Help - this is really aggravating,
I have an old Sterling two handle shower faucet with a standard
washer/valve-seat arrangement(compression faucet I believe its called,
not a cartridge type).
The washer on the HOT faucet only lasts about 3-4 months before it
I always replace both the seat and the washer. I have also replaced
stem assembly as well as putting in a new washer and seat at the same
time. What is causing the leak after such a short period of time?
Everything works fine right after the washer and seat on the hot side
are replaced, so I know that water is not leaking past the washer due
to the seat not being in correctly, etc. Its just that after a few
months of use I can feel that more force is needed to shut off the hot
water and by about 4 months no matter how hard you tighten the handle
(without really torquing it to the point it might bteak off!) the hot
water side still drips. Cold side washers will last about 3 years.
Someone had suggested that the water may be too hot but for over 15
years that I have been in the house I was replacing the washer only
about once every five years. The water temp is the same as back then,
and in any case it was never really scalding hot since its from a
tankless coil arrangement on a oil furnace. Also the seat does not
appear to have any nicks in it so I don't think that I am damaging the
seats when I install them.
What am I doing wrong? Is there anything else I can try short of
ripping it out of the wall and getting a new unit? There is no access
from the back, I would have to break up the tile. Seems silly to have
to do this for a lousy washer.
What you describe is strange. By changing the seat, washer, and even
stem, you've done all you can. The only thing I can think of, is that the
threads between the seat and the valve body are faulty. This would explain
the fact that a few months, it starts leaking again. As an experiment, next
time only change the washer. If it still drips, then it's probably the seat
threads. If it stops the drip, then just live with changing the washer
every few months (it sounds like you've got it down to a science).
If it is the threads on the valve body, then you can either live with
changing the seat every few months, or change the faucet. Write back if you
decide to change the faucet; there are alternatives to tearing up the
ceramic tile. BTW, some companies make seats out of stainless steel instead
of brass. Maybe you could try something like that? I'm assuming, of course,
that you're using some sort of pipe dope or tape on the seat, aren't you??
Sounds like a good suggestion. Since everytime I change both the seat
and the washer I can't be sure that the washer is the only culprit.
Putting in a new seat of course means that it is getting put back in
nice and tight. Maybe the seat is loosening up after a few months due
possibly to thermal expansion as suggested by Ned Flanders in post#7.
I did put a one or two layers of teflon tape on the valve seat threads
last time but perhaps pipe dope would be better.
I would really appreciate hearing about your alternatives to tearing
up the ceramic tile. Also are stainless steel seats a normal item
carried at a plumbing supply house.
The thermal expansion mentioned isn't what you think. What Ned thought, I
considered it too, is the problem when water expands while it heats. If
there's no place for the expanded water to go, it'll force itself through a
faucet, washing machine, or T&P valve. If there's a backflow preventer or
check valve on the water system, and no expansion tank on the heater, the
expanded what has to go somewhere. While it might be a possibility in your
case, I can't imagine it happening to a standard faucet with seat and
washer. I think the pressure would trip the relief valve every time.
You never mentioned how the washers or seats looked after you removed
them. If they don't look too bad, then, again, the seat threads are
suspect. You can do the experiments I described and go from there.
If you decide to change the valve, here are two suggestions to avoid
expensive ceramic work.
There's a very nice looking stainless steel plate that is designed to
cover the holes of a standard two handle shower valve. In the middle is a
big hole that holds a single handle faucet. A good plumber can cut out
enough tile to remove the old faucet, install the new, but still be coverd
by the plate. In this way, you don't have to worry about replacing and
matching old tile.
The other alternative is to attack the valve from the other side of the
wall. Assuming it's just drywall, fixing that hole is a lot easier than
messing with the tile. You might even finish it with an access panel for
Just for the heck of it, I would check out the possibility that something is
preventing the faucet stem from screwing down all the way down to the seat. It
could be a burr on the stem threads or even an over-sized washer screw. Another
possibility is the original seat may have been higher. Just because the a
particular seat has the right threads to screw in doesn't mean it's the right
They vary considerably in the distance between bottom and top.
Easy to check. Smear a bit of toothpaste on the face of the seat, then screw the
stem down with no washer on it. Pull the stem and you should see toothpaste on
You may be onto something concerning thermal expansion issues. Are
you thinking that the valve seat is loosening in its threads due to
the expansion and contraction on the hot water side?
I have city water, fairly high chlorine content and "hard" water.
What is the issue with well vs city water?
In every city in the country, pressure spikes during periods of
low-use. Obviously, low use times anywhere are going to be during the
wee hours of the morning.
Go buy a test gauge with a hose thread. the gauge will screw directly
onto your hose bibb outside. Make sure the gauge has an indicator so
even if pressure drops by the time you check the gauge, the indicator
will show you the highest pressure during the night. (I've found city
pressure go as high as 165-lbs.)
