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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 3/13/2011

One of the reasons I spent the evening at Tanglewood (beyond just "wanting to") last night was that I wanted to be able to focus on a couple of things that simply needed more time to do. There are a lot of "little things" that we've got on our Punch List that aren't particularly difficult (finishing up some stain in an area they missed, putting up a couple of electrical fixtures, leveling outlets, etc.) but they are time-consuming, and running up to spend a couple of hours in the afternoons after work just doesn't cut it. You need to be able to start the task and work on it until you reach a natural stopping point, then pick it up again the next morning and focus on it exclusively.

One such task dealt with the apartment bathtub faucet. Back when we were shopping around picking out various fixtures, my mother fell in love with this one model of faucet for her bathroom. The particular brand is Brizo, which is one of the fancier Delta faucet brands, and there was nothing wrong with it or anything... in fact I have something similar in the master bathroom shower. The plumbers installed it towards the end of construction back in November and after a bit of testing it hasn't particularly been used, since we're not up there taking baths just yet.

I normally keep the well pump turned off when nobody is going to be at the house, simply because I don't want any accidents to happen when nobody is there. As good as the plumbing work is, one could have a broken pipe or maybe an unexpected freeze that damages a water line and causes it to begin to leak. If the well pump has power, then it will pump water back into the pressure tank once it's exhausted due to the leak, which would then spray all over wherever, causing the well pump to switch on again, etc.---if a leak happened at the right time, the well pump could go through years of wear and tear over the course of a day or two trying to fill a constantly leaking system (that's if your batteries didn't exhaust themselves first). Having already replaced the well pump once during construction, I wasn't about to deal with that again if I could help it, and so one of the first things we do when we arrive on site is to check the pressure tank to see that it's still got water and then to switch on the well pump. That way we have water and flushies and all of the wonderful things that civilization with water bring you. When we're done for the day, we switch it back off.  It stays on when we're spending a couple of nights there.

Back towards the middle of February as I was moving some things up to the house I noticed that the pressure tank was very low, but thought perhaps that was due to our using it heavily a couple of days before as we were doing some mopping and whatnot. I didn't think much of it as I switched on the well pump and headed back out to Blackie to get a load of boxes. When I got back inside I could hear water running--but nothing should be on! I could tell it was coming from the apartment, so I followed it to its source, to find the bathroom faucet my mother had picked out fountaining water from its various joints!

Killing the well pump and shutting off the main water line, I let the water die down and then mopped up the mess. Fortunately, most of the water had simply gone down the drain, though there was enough pressure that more than a little had gotten all over the (yay tile!) floor. Once I got the mess cleaned up, I took a look at the faucet and confirmed that the leak was coming from between the joints, not from inside the wall. That was VERY good news since it confirmed (as near as I could get without physically checking it) that the problem was likely in the faucet and not caused by a broken pipe or anything.  (I knew that there was no way that the pipes could  have frozen, since the ICF had kept the house remarkably warm all winter--the coldest it ever got during our nasty cold snap back at the end of January was 40oF.) Unfortunately, the leak kept me from having the house water turned on at all, since it would immediately begin spraying if I let the water through... very, very annoying.

A call to Delta quickly got them to acknowledge that the problem was almost certainly the central core of the faucet, which they call a "cartridge". They put one in the mail immediately, but it didn't arrive until last week, and with work, I was unable to do anything about it until this weekend.

With the knowledge that I finally had some time to work on the faucet I put out some towels and went to work yesterday evening. I probably referred to the manual way too much, as it was simpler than I thought it would be, and as I took it apart I quickly saw what the problem was--a harder plastic seal at the end of the cartridge was clearly broken in several places, allowing water to get around it and (presumably) spray through the various joints and cause the leak I was seeing. How in the heck it had broken I didn't understand--we knew that the faucet had worked fine when it was installed and I'd operated it a few times since then to demonstrate it for visitors and whatnot.

I finished things up this morning, basically wiping out any residual water that was in the wall opening and putting everything back together. It went much faster now that I knew what I was doing, and I got down to the last step with a little cover plate that "snaps" over the screw that holds the outer segment onto the cartridge. It didn't click into place though, since it's intended to be a tight fit, and so I reached for a hammer to tap it down...

...and THAT'S WHEN I REALIZED WHAT HAD HAPPENED! The plumbers had  surely had the same problem when they were putting the faucet together, had naturally used a hammer to tap the cover plate into place, and thus inadvertently forced the segments onto the interior seal and broken it. It worked for a while, since it was cracked and the broken pieces held in place through several operations of the levers, but eventually one or more of them worked their way loose--and the leak began!

I honestly couldn't blame them for all of this, of course. It worked fine when they tested it, and it's such a natural response to the problem of fitting down the cover plate, that I nearly made the same mistake myself. I was just so happy I hadn't messed it all up again that honestly seeing the water back on throughout the house was satisfaction enough for me!

Any lessons learned here? Well, hard to say really... maybe "don't use a hammer on delicate parts" would apply, though again the effect was so disconnected from the cause that you wouldn't even think about it.

It's fixed. I'm happy. One more (big) thing off the Punch List!

Steven in Colorado Springs


A closeup of the busted ring (gray) at the back of the faucet cartridge.
A better shot showing the damaged ring. You can see pieces missing along the brass cylinder towards the upper left.
A somewhat blurry shot of the replacement cartridge. Note that its ring is clean and unbroken, as it should be.
Pile of faucet parts. The one on the left is the broken one; the one of the right is its replacement. The ceramic disks at the bottom fell out of the broken cartridge when I removed it.
The fully restored and functional faucet...yay!

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