Category Archives: Handyman

Woohoo! I replaced a Moen 1225 cartridge in a 7730 faucet

I thought I was an adequate home handyman until I gave up my unreliable but simple rubber-washer faucets for washerless faucets.  Now I’m afraid to do anything with them, and every time a plumber comes in here it’s like $500.  And the kitchen faucet was dripping and leaking around the handle like a sunufuhbitch.

I discovered that it didn’t drip if I pushed the handle all the way over to the right.  So I announced that I’d fixed it!  But The Woman wasn’t very impressed.  After a while she pointed out that it had started dripping even in this position.

My next move was to pick up a cheap “easy to install” faucet at Costco.  But then after watching some installation videos and giving the matter more thought I realized that the hard part of the project would be removing the old faucet.  I’d done something like this once before and it had turned out badly.  Also I discovered the new faucet got crappy reviews on Amazon.  (Memo to self; research stuff before buying it, instead of after.)

I persuaded the new faucet and its various accouterments back into their package for The Woman to return to the store.  Surely there must be a video on YouTube about how to replace the ceramic cartridge in my particular faucet?  I just needed to find out what make and model of faucet it was.

A little red and white emblem on the handle said “Moen,” a promising start.  I went to Moen’s website to look at a gallery of photos of faucets.  There are a million of them, and none of them is like mine.  I stumbled onto a customer support page that had instructions on how to find my faucet’s series number; 7730.  With this as a search term I found David Trebacz’s excellent cartridge replacement video.  If you’re facing the same job, I recommend you study it well.

What follows is a commentary on me following David’s wonderful video to get this job done.  Back when I was working I was an IT guy; so I’m reasonably clever behind a keyboard.  But my hardware experience, and for that matter my experience in anything practical, is close to zip.  The cartridge instructions said this job would take a beginner an hour; it took me two and a half hours.  Okay, I was being slow and careful, taking pictures and watching David’s video over and over.  Anyhow, if even I can swap out a Moen cartridge, so can you.

David is careful to get a good camera view of each piece of hardware, every step and every tool.  He fast-forwards thru stuff that’s boring, like turning a screw again and again, not leaving it out but just letting you know you’ll be doing it not-fast-forward.  He makes a few mistakes and deals with them, a nice touch.  And his tools are way better than my tools.  I ended up using a few different tools:

07 tools

  • Hammer (to tap down stubborn new cartridge)
  • Straight screwdriver
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Toothbrush
  • 7/16 inch hex driver
  • Flashlight
  • Plastic dealie that comes with a new cartridge
  • Small, wide rubber band that comes with fresh broccoli
  • Crescent wrench
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Channel-lock pliers
  • Bowl
  • Rag towels for wiping up, kneeling on, etc.

I used a small slot screwdriver to pry off the Moen emblem.  Inside were two holes, small and big.  The big hole is the one to put the 7/16 inch hex driver into (it’s the hole that’s in the center, duh).  I realized this after I’d rotated the hex driver in the little hole for a while with no effect.  The little hole turns out to match up with a stud in the emblem that keeps the emblem from swiveling around; and I guess it would stop you from attaching the emblem upside-down.  I checked the video; David’s faucet just had one hole in the handle, as far as I could tell.  I used a flashlight to see that the hex driver went into the square hole in the screw head deep inside the handle, unscrewed it, took out the screw and pulled off the handle.

Having survived the first crisis, I tried my Philips screwdriver on the obvious screw sticking out of the top of the assembly.  The whole assembly wanted to swivel around; David’s hadn’t done that.  I handled this emergency by holding the outer assembly steady with pliers while unscrewing the screw.  I didn’t have a cameraman like David did.  What a good trick to have my hands full of tools and still take a picture.  10 phiips screw

Next problem I ran into was how to loosen up the threaded black plastic thingie without stripping it.  I solved this problem by wrapping it with a small wide rubber band, protecting it and giving me a better grip.  I hadn’t noticed yet that it has two flat sides, as you can see in the picture below.  Those are the right place to put your channel-lock pliers.  I got it off somehow anyway, and found the flat sides later when I was putting the faucet back together.

