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Fixing Old Compression Faucet

I've been having a very hard time with an old leaking cold water shower compression faucet. We hired a plumber to fix the leak. As the handle on the old stem was frozen on the stem, it had to come off, which the plumber did by bending the stem while in the wall until it broke. This made me a bit nervous, thinking the torque could damage old interior pipes. To replace this cold water stem, I brought the hot water stem to a plumbing supply place where it was matched with a new stem . There was a little back and forth between home and the plumbing place as the new stem was longer than the original and some of the stem threads had to be ground off so the stem wouldn't "bottom out" as they called it. A new washer was put in place and stem put back. For a week or so it worked great, no drip. Then I had to tighten the faucet a lot more to get the drip to stop. Now, a month later, I have the drip back again.The plumber who did the work thought the seat looked fine. We've now spent $500 on fixing the dripping hot and cold water stems. They suggested putting a whole new shower assembly in but the bathroom is from the 1920's and they'd have to break the tiles and go into a terrible mess of pipes (which I can see from a small closet that gives access to some of the pipes). I was hoping it was a simple washer / seat repair. Is it a mistake to pursue this? It's so hard finding a plumber who seems to know what he's doing. This plumbing company was well recommended (and it's the 2nd one we've tried!) but I was surprised that the plumber didn't have a metal saw to saw through the stem and bent that solid metal. When he then couldn't get the packing nut off the bent stem he was going to put it back in the wall use a wrench and bend it back but I objected as I was afraid of damage. Suggestions??

Re: Fixing Old Compression Faucet

There are few plumbers who know how to work with these old valves, their usual fix is to replace them. I applaud your trying to keep the originality! Now onto the possible problems. If the stem isn't running squarely to the seat it can be hard to seal; this isn't likely even with the clod levering on the old one. More possible is that the wrong washer was installed; there are flat ones and conical ones of various sizes. A bad faucet washer can do this too; since so few of these are sold nowadays the rubber part may have deteriorated as it sat on the dealer's shelf for years. I've seen this twice and now I flex the replacement to be sure it's still fully supple. But what I think is happening is a bad seat. For that you need a valve seat resurfacer, which you can get at any major plumbing supplier. It used to be in every plumber's tool box but nobody fixes things anymore, they just replace the fixture instead. Anytime you replace a washer you should slightly resurface the seat until it just shows new shiny metal all over the seating area. Use a srong light and a magnifying glass to inspect the seat as even a small imperfection can seep under line pressure. This is a good DIY project that will save you a plumbing service call, but if you're not comfortable trying it then find another plumber to do it. I'd look for that one by asking at a major plumbing supply house for someone who can repack the lead in your cast iron drains. If the guy they reccommend was doing plumbing work when they still did drains this way then it's a good bet that he will have the seat resurfacer in his tool box already. That's the guy you need, not someone who only knows how to replace entire faucets and how to glue PVC.


Re: Fixing Old Compression Faucet

Hi, checking in again - thanks for all the comments. While authenticity is nice in the bathroom, I'm also concerned that breaking the wall would be a big job and I'd rather not spend big money right now. Unfortunately the access space is very very small - don't know that it's possible to reach one's arms in to change anything. May have to look into this though. In our house the plumbing was put in first and then built and tiled around. Looks like there were no plans for needing access to the shower body. I did find a plumber who seems very skilled and terrific. He expressed concern about replacing the shower body as in his opinion when you go in a fiddle with the old pipes one thing might lead to another and cause even bigger problems. Anyway,he had the seat dressing kit and resurfaced the old seat (it was round & not the replaceable kind). He did try various washers too (red flat, beveled blue, black flat and even tried a slightly bigger size washer). The fix worked for a while then dripped again. He then (not sure what it's called - tap and die kind of thing)rethreaded old seat and installed a brand new one. It stopped dripping for a few days and is now back. When I inspected the washer, it looked to me like the washer might not be sitting squarely onto the seat (as suggested in first reply). Part of the washer looks ever so slightly more compressed on one side vs another. (I'm wondering if the guy who bent the stem while it was in the wall might have created a misalignment of stem to seat.) My theory is if the washer goes back into place perfectly, it won't drip (BTW, drip is coming from the showerhead & packing nut was repacked). When washer doesn't go back into the exact same spot (as seems to me to be more likely) and sit squarely, it will drip again. So this is where I'm at. I've seen ads on the internet for something called the Dripstop valve. Kind of seems like a gimmick. Anyone out there try these? I've read about the swivel washer too. I may try that. Comments welcome. Will leave a post on outcome.

Re: Fixing Old Compression Faucet

Yeah two leaks in a row. He's terrific.:rolleyes: Look, Donnie, How much are you into with this you've already said $500 and now you 've called out another plumber !? STOP IT !! Shop for a valve and replace it listen to asc2078. You are throwing good money after bad messing with that old junk. You dont have to mess up the tile either just go through the wall in the closet :cool: The repair parts for a new valve are cheaper as well. You may have to repair a few tiles but not the whole wall. Don't be skeered Donnie.

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