Friday, May 29, 2009


When you live in an old house you can expect to do lots of minor repairs. Such as plumbing. In the time I've been ill a surprising number of chores have piled up. Family and friends have pitched in but some are major tasks, such as keeping our property trimmed down so as to prevent less of a fire hazard. Unable to do the trimming and tilling myself, the local fire department is threatening us with having the work done by their selected crew and simply sending us the bill, always a bit fatter than when we hire someone ourselves -- and when we do a lot of the work ourselves.

This year I can't do that so we've budgeted for what we can do.

One aspect of fire prevention was plumbing the property with a 2-1/2" water line when I bought the place back in '65. I have 1" and 1-1/2" pipe completely around the house, with heavy hoses for each faucet.

One of the faucets developed a leak.

Fixing faucets, including chucking them in the lathe and turning a new valve seat, is another of those chores you have to keep up with. This post shows what you need to do to repair a particular type of faucet.

In the exploded view you can see that the faucet consists of a shaft, a shaft seal & packing, a washer and a valve seat. The valve seat is what connects to the water pipe. In this case, the pipe is one-inch, stepped down to accept the 3/4" faucet. Two other faucets on this line are only 1/2", their size reflecting the area they have to cover should we need to wet-down the property so as to suppress embers.

To maintain the faucet you may have to replace the packing around the shft, a task that thakes only a few minutes. Usually, the job calls for replacing the neoprene washer. Rarest of all is having the re-machine the seat where the washer forms a seal.

All of my plumbing stuff was kept in a plumber's bag, a white canvas thing with leather re-enforcing the corners. During my illness the bag has vanished. I assume it was simply moved from one place to another but I haven't time to search for it. After going to the lab for my blood-work, we stop by the local Home Depot to pick up the needed gasket. (See above)

Wanna guess what the store no longer carries? Right. But they still have the valve, of course, at about nine dollars.

Vista used to have two well-stocked plumbing stores. They've been forced out of business by Home Depot and Wal-Mart.

When I'm feeling better I'll use a razor to cut out a supply of gaskets for our various valves. And track down the missing plumber's bag.

The photos show what the valve looks like when dismantled. The washer goes in easily, secured by a single Phillips Head screw. Phillips screw drivers come in a variety of sizes. This one calls for a #1. I think the largest we'll see is a #4 but just for insurance I'll make up a few extras in that size.

Finally, back home with the nine dollar valve instead of the five-cent gasket, everything is back together again, making our home that much safer when the fires come roaring down from the hills.