1940's laundry tub faucet - repair or replace?

homeboundDecember 18, 2007

I got a call for a laundry tub constant drip, which I'll see tomorrow.

Do plumbers bother with stem repair on circa 1940's laundry tub faucets, or do they replace? For something that old, how easy is it to match up stem washers, or is it to be expected that the stem will be chewed up?

Thanks.

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homebound

After reading my post, I regret asking it. Most likely it's a simple repair. Sorry about that.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 4:05PM
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dan_martyn

Homebound,

If the water lines to the faucet drop from overhead, down to the faucet and the faucet clamps to the laundry tub, this is probably the very common type faucet which can be bought at any Home Depot or Lowes. If in doubt, you can shut off the water to the faucet and usually it has unions just above the faucet which can be loosed. Unclamp the faucet and bring it into the store. If they don't have a direct replacement, they can pull the stems and compare to instock items or special order what you need. Compare the prices between replacement or repair.

Hope this helps,

Dan Martyn

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 1:25PM
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homebound

Thank you. You described it exactly. As it turned out, it just needed a new seat washer.

For others, here's show:

Shut off the water, let the water run out. Now cover the drain so no screws or parts fall down.

Unscrew the cap nut, then unscrew the stem itself. (It will turn either way depending on whether it's hot side or cold.) Note, the handle may need to be removed to unscrew the stem, since the handle may be obstructed by the edge of the basin. To remove the handle, unscrew the retaining screw and tap it off from behind - it might be very snug on a knurled end, so tapping with the side of a screwdriver helps.

Be careful with any washers, etc as you take it apart.

Once it's out, unscrew the seat washer from the bottom of the stem. Replace with new washer of same size (that fits the diameter snugly - easiest to take the stem to your local old fashioned hardware story to buy the correct washer).

Put it all back together. Turn water back on, test it, and check for any drips around the cap nut or elsewhere. An easy fix.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:59PM
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lazypup

From reading all of this it is apparent to me that the DIY methods are radically different from the old school plumbers methods. Everyone is talking about running to the hardware store and replacing the stem and such. I must be getting Alzheimer's or something because I honestly can't remember the last time I actually had to replace a stem.

In the trade the old school plumbers all have a small metal multi-compartmented box that holds a complete assortment of both flat & beveled faucet washers, an assortment of Bib screws, brass cup washers and hopefully a pair of bottoming taps for the screw threads. In addition we have a roll of stem packing material and a couple specialty tools, a handle puller and a set of plumbers sockets. Now I would not expect a homeowner to purchase a complete Sexauer Washer set at $55 but you can buy a complete assortment of washers at any hardware store for about $2 and keep them in your tool box.

Begin by turning the water off at an angle stop, a zone valve or at the main if necessary, then open the faucet and drain the line.

Remove the handle retaining screw, then use the handle puller to lift the handle off the end of the stem shaft. Pounding on the handle with a wrench is a sure way to damage the handle. (handle pullers are about $10 at any hardware store)

If the stem body is accessible such as on the laundry faucet in question or a kitchen or lavatory faucet use an adjustable wrench to remove the stem body. If the stem body is recessed into the wall such as on a tub/shower mixer use a plumbers socket to remove it. (A full set of plumbers sockets is about $10 at any hardware store).

When you get the stem body out remove the bib screw that holds the washer on the end of the stem, then remove the old washer. Examine the end of the stem. Most stems have a cast raised ridge that surrounds the outer part of the washer to prevent it from expanding outwards. You may find a chip or two missing from that ridge, if so, that is not a big problem but in a worst case we find the greater portion of that ridge is missing. In that case we use a pair of pliers to break off the remaining portion of the ridge, then use a file to smooth any burrs so the end of the stem has a flat surface. Select the correct washer and if you had to file the end of the stem flat you install a brass cup washer under the washer to replace the ridge.

If you have a bottoming tap available it is best to run the tap in the threads of the stem to clean the threads, then put the screw through the washer and into the stem and tighten it in place.

Next, unscrew the stem packing nut on the outer end of the stem and turn the stem until you can remove it from the stem body. Use a fine stainless steel wire brush to clean the threads of the stem and apply a liberal coating of "Plumbers grease" on the threads. (A small 1oz can of plumbers grease is available at any hardware store for about $.50 to $1.)

Now remove the old stem packing material from the outer end of the stem body. Insert the stem into the body and turn it until the stem is in the full open position. Now you wind the new stem packing material around the stem shaft and push it down into the stem journal. continue packing until the stem packing material is slightly higher than the end of the stem body. Replace the stem packing nut and tighten slightly so you feel a slight friction when turning the stem. Now set the stem aside for a minute.

Reach your finger nail into the faucet body and feel the surface of the seat. If the seat is pitted, chipped or feels like a rough sandpaper surface replace the seat. To replace the seat you insert a seat wrench into the center opening of the seat, then unscrew the seat. (You can get a seat wrench at any hardware store for about $3). Normally you will have to take the old seat to a good neighborhood hardware store and have them match a new one. (Ace & True value hardware stores are great for matching seats, but don't expect a lot of luck at Lowes or HD) Here is a tip. The original seats are usually brass. For a few cents more you can get "Monel metel" which will hold up much better and if you have severe hard water condition that tears the seats up quickly you might want to get a stainless steel seat. The SS is will cost about twice as much as the brass but it will outlast the brass 10 to 1.

Before installing the new seat apply a couple turns of white single density Teflon tape to the threads.
(There is a trick to installing the new seat. It is nearly impossible to hold the seat and get the threads started in the faucet body. The trick is to wedge the new seat on the end of your seat wrench and use the wrench to reach it in an start it.)

Now here is the one point that many people overlook. Before you attempt to install the stem body back into the faucet be sure the stem is turned to the full open position. If it is in the closed position the new washer will be pressed too tightly against the seat and it is instantly distorted beyond use.

Tighten the stem body, then turn the water one. You may need to tighten the stem packing nut a bit to seal the new packing. Once you are sure there is no leak replace the handle and your done.

The first time you do this you may end up buying the afore mentioned tools but even if you do buy the tools, the total cost of the job is far less than the cost of a professional service call, and once you own the tools the next time you do this job all you will be out is a few cents for the washers and stem packing.

I would strongly suggest every homeowner or DIY'er should get these tools and keep them in your tool box. Also, next time your at a hardware grab a package of assorted faucet washers. The package is about a dollar or two and with the price of gas it simply isn't worth coming back to the store for them when you need them.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 8:14AM
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homebound

Ah, I meant say it needed a new STEM washer.

The reason I suggest to take it with you (sometimes) is just because I sometimes kick myself when I don't, and there are a host of folks who won't buy the whole kit anyway (which IS good advice). It also helps for folks who don't know the terminology. Anyway, I had a pack of various washers with me, but didn't have what I needed (1/4L beveled, since I wanted some extra thickness).

BTW, in my case there wasn't packing under the cap nut, but a red washer with a lip. What's the proper name for that?

One more thing, lazypup. Are you a proponent of using flat stem washers only? I wonder if the beveled ones get distorted over time.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 9:56AM
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phyllisd47_hotmail_com

If the water lines to the faucet drop from overhead, down to the faucet and the faucet clamps to the laundry tub,and I want to replace with a new one that clamps to the laundry tub and is like a kitchen faucet

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 1:32PM
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