Homeowner skillz

So after a week camping, and a day driving a Mini Cooper with a camper trailer behind it (mine looks just like the picture on the main page), I was exhausted. It had been a long week. Sub-standard for other reasons.

I wanted a bath.

I designed my house’s bathroom with an oversized tub on one side and a double shower on the other, because I take these things seriously. Got in, got it just right, was all set to have a nice soak.

Fortunately, I’d gone early last night. We’d eaten dinner at about 430 after the drive home, so I was in the tub around 530.

That proved beneficial.

Went to turn off the water and the post to the cartridge snapped.

For those of you without plumbing experience, you have a hot water pipe from the tank and a cold water line from outside. They come together at the cartridge, which has inputs from both sides and mixes them, based on where you set your controls, either twisting a single dial like I have, or turning the two lines until you get the right mix.

And I’ve never had a post snap off, but I immediately recognized it for what it was.

So I yell for help and open the drain. Fabulous Publisher Babe™ had been on the couch with a happy kitty on her lap, but comes running.

First things first, turn off the water, both lines in my case, because I have a main line for the house next to the heater tank, as well as a hot out line just above the tank itself.

Do you know where your water turnoff valve is? Every house has one. Don’t know about apartments, because I haven’t lived in on in 20 years, but they might, near the water heater.

Then, it becomes a case of dismantling the damned thing.

The handle has an allen-head screw you turn to get out.

Do you have an allen wrench set?

Once the handle is off, you can access the cartridge itself, but I wasn’t sure where the damage was, so I went ahead and we took off the faceplate from the wall, so we could see the pipes inside and make sure they were still dry.

The cartridge is generally a cylinder about an inch across, and several inches long. My faucets are all Moen, and I bought them local, so I was confident I could get a replacement on the fly.

Mind you, 6pm on a Thursday, when the hardware store probably closes at 7pm.

So I had to get it out, get dressed (in that order), and then drive into town to find the replacement.

Once you remove the handle, there are several pieces you remove by unscrewing a bolt holding the center of the shaft. At that point, you have (in my case) a brass post coming out of a plastic piece sitting in a copper pipe.

Cotter pin (or whatever you call a thing shaped like a horseshoe about an inch long) holds the unit in. Pliers for that.

Then the cartridge itself has to be pulled straight out of the wall and the pipe junction is is struck in.

We’ve had plumbers doing major things as we added water to the barn, so my lines have had grit and yuck all summer, which might be why the thing got dirty enough to stick and when I turned it, it snapped.

The replacement unit includes lubricant, and my bath after we got everything replaced amazed me with how easily the handle turned.

At the hardware store, we took the old cartridge with us. (ALWAYS take the thing with you when replacing or repairing, so you can compare them, or show it to the expert. ALWAYS!) In this case, this was a standard 1222, so easy enough to find. Expensive as hell, but shit happens and I wasn’t in the mood to order it online for delivery in a few days. Not with all my water shut off.

Got it home, got it reassembled, got myself a proper bath.

This is the video I didn’t need to watch, (How to Remove & Install the 1222 Cartridge) but I have replaced such things before. Or pulled cartridges out so I could clean them, tighten them, something.

Plumbing is engineering. A little art, a lot of science, a dash of black magic. Good plumbers are amazing people dabbling in forbidden arts.

At the same time, we have ModCons. Modern Conveniences that make like so much better. Otherwise, I might have had to call out a plumber late on a Thursday night, playing emergency rates, and be looking at a $500-$1000 bill as a result, on top of $55 for the part itself and my lost bath.

I mention these things because a lot of folks might not even know where to begin, if they have a shower or bath that simply will not shut off. Most likely, your cartridge has died, or something. They can’t move much, so chances are they break inside, like mine did.

Repairing/replacing is not an impossible task, but Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I wondered as we drove home how many people knew how to approach the task. Homeowners who are nerdy or rednecky enough, but this might not be the sort of thing parent teach their kids these days. I never learned it at home, but that was due to other reasons unrelated to the topic at hand.

Most of what I know in those realms I taught myself along the way, often referencing books because the internet as a repository of all human knowledge came much later. (I got my first email address in 1991, with a BBS from school, for example.) Libraries and used book stores were where I gained knowledge, and I still have whole reference shelves in my office dedicated to “how to” without looking up a youtube video. (I’m a writer. That’s what we do.)

So today’s discussion for you folks involves making sure you know what questions to ask. My Moen 1222 is not necessarily what you have at your house, but maybe you should catalog those things now, and take the time to watch a few videos, just so you understand what you are looking at when it comes time to do some weird-ass home repairs.

Like taking your bathtub plumbing apart while naked and soaking wet on a Thursday evening.

Won’t say anti-stodgy, because I have six faucets in my house (two kitchen, bathroom, two shower, one tub) and I have now opened or replaced five of them in the last five years.

You do know how to take your faucet head apart to get out dirt and gravel that has accumulated, right? You are aware that you might be seeing reduced flow when those get dirty?

When was the last time you cleaned our your faucet or shower heads, anyway?

Food for thought, and hopefully you are having a less exciting week than I have.