Wednesday, February 2, 2003

'Drip'aphobia: Overcoming Your Fear of Faucets

Simple Plumbing Repairs You Can Do To Improve and Maintain Your Home

(ARA) - So you fancy yourself a "D-I-Yer" -- you can paint, plant shrubs, change the filter screen in your furnace, and even put up a shelf. But when it comes to plumbing, you are terrified. You have visions of water spewing forth from your pipes suddenly causing the whole house to be flooded, while the kids gleefully hold boat races in the basement.

Many homeowners are concerned about tackling plumbing jobs because, unlike most other home projects, if something goes wrong the result can be major damage. But never fear, many plumbing projects are easy to do -- such as installing a new faucet or changing out a showerhead.

And, if you are in the midst of a project and have a question or run into a problem, there are many places to turn for help such as manufacturer call centers, Internet sites, plumbing supply showrooms, and retailers.

For example, the experts at Moen Incorporated have helped many homeowners see a project through to completion. With a consumer service center that takes more than 4,000 calls per day (800,000 calls per year), representatives have spoken with callers during some tense times.

"We have received calls ranging from an elderly woman in tears since she was having a hard time replacing a faucet cartridge, to the journeyman plumber calling us in the middle of a class he was conducting with apprentices to verify an answer," said Mark Fales, lead correspondence specialist with Moen's consumer service center.

Aside from many different types of calls, the center recognizes special calls need special attention. According to Fales, the center goes into a heightened sense of alert during the holidays for plumbing emergencies. "If we get a call from someone having a plumbing problem right before a house party, holiday gathering or special event we do whatever it takes to make sure the customer's entertaining can go on without any issues regarding the Moen products within their home," explained Fales.

Frequently Asked Questions

Handling calls regarding plumbing emergencies, general repairs and installs, the 78 employees of the Moen consumer service center have heard it all. So, what are the questions they get asked time and time again ... and what is their advice for handling the situations? Here is some insight into frequently asked questions.

* What should I look for in a faucet?

With so many faucets on the market today, many consumers wonder why two different models that appear to look alike have different price tags. Moen's experts advise homeowners to look for faucets with valve bodies made of brass rather than plastic, which will increase the overall durability. They also suggest buying well-recognized brand names that come with extensive warranties. Also, purchasing washerless faucets, which only have one piece cartridges and don't use washers, seats or springs, will eliminate the most likely cause of leaks.

* What tools should I have on hand for plumbing jobs?

Every homeowner's toolbox should have the following tools to handle plumbing jobs: pliers, Phillips head and regular screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, a basin wrench (a specially designed plumbing tool widely available at home centers or plumbing stores), and Teflon or plumber's tape.

* How do I install a new faucet?

It's really not that difficult to install a new faucet. One of the most important steps is to have all the supplies needed to begin the job. Before leaving the retail outlet or plumbing showroom where you purchase your faucet, check the instructions on the outside of the box to ensure you have all necessary items.

Most new faucets give step-by-step instructions with visuals; use this as a reference. Usually, the most difficult part of the job is removing your old faucet. To do this you may have to use some WD-40 to loosen any corroded mounting nuts underneath the sink. Make sure you have turned off the water to the faucet before removing the supply lines or you will end up with a wet cabinet and floor.

Once you have removed your old faucet, be sure to clean the deck surface area before inserting the valve body of the new faucet through the holes on the top of your sink deck. Move under the sink deck to tighten the mounting hardware that holds the faucet in place and complete the job by reconnecting the water supply lines.

* How can I increase the flow rate of my faucet?

As a faucet ages, many homeowners notice its flow isn't what it used to be. To correct this problem, create a mixture of half water and half white vinegar and let your faucet aerator sit in it overnight. To do this, you can unscrew the aerator counter clockwise or, put the mixture in a plastic bag and rubber band the bag around the aerator. You can also use this technique to improve the flow of a showerhead.

* What can I do if my faucet handle is hard to operate or if I have a leak from the spout?

If you have a washerless faucet, a handle that is hard to move, or a leak coming from the spout, these are telltale signs that the faucet's cartridge needs to be replaced. This is a relatively easy project that most homeowners can accomplish.

For a single-handle faucet, start this project by removing the cap in the center of the knob and the screw underneath it, which secures the handle. Once the handle is removed, you can easily slide out the stop sleeve (a cylindrical tube). Next, use pliers to grab hold of the copper-colored U-shaped retainer clip to pull it out.

Use the twisting tool (a white plastic piece) that comes with your new Moen faucet to loosen the old cartridge. Then, insert the new cartridge into the faucet's valve body -- it is important that the cartridge's two plastic ears are aligned precisely at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. Now reinstall the retainer clip, stop sleeve and handle.

* The hot and cold settings on my single handled washerless faucet are reversed, how can I correct this?

Some new homeowners find that the hot and cold handles are reversed on their faucets, giving them an unexpected burst of hot water when they turn on the cold tap or vice versa. This is an easy correction to make. The only thing the consumer needs to do is to get into the faucet body (as described above), as if you were changing out the faucet cartridge, but rather than pull out the retainer clip or cartridge, rotate the stem on the cartridge 180 degrees.

* What is the best way to maintain my faucet's finish?

The worst thing that a homeowner can do is use abrasive cleaners on their faucet. Instead, use a mild soap and water. To help keep an illustrious shine, wax your faucet with automotive wax every two to three months.

Call in the Expert

There are some jobs that are too in-depth and require too much skill for the average homeowner to undertake. Installations and repairs of showering systems that require a consumer to go behind the wall should be left to a professional. In addition, any repair involving soldering, sweating a valve or cutting into a wall should not be attempted by an amateur. To do these jobs, find a licensed plumber from the yellow pages, or check with the Better Business Bureau.

Using the "how-to" tips in this article, any homeowner, no matter what their skill level, should be able to tackle simple plumbing projects around the house without an overwhelming feeling of panic.

The Moen consumer service center is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST at (800) 289-6636 or (800) BUY-MOEN). All representatives answering calls have gone through extensive training and are experts in specific areas of plumbing -- bathroom, kitchen, etc.

To reduce the time spent on hold, the Moen center has a virtual hold technologies system which allows consumers to enter their phone numbers and have a representative automatically call them back when lines free up, or at a specific time the consumer requests.

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