Tag Archives: faucet

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.







Fear of plumbing

plumbing 10 light

The light at the end of the tunnel is … a trouble light?

It all started with an annoying drip, no matter how hard I shut off the faucet.  $600 later, … but let’s not rush things.  Let’s savor every step in the saga of the downstairs sink.

The washers

The faucet was the cheap “compression” kind, with washers.  I’d replaced them many times before.  They only lasted a few months; and it was obviously time to do it again.  I shut off the water, popped off the little plastic “H” and “C” caps, and unscrewed the handles from the stems with a Philips screwdriver.  I turned over the hot stem, unscrewed the mashed-in washer with the same screwdriver and replaced it (I keep a box of them around).  I turned over the cold stem.  Hmmm, no washer screw?plumbing 20 washer

The washer was just sitting there on the end of the stem; it was probably too mashed to drop out.  Who worked on this faucet last, anyway?  Maybe the screw fell into the plumbing system and has become nomadic, drifting around the house and causing trouble.  If I put a new washer on the stem and didn’t screw it on, it would go nomadic for sure.  I took the hot stem apart again, fished out the matching screw and pawed through my entire screw collection; I had nothing close to it.

To the hardware store, then, on a quest for a screw, with the stem in hand for testing purposes.  I usually go to the screw aisle and puzzle over the screw tips, head shapes and diameters listed on the tiny labels of a million little drawers until a clerk comes and rescues me.  But this time would be different.  I found a screw gauge, which for some reason I’d never noticed before, and measured my model screw.  It was a diameter 9, 3/4 inch long oval-head brass screw.  Armed with this information, I proceeded to peer at the tiny labels of a million little drawers until a clerk came and rescued me.

He led me three aisles over to the plumbing aisle, flipped open an unlabelled steel box and handed me a screw.  I tried it in the stem; it fit.  Investment so far; 43 cents.  I went home, reassembled the faucet and turned the water on.  It still dripped.

I found a web page with advice on repairing leaky faucets.  I was going to have to deal with the seats against which the washers pressed.  I settled down to once again remove handles and stems.  But where was the Philips screwdriver?  I emptied the tool box, and the dresser drawer of my dad’s old tools; no Philips.  I looked all around the bathroom.  I checked a parallel project site in the garage, where I was trying to remove the blade from my lawn mower to sharpen it.  (Maybe I’ll write up that adventure here too, if I ever finish it.)  I remembered that Pat had put another Philips screwdriver in a kitchen drawer.  I looked at every surface in the house.  There was no Philips screwdriver to be found.  Who used it last anyhow?

I didn’t want to make two trips to the hardware store, one for a screwdriver and another for seats.  So I looked at the Safeway.  They had one of those six-in-one universal screwdriver sets; but I just wanted a simple screwdriver.  I found one in the drug store.  Back at home, I brought my new tool downstairs, and noticed a glimmer of yellow on the floor by the piano.  It was my old screwdriver, camouflaged by an oriental-style carpet, gloating.

I took the faucet apart again and looked at the washers on the stems; they looked fine.  The web page mentioned O-rings and seats.  I could see another rubber part midway along the stem; was it the O-ring?  I couldn’t figure out how to get it out, and anyhow it looked okay.

The seats

I remembered that the seats in my faucet are removable, unlike the ones described in the web page.  I’d bought an L-shaped gadget for that purpose last time I wrestled with the seats; and, remarkably, I found it in a drawer amidst my dad’s old woodworking tools.  (Big old augers, a monkey wrench with a dental problem, a leather-covered spool of steel measuring tape with a crank on its side … I think he inherited some of this stuff from his dad.  I hardly ever use it, but I’ve grown quite fond of it.)   I pushed its small square tip into each valve and unscrewed each seat.  It didn’t grip very well;  when I got the seats out I saw that their sockets were really more hexagonal than square (probably a lot more, originally).  The seat rims looked okay, though.

A seat (lower right) with the L-shaped gizzie for removing it.

A seat (lower right) with the L-shaped gizzie for removing it.

By now the counter was covered with grimy plumbing parts, and the faucet was an empty shell.  I’ve always hated it.  Why not just replace the whole thing?  I took the seats to the hardware store, thinking that I would just look over the new faucets before I settled down to a humiliating search for matching seats.  Being endowed with very powerful foresight, I measured the distance between the valves before I left the house; it was eight inches.

The faucet

Except for the joystick kind, all of the faucets on display had valves that were eight inches apart.  Signs on the display specified how many sink holes each faucet was designed for.  I hadn’t thought of that variable.  The rescue clerk approached while I was wondering how many holes my sink had and what would happen if I guessed wrong.  He told me that, if the faucet had no vegetable sprayer (and mine didn’t), the sink must have three holes.  All I had to do was disconnect the old faucet from the water lines, remove it and connect the water lines to the new faucet.  I picked out a faucet for $80 that had no washers; it would be worth it to solve the problem once and for all.

