Tuesday, 08 March, 2005

Adventures in plumbing

I guess most homeowners become amateur home hackers out of necessity.  About six months ago I had to replace a leaky bathtub faucet.  I shut off the water, pulled the existing stem, and tripped down to the local plumbing supply house for a replacement.  The guy behind the counter gave me new washers and packing, and sent me packing.  When I installed the new stem I was a little concerned that I had to close it so tightly to prevent it from leaking, but figured that was just the way things were.

The faucet started dripping again a couple of weeks ago.  Considering that I'd just replaced the hot, I assumed that it was the cold this time.  So I shut off the water, pulled the stem, and decided to try Home Depot for a replacement.  Luckily for me, they had one.  They also had a very helpful employee who told me what a valve seat was and pointed me to the valve seat removal wrenches.  I replaced the cold stem last night, including the valve seat, and turned the water back on.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.

I might be ignorant about some things, but I'm no dummy.  I never replaced the valve seat on the hot side because I didn't know about it.  I bought another replacement stem with the valve seat at Home Depot today, came home, swapped out the hot stem.  Presto, no more leak.  The valve seat on the hot side had a huge chip in it, which is almost certainly what caused the original drip.

While I had everything taken apart, I thought I'd do something about the soap scum and calcium buildup on the fixture handles.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a calcium remover that doesn't say "do not use on bright metal finishes?"  I couldn't find one.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, though, I remembered hearing that vinegar would remove calcium buildup.  Having nothing to lose except some very old vinegar, I filled a little plastic tub and placed the faucet handles in it.  I let them soak while we were having dinner.  In less than an hour almost all of the soap scum and calcium buildup was gone.  The vinegar took it right off without affecting the chrome finish at all.  That worked so well that now I'm soaking the shower head that we were about to replace.

If cheap apple cider vinegar works so well for this, why do we spend so much money on nasty chemicals that can't be used on many surfaces?