About a month ago our bathtub hot water faucet started to leak. By the end of the month it was a dribble. Hot water down the drain, 24/7. We put off fixing it until we returned from California. On Sunday we decided it had to be fixed. So while everyone else was at the movies, out shopping for those bargains, we were on the internet looking up instructions to fix the faucet.
I had fixed the leaky sink faucets a while back which was a pretty easy fix once you see how it is put together. The bathtub wasn’t as easy. I thought I was all set. I knew what to do.
First we attempted to shut the hot water off at the hot-water heater in the basement. It was shut off but the hot water still ran through the faucets. Then we tried to shut the main water valve off that supplies all the water in the house. It wasn’t going to budge. I even hit it with a hammer to try and loosen it but, no. I was horrified to think if a pipe upstairs sprung a leak somewhere, we wouldn’t be able to shut the water off! Well, that has to wait a while and we will have to seriously get that fixed….later. Right now it was the hot water we needed to fix. Since there wasn’t a turn-off valve in the wall behind the shower (which I want to have) we figured there has to be one somewhere between the hot-water heater in the basement and where the pipes head up to the second-story bathroom. We found it. It was frozen open. We carefully tapped it with a hammer and tried to use leverage with a long screw driver wedged into the handle but it wasn’t going to budge. I got the channel locks out and put all I had into it and it started to move. My husband turned it the rest of the way off. Then that turn-off valve faucet started to drip. Not as bad as the faucet in the bathroom but still it was dripping. We checked the water upstairs and it was shut off.
Back upstairs, I unscrewed the screw holding the handle on the bathtub faucet and tried to remove it just like we saw on the internet. It wasn’t going to budge, either. I started my rant about how nothing ever goes smoothly with old houses. Anyway, we kept trying because we just couldn’t see how anything else would be holding the handle on. I got a large screwdriver for some leverage and started working it around the handle and it finally came off. That handle must have been on there since 1957 which is the date the bathroom was remodeled by the former owner.
Problem. What we were looking at with the handle removed didn’t match anything we saw on the internet. We twisted and worked a threaded collar off to reveal a brass piece which we took off with a crescent wrench. That revealed a valve stem that we tried to unscrew but it wouldn’t come loose no matter which way I turned it. Turns out you just pull it out. Excited, I held the piece in my hand. What did we have here? There was no rubber washer left at all, just a screw on the end. A broken O ring fell off. We didn’t see where it came from.
We drove up Peach Street to Lowes. We didn’t find a part that was exactly like ours but it looked really, really close. We bought it and one for the cold side of the faucet while we were at it and returned home. We learned at the store that you’d use a different part for the hot than you would the cold because of the way the handle turns. We also bought some silicone to replace the stuff I had to dig out around the pipe coming out of the wall to keep water from leaking into the wall. After replacing the part into the hot side of the faucet we discovered it stuck out a little too far because the handle wouldn’t fit on far enough to let us get the screw threaded back on. The stem where the handle fits on has a different amount of those tiny threads on it than the handle had. It would have worked if it wasn’t for that. We drove back to the store and returned it. We then went to Home Depot and they didn’t have one like ours, either. We also checked the internet before we left and couldn’t find one. Even though I wanted to replace the whole worn piece , which is apparently a dinosaur, we had no choice but to replace the O-ring and washers. I bought a box of assorted O-rings, a box of assorted flat washers and just in case, a box of beveled washers that looked the size that would fit. Back home we went.
I unscrewed the screw on the end of the stem valve and dug out the tiny partial bit of rubber that was there and replaced it with the beveled washer, beveled side up. I stretched a little O-ring around the stem in a groove on the stem. It went back together perfectly. However, when we took this apart there was another larger O ring that we don’t know where it came from. So for good measure I just added another one around the outside of the stem before I put it back. At some point when we do the cold-water side of the faucet maybe we will see how it is suppose to be put together.
We turned the faucet back on in the basement and the bathtub faucet no longer leaked.
We still have a small drip in the basement on the hot-water shut-off valve that feeds the second story, we have a shut-off valve at the hot-water heater that doesn’t completely shut off the water and we have a main water valve that is frozen open but the bathtub leak is fixed! I’m thinking I should take a plumbing course (online?) so I can learn to solder new shut-off valves in our house. I would love those lever kind instead of the round handles with stem valves and washers. We were lucky no pipe broke while we tried to open or shut the valves with such force or we’d have been in real trouble. We did save a lot not having to have a plumber come out and now we know how to fix the bathtub faucet which will make it easier next time. We’ll do the cold-water side of the faucet when we get the main shut-off valve fixed. And then there is all the valves on the radiators that won’t turn…..