15 black thingie

Next I ran into a little metal washer that I didn’t remember seeing in David’s video.  I slipped the tip of a screwdriver under it to get it off.  David makes up for this by putting two washers on the assembly when he’s putting it together, but I just had the one.  20 washer.jpg

David used needle-nosed pliers to rotate and loosen the cartridge.  He said that was because he didn’t have a new cartridge that comes with a special white tool-dealie that fits over its top.  I put my white dealie on the cartridge; it has two legs that fit into the little wells on each side of the central post.  This photo shows it about to go in.  I tried to turn it and the cartridge with the adjustable wrench; nada.  I’d forgotten to take out the clip.25 plastic dealie

The white plastic dealie is a crappy tool for rotating the cartridge anyway; it doesn’t hold well, and it strips itself.  Instead I grabbed the central post, which has two flat sides, with the adjustable wrench and turned it.  Eventually I realized the clip needed to come out, and after that it turned real well.  Here the clip is, half-way out.  It’s the same color as the thing it fits into, so I didn’t see it at first.  The two prongs slide underneath projections on the front lip of the outermost pipe-fitting, so you have to pull it out sideways, not upward.30 clip

At last, after taking off way more parts than seem necessary, I yank out the cartridge, just like an old time dentist yanking out a tooth.  Tada!  Oh my god how am I going to get this thing back together so it won’t erupt like Old Faithful?35 out it comes

The phrase in Peter And The Wolf (get the version narrated by Peter Ustinov if you can find it) that I always liked the best is “Now here is how things stood …”  I took this pic of the parts I removed, in the order removed, to make sure I put them back on in the same order:

37 partsNow I deviated from David’s video, because I’d read in some Moen instructions that I should wash out and flush the valve before putting in the new cartridge.  I scrubbed its insides with a discarded toothbrush (or you could use a toothbrush belonging to somebody you don’t like).  Nothing dramatic came out, just a little icky goo.40 toothbrush

Next I put a bowl over the valve so Old Faithful would flow downward.  I wrapped the vegetable sprayer around the bowl so it wouldn’t fall off the valve and get water all over the place.  I cautiously turned on the cold water under the sink part way.  I let it run for half a minute; I never saw any grunge wash out.  But I don’t see too well so maybe something did.45 bowl

Water off.  Now to put in the new cartridge.  I hadn’t paid attention to which way the old one was facing, so I just stuffed it into the valve, wondering whether the hot and cold positions would now be reversed like David warned.  The center post slipped down too far.  So I used the white thingie that came with it to push it in; this worked better.  Maybe it’s what the white thingie is really intended for?  It’s hard to tell; Moen’s instructions are little diagrams with no words, like Lego brick instructions.50 plastic dealie 2

I screwed down the threaded black ring, a tedious job with just a small turning space for the channel pliers, until it gave a lot of resistance.  Again wrapping it in the rubber band, and this time I realized that gripping it by the flat sides would work better.

I slid the clip back in.  A flat side of the center post has to face the gap in the front of the outer pipe exactly, or the clip won’t go in.

Next, I put the metal washer over the central post.  Turns out the washer has flat sides too, that have to align with those on the central post or it won’t fit.  Maybe it isn’t really quite a washer, but something else?  If it has a special name and you know it, please reply.  Any day I learn something is a good day.55 washer

Next, the gray plastic thingie.  Extrusions on its underside slip into gaps in the assembly, so you can’t just cram it on anyhow.  Here it is upside-down so you can see how they go in.60 gray thingie

The top of it is a sort of collar.  It’s not like David’s; in my case the tall side really did need to be in the front or it wouldn’t seat properly.65 collar

I screwed on the chrome dome.  I popped in the rabbit-eared thingie, ears forward, and screwed it on with the Philips screw.  67 rabbit ears

Now for the handle.  Getting it aligned felt floppy and indefinite.  I looked inside it and could see that the screw had to enter it just right to pass thru the rabbit-ear’s central hole, come out the far side of the rabbit-ears and enter a threaded block in the center of the handle.  Once it realized I wasn’t going to settle for anything other than a straight shot, it let the screw go in the way it should.  70 handle

$500 saved.  Good luck with your faucet!  And thanks again, David; you’re a hero to us nerds who can hardly lay a hand on a tool without hurting ourselves.







My furniture refinishing adventure

We have a set of oiled oak computer desks and bookcases.  My wife noticed that the surfaces felt raw and dried-out.  So we decided that “we” would refinish them.  I found a blog post by “The Wood Whisperer” that made it sound so easy that a novice could do it.  Here’s a novice’s account of how one project went.

