to try it again. I mean what were the odds that I'd get a second one that defective. I'd inspect it thoroughly when I got home, and if I noticed anything out of spec, I'd put it back in the box, get a different brand from Home Depot, and return the Peerless to Lowe's after work on Monday***. I also picked up some braided stainless steel connector hoses to replace the old connections, since I'd had trouble getting them not to leak earlier.

*** Geography note: The local Depot is only 2½ miles from my house. The local Lowe's is one the other side of town, on the base within spitting distance of my workplace, so although it is very convenient on weeknights, it is less so on the weekend.

I got home and inspected the new new faucet. The first thing I noticed was that despite being in the same box, it was different from the previous one. First, the internal plumbing was now encased in a bronze case beneath the chrome. Second, it had the quick connect hardware that the instructions mentioned instead to the crappy nut and stem. The sprayer mount was wider in diameter to fit the quick connect, and it had the proper nut. There were other differences. It appeared to be a much better made piece of hardware. Now I didn't know if I should be angry with Peerless, or with Lowe's for having differing inventory of the shelf. Huh.

Installation was easier this time because the new connectors were easier to tighten than the old tubes. The only excitement was when I noticed blood pooling up on the vinyl covered pad I'd been laying on. I had a cut on my left elbow that I hadn't noticed until then. Sigh. I got everything installed and then went to test it. I removed the aerator, then tried to remove the diverter. It was installed so tightly that when I tried to unscrew it with the depicted quarter, the very top of it snapped of rather than loosen. Bozhe moi! The damage didn't affect its ability to function, just its ability to be unscrewed. Instead I gently clamped it with a pair of vice grips, and was able to loosen it using those.

The good news is that everything worked perfectly, and there was not a single leak or drip. OTOH, I will never, EVER, purchase or recommend a faucet manufactured by Peerless (or Delta, for that matter, since they own Peerless).

Man, was I ever stiff and sore when I woke up this morning.

Now for the dishwasher...
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julianae_juliana on January 23rd, 2011 - 06:11 pm
Yay new faucet! It's very pretty, even if it was a pain to put in.
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gorgeousgarygorgeousgary on January 23rd, 2011 - 07:04 pm
You've got a lot more patience and perseverance that I do. Once my supply of wrenches, pliers, etc. failed to dislodge the nut, I'd be putting in a call to the plumber. (And have a few times, for recalcitrant nuts on both sinks and toilets.)
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mearamearagrrl on January 24th, 2011 - 07:18 am
Yeah, I'd have given up long before. Glad the second one was better, though. Eesh!
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