Camping out in our own kitchen

Camping is actually a useful training activity. You learn how to prepare and serve meals without most of the tools, work surfaces, or running water that you normally find in a modern kitchen.

If you have done enough of it, you never lose the skills you have learned. You are unfazed by circumstances that leave your house without power or water or the usual sources of heat. This week we experienced a kitchen faucet failure that required us to fall back on our old camping skills.

Working faucet The faucet that came with our new modular home was a state-of-the-art Moen faucet that looked fine and worked well for five years. Because I hadn't planned for its failure, our sink has been shut down for a week instead of a few hours.

When the faucet started leaking, I managed to make it stop for a while and started looking up replacement parts. This turned out to be a bigger problem than I expected, because I could not find the faucet model on the Moen website.

At this point I realized that this was becoming one of those dreaded "learning experiences".

I called Moen technical support and the waiting time was 1 and 1/2 hours. Fortunately, they offered a call back service which you could schedule automatically by pressing buttons and giving voice data. The only problem was that the earliest call back time was more than 24 hours later.

I called the manufacture of the modular home and my contact person was not in the office. I left a message describing our plight and asked him to call us back.

Not working faucet By this time, the faucet gave up the ghost and started spurting water. I took it apart looking for obvious problems and not finding any, left the core of the faucet in place and prepared to take all of the pieces into Christiansburg to find a set of replacement parts.

By this time Gretchen had prepared and served dinner in our waterless kitchen. She is an experienced camper and had shifted into camping mode without a word of complaint. We could get drinking water out of the refrigerator and tap water from a nearby bathroom. She could also use the dishwasher, which removed the most arduous chore of camping washing dishes in an improvised wash pan.

We cam back from Christiansburg empty handed because neither Home Depot or Lowes had repair kits for our faucet.

We got home just in time for the call back from Moen Tech Support. The customer service Rep was very professional and he confirmed that Moen had discontinued that faucet model. I had gone online and printed out parts lists of Moen faucets with similar parts and the service rep talked me through a series of steps that enabled him to find the right parts for my discontinued faucet.

He sent the parts out that day by UPS and I received them today. The parts were free because he said the faucet was still under warranty, but I paid for expedited shipment. The only hitch is that he was going to send two washer kits and one of them was backordered with no date given for delivery.

Meanwhile, my contact at Southern Heritage Modular Homes had called and arranged to send me the parts he felt I needed to repair the faucet. Those parts arrived today also.

I spent an hour rebuilding the faucet with parts supplied by Moen and by Southern Heritage and it worked quite smoothly, but it still leaked because there was still a missing set of O Rings.

We are still in camping mode despite the help we have received so far. I will be on the phone to Moen and to Southern Heritage again to see if I can get the missing parts on an expedited basis.

The root of the problem, as I see it is that the faucet model was discontinued and there is no clear path to discover or acquire replacement parts for that model. There was no cross-referencing of substitute parts as you often see in automotive stores. It all seemed to be in the heads of the people at Moen, so there is no way for a consumer to find information on his own or to check on what the Moen people are suggesting.

The people at Southern Heritage build a lot of houses with Moen fixtures. My contact had no idea that the faucets had been replaced with another model and was all ready to ship out the wrong repair kit until I started asking questions.

The plus point in all this is that Southern Heritage Homes and the Moen company work to provide excellent customer service. We will get this sorted out in time and I may end up ordering repair kits for the other faucets so that I am not caught short when the next faucet fails. I plan to look at other household items to prevent the same sort of extended interruption.

Twenty years ago model changes were less frequent.  Now, things like plumbing fixtures and electrical fixtures often have a working life that exceeds the model life. When a TV or a monitor fails, we pitch it. It is not realistic to discard lighting and plumbing fixtures if they can be repaired. We need to look at stocking or sourcing replacement parts before we have a breakdown.

Gretchen is a real trooper, but I think that camping out in our home is getting old. We will probably look at creating a checklist of supplies and repair parts to make this less likely in the future.

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