Plumbing emergency

My plan today was to write some Darths & Droids strips – preferably at least three. I ended up writing zero.

I had some shopping to do – first the weekly groceries. Then I also had to go pick up a game for the current redditgifts board games exchange, which I signed up for. Being such a game player, I couldn’t resist signing up for this one. The nearest game store is a few minutes drive away. I got there a bit before 1:30, but there was a sign on the door saying “back at 2pm”! I guess they’re not getting much business with the COVID restrictions, and decided to actually close up shop for the lunch break. Since I was there, I decided to wander around for half an hour, rather than drive all the way home and have to come back again. So that ate up more time than I expected.

The other thing I wanted to do today was attend to a leaky tap on the bathroom sink. The cold water tap there has been annoying me for years. I have to replace the valve far too frequently, because after just a few weeks the tap starts dripping and needs to be turned off ever harder, until it gets to the point where I can’t turn it off hard enough to prevent it dripping.

I recently bought a tap reseating tool to see if grinding the tap seat down a bit would help, but that didn’t seem to make much difference. And again, just a few weeks after the last time I replaced the valve, it’s been dripping incessantly again. So today I pulled it apart and had a good hard look at it after grinding it a bit with the tap reseating tool.

After a bit of manual grinding, the tool makes the tap seat nice and flat with a shiny new brass surface. This should be ideal for a valve to sit on and cut off the water flow when screwed down by the tap handle. But shining a torch into the tap seat well I could see an odd dark mark on the shiny brass. It was hard to make out, and trying to wipe it away didn’t remove it. I ground the seat a bit more, but the mark was still there. Then it clicked and I realised what it must be. I got a blade and ran it around the flat brass seat… and yes, I could feel what was a crack in the seat.

Cracked tap seat

I took this photo with the help of the torch light. You can see the crack pretty clearly near the top of the shiny brass ring. (And also a lot of the glittering brass flakes that I’d ground away.) Well. This was how the water leak was getting out, even when the tap was screwed down tight with a nice new valve. I’d never noticed it before using the reseating tool because the brass surface was old and dark. It took grinding down to shiny new metal to provide enough contrast to see the crack.

I consulted with a friend who is more of a handyman than I am, and he said I could try grinding further to see if I could remove the crack, otherwise I’d probably need to call in a plumber to replace the whole tap seating assembly – in a job which might require removing the entire bathroom sink and vanity unit. That sounded pretty drastic and expensive, so I gave the grinding a bit more of a go…

It took me some time, and several intermediate checks on progress, but I managed to grind away enough of the brass that the crack is basically gone. I hope. I fitted a new valve and reassembled the tap, and it seems to be working nicely now – shutting off the water completely with relatively little effort. Hopefully it will stay that way and require less maintenance, with the crack not reappearing. If it does, I suppose it will have to be a plumber job next time.

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