Back at home, I was faced with the reality of a really awkward job.  The downward bulge of the sink and the distance to the back of the counter meant that I had to empty the cupboard under the sink and lay inside it, working upside-down.  The bathroom had been finished about 32 years ago, and since then this cupboard had never been emptied.  It held an incredible amount of nearly-empty bottles, soggy powders, every dreadful household chemical you ever heard of and several you probably haven’t.  I also found two nomadic toothbrushes; a gang of orphaned rubber gloves; and black, slimy grit.  The grit was from the underside of the sink around one of the valves; apparently it had been leaking for years.

I piled all the detritus in the rec room to deal with later, and washed out the bottom of the cupboard.  I put in some old towels to lay on, hung the trouble light on a water line, started up my ’70s hard rock testosterone feed and set to work.  The space between the rear of the sink and the wall was so restricted that, with an adjustable wrench, I could only turn the nuts on the ends of the water lines a little at a time.  Finally I got them loose from the threaded pipes sticking down from the faucet, and started getting wet.  Doh!  The water lines were still full of water.  I got a small bucket to empty them into, stood up for the triumphal moment, and pulled up on the faucet.  Nothing.

Back into the cupboard, while Gracie Slick sang mysteriously about rabbit holes.  Each threaded pipe had a big flat hex nut and washer set holding it against the underside of the sink.  I measured a nut from side to side; two inches.  I didn’t have a wrench that would go that big.

Sink nut (?)

Sink nut (?)

I got my digital camera, crawled back under the sink, photographed them, and took it to the hardware store.  The clerk, who was starting to look familiar, said “Oh.  You’ll need a channel lock for that.”

“What’s a channel lock?”

He took me to the tool aisle and showed me the channel lock pliers.  They look like medieval tooth-pullers.  I remembered that my dad had told me never to touch a nut with pliers because they would strip the outside of the nut.  Telepathically, the clerk picked up my worry and advised, “It’s okay to wreck those nuts.  Or you could hit them with a hammer and straight-edged screwdriver and break them up; they’re just plastic.  Your new faucet has new ones packed with it.”

plumbing 60 pliers

Laughing channel lock pliers.

I already had channel lock pliers, I just didn’t know they were called that.  But I didn’t know if they would open wide enough.  So I bought pliers for $5 as insurance against yet another trip to the hardware store.  He measured the distance the jaws could span to make sure they opened wide enough.  When I got them home I saw that they were identical to the ones I already had.

plumbing 70 waterline

Our new under-sink shower.

This is where the petal hits the metal; these sink nuts were covered with slimy rusty grime, and more of it started falling on me from the underside of the sink as I removed them.  I washed the cupboard and the underside of the sink.  I stood up and pulled out the horrible old faucet and put it and all its accouterments in a plastic bag.  (As if I would ever install it again; but you never know …)  I washed away more grime that had been concealed by the faucet base.  In went the new faucet.  Back into the rabbit hole to screw up its sink nuts (they had little ribs on them so I could do it with my fingers).  I got to the water lines and my triumphal march slowed to a crawl.

Rubber fittings on the tips of the lines were supposed to seat against the ends of the threaded pipes, while the hex nuts tightened the seal.  I poked each water line into its pipe and cranked up the hex nuts.  Ta-da!  I turned on the cold water.  It was like a shower went on inside the cupboard.

I cleaned up the mess, removed the water line and carefully reattached it, making the hex nut really tight.  Another shower.  I had some plumber’s tape for sealing threads; but a green tag on the new faucet had warned not to use any sealant, because it was designed to seal itself by compression.

I tried again.  This time the nut seemed to alternate between feeling very tight and getting loose, and I wondered whether I was stripping it.  It was late at night, my back and shoulders were sore, and I was tired of the ’70s.  I had a late supper and went to bed.

The plumber

plumbing 90 truckNext morning I called a plumber.  He took a look in the cupboard and said, “How old is this house?”

“1975.  The sink was put in around 1982.”

“To get that faucet to seal, I’ll have to replace the water line with a modern one.  The one you have is one piece with the shutoff valve, so I have to replace both the line and the valve.  It will be about $530 with the senior discount.”

I said fine and slunk upstairs.  The sound of pipes being sawed echoed through the house.  In an hour he was done.  $530 for an hour’s work?  Now I really need some testosterone.  The least he could have done was put all the junk back under the sink.

Anyway, the drip is gone!  As for my fear of plumbing … well, that survived the experience intact.

In fact, it’s bigger and better than ever before.