Monday, December 07, 2009

Take your time, do your research

In a previous post I talked about how much I was dreading having to fix my kitchen faucet, in a comment on that post, fellow blogger and talented writer Mr. MC Etcher said:

"Despite your protest that you don't know anything about plumbing, you're attempting the repair yourself nonetheless.

I too know nothing about plumbing - but I would rather start with all new, clean, definitely functional parts than attempting to replace questionable components.

My method is wasteful, but you're likely to spend less in the end on individual parts and repeated trips to the hardware store."

Well, fixing the faucet in question taught me something, and not just things about plumbing.

You see, a few days ago I would have completely agreed with Etcher, but considering that we also had to do another roof repair and had a lot of Christmas presents to buy, we just didn't have fifty bucks to spend on an all new faucet…so I was forced to try and fix it instead of replacing it. In the end, I'm really glad I did.

You can find all the instructions, help and tips you need free on the internet, and it turns out that the average faucet isn't all that complicated.

In simplest terms, a faucet is basically a screw with a stopper on the end. You turn the screw one way and it lifts the stopper off the end of your water pipe, when you turn it the other way, it pushes the stopper down and blocks the water flow. The 'valve seat' is simply a brass fitting that screws onto the end of your water pipe to protect it and help make a good seal when the faucet is turned off.

Now, here where my options:

  1. I could call a plumber, pay him at least a hundred dollars for the call out alone, then pay another fifty for labor and way over the odds for the parts.
  2. I could go to Lowes, pay about fifty dollars for a whole new faucet and replace the whole thing myself.
  3. I could dismantle the faucet, see if the diagnosis matched the info from the internet, and if so, spend a grand total of seven dollars on parts and tools and fix it myself.

I won't lie, plumbing is really intimidating when you've never done any before, and the first thing you imagine is attempting this 'simple' job, breaking something and having your kitchen waist deep in water within minutes, but my repair was beyond simple.

Even if you know nothing about plumbing, you probably know how to replace a washer on a faucet. If you're calling out a plumber for that, you really need your head examined. Replacing the valve seat wasn't any more complicated.

First, I turned off the water, unscrewed the faucet handle and removed it. Taking the stem out was next which was as easy as unscrewing it with an adjustable wrench. Then, I took my six-dollar valve seat wrench, slotted it into the valve seat at the top of the pipe, unscrewed the seat (which was pitted and cracked, immediately confirming the diagnosis I got from the internet), then I screwed in the new one. Then, I just put the stem back in place and screwed the handle back on.

All in all, the whole repair took less than ten minutes and cost less than eight dollars (and I don't really count the six-fifty for the seat wrench, because the seats on my other faucets are bound to need replacing sooner or later and that's a one-time expense. IE, next time I need to do this, the whole repair will cost 87 cents.)

Basically, my advice is that when something needs fixing around the house, unless there's actual danger of death if you attempt it yourself (For example, I'd never mess with my houses wiring), get on the internet, research it and work out exactly how hard it's going to be to fix, and if you think you can handle it, go for it.

Here's the thing, I didn't just save myself a couple hundred dollars this time. I saved myself a couple hundred dollars every time this particular bit of maintenance needs doing.

1 comment:

Evan 08 said...

You just summed up how I do many of my repairs. But then again, I think I'm a bit more confident in my experience and ability as a do-it-yourselfer than you are in yours.

My recent furnace issue is a good example. I knew the symptom, and researched it. I found out that it was beyond my level of expertise. However, when I talked to the HVAC guy, telling him the problem, I was able to get it fixed for less than $100. I think that part of the relatively low repair bill is the ability to talk technical with the repair technician. This gives them the impression that you can't be taken for a ride.

That's the other benefit of attempting do-it-yourself stuff.