Water surprise!

We woke up in the middle of the night to what we thought was our daughter running the bathroom faucets at full blast. When I went around the corner to tell her to turn them down, I noticed two things. First, she was not in the bathroom, and even more worrisome, the water was coming from below the sink, not above it! It was spraying gushers out of one of the supply valves. After turning off the valve and mopping up the mess, I was left wondering how this could have happened. Any time I’ve seen a washer or seal give way, it always starts with a few drops or a trickle. This one went from perfectly normal to fire hose in a single step. Because our daughter had a bad cold and had woken us up about a dozen times during the night, I was tired enough to put it out of my mind and just go back to sleep. While I recognized and appreciated the fact that we had narrowly avoided a disaster (what if it had been during the day or while we were on vacation?), that wasn’t enough to keep me awake.

After getting home from work, I took the supply line apart and made a few discoveries. The washer seemed to be a bit on the brittle side, definitely more than I’d expect from being only two years old. Also, I had forgotten about this, but the washer hadn’t fit inside the nut and I’d had to do a little bit of trimming around the perimeter to get it to fit. It shouldn’t have had any negative effect, since it was only on the wide part of the cone washer, the part that the nut pushes on, not the part that seals against the supply valve. But, there’s no way for me to know for sure, and it’s probably never a good idea to force plumbing parts to work. For the sake of my self-esteem, I’m going with the dried washer idea, but it still doesn’t make sense to me how it could fail with so much drama.

All of our supply lines and valves are of the chromed, old fashioned style that you’d normally see with clawfoot tubs and fixtures of that era. One thing I’ve noticed with several of the pieces is that they don’t necessarily fit or go together as well as the plain jane parts that you find at Home Depot. Or, in this case, the washers aren’t high quality or perhaps were just old. Since they were such a unique size, I wasn’t able to find a replacement for them and ended up having to trim them to fit the nuts that they came with. That shouldn’t be necessary with a brand new plumbing part. I replaced the supply line with a standard stainless hose that I had, and it’s working great. Now I need to get a new one to replace the other line before its washer blows out, too. It’s also making me question the lines on our tub. Both the supply and drain lines are designed for a vertical tub wall, but the tub we bought had a sloped back wall. The online retailer we bought it all from told me to “just go ahead and install it all at an angle. There’s enough give in the washers to make it work.” Looking back, that seems like it was a bad idea to follow our advice, so I may yank out the fancy lines and replace them with hoses just to sleep better at night. It’s jammed up a against a wall, so the irony is that you never can even see the nice chrome finish that we paid all that extra money for. The only way you can see them is if you lean over and crane your neck while on the toilet, but I doubt many people do that…

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