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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0 Responses to Camping out in our own kitchen

  1. Tom King says:

    Wanna borrow my Swiss Army knife?

  2. Zack says:

    David, why did you not replace the faucet? I know there is a $84 single hole kitchen replacement model at Lowe’s and given the time and frustration it seems like it would have been worth installing.

    Was it just that since you have a nice $200 faucet you prefer to repair the nice faucet to replacing it? Or is it more that you do not like actually removing fixtures? Faucets are pretty easy to replace. I have done a couple now. Granted most decent models do run $150 which starts to get into the realm where I too would seek to repair first, but I have just gotten to accept that most items sold these days are “disposable not repairable”.

    My own pet peeve is humidifier models where you buy a nice $250 humidifier to use for several years only to find that they change the model and discontinue making filters for the old model a year later. That happened to me twice. *grumble*

  3. Zack says:

    Also for O rings you can often pick them up in varying sizes at larger hardware stores. Also in a pinch you can also make a crude washer/ring out of Teflon tape in a custom size to serve as an impromptu washer. I have to do that for my radiators all the time. It is how plumbers address less severe leaking faucets.

  4. As Zack has suggested, it would have been less trouble to simply replace the faucet entirely.

    I am now inclined to change models entirely so that my repairs can be accomplished with a simple rubber washer.

    I think we have added more complexity to water taps than is needed. I wish to return to a simple spigot model with a 10 year interval between washer replacements.

  5. Glenn says:

    Hi David

    As you know I built my own house including ALL the plumbing, that’s why you will only find the old two handled seat and washer type faucets here. A word to the wise for the future.

  6. Zack says:

    Yeah I love the old two/three handle showers. You can’t get them here as they are not to “code”.

    When I renovated my old bathroom I tore out the walls and put in 3 handle shower controls with an access hatch to facilitate future repairs. I wish I had the same thing in my current place. I really hate the one knob rotary models no installed in all showers up here.

    What really gets me though is when “building code” is based around litigation and not engineering. The one knob solution is preferable since if you turn up your hot water heater way too high and turned on only the hot knob and had no nerve ending you could potentially burn yourself. This required multiple failures on the homowners part. But since it is possible to hurt oneself if one makes multiple personal failures we are required to use handles that ensure your first 10 seconds of shower will be ice cold and a dripping handle can not be fixed with simple packing replacement in the knobs.

    Along these same lines I have a door that does not open properly on the porch. The porch is an old slanted-out porch but the door was installed so it opens inward. (bad design) I wanted to replace it with a door that opened out BUT code here specifies that porch doors adjacent to a step MUST open inward since if they open outward a person could slip while tugging and fall off the step.

    The reason is litigious not engineering. On the other hand in Scandinavia the same doors open outward because it solves the problem of snow blowing in the door during the winter. If the snow piles up on the door you open it pushing the snow off the side of the front steps and have a clear path out. It works better but for litigious reasons I have to install doors that open inward despite that requiring me to either rebuild the porch to be level (which encourages wood rot due to not draining as well) or have a door that will not be able to seal properly since it needs to open inward. But in both cases I am getting an inferior product to protect myself against litigation rather than to satisfy my actual needs.

  7. Margaret says:

    From one who wants to build a modular home, I am sorry for your troubles but I love learning from them.

  8. mattbg says:

    I don’t find many things offensive, but the idea that you should throw away a perfectly good piece of equipment for the sake of one part is pretty offensive. It’s wasteful and somewhat deceptive, because these big name manufacturers make it appear as though parts of readily available and ask you to pay a premium in exchange for this possibility.

    I also don’t like the idea of supporting a company that, say, sells you a lawn trimmer on the basis of its “heavy duty motor” and then you find out that the switch wears out after 1 year and you can’t find a replacement, as happened to me this year. Supporting these companies will only encourage the same.

    Personally, I’d rather pay $400 for something good than pay $100 four times for the equivalent in replacements. Garbage isn’t free and it isn’t good for our character to be so wasteful, either.

    The sad fact, I think, is that many people seem to take pleasure in having something break simply so that they can go out and buy a new one. That is the customer’s DESIRE in many cases. I’m not sure why.

  9. Zack says:

    Matt,

    I think the problem is that many things are not designed to be serviced. I do repair a lot of items often making my own parts to do so. But a number of times I have bought a appliance only to find that its filters which need to be replaced periodically were discontinued or found the part exceeds replacement cost. It often is cheaper to work with new materials than it is to repair existing materials, expecially if the item was not designed to be serviced.

    And when you buy an appliance you are probably not thinking about how hard it is to swap plugs, or update the wiring. Yet the difficulty involved will often determine if it is destined to become landfill or can be repaired.

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