With the going rate for a plumber’s house call in the Boston area at around $500, I’m strongly motivated to learn how to fix a leaky faucet myself. But even the handiest engineer has no choice but to spend some dough when an exercise in cost reduction makes even a simple repair impossible.
It’s a growing trend that now even the lowly plumbing fixture has fallen victim to, as reader and contributing writer William Ketel discovered when he attempted to repair a leaking bathroom sink faucet:
“Brilliant cost reductions had changed the design. The traditional casting that included two valves with a common connection to the spout between them had been replaced by a three piece assembly held together by a cheap LDPE molded piece that was supposed to prevent the valve bodies from rotating. Of course, instead of the casting connecting the 3 sections, the company had brazed sections of very thin hard copper tube in place. So when the valves started to drip after a year and needed to be taken apart to have the seats cleaned, the torque of re-assembly made the copper tube joining the sections to the center crack. This crack resulted in a major leak when the faucet valve was opened.
Because of the location of the crack it did take me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong. It was frustrating to realize that somebody probably received big recognition for reducing the cost of the faucet by removing all possibility of the item being durable.
If the makers had substituted a cheap stamped steel part for the flimsy plastic frame, the 3 sections would have not been able to rotate and the stress would not have been on the very thin copper tube. At least that way the faucet could have gone for several years, until the cheap steel rusted away, before failing.
Needless to say, that particular manufacturer has been logged in my files as a producer of junk, with the result that they have lost at least one customer for all eternity. And of course I did mention it to my friends, including the name. And now, when I purchase products I do open the box and evaluate the construction, to avoid making that mistake again.
The only hope is that some of these bad designs do get found out and changed. So it is possible that that particular style of assembly is no longer available, and that others will be saved from my grief.”