If your pressure spikes, install a PRV (pressure reducing valve). If
there is no spike in pressure (nothing significant), then you're going
to have to rip out that old shower valve and replace it. Don't need to
spin your wheels looking for some sort of secret plumbers trick-fix.
Real plumbers don't use trick fixes. We simply fix what is wrong. And
we keep our call-backs under control by NOT using trick fixes and not
doing half-assed work. Fix it right = no call-backs. You need a new
I guess it's just a matter of principle but I don't want to give up
I'm on month #3 of having replaced everything and once again a slow
drip is developing. Someone came up with a few other suggestions. What
do you guys think?
1. Try using "no-rotate" or swiveling washers. Anyone have any luck
with these? Any installation tips would be greatly appreciated.
2. Try stainless steel seats. I noticed that after only a few months
of use, a brand new seat has almost a sandpaper like tarnish/coating to
Would stainless seats prevent this? I think this may be causing the
washer to fail so quickly. Does anyone know of a supplier for
stainless steel valve seats?
tony g wrote:
As long as the seat is undeformed or unworn, the faucet should shut off. Did
you use pipe joint compound on the seat threads when you replaced the seat?
(should have) Is the seat fully seated in its socket? Also, faucet needs to
be very gently shut off, especially when new. Folks who "crank" the faucet
off will quickly abrade, distort, and ruin the new washer. Faucet should be
dripless with just a two-finger shutoff torque.
I guess i should have said that I did try to take all the advice into
consideration. I used teflon tape on both the seat and the valve stem
itself. It never leaks right after installation. It always takes
about two months before the drip begins. The valve is not being
cranked down as best as I can control since i do have children but they
have been instructed to close down the valve very gently. I also
checked with some toothpaste on the assembly that it is not being
restricted from closing.
Is it possible that there is something in your water causing the
problem? When our water company switched from chlorine to chloramine,
we noticed that everthing rubber in our plumbing systems eats up.
Toilet flappers won't last a year. Washers fall apart, O-rings too.
Washing machine hoses don't last as long as they used too. The o-rings
in my high priced dishwasher only lasted 3-years. Check with your water
company and see what they use as a disinfectant. Some rubber products
are resistant to chloramine, you may try a new brand of washer that is
resistant. If the seat is wearing out, there may be grit in the water.
Installing a new faucet won't fix that, but a filter might.
Just a thought.
It may be sand or grit in the water. Allthough you mention no problems
with other faucets in the house. Still, you might consider a filter
setup at the main line where it enters your house. It can only help.
...w/ tale of woe re: subject...
I've not followed this thread, but a comment about grit/sand/etc.,
wearing seat caught my eye---methinks it's quite likely the seat is worn
from erosion from the previous leaking (a very small drip still comes
through the minute area between the seat and washer w/ pretty high
velocity/pressure) and the problem is a new washer can fill the
imperfection for a short time but soon fails.
If possible to reach, you could possibly clean up the seat face s/ a
seat-facing tool if that's the case.
I have seen this with thermal expansion.
It could be caused by your neighbor belive it or not.
Are you on city water?
What is the water pressure?
What kind of hot water you got?
Where is tank in relation to this valve?
Is the water extremely hot at the sink?
You claim to be replaceing the seats as well as the washers, in fact it
looks like you have replaced evarything at least once. The problem is
the hot washer wears out.
Are you sure the washer is wearing out?
Is it tearing or getting marred?
At this point I'd start trying some different washers.
You are not putting grease on them right???
In answer to your questions:
I'm on city water. The hot water is created through a tankless coil
arrrangement on an oil-fired furnace which also provides a closed loop
for baseboard heat. The furnace is in the basement and the problem
faucet is on the second floor through a total run of about 25 ft of
copper pipe. Water out of the faucet is not scalding hot. I don't
know the actual pressure, but with everyone in the neighborhood
watering their lawn, I have never had a problem getting adequate supply
of water in the shower so I assume that the pressure is pretty high.
The washers never appear nicked or torn, just a fairly uniform ring
where it is being compressed by the seat. I noticed that after only a
few months of use, a brand new seat has almost a sandpaper like
tarnish/coating to it. The washers I use are red and very hard when
new, I have tried the softer black washers but they don't seem to last
as long. No grease is being used on the seats and the threads are
being wrapped with a few layers of tefflon tape.
Any thoughts on "no-rotate" or swiveling washers. I'm thinking that
maybe the sandpaper texture to the seat is creating abrasion against
the washer and wearing it out. Anyone ever tried these no-rotate
washers? Any installation tips would be greatly appreciated.
you need to check your water pressure.
You share town water, your neighbor can affect you.
I am sure the pressure is very high, thats typical.
BTW I only use the black washers the colored ones are shit.
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