Equipment and supplies

Every Dungeon and Dragons-style adventure starts with an inventory of the adventurer’s weapons, amulets, omelets, etc.  Here’s mine:

  • Old clothes.
  • Kneeling pad, like a folded towel; also a set of supple, robust knees if you can get them.
  • Trouble light; you can’t paint what you can’t see.
  • Tarps that you trust to protect whatever is underneath them.
  • Bits of wood or other flat things to prop furniture up from tarp so oil won’t pool around bottom edges.img_2324
  • 320-grit sandpaper; about half a sheet per large piece of furniture.
  • Sanding block; I used a slotted plastic cube that my razorblades come in.
  • Vacuum with hose and brush attachment.
  • Mineral spirits; I used about a quart to strip furniture and clean brushes.
  • Screwdriver (flat) to pry open childproof cans.
  • Rags; hand-towel size seemed most useful.  See “Avoid fire hazard” note below.  Discard when project is finished.
  • Gloves?  Depending on how squeamish you are; my project got gooey.  I discovered that mineral spirits dissolve disposable latex examination gloves; the fingers dropped off after a few minutes.  You’d think that mineral spirits would make short work of Scotch Tape residue left on woodwork by children, but nooooo!  Luckily, mineral spirits didn’t seem to hurt my skin.  My exam gloves were impervious to Dutch Oil.
  • Dutch Oil, an oil-and-varnish mixture; about 1/2 pint per large piece of furniture., plus some for drawers and shelves.
  • Disposable tray or bucket to pour oil into so you can dip brushes in it.  Bonus points if it has a corner or spout so you can pour unused oil back into the can.
  • Fans; Dutch Oil stinks.
  • Respirator; Dutch Oil really stinks.  I happen to have a respirator, and it cut out nearly all the stench without causing me any breathing difficulty.  A real respirator with cartridge filters is way better than a surgical mask that only blocks large dust particles.  They cost about $50, and they’ll make a great impression if you happen to answer the door.  Or, on one blustery day, I just turned off the furnace and opened all the windows.
  • Brushes.  I used a 2 1/2-inch chisel-tipped brush for tops and sides, and a 1-inch chisel-tipped, angle-cut brush for edges and other details.
  • Putty knife for scraping masses of drips off overpainted furniture!

Strip and clean

I lightly sanded the desk.  I wrapped sandpaper around a sanding block for the flat parts, and used loose sandpaper for the rounded parts.  I sanded with the grain.  Sanding against it where two pieces met at a right angle was a bad idea; it made ugly grooves.

I vacuumed what I’d sanded, and also the area around it to the extent I could.  Then I wiped the sanded parts with a rag wetted with mineral spirits.  The idea here is to pick up sanding dust and any stains, etc.


I painted the desk with oil.  The instructions on the can said to “flood it,” which I took to mean “slather it on,” and to put on two coats.  For my previously-oiled oak furniture, this was way too much oil.  I had to work a lot harder to get it off again than when I’d put it on.  One light coat turned out to be plenty for me.

Midway thru the project, I realized that it’s worth thinking thru the order in which I paint the parts of a desk.  Painting the underside and inside first helped me avoid bumping against wet surfaces while I was in there.  If I needed to paint the top and bottom of a shelf, turning it upside down and painting the bottom first seemed to work best.  This way, if drips collect during the final painting session and I damage the surface while cleaning them up, it’s in a place that doesn’t show as much.

Remove excess oil

Wiping seems to be the critical step in finishing with oil.  After a brief waiting period (15 minutes, per the directions on the can) while the desk was still wet, I wiped it down.  I learned to wipe it hard with a new rag, rather than gently with a rag that’s already clotted with old oil.

Some parts were still so sticky after drying for a couple of days that I doubted they would ever be usable, especially when I’d given them two coats of oil.  After consulting a web forum about the problem, I sanded them, put down lots of mineral oil, and quickly wiped them hard with new rags before it could evaporate.  Some spots required several cleanings.img_2358

Avoid fire hazard

Reader Judith Buck-Glenn reminded me that the oily rags are liable to catch fire spontaneously.  “The Wood Whisperer” advises;

Oil cures by means of an exothermic reaction. This means the reaction produces heat. So a folded up oily rag can very easily burst into flames as the oil cures. Its best to lay your used rags out in a single layer on concrete and let them dry thoroughly. Once dry and stiff, the rag is safe to dispose of in the regular trash.