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Very little hot water - a stumper!!

We have a an old house and tub/faucets (1920's). The faucet has ceramic washers. The problem is we can get very hot water running through the faucet for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then it cuts off and gets cool to cold.

The problem is not the hot water heater capacity as we can take hour long showers upstairs, and run hot water endlessly in the kitchen (plus it's new and the capacity is huge). Plus it's just this tub and faucet. Has anyone heard of the ceramics swelling and shutting off the hot water? Any ideas? We stumped our friend who is a plumber, who said it probably had something to do with plumbing being from the 1920's. Has anyone ever heard of this or does anyone know anything about it?

We don't have the money to pull out the faucets and install new right now, and I'm wondering if it will really solve it or not.

Re: Very little hot water - a stumper!!

Wazoo -

I don't believe your tub faucet is old. It might look old (retro) but I don't think it is...

Can't be certain - but I believe ceramic washers are something out of the 1990's or late 1980's. They are extremely long lasting. Ceramics don't swell.

Some of the faucets have pressure differential valves built into them. Along with temperature sensing controls (Mechanical or electronic) which shut off hot water to prevent scalding...

You also stated that you get 'very hot water' thru this faucet for a few minutes... Sounds somewhat like a temperature differential pressure valve - which is either malfunctioning - or possibly your water heater is set to HIGH; and the valve is shutting down the water because of the temp... Hot Water Heaters really shouldn't be set any higher than 125F...

Anyway - to actually definitively figure out what is going on - you probably are going to have to remove the faucet. Faucets are not that expensive. You can get a replacement starting at $12; and working up to stratosphere...

A newer type of ceramic faucet (like you might have) probably has a replaceable cartridge in it. You would shut off the supply of water, and open up the faucet; and get a replacement cartridge. Which could be malfunctioning.

I'm surprised your plumber friend is 'stumped'. This really shouldn't be that difficult to figure out what is going on. But one would have to be there and looking at it...

Hope this helps.

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