Old Home Owner’s Malaise

June 13, 2011

help, plumbing, water problems

Maybe this is normal. I don’t know.

I’m suffering from a severe case of the Old Home Blues. I have absolutely no energy to tackle any projects around here. Not the garden, not all the undone little projects from the kitchen renovation from last summer…. and when I encounter a “new” problem, I just want to go to bed and pretend it isn’t there. Right now, if I could sell and make a profit, I would. I would get a new house (in old-house speak, a new house is one that was built post World War II). ALL the plumbing and electric and insulation and windows would be done. Maybe even have nice carpeting and a deck and a downstairs toilet that doesn’t bubble when the upstairs is flushed… It would be the next thing to heaven. yeah.

Oh, I’m down in the dumps about another plumbing problem. Honestly, I kinda thought we were over the plumbing problems, last year after we replaced everything—well, ALMOST everything, and that’s the problem right there.

The handle to the bathtub faucet broke off yesterday. I dropped a small plastic container of hand soap on it, and BOOP it snapped. Just a handle, though. Tub handles are replaceable, easy– you screw off the old and screw on the new!! EASY!!!

*violent sobbing*

The faucet handle stem is plastic. The stem is the rod inside the handle that turns the water supply on and off as you spin the handle. Every single diagram I have ever seen shows metal stems. The screw off. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

Except mine. Mine’s plastic. And they don’t screw off.  Nope, the system is all integrated. The chrome sleeve escutcheon, the valve body inside the wall. All integrated. So we can’t just screw off the old and screw on the new. We have to GUT THE BATHROOM WALL and replace ALL the copper pipes to install a new valve, stem and faucet fixtures.

tub faucet plastic stem1

You can see the plastic stem end that broke off.

tub faucet plastic stem2

The chrome sleeve will NOT budge. I think it’s welded to the valve (inside the wall). There’s no threaded flange to screw on and off. We managed to remove the plastic cartridge from the sleeve. I’ve never seen anything like it in a tub handle, but then again, I’m no plumber. I can understand the cartridge inside as plastic.. but plastic for the STEM?! The rod that sticks out upon which the entire handle spins? It’s born to fail.

tub faucet plastic stem4

tub faucet plastic stem3

I don’t think this type of tub handle set is even made anymore. We would kinda like to modernize the whole thing, but we’d have to replace the whole thing, a monumental task. This is the valve from the “access panel” behind the shower. Note that the panel covers the right side of the plumbing. There’s a wall stud there. We can’t replace the valve, anyway, unless I hack through the wall with a reciprocating saw.

tub faucet plastic stem5

Do you hear that banshee-screaming-like sound? That’s not the wind. That’s my whining, all the way from New York State.

Hey, if any of you old-timers have any advice to offer me, please do. :)

Update: I’ve done more research online, and it looks like the plastic cartridge is replaceable (the brand is Universal Rundle). I even found an online store that sells them!!!!! That’s encouraging. The Hubs is going to decide whether he wants to simply replace the cartridges and leave the cob job cobbed, or replace the entire valve system to something more modern. We’d have to rip out part of the wall for that…. it’s not a large portion of the wall, but I foresee some issues. I only pray that all the twisting and shaking we did yesterday to get the handles apart has not broken the seals around the copper pipes! Pray that we don’t get a leak!

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5 Responses to “Old Home Owner’s Malaise”

  1. Carole Says:

    Whew!! I was so glad when I got to the bottom of your post that there was hope for replacing the plastic piece!! Even if you decide just to re-do the whole thing after all, at least you have the CHOICE of whether to do it or not! Maybe you should just “re cob” it and take a well deserved break from working on your house. Go get a cup of coffee and look at before and after pics of your kitchen and cheer yourself up… You’ve come a long way, baby! :-)

  2. Marg Says:

    A friend of mine told me something neat. They are threatened with the government taking their house away since they haven’t been able to pay their taxes,(long story) so she and her husband went for a long drive down some dirt roads to get their minds on the big picture. Sounds like you need to do something similar. I would hate to see you leave all that work you did already. Besides, I bet you wouldn’t be happy unless you were fixing something. Isn’t that why you bought the house?? Take care

  3. karen Says:

    I hope everything turns out to be not a big hassle. Step away for awhile and sit outside with a good book. You deserve a little down time.

  4. kadee Says:

    Well was I glad to find this.(No offence) I hope everything worked out easily for you. I am having the same problem right now except we can unscrew the entire metal piece from the pipe. So I guess my question is do they still make just the plastic piece that we need? I would hate to have to change everything. I hope this is an easy cheap fix and we don’t have to start messing with all the pipes. Since our entire metal piece screws off can I just replace it with a different one even if the valve stem is metal?

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