Friday, July 13, 2012
Exceeding expectations - lessons from getting a leaking faucet fixed
When you give a speech you should be a memorable professional, and deliver more than you promised.
On the front wall of our house there is an outside faucet for a garden hose. The faucet was dripping and gradually the leak became worse. On the morning of July 5th I finally decided to call a plumber to fix it. (Later I’ll explain why I was reluctant to do it myself).
We haven’t needed a plumber for over five years, but I’d heard a radio ad for Cloverdale Plumbing Company recently. I checked at the Better Business Bureau web site and found they were accredited with an A+ rating and had been in business for almost sixty years. The plumber arrived within an hour of my phone call.
Before he started work Andrew gave me two verbal estimates - one for if he could repair or rebuild the faucet, and another (twice as high) if he had to replace it. When I told him to go ahead, he shut off the water outside (just past the meter) using a long-handled curb valve key. He unscrewed the stem cap (the part with hexagonal flats) and took the stem over to his truck. Andrew was able to just repair it by replacing the seal, and soon he had the water back on.
When he brought the bill he also gave us a pair of tasty cookies with the words Thank You iced on them. We had a $29 off coupon from their web site, so the repair was less than the lower estimate. He was a pro, and exceeded our expectations. The only minor glitch was that he forgot to take his valve key with him. (I left it on our front porch, called his dispatcher, and he came back later).
Why didn’t I want to try this repair myself? In plumbing jargon this type of faucet is called either a Frost-Proof Sill Cock or a Freezeless, Self-Draining Wall Hydrant. What you see on the outside is just the tip of the iceberg. This type of sill cock might be over a foot long and it goes through the wall. The valve mechanism is located inside the house, as shown on this view of the parts for a similar Prier C-134.
I don’t have a box full of assorted seals, so at best I’d have needed to take the stem over to a hardware store or plumbing supplier and try to find the right replacement seal. Meanwhile all the water in the house would be turned off.
At worst, the entire sill cock might need to be replaced. You can’t just unscrew it from outside the house. Usually it’s nailed to the wood frame via a pair of straps. They might be pretty easy to remove, if you can just walk down into the basement. Our house doesn’t have a basement - just a two-foot tall crawl space, and it’s a long way from the entrance near the back out to the front wall. About six years ago I replaced a sill cock on another house that had a four-foot tall crawl space. It took a flat pry bar pivoting against a wood block to remove the mounting straps.