Saturday, December 28, 2013

Zen Entertaining and the art of faucet repair.

I hosted my first Christmas this year for my family, because my brother just wanted everyone together, and I am too pregnant to travel comfortably. It was going to be great. Perfect. Beautiful. The menu was set, much was preped ahead of time so I could relax instead of cooking, the decorations were beautiful, the house was clean, so what if the paint wasn't all touched up, and the closets completely cleaned out, faucet was a little loose, it's an old house. I could get to all of that later.
Everyone arrived on the 23rd. By bedtime the faucet had been hyper-turned by someone freakishly strong. I pulled my brothers aside and let them know it was ok to be a little more gentle in an old house, and I didn't care who did it, it would be easy to fix in the morning, the cold water was off, it would be ok as long as no one tried to use it again that night. My brothers looked at each other, puzzled, then Bart immediately blamed his girlfriend who was spending her first holiday with us. "She's surprisingly strong. Hey!" He called to her... "Why did ya break the faucet?" So much for tact and minimizing awkwardness.

Christmas Eve was predictably crazy, and my Dad offered to run the store and grab some last minute groceries and replacement parts for the sink. They don't sell the parts, only brand new handles, of course. He came back with the right ones just in time for Mass, then there was dinner and Santa and bed. No cold water. No biggie. Everything else was perfect and happy.
Christmas morning Bart woke up at 4:30. I woke up at 5:00, the Personal Assistant didn't rouse until 7:30. Dad looked like death warmed over. We opened stockings, one at a time pretending that's what we always did (we never do) so that we would all be paying attention when Bart's girlfriend found her engagment ring. It was an adorable proposal. Dad quietly excused himself and asked for a bucket. Somehow we decided it was a good time for breakfast.

My other brother's boyfriend was also spending his first holiday with us. His mom sent his favorite crepes for breakfast. I ate two without thinking. Biting into my third, I wondered why they tasted so much richer than mine...and then I realized: eggs. EGGS! Dad is dry heaving in the bathroom and I just set myself up for an afternoon of stomach cramps and diahrea. We have one bathroom, with one broken faucet. All I could think is "This is not good. Oh no. This is not good." Everyone just stared at me. I explained as calmly as I could. It was my mistake. No one should feel bad. The boyfriend clearly felt bad. The Hubster rolled his eyes.

Then it started to get harder to breathe. I grabbed the Benadryl and quietly handed my brother (a doctor) my epipen, in case. Two Benadryl and two hits off of my rescue inhaler later it was still hard to breathe. I called the allergist, who was paged, at home, on Christmas morning. Seriously, I felt like such a jerk. My chest got tight, my throat was itchy, he sent me to the ER. Crap. I asked my brother to come along for the ride in case I got worse in the car. His boyfriend came too. I waddled in with my entourage gave my name, and told the woman I was having an allergic reaction, and that I am not fat, but seven months pregnant. She paged a nurse and shooed my into triage without registering me.

They got me on an "allergen coctail" of benadryl, pepcid, and prednisone. It got easier to breathe. We were told I needed to stay a few hours for observation, then I could go home, but I needed to stay on the medications for the next five days to prevent the reaction from reoccurring. Then my brother (the doctor) got board and made his boyfriend start taking pictures. Really flattering, super professional pictures.

Yup, that's me. Hostess of the year, half asleep on a gurney in a hospital gown with my dear brother pretending to inject me with epinepherine.
We got home in time to take the turkey out of the oven and feed everyone. Dad came down to watch us eat. We finished opening presents around 8pm. It was a surprisingly enjoyable day. The rest of the week went smoothly, if quickly, and it seems like they all want to come back and do it again. I said "Sure! This was fun! I love hostessing!". Perhaps we are all a bit crazy.
So, after nearly a week with no cold water in the bathroom, I finally had a moment to replace the handle after everyone left. Easy peasy. Calming even. But of course, I was not done, I had to replace the functioning handle to match. Luckily, the screw was not only stripped, but rusted into place. I tried the rubber band trick, the curse at it trick, the make the Hubster try it trick, before I finally gave up and trudged to the basement to dig out the Dremel.
Don't tell me you don't own a Dremel. Oh, honey. All I can say is "God bless you", I am so sorry. I used the Dremel to cut the stripped screw into a flat head instead of a philips head...
...then found a bit to match, increased the torque on my drill, and had that sucker out in on time.
It was pretty nasty.
Eww. Then I pulled the handle off to see what was going on...
Double eww. The stem is leaking and probably needs to be replaced, or rebuilt. It is original, and a replacement part is going to be tricky to find, which means rebuilding the faucet stem is now on my "to do someday list". This is not something my Benadryl addled, post-holiday, super prego mind could handle at the time. I decided to clean it up the best I could for the time being.
All of that greenish white stuff is calcification from our hard water, and needed to be scrubbed off.
Here's the two handles I removed for comparison, the one on the left is totally calcified, the one on the right did not have a leak and looked brand new on the inside.
Lots of scrubbing, toothpaste, and wd-40 later, the crome was shining and most of the calcium was gone. The leak was a little better once I re-tightened everything, but not completely gone.
The replacement kit came with the usual assortment of plastic parts, and one adjustable metal part. (I believe this part is called the "escutcheon", but I am hopped up on Benadryl at the moment so don't quote me on that.) The metal one is less liable to crack under the freakish strength of your brother's new fiance, but...if you don't have those set screws in tight and they start to slip, they could strip the groves on the stem, do make sure they are really on there snuggly.
I dry fitted the pieces then realized I had play "guess which screw", the universal kits come with many unlabeled screws for your guessing pleasure. Joy. So it came pack apart.
Eventually, I found the right screw.
So here we go. Assembly. The escutcheon is sitting squarely on the stem.
Then the cover goes on. See the little square? That turns the escutcheon which turns the stem valve on and off.
Now the handle. This one has groves to match the groves on the cover for stability. Looks pretty much exactly like the stem valve.
Set the handle on in the orientation you want it to appear when the water is off. Screw in the lucky matching screw (HAND TIGHT not strip it!) and if it comes with one, pop in the screw cap. Wipe up the smudgy dirty mess that comes free with any plumbing project and that's it.
And with that my Christmas duties were completed. Voila. Done. Fini.

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