Multiple tub faucet problems

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Dauber185, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. Dauber185

    Dauber185 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Using this site and many other resources, I researched the task of replacing the stems in mt late 60's rambler. I purchased a handle puller, stem wrenches, a seat puller and went in optimistically.

    I got the handles off, but then came across the first issue. The holes in the tile were only large enough for the skinny part of the stems and not the packing nut. This made it so I could not get a stem wrench in there. I looked from the back through an access hole in the closet and there was no way to get a vice grips or Channel lock in there.

    At that point I reluctantly decided to go in from the front. Using a hack saw I cut the stem down so I could use a hole saw to widen the hole in the tile to get the stem wrench on. I only did this because of a video I saw online: http://www.expertvillage.com/player.swf?flv=leaky-faucet-stem-off

    Here comes the second problem. I got the stem wrench on and it would not budge. With all my strength I managed to completely strip the stem and now it is round.

    At this point I was so frustrated that I had to quit for the night and come back the next day. With a clear mind I think I am at the point now where I have a lot of questions.

    A) Should I keep trying to remove the stem using some kind of deep socket bolt extractor?

    B) Should I start thinking about attacking it from the back, either cutting the whole assembly in the wall out to work on it or cutting my access hole bigger to try and get a wrench in there?

    C) Am I missing anything. Was there something I had to do before trying to loosen the stem? Is there a trick to getting off the stem? I usually have pretty good luck, but 40 year old plumbing may need to be hacked out and started over.

    I would like to retain as much of the hardware as I can. For now I just need to replace the stems If I can get them out.

    PS it is a ELJER stem set with three knobs. HOT - reverse thread, DIVERTER, and COLD
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    On the hot side, and the diverter, you could use vice grips on the stem. Turn it all the way open and just keep cranking. It should break free. This wont work on the cold, which turns OFF CCW so that doesn't work.
  3. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I would just use a roto-zip with a tile cutting bit to cut the tiles and make the hole bigger.
  4. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Don't mess with 40 year old fixtures. Pick out a nice new faucet and then cut out the tile with a masonry hole saw to the new fixture. You may need a metal hole saw to keep going from the top and cut out the old stuff.

    If you're looking for a vintage look you can probably find something on-line that mimics the old one, but you'll pay for it. Better yet go to the local big-box and get a Delta or a Price Pfister.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,292
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    faucet

    Your first mistake was cutting off the stems. Use 'something' to make the holes larger. For tile I use a hammer and small chisel or screwdriver to chip it away. You must not have had the correct size socket wrench otherwise it would not have slipped and caused the problem you have. At this point, if I were you, I would give up and call a plumber before you create a real mess and wind up with a minor remodel project.
  6. Dauber185

    Dauber185 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I am going with Southern Man. I am going to get a whole new faucet set from a big box store and replace them. I agree that cutting the stems was a bad idea. That is the first time expert village has given me such bad advice. I think that the issue was not the tools, it was the 40 year old plumbing. now I think I may cut out the whole valve and put in a new one with shut off valves in the lines. Can I re-use the old valve with a new faucet set or is that brand specific?
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,292
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    faucet

    It was not the faucet, it was the tools or the user. I have repaired many faucets older than that and did not have the problems you described. I would not replace the faucet because YOU could not repair it, but if you are tired of looking at that one, then that would be a reason to change it.
  8. Dauber185

    Dauber185 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Minnesota
    There is no way that you can tell me that you have never come across a threaded fitting that would not budge. And I did admit that I am a novice. How about some actual constructive criticism instead of belittling the people who come on here to get actual educated responses.

    I have answered my own question that the valve body is a match to the valves and they are not universal. I also realized that I can remove the whole valve body from the back and get it out to work on it or find a replacement. This may be common knowledge for a "Master plumber" like yourself, but remember the reason for this site it to share information and learn.
  9. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,440
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The plumbers that sometimes get a little short with their answers, or that come across grumpy, are themselves a little frustrated.

    There are things we do in our sleep, and so many things we have learned by doing. It's not like we haven't learned the hard way too.
    Sometimes it just seems like a big time saver if someone just took it into the shop. I had a furnace guy come over yesterday and let me know that my thermostat wasn't working. He started back at the furnace and worked his way back. After knowing what wasn't working, I was able to go down and buy a thermostat. He didn't have the right one on the truck, or I would have had him install it. It was a favor sort of from one of Jamie's friends, but regardless, I offered him money for the call, and he mentioned that Jamie and him had just gone to a Seahawk game.
    The service call was well worth it in my book. I would have felt better though if he had given me a bill for it. It wasn't my season ticket that he went on.

    Second thing, mentioning some of those goofy sites where homeowners make up stuff tends to make us laugh. Most of the instructions and video on the web are laughable.
    Any first year apprentice would do it better.
    Someone like hj has been through the wars and knows his stuff.
    If he had been my journeyman was I was breaking into plumbing in the 70's I'm sure he would have been gruff and told me how it was. And I would have learned that much quicker for it too.
    Some of my best teachers did their best to get me to quit the trade.
    They weren't going to just "give" it to me, unless I would keep it and pass it on to someone else.

    Like hj, I would have used something to chip out the tile from around the stems. Sometimes a flat blade screwdriver and hammer is just the ticket.
    Then I could have gotten the socket around the flat parts of the stem, and used a "breaking" motion on it.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2008
  10. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I have restored many older faucets with very good results. Proper technique is essential.
  11. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I'm not sure what valve you are talking about. If you don't have shutoffs for the hot and cold water then put them in. Please tell me that you have 1/2" copper lines coming out from the wall or the floor (not galvanized). If they are copper, cut them off with a tubing cutter and leave a few inches sticking out of the supply. Clean the last 1" of outside of the pipes with 180 sandpaper, then polish with 220 grit. Use a combination compression fitting/ valve on each. They make them straight (for floor supplies) and 90 degrees (for wall supplies). Tighten the compression fittings until they stop leaking, then 1/4 to 1/2 turn more. Measure the distance from the valves to the faucets and get the right length quick connect hoses.
  12. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    He's talking about a Tub / Shower Valve!

    Your advice is making an easy small project turn into a big expensive one!

    Tub shower valves often require the whole house to be shut off.

    Flex hoses cannot be used inside walls.

    At this point calling a plumber would be a great money saving idea!
    :eek:
  13. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    LOL I totally missed that!!! Must be too much corn mash. :)
  14. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Messages:
    3,189
    Location:
    S. Maine
    It's jobs like this that to us are common and fairly simple because we do it day in and day out that often frustrate homeowners to the point where they ruin the faucet or the tile work or both. Watching the DIY shows gives a sense of false confidence because they never show the stem that won't budge or the too small holes in the tiles. Long before the camera ever gets turned on, someone has already widened the holes and loosened the faucet so that the "star" can come in and make it look like a piece O cake. I like the DIY car shows where the spring shackles magically come right off :rolleyes: At this point calling a pro may very well be the best thing to do. Of course changing the faucet to a pressure balance one would be a good idea also. Delta does make that big chrome escution that covers the three holes.
  15. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Ahh, the carefully planned TV moment. Do you think when Ronald Reagan split wood in front of the camera he was splitting some gnarly old apple tree, lengths cut on odd angles around the knots? Or perhaps straight grained poplar perfectly square and seasoned? :)
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,292
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    film

    I just looked at your "village expert", (although like Benny Hill says, it is not what he is, it is just what he calls himself), video. What a dork. The first indictation is when he calls it an "insert" instead of a stem. Then, without even trying the faucet sockets, he opts for the ratchet and socket. Then he cuts the stem off without trying any other method, such as putting the socket over the stem, without the ratchet, and turning it with pliers, or maybe actually using his faucet sockets. I guess he would have had to say the stem was worn and had to be replaced, because I doubt that he could have reused the old stem. I hope this was not an apprentice training film.
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,292
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    faucet

    There is no way that you can tell me that you have never come across a threaded fitting that would not budge. And I did admit that I am a novice. How about some actual constructive criticism instead of belittling the people who come on here to get actual educated responses.

    This is not a "threaded fitting" in the classical sense, it is a threaded faucet and it assembles completely differently from a pipe fitting. And NO, I have never had a faucet I could not disassemble without ruining it in the process. I am not belittling you, other than to say you proceeded using bad advice, and if you had come here FIRST, you would not have gotten to the stage you are now at. The constructive advice, not criticism, comes BEFORE you screw it up, once you have done it, then we CAN criticize. You would have gotten better advice from a Home Depot aisle helper than you did from that video.
  18. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,292
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    apprentice

    If he had been my journeyman was I was breaking into plumbing in the 70's I'm sure he would have been gruff and told me how it was.

    I was like that when I was an apprentice. When one of the other apprentices broke my hydraulic Wheeler snapper, he spent some time with the sewer gang. And when the plumbing inspector from an adjacent town, who worked for us, screwed up a job, I fired him.
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