Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Home Depot

Home Depot. What can I say?

I want to like you, for a big company you treat your employees well.
While I generally prefer the local (smaller) hardware stores, some
times your huge selection is what I need.

But, I've got to say, your employees know about as much as I do about
home repair, and that's something in between diddly and squat.

I'm sure there are a few crusty old men who retired from their jobs at
65 who work at Home Depot for something to do and a little pocket
money. They probably know something, but I always get the people who
talk knowledgeable but end up giving me bad information.

The latest saga was our exterior water spigot. It's one of those
frost-free kinds that turn the water off 12" from the handle,
hopefully eliminating any problems from cold weather because there's
no water in pipes outside the foundation of the house.

So it's leaked. For two years, maybe four. But it only leaks when the
water is on, so not that big a deal. That is, until we want to go
on vacation - we can't set a timer on that spigot because it'd leak like
100 gallons of water a day, which I just can't do.

Last year, maybe the year before, I went to a Home Depot (b/c the
local hardware shop didn't carry these spigots) and asked where I'd
find the parts to fix one.

Ok, now before you get all snarky on me. Yes, if I'd just done a
little thinking - I'd have realized it's probably just like every
other spigot in the house, and since I've repaired leaks in bathroom
spigots a couple of times, I should realize it's the same principle
for the exterior ones. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've even done it for an
exterior one (at my old Portland house). That's not the point.

As I was saying, I asked where I'd find the parts to fix one. What
was the response? Oh, you can't fix those, you have to replace them.

WTF, how stupid! But, we live in the throw-away economy in America.
And it *is* a Home Depot employee telling me you can't fix them but
can only replace. So I checked out the replacements: something like
$30, but there's 4 lengths of 2 different sizes each. Oh, and bonus,
they're often soldered.

I don't know how to solder. It's supposed to be straight forward, but
I'm not going to start out by soldering *under* the house, in the spot
furthest from the entrance to the crawl space. Oh, and I'd have to
learn how to *un*solder the original. So... not happening.

And paying some crack showing plumber $60/hour to replace the one
thing just seemed excessive.

So I stalled, and it wasn't a big deal, until the next long vacation
where we really wanted to water the plants in the front yard...

Over the 4th of July I mentioned the leak to my dad and he said to
just take a crescent wrench to the faucet and open it up.

So I did. Lo and behold! It's just like any standard faucet. The
guts came out with a simple twist. Great, now I was on somewhat
familiar turf, I could see the washer I needed to replace.

Into Home Depot I venture again.

The first guy I get tries to help, but doesn't know a lot. He calls
for the "plumbing" guy, and a second guy starts trying to help (not
the plumbing guy). While waiting we're actually trying to get the
handle off the fixture (I didn't have enough time to do that before
leaving the house - Simone had a class to get to). The handle is
crusted on because of all the water that had flowed over it every time
we turned it on. So, we're mucking with a vice and a wrench and
eventually some WD40 (that was the trick). Then, how to get the
washer out? It's turned to hard plastic, and is just chipping away.
Meanwhile, the two guys helping keep mentioning how they don't know
where the washers would be for this.

Finally the "plumbing" guy arrives and declares that they wouldn't
have any washers that fit. We could probably find some whose exterior
dimension fits, but the hole in the washer would be too small. I
question the "expert" saying, "Really? I'd figure these things would
be kind of standardized." The expert knowingly says, "Nah, these
frost-free spigots are all unique. Here you go, some washers that
should fit - you'll just have to bore the hole out."

This is where I made the same stupid mistake, trusting the Home Depot

So I left with some washers whose holes were too small, and some
graphite tape, which happens to be made for exactly the leak I
had... (if only we hadn't picked apart the old washer).

I take my findings home and sit down to try to drill out a larger hole
in a rubber washer.

Ever tried to do that?

It's not easy. First, you can't grip the washer too tightly or the
hole you're drilling will be very oval. But, if you don't grip it
tightly enough, the washer just spins away. And I don't have a drill
press, so it's tough to even drill in the center...

I'm getting frustrated because the damn washer is just not going to
have a good seal because I'm jury-rigging the hole, and it's not going
well. The graphite tape might save me, but it just seems so hacky.

The $60/hour crack-showing plumber is starting to look better by the

Luckily I'd just installed a new dishwasher.


Yah, I'd just installed a new dishwasher. And there were some
left-over parts from the various hoses and adapters that either came
with the washer or I'd bought. There were even two washers.
Hmmm... maybe I'll take a look at those. The first one is way too
large, no chance. The second one ... boo-yah! It was nearly
perfect! It was a flat washer, and the fitting wanted a beveled/cone
washer. Easy enough to fix with a couple swipes of the exacto knife.

I put some of the graphite tape on for added security, tightened down
all the fittings, turned the water on and presto! No more leaks.

So, Home Depot. I'm not listening to your experts any longer. They
can tell me where stuff is, but that's the extent of it. I may take
an hour searching through the 100 washers you have hanging on the
rack, but I'm going to find the right one next time because, contrary
to your expert opinion, it exists.

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