Saturday, January 31, 2015

Everything but the kitchen sink

Old Dumb faucet with a very short reach
Actually, this post is about the kitchen faucet.

I replaced my kitchen faucet, and I learned some useful things in the process.

My kitchen was redone very nicely sometime around 2000.  Unfortunately, the faucet was problematic for two main reasons.  First, it was leaking.  It wasn't dripping when it was turned off, but when it was on, water would dribble out around the swivel joint that allowed you to turn the faucet from side to side.  I could presumably have fixed this leak with a replacement part, but the second problem made me disinclined to bother.  My kitchen sink is quite large, and the faucet was too small for it.  I always had to lean way over the sink to wash my hands or do the dishes, which is ergonomically terrible.  Also, the water inevitably splashed all over the counter behind the sink and made mess.  So, I decided that I really wanted to replace the faucet entirely.

Faucets can be made with a few different types of internal mechanisms for controlling the flow of water, including compression washer, ball, cartridge, and disc.  If you are interested in the details of these and how they work, this overview from explains it nicely.  Based on the information I found there and elsewhere, I decided I wanted a disc faucet because they last forever with little maintenance.  It turns out that most of the "good" faucets being sold these days are this type anyway ('s catalog has over 2000 ceramic disc faucets and less than 400 of all other types combined).

Spout "reach" is the technical term in faucet-speak describing how far the faucet extends horizontally from the base out over the sink.  My old faucet's reach was no more than 6 inches, and after measuring my sink, I decided I wanted one with a reach of 11 or 12 inches for maximum practicality and comfort. very conveniently lets you filter their large catalog by spout reach.  That narrowed the field considerably, as there aren't too many on the market with such a long reach.

I was astounded at the prices for faucets.  These seemingly simple mechanical items cost $400-$1400!  Whew!  After looking at the prices, I procrastinated for months, until one day I sat down and figured out the secret.  Kitchen faucets designed for the "home" market are horrendously expensive, but "commercial" faucets, which are basically the same thing, are drastically cheaper.  The "home" faucets are made to look pretty or fancy or frou-frou, and you pay a huge premium for aesthetic design that doesn't contribute to the functioning of the faucet.  I wasn't particularly enamored with the aesthetics of any of the "home" faucets I saw anyway; I wanted something simple that would fit the Craftsman style of my house and without any of the bells and whistles that would be likely to break or leak.

The Moen 8717 with a 12-inch reach was exactly what I wanted, and at 1/3 the price of the typical "home" faucets of seemingly similar quality, it was a no-brainer.  It's simple, elegant, and high quality.  I also purchased the optional spray hose to make sink cleaning easier, a feature my old faucet did not have.

Then came the next step in the learning process: installation.  I watched a couple of YouTube videos (a seriously useful tool for all sorts of home projects) and determined that I could easily do this myself. that I've done it once, I can confidently say it will be easy if I ever do it again.  It really wasn't difficult, but I had a few hiccups.

Taking the old faucet out was easy.  Nothing was rusted shut, thankfully, and once I figured out how to use a hand mirror and a lamp so I could see the bolts behind the sink basin, it came right out.

Hard water scum
Then came trying to clean up all the mineral scum on the counter top.  We have pretty hard water here, and because of the dribbling old faucet and all the splashing, the area around the faucet stem was full of scum.  I bought some granite cleaner and resealer, but that did absolutely nothing.  I resorted to scraping it off with a razor blade.  This brute-force approach was much more effective.  I finished it off with the granite resealer just in case it actually did do something.

New Moen "commercial" faucet with 12-inch reach and a spray hose
Then came the installation of the new faucet.  The new faucet didn't come with any kind of seal for where it joins the counter, to keep water from leaching under it and dribbling down the hole into the cabinet below.  Some internet research informed me that plumber's putty was used for this purpose, so I went off to Home Depot to get some.  I arrived at home depot at 9:10pm, only to discover that Home Depot closes at 9pm in the winter.  Seriously!?  Oops.  Note: Don't start a house project on a weeknight.  I took the next morning off work, got my plumber's putty, and put in the faucet.  It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the mysterious long plastic tube thingy that came in the faucet package was actually a socket wrench of the correct size for tightening the bolts.  It's very difficult to lie on your back in a kitchen cabinet and tighten a bolt a quarter inch at a time with an adjustable wrench...  The new spray hose was the only thing that went in easily.  My counter top used to have a built-in soap dispenser, but it was broken, so I took it out and used the hole for the spray hose.

But once I got it in, it worked perfectly!  I've been very happy with it so far, and my arms and back will no doubt thank me in the long run for not having to lean way over to wash dishes.