Fear of Faucets

Plumbing gone horribly wrong.



photograph by Sixninepixels | Dreamstime

FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I suspect he never had to remove a stripped bibb seat.

When my wife and I bought our house a few years ago, we inherited a leaky shower faucet. Moreover, this wasn’t the steady drip of a faucet fudging on the details. This was the insistent flow of an army on the march accompanied by the high-pitched hellhound whine of a valve not tightly stanched somewhere behind the bathroom tile.

After putting it off for months, I got right on the task of fixing the faucet. At all costs, I wanted to avoid paying a plumber. So I brushed up on shower-faucet lingo online and ran to my local hardware store to buy a new stem set.

After much experimentation, false starts, and trips back to the hardware store to buy socket wrenches or O-rings, I decided to replace everything, all the way to the bibb seat at the back of the faucet contraption. Of course, for that I needed a bibb-seat tool. Tapering or non-tapering? I made an uneducated guess.

After much experimentation, false starts, and trips back to the hardware store to buy socket wrenches or O-rings, I decided to replace everything, all the way to the bibb seat at the back of the faucet contraption.

The cold-water-side bibb seat came out like it was greased with old honey, but it came out. The hot-water seat, however, felt like it was greased with the Ural Mountains. It was going nowhere, and worse, I was starting to strip the bibb seat’s brass grip with the steel of the seat tool. Things were getting desperate. Every time I tried, I stripped the bibb seat more. I was starting to get the Fear, and it was looking like I needed professional help — at least a plumber for the short-term.

I tried one last time: I hammered the bibb-seat tool in, pushed with all my might, and turned. And the bibb seat came loose.

Twenty minutes later, everything was reassembled and the water turned back on, and the shower leak could be counted in the past. A week later, a sink faucet began dripping.

To spiders, being abducted by aliens, and the little girl from The Ring: Please add the newest entry on my list of fears — a leaky faucet. 

Greg Akers is editor of MBQ: Inside Memphis Business and a frequent contributor to Memphis magazine.

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