House-hunting is a very strange experience. I believe that this is because people are strange. We looked at some truly ugly homes with some truly inexplicable furnishings, and had a wonderful time mocking the sellers.
When we first looked at the house we would eventually buy, the bathtub faucet was dripping. When we came back for a second look, it was dripping more. When we came back for the home inspection, the inspector naturally turned on the tub faucet to see how quickly the water would drain. He had a great deal of trouble getting the water to shut off.
After our first night in the new house, Sarah let me know that she would quickly go insane if she had to listen to the dripping for very much longer. My first project would therefore be to repair it.
Now, my actual first project whenever I move into a new place is to remove the existing showerhead and install the Waterpik Hand-Held Shower Massage unit. This only took me five minutes, and I turned my attention to the tub faucet. I discovered that there was no cutoff valve for the tub, and so I was forced to turn off the water to the entire house in order to disassemble the faucet.
There were no identifying marks on the faucet, but I could clearly see the source of the leak. One of the rubber seals in the cartridge was worn. Off I went to Home Depot, where their motto is, “Our prices are so low, we can lie to your face and you’ll still come back for more!”
The indifferent Plumbing Sales Associate obviously had no idea what brand my faucet was. He didn’t have any seals that would fit, but he sold me some new springs and told me to use the worn seals with the new springs. The springs were just a bit too big, so naturally when I installed them, the forty-year-old rubber seals disintegrated. The leak was now much worse; in fact it was closer to a gush.
Taking a shower was now a team effort: one person in the basement at the master cutoff valve, and the other person in the tub, yelling OKAY TURN IT ON NOW.
Off I went to the local plumbing supply store. Lots of plumbers were queued up at the parts counter. When it was my turn, I held out the cartridge. The Counter Sales Associate looked at obviously-not-a-plumber me, and said, “What the hell is that?”
“I was hoping you could tell me.”
“No idea. Next!”
One of the plumbers who was waiting for his order to be pulled took pity on me. He said, “I think I have an old part like that in my truck; you can have it if you want.” We went to look. It was exactly the same part, and it was worn in exactly the same place.
“Thanks anyway,” I said. “You don’t happen to know the make and model?”
He grinned. “I sure do. It’s Price Pfister, the pfaucet with the pfunny name. And I got a pfeeling you’re probably pf*cked; nobody carries these parts around here.”
I laughed and thanked him again. I might not be a plumber, but I do have some specialized knowledge of my own. It took me about five minutes on Price Pfister’s web site to track down exactly which faucet I had (The Bodyguard), two minutes to find an exploded-view drawing with part numbers, five seconds to sneer at the idea of ordering parts through the friendly neighborhood plumbing supply store, and three minutes to order a new cartridge from a plumbing supply house in Pennsylvania.
I was feeling pretty proud of my elite Internet skills, until I happened to look under the sink in the bathroom for a bar of soap. I saw the showerhead that I had removed in Chapter One, which clearly said “Price Pfister Bodyguard” on the face.
In due course, the new cartridge arrived and was installed. The leak… continued. I looked more closely at the valve plate, and discovered that the previous homeowner had allowed the worn seal to leak for so long that it had etched a good-sized hole in the solid brass plate. It must have taken years.
I went back to Minnesota and ordered a new valve stem assembly, complete with washers and O-rings. Finally the leak stopped, along with the constant stream of curses. Sarah was most relieved.
We thought that was the end of it, and set about our myriad other home improvement projects.
Almost a year later, there came a knock at the door. It was a friendly young man from the town’s Department of Public Works. He said that his office had happened to notice that the average water bill for our address had dropped significantly, from about two hundred dollars a quarter to just over thirty dollars a quarter. He wondered if we would mind terribly allowing him to examine our water meter for signs of my having jammed a piece of coathanger wire into the impeller, possibly in an effort to lower my water bill. I showed him the worn valve plate, and we both marveled at the strange and wonderful variety of stone-cold crazy people in the world today.
Update: Apparently this post is now the number-one result on Google for people with leaky faucets. Hi there. How are you? I’ve added a couple of links so you can get your own Price Pfister parts. If you have a leaky Water Pik hand-held shower massage, for Pete’s sake, just buy a new one. They’re only twenty